Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12:27-13:31; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; Psalm 35:1-16; Proverbs 21:17-18
As has happened after each big event in the life of the Old Testament Jews, they have a celebration after the walls of the city of Jerusalem are completed. There was the playing of songs and singing (Nehemiah 12:27). But before the leaders could actually lead the celebration they had to be right with God as did the people (Nehemiah 12:30). We can’t truly worship God in any form while we are burdened with sin. That sin must be cleansed through confession and the receipt of God’s forgiveness.
The people were full of joy at this celebration (Nehemiah 12:43). This is in stark contrast to the state of their lives before the walls were rebuilt. At that point they were living in fear of being attacked. Now they were safe, just as we who put our trust in Christ are safe.
This was not only a day of giving thanks with music but also giving thanks through harvest and tithe offerings (Nehemiah 12:44). When people are truly thankful, we want to give of ourselves to the one who deserves our thanks. Notice the people gave with joy. When we give to God of our time and money, it should be done gladly, not begrudgingly.
Nehemiah left Jerusalem in good shape when he returned to Persia. But when he comes back things in Israel had deteriorated (Nehemiah 13:7-31). In Nehemiah 10:30-39 the people had vowed to not to the very things they were now doing. It doesn’t take long for us to sin when we don’t have strong leadership, does it? Is it any wonder the United States slides deeper and deeper into sin every day?
What a great transition this last chapter of Nehemiah is into today’s passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul urges the Corinthians to imitate him (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul knew he was a good leader and he knew people needed leaders and godly examples. We should all ask ourselves if we would be willing to encourage others to imitate our behavior. If the answer isn’t a confident “yes”, then we have some work to do. The answer can be “yes” if we are imitating Christ, as Paul was.
As we’ve read dozens of times thus far this year in the Old Testament, God is a God of organization and structure. He organizes people by giving some authority over others. Note that being under someone’s authority does not mean inferiority. Many in the world look at it this way. God does not. Jesus was under God’s authority – He was going to die on a cross because that was God’s will. But Jesus was never inferior to God. Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are equal parts of the Trinity.
Your boss has authority over you at work. But that does not make him or her superior to you, does it? Of course not. Authority has nothing to do with superiority/inferiority. It simply has to do with responsibility. Without organization and structure we would have chaos.
In marriages, for example, God has appointed the husband as the spiritual leader (1 Corinthians 11:3). This does not mean his wife is in anyway inferior to him. People who don’t understand the Bible jump to this erroneous conclusion. God simply realizes that people need leadership. He designed us that way.
This certainly does not mean that husbands/fathers should be dictators. It only means that they have the ultimate responsibility for the spiritual health of their wives and children. Like any good leader, men should seek and welcome input and ideas from those around them, including wives.
Keep in mind that with responsibility comes accountability. Each husband/father will have to give a full account of how well he did in this area. I wouldn’t want to be a man who has to explain to God why my kids grew up to be atheists. Women should be thankful they dodged this bullet.
Sadly, the idea of being under authority as meaning someone is inferior has infiltrated our culture causing people to disrespect authority figures. Likewise, authority figures have often abused their positions. Rather than leading in love, knowing that God will evaluate them, some have been selfish tyrants. Neither of these behaviors pleases God.
There are a couple of places in the Bible where God implies that angels learn from watching us, including 1 Corinthians 11:10. This is interesting. But I admit I don’t fully understand what they are learning.
When we are attacked by other people we should do exactly as David did in Psalm 35. He took his case to God and sought His protection. As Christians we are often ridiculed. But, like David, we should remember that God knows the truth and will rescue us (Psalm 35:9).
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