Month: June 2020

June 30, 2020

Nehemiah 2- 2020-06-30


Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Nehemiