Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 5:14-7:73; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Psalm 33:1-11; Proverbs 21:8-10
After completing a major project there can often be a let-down among the workers. But in today’s scene in Nehemiah 8 we see that the people keep their love for God going after finishing the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.
Notice that the reading of the Law was not a spontaneous occasion (Nehemiah 8:4). It was planned out of realization that it was necessary. The people had respect for God’s word (Nehemiah 8:-6).
These people had probably not heard God’s word for a very long time, if ever (considering many were born in Persia). The Levites helped them understand what they were hearing (Nehemiah 8:8). God’s word can be very convicting (1 Timothy 3:16). Reading and studying the Bible makes us realize just how awesome God is and how sinful we are. It can bring us to tears (Nehemiah 8:9).
But those tears need not be tears of sadness. Instead they should be tears of joy because the Bible proves that a God that has absolutely no need to love people like us does (Nehemiah 8:12). So many non-believers have anger issues towards God. But such emotion demonstrates a lack of understanding of God’s word. There is great joy when we do understand it.
At the end of Nehemiah 8 the people celebrate the Festival of Booths which God instituted after the Israelites left Egypt and which apparently hadn’t been celebrated since the times of Joshua (Nehemiah 8:17). Here we see that even though God’s word contradicted recent tradition, the people believed God’s word. How differently we act today. In our society we think that what we are doing now trumps teaching from 2,000 years ago even if it is from God. As we have been reading in 1 Corinthians recently… such “wisdom” is really foolishness.
As the Holy Spirit continued to move through the population the people realized their sinfulness and were moved to fast (Nehemiah 9:1). Fasting is a way of dealing with our sin by forgoing the necessities of life – even food – because dealing with our sin is more important.
The prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9:5b-15 is a great example of the things we can praise God for. We can praise Him for His powers of creation (Nehemiah 9:6). We can praise Him for His wonderful promises and loyalty (Nehemiah 9:8). We can praise Him for His goodness that rescues us from difficult situations (Nehemiah 9:9-12). We can praise Him for providing us with all we need, and more (Nehemiah 9:15). And we can praise Him for forgiving our arrogant and stubborn behavior (Nehemiah 9:17-21).
There are no chapter breaks in the original biblical writings. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is one long text – just as we would write a letter or email today. So as we move to chapter 9 today we need to keep in mind the context from chapter 8.
Yesterday in chapter 8 Paul asked the Corinthians to give up their “right” to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In today’s passage he uses himself as an example. Paul had given up many things that he was entitled to in order to teach the word of God to many people, including the Corinthians.
Paul explains how he has the right to expect to be supported by those whom he teaches. Someone who works has a right to expect compensation – to be paid for their trouble – so they can support themselves. Just like an ox should not be expected to work for free (1 Corinthians 9:9) and also like the priests did not serve for free (1 Corinthians 9:13), Paul had the right to be supported by those who benefited from his work.
Yet the Corinthians were not supporting him. Even so, Paul did not demand his “rights” (1 Corinthians 9:15, 18). He just preached the gospel because that is what he was called to do.
This reminds me of missionaries who give up all they have to serve Christ. They leave the comfort of their homes to go live in a small village without electricity or clean water in order to bring the good news of Jesus to people who are lost.
Yet there are many of us that won’t give up these very same things. We cling to them as if we are entitled to them rather than exchanging them for the reward of teaching others about Jesus. As famous missionary Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
I often wonder how God can keep track of all the people on this earth (Psalm 33:13-15). I don’t understand it. Nor was I made with the ability to understand it. But I do know this – that only God can save me (Psalm 33:16-22). There is no thing or person on this earth that can give me the one thing I need most – victory over death.
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