Week of August 21 - Day 3

Day 3—Read: Ephesians 1:20-23

that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Reflect: The apostle Paul wrote in these verses about the power of God that was demonstrated by raising up Jesus from the dead and then seating Him at His right hand in the heavens. Why is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the demonstration of God’s power?

Consider: Finally, Paul prays that we might be enlightened to comprehend the magnitude of God’s power which he exercised in bringing us our salvation. The power God demonstrated in raising Christ from the dead and placing him above all creation is the same power he is exercising toward us to bring about the blessings which he has promised us. Such power guarantees we will receive the hope and riches. That power is also available to us to make the hope and riches the focus of present life so that we live God’s way and not the world’s, seeking God’s inheritance and not the world’s.3

Respond: Knowing Jesus overcame death and ascended to heaven, what does that prove to be true about the power of God? What are some of the implications of that power for us as His followers?

 

3 Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 94.

 

Week of August 21 - Day 2

Day 2--Read: John 17:1-2

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Reflect: What do you learn about the relationship between the Father and the Son from this opening to Jesus’ prayer in the garden?

Consider: Authority is the same noun translated the right in 1:12. Some translations render by “power,” but the meaning of authority seems closer.2 

Respond: Knowing He has been given all authority, What would you want Jesus to pray about for you? What would you want Him to pray about for our church? How might you intercede, through the Holy Spirit, in those prayers?

 

 

2 Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 526.

 

Week of August 21 - Day 1

Week of August 21—The Authority of Jesus Christ

Scripture to Memorize: Matthew 28:18

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

 Day 1--Read: Daniel 7:13-14

 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.       

Reflect: What is the result of the meeting between the “Son of Man” and the “Ancient One”?

Consider: In the third major portion of this vision Daniel saw the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days. Jesus Christ, taking the title “Son of Man” from this prophecy, frequently used it to refer to Himself (as recorded in the Gospels; cf. comments on Mark 8:31; John 1:51). When the Son of Man was brought into the presence of the Ancient of Days, all the authority, glory, and sovereign power that had been exercised by rulers in the four kingdoms over all peoples, nations, and men of every language (cf. Dan. 3:4, 7; 4:1; 5:19; 6:25) was conferred on Him and those peoples worshiped Him. This is in keeping with the Father’s promise to the Son in Psalm 2:6–9, and will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Advent (Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Rev. 11:15).1

Respond: Read Daniel 7:13-14 again and look for all the descriptors of Jesus’ kingdom. What do we learn from these descriptions? How does that kingdom differ from the earthly kingdom we inhabit today? How might you be a better participant in God’s kingdom?

 

 

1 J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1351.

 

Week of August 14 - Day 5

Day 5--Read: 2 Chronicles 20:20-30

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.”

22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

The Lord Delivers Judah

24 When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. 27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28 They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29 And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.

Reflect: How did this situation end?

Consider: The ambush was a common feature of the holy war (Josh 8:2, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21; Jer 51:12; cf. 2 Chr 13:13). But here it was the Lord who “set ambushes” against the foe. These ambushes have been variously identified. We can only speculate, but supernatural agencies probably are implied, comparable with the “panic” that sometimes affected Israel’s enemies in a holy war (Exod 23:27; Josh 10:10). Confusion in battle sometimes brought armies to self-destruction (Judg 7:22; 1 Sam 14:20; 2 Kgs 3:23). Jehoshaphat’s men were not called upon to participate in the battle (cf. 13:14–18; 14:12–14). The huge quantities of spoil listed serve to emphasize the magnitude of the victory.5

Respond: Read 1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 7:3; Psalm 118:1, 29; 136:1. Life your life in a way that reflects a heart or gratitude.

 

 

5  J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 295.

 

 

Week of August 14 - Day 4

Day 4--Read: 2 Chronicles 20:18-19

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 

Reflect: How did the people respond to the word from the Lord?

Consider: Jehoshaphat and his people received these assurances with faith, reverence, and thankfulness. (1.) They bowed their heads, Jehoshaphat first, and then all the people, fell before the Lord, and worshipped, receiving with a holy awe and fear of God this token of his favor, and saying with faith, Be it unto us according to thy word. (2.) They lifted up their voices in praise to God, v. 19. An active faith can give thanks for a promise though it be not yet performed, knowing that God’s bonds are as good as ready money. God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, Ps. 60:5.[1]

Respond: Are you quick to run to God in victory? When you receive unexpected blessings? Consider how you might change your personal prayer and worship from a “needs based” approach to one of more gratitude.

 

[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 597.

