Friday, August 27, 2010

Nehemiah 4-8

I’m really enjoying reading and studying the book of Nehemiah.   I really like the historical aspect of it, which is clarified by also reading the Broadman Commentary along with the text itself.  My thoughts tonight center on two things – perseverance in work and passion for the Word of God.

In chapters 4-6, Nehemiah has to face some significant obstacles to rebuilding the walls.  Sanballat, Tobiah, and some other area leaders plotted against Nehemiah, requiring Nehemiah to make a plan for defense.  Tobiah then sent Nehemiah a series of letters to try to intimidate him to quit building.  Finally, there were prophets and at least one prophetess who were falsely prophesying in an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah.

Nehemiah even had issues with his own people.  In chapter 5, Nehemiah deals with the complaints of some Jews that they were becoming impoverished by this work on the wall and that those who lent money were charging usurious rates.  As governor, Nehemiah found a solution to this.  He also showed his commitment to the cause by not requiring more support from the people than he needed.

Nehemiah is a great example of working hard despite difficulties.  God created us for work.  We shouldn’t find our worth through what we do, but only through being God’s creatures.  Nonetheless, the satisfaction that we get from a job well-done is something built into us by God.  Even before the Fall, humans were expected to be workers.

Sometimes, though, God gives us something to do but there are obstacles in the way.  Certainly, if we are doing God’s work, Satan will do what he can to stop us.  Nehemiah is a picture of standing firm and not giving up.  Not only that, when the wall was finished, Nehemiah gave the glory to God.  He understood that his own efforts were nothing, but that God was the source of his strength.

The other thing that really hit me in this series of chapters is how passionate the people of Jerusalem were when they could hear the reading of God’s Word again.  In chapter 8, Ezra reads the Torah (at least part of it) to the people.  The Levites were there to translate the Hebrew into the Aramaic spoken by most people as well as to explain the law.  In the first assembly, the Law was read to all the men and women.  They were initially upset because they had not been keeping the Law, but Ezra and the Levites told them to rejoice and celebrate.  Even after this first day of reading, a group of priests and heads of families continued to study the Law and celebrated the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) again.

I’m seriously convicted when I read this because I know that I don’t value the Word of God the way that I should.  It’s so easy for us to take the Bible for granted – I think we have more than 10 Bibles in our house, along with various commentaries and other books.  Yet, when I think that this is God’s primary communication to me as an individual and to the Church as a whole, I’m ashamed at how little time I spend reading it and how little I love it.

Two lessons from this section of Nehemiah:

1. Work hard because you’re working for God.  Continually pray for God’s support in my work.

2. Cherish the Bible.  Read it regularly, study it often, teach it to my children, and remember how blessed I am to have it so easily available.

What other lessons could be learned from this section?  How do you make sure to keep your love of the scripture alive?

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