Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 1-3:14; 1 Corinthians 7:1-24; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 21:4
Today we begin the book of Nehemiah which is the counterpart to Ezra. Both books recount the returning of exiled Jews from Babylon to restore Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11) which was a very important position.This person protected the food and drink of the king to ensure the king was not going to be poisoned. This included eating or drinking a portion himself before serving it. Obviously the king would need to have a lot of trust in the cup-bearer.
Its one thing to say we are troubled by bad news, its another to demonstrate how we feel. Our actions always reveal our true feelings. Despite living in the Persia, not to mention in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s heart was with his own people, the Jews (Nehemiah 1:2-4).
Nehemiah’s first reaction is to go before God in humility with prayer and fasting (Nehemiah 1:4). Parents might not welcome when their children “remind” them of their promises, but God does. Nehemiah recalls God’s promise to bless those who are obedient to Him (Nehemiah 1:8-9). There is nothing wrong with doing this.
Even though Nehemiah realized that only God could rectify the situation, he also realized that God needed someone to work through (Nehemiah 1:11). God doesn’t just wave a magic wand over the world to accomplish things. He works through human beings. But to do that, he needs people who are willing to do something – often something they’ve never done before.
So often we pray for something for a few minutes then never mention it again, expecting God to answer. But Nehemiah prayed for four months (Nehemiah 2:1) before he brought his request to the king. It took God four months to prepare both Nehemiah and the king for this moment. Nehemiah could have taken matters into his own hands months before. But he wisely waited on God’s timing.
Notice that Nehemiah never told anyone else about what he was praying for. This way he knew that if it happened it was from God.
By the way, the events of Nehemiah 2:1 are related to one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible. Daniel 9:25, which was written before Nehemiah’s request, predicts that there will be 173,880 days from the king’s decree in this passage (on March 14, 445 BC) to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to the day the Messiah enters Jerusalem for the final time. Jesus fulfilled that prophecy on April 6, 32 AD. Amazing.
Once again we see that when we are doing the work of God there will be opposition (Nehemiah 2:9-10, 19). Its just par for the course and should not dissuade us from continuing our mission.
Nehemiah waits until he has all the information he needs before telling anyone why he has come to Jerusalem. But when he does he reveals his plans as well as the fact that he is there only by the grace of God (Nehemiah 2:16-18). This excites the people and they get to work right away.
Evidently the Corinthians had written to Paul asking him some questions related to sex which Paul addresses in today’s passage (1 Corinthians 7:1).
When it comes to a married couple, both the husband and wife should recognize and fulfill the other’s sexual needs. They should not deprive one another, except for short periods of time devoted to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Just like we read in the Old Testament, sex is not a spiritual act despite what many pagans believed. People are not more or less spiritual by having or not having sex.
These passages confirm that God is not against sex, as many who misunderstand Him believe. He considers sex to be a very important part of marriage. Each spouse is responsible for ensuring that the other’s sexual needs are met so as to not encourage the other to get their needs met somewhere else.
Even though Paul was not married at this time (1 Corinthians 7:8) he certainly was at one point. It was considered a sin for Jewish man to be single by age 20. Also Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin who had a requirement that its members be married. We don’t know why Paul is now single.
No matter where we are at in life God can use us (1 Corinthians 7:17,21). Our current circumstances may not be ideal, but we should not be focus on them. Rather we should be focused on living for Christ.
Sometimes we jump to conclusions and think God is not with us (Psalm 31:22). But that is not true. If we are loyal to Him then He will protect us (Psalm 31:23) and never leave us.
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