Week of August 14 - Day 3

Day 3—Read: 2 Chronicles 20:13-17

 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

Reflect: What was God’s response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer? What specific instructions did he give the people to prepare for the impending battle?

Consider: After Jehoshaphat’s moving prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came on the Levite Jahaziel and empowered him to address the assembly. His message was one of comfort. (Twice he said, Do not be afraid or discouraged, vv. 15, 17.) The battle, he said, was not theirs but God’s. David had spoken similar words when facing Goliath (1 Sam. 17:47).[1] 

Respond: When has God given you an answer that seemed off or strange? What were the results? How has God used that situation to help you grow?

 

[1] Eugene H. Merrill, “2 Chronicles,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 634.

Week of August 14 - Day 2

Day 2--Read: 2 Chronicles 20:5-12

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Reflect: What attributes of God does Jehoshaphat call to attention in his prayer? What truth is Jehoshaphat counting on?

 Consider: Jehoshaphat led the prayer on that day. The gathering at the temple recalls Solomon’s prayer for divine help in situations just like this (6:14–42). Jehoshaphat apparently saw in the present predicament a judgment from God.[1]

Respond: What battles are you currently facing? What attributes of God are you currently depending on to help you through difficult times? How can you demonstrate confidence that He will come through?

 

[1] J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 293.

Week of August 14 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: 2 Chronicles 20:15

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.

 Day 1--Read: 2 Chronicles 20:1-4

After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

Reflect: What is the setting? How does Jehoshaphat respond?

Consider: Jehoshaphat. 1. The fourth king of Judah (872–848 bc), son and successor of Asa (910–869 bc). Jehoshaphat was 35 years of age when he began his reign; he ruled 25 years, during which time he maintained the stability of the Davidic dynasty (1 Kgs 22:41, 42). Jehoshaphat is held in high esteem by the Chronicler, along with Hezekiah and Josiah. His successful rule was due to his religious policy. He continued the religious reformation initiated by his father; therefore the Lord firmly established the kingdom under his control, “and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat; and he had great riches and honor” (2 Chr 17:1–5). The Chronicler praises Jehoshaphat’s courageous heart, evidenced in his removing the high places and the Asherim from Judah (2 Chr 17:6). Jehoshaphat is also reported to have closed all the houses of the male prostitutes (1 Kgs 22:46).[1]

Respond: How do you typically respond to fear? What spiritual disciplines do you practice that can help you in times of fear?

 

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Jehoshaphat,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1105.

Week of August 7 - Day 5

Day 5--Read: Psalm 112

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
6 For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
7 He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is steady;[b] he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
9 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor.
10 The wicked man sees it and is angry;
    he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
    the desire of the wicked will perish!

Reflect: Make note of the characteristics of a righteous man and the blessings he receives from God.

Consider: Five blessings that come to one who fears God are enumerated: (1) He is blessed with physical and material prosperity because He is righteous (vv.2–3). (2) Light is given even in darkness … for the upright (v. 4). This could refer to prosperity (in place of disaster) or to discernment. (3) He receives goodness in return for being generous (v. 9) and just (v. 5). (4) He will be firmly established in his faith, unshakable, with no fear of what man might do to him (112:6–8). (5) Because he gives to the poor (v. 5) his horn (89:17, 24; 92:10) will be lifted up, that is, he will be made strong and honorable by the Lord.5

Respond: Write a prayer of adoration to the Lord for who He is. Consider His qualities you are most grateful for. Confess your disobedience. Finally, express thanksgiving to the Lord for his faithfulness and provision in your life.

5 Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 875.

 

Week of August 7 - Day 4

Day 4--Read: Haggai 2:19

 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

Reflect: In spite of their disobedience, what promise is made to the Jewish nation?

Consider: The agricultural staples of this society—grapes, figs, pomegranates, and olives—had not yielded the essential harvests the people depended on annually. Without a successful yield of these agricultural staples there would be major disruptions to everyday life. It was the vine (v. 19) that produced grapes for the making of wine. The fig was used in making cakes and also in wine. The pomegranate was used for making wine and certain dyes. The olive provided oil used for cooking and a fuel source for lamps. Each of these products was essential for maintaining the lifestyle with which Haggai’s audience was familiar. All of these hardships—brought about by the failure of the people to seek a right relationship with the Lord—remained as painful reminders of their short-sighted choices. Though conditions might seem insurmountable, the prophet holds out hope for the future.[1]

Respond: How have you seen God’s faithfulness to provide? Understanding the personal way God has provided for you is a key component of your testimony you need to share with others.

 

[1] Richard A. Taylor and E. Ray Clendenen, Haggai, Malachi, vol. 21A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 190.

Week of August 7 - Day 3

Day 3—Read: Haggai 2:15-18

 15 Now then, consider from this day onward.[a] Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When[b] one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider:

Reflect: What did the prophet want the people to understand?

Consider: “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”[1] 

Respond: When have you been discouraged because ministry didn’t produce the results you had hoped for? Looking back honestly, could your own disobedience been at the heart of the ineffectiveness? Is there any area of disobedience in your life now you need to confess to God and make right? Consider how failing to do so might impact your efforts to minister in Christ’s name.

[1]  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Hag 1:5–6.

Week of August 7 - Day 2

Day 2--Read: Haggai 2:11-14

11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.

Reflect: To whom does Haggai ask his questions? Why?

 Consider: Consecrated meat was meat set apart for a specific sacrificial purpose (see Lev. 6:25; Num. 6:20). While the garment that might contain such meat would also be holy (cf. Lev. 6:27), that holiness of the garment could not be transferred to bread … stew … wine, oil, or any other food. But this is not true of ritual defilement, as indicated by the priests’ positive reply to Haggai’s question regarding the transmission of ritual uncleanness (Hag. 2:13). A person’s ceremonial defilement (e.g., by contact with a dead body) is as transferable to other things as is a contagious disease (see Lev. 11:28; 22:4–7).[1]

Respond: Understanding that we no longer live under the law, what practical warnings can we take from this passage about how we associate with things of the world?

 

[1] F. Duane Lindsey, “Haggai,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1543.

Week of August 7 - Day 1

Day 1--Read: Haggai 2:10

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet,

Reflect: What is the setting of this section of prophecy? Who is in charge?

Consider: DARIUS-- Also known as Darius Hystaspes and Darius the Great, Darius I seized the throne of the Persian empire after the death of Cambyses II. Although he was an Achaemenid, he was from a different branch of the royal family than Cyrus and Cambyses, and his authority was not accepted in all the provinces. After Darius quelled several revolts, however, his power was firmly established, and he turned his attention to expanding the empire. His military campaigns extended Persian borders to the Danube River in the west and to the Indus River in the east, making him ruler of the largest empire the world had known.1

Respond: We know from Daniel 6 that Darius was not always sympathetic towards God’s people. What encouragement can you gain from that fact in light of the fact that God spoke to Haggai during his reign? How can you encourage other believers with this knowledge?

1  Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Darius,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 578.

Week of July 31 - Day 5

Day 5--Read: Nehemiah 6-7:4

 

Conspiracy Against Nehemiah

6 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” 8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.

The Wall Is Finished

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

7 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

Reflect: How long did the rebuilding project take to complete? What was the impact on the enemies of God’s people?

Consider: “Our enemies.” The Samaritans, the Ammonites, the Ashdodites, and the Arabians under Geshem are the special “enemies” here spoken of. The Phœnicians, Syrians, & Moabites are the other “heathen round about” the Jews. Even these last were unfriendly, and disliked any increase of Jewish power and prosperity.5

Respond: Of the three specific attacks Nehemiah faced—temptation, intimidation, and speculation—which most often traps you, and why do you think that is such an issue for you? What needs to change in your prayer life to follow Nehemiah’s example?

 

5  H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Nehemiah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 64.

 

 

Week of July 31 - Day 4

Day 4--Read: Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah Stops Oppression of the Poor

5 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”

6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them 8 and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say. 9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? 10 Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. 11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised. 13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

Nehemiah's Generosity

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

Reflect: What social injustices were the people facing as they tried to remain focused on the rebuilding project?

Consider: Mortgaging is pledging property as a guarantee that one will repay a loan. Land was the only source of income for farmers in the subsistence economy of Judea. Documents from the Jewish community in Egypt at that time indicate that interest rates were from 60 percent to 75 percent. The payment made for using someone else’s money is called interest. If interest was not paid, the property could be taken away from the owners. Here they were in danger of losing their entire livelihood, their food, their wealth and their homes. Where the economic practice of mortgaging is unknown, something may be said like “We have to place our fields, our vineyards and our houses in the hands of others in return for food.”4

Respond: How could you help make certain that those who are facing injustice begin to be treated fairly?

The people of Jerusalem were in such great debt that they could not afford to buy food. Could you be generous to donate your time and money to being sure that people in your city get the food and clothing they need? How might God want to use you to meet these basic needs?

 

4 Philip A. Noss and Kenneth J. Thomas, A Handbook on Ezra and Nehemiah, ed. Paul Clarke et al., United Bible Societies’ Handbooks (New York: United Bible Societies, 2005), 344.

 

 

Week of July 31 - Day 3

Day 3—Read: Nehemiah 3-4

 Rebuilding the Wall

3 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king's garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and to the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired.30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.

Opposition to the Work

4  Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

The Work Resumes

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.

Reflect: The next threat to the rebuilding effort was primarily internal, from within their own ranks (4: 10-13). What was it?

 Consider: The rumors of impending surprise attack added to the discouragement caused by the natural hardships. Of course, that is what the enemies intended. External pressure amplifies internal weakness.[1] Read also Numbers 13 and notice the similar defeatist attitude in God’s people (10 of the 12 spies) when they had His promises on their side. Contrast Caleb and Joshua’s response to the other 10.

Respond: Why do you think Sanballat and Tobiah were opposed to Nehemiah’s efforts? What weapons did they use against Nehemiah and his team? What do we learn from Nehemiah’s response to the opposition? What does he say that surprises you? What effect does Nehemiah’s prayer have on his own people? Which gives you more difficulty as you try to live in obedience to God’s call on your life: external criticism or internal fears? Why? What direction does the Bible give for overcoming both? How did Nehemiah encourage his people to persist? What did he want them to remember (v. 14)?

[1] Mervin Breneman, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, electronic ed., vol. 10, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 197.

Week of July 31 - Day 2

Day 2--Read: Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah Sent to Judah

2 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem's Walls

9 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim[a] in Jerusalem.”

Reflect: List Nehemiah’s strategy for putting a plan into action regarding the rebuilding of the wall. What steps did he take? What opposition did he face? How did he respond?

 Consider: the queen also sitting by him—As the Persian monarchs did not admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably Esther, whose presence would tend greatly to embolden Nehemiah in stating his request; and through her influence, powerfully exerted it may be supposed, also by her sympathy with the patriotic design, his petition was granted, to go as deputy governor of Judea, accompanied by a military guard, and invested with full powers to obtain materials for the building in Jerusalem, as well as to get all requisite aid in promoting his enterprise.[1]

Respond: How could your church do a better job of reaching your city? Have you begun by prayer? Have you asked the Lord to humble you over the condition of your city and for the faith to help it? Do you have a Sanballat in your life? If so, would you take time this week to pray that God might change their hearts to join you in the work of the gospel?

 

[1] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 295.

Week of July 31 - Day 1

Read: Nehemiah 1

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah's Prayer

4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.


Reflect: Why is Nehemiah distraught? What is his response to his despair?

Consider: While serving at the Persian winter palace in Susa (cf. Es. 1:2; Dan. 8:1;), Nehemiah one day received a report from several men who had come from Judah. One of them was his own brother, Hanani; later Nehemiah appointed him to a high position in Jerusalem (7:2). This report came in the month of Kislev, that is, November–December in the 20th year of Artaxerxes the king (cf. Neh. 2:1). Artaxerxes, Persia’s sixth king, began reigning in 464 b.c., so this year was 444. (1)

Respond: What stands out to you about Nehemiah’s prayer? What elements are present? What can you learn about prayer from his example?

(1) Gene A. Getz, “Nehemiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 674.

Week of July 24 - Day 5

Read: 1 Samuel 3:19-20

19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.

Reflect: How does God confirm Samuel as his choice to be His spokesman to the people?

Consider: This section depicts Samuel’s transformation from naʿar (“boy,” 3:1) to nābîʾ (“prophet,” 3:20), from being a juvenile ignorant of the Lord to one who functioned as the Lord’s impeccable and revered spokesman. With this event the child Samuel, the first named male prophet since Moses, begins his career as a prophet who will be like Moses (cf. Deut 18:15–19). In it all the Lord once again demonstrated his propensity for confounding human systems, bypassing the exalted in favor of the humble.5

Respond: What’s your next step of surrender today? Are there any practices you need to start? Is there anything from your life that you need to remove?

55 Bergen, 84.

Week of July 24 - Day 4

Read: 1 Samuel 3:15-18

15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”

Reflect: How did Eli receive the message from Samuel?

Consider: Samuel is afraid to tell Eli the vision, the appearance (מַרְאָה) which had presented itself to his internal sense, in which God’s revelation concerning the house of Eli had been set forth before him—partly from awe at the divine word which formed the content of the revelation, partly on account of the dreadful significance it had for Eli, partly by reason of the sorrow of which, in his reverence and filial piety towards Eli, he could not rid himself.1

Respond: Was Samuel successful with his first assignment from God? How do you normally view something as successful? Think back to last week and Isaiah’s assignment from God (Isaiah 6:9-13). How does God measure success? How does God’s standard for success differ from man’s?

1 John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Samuel (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 90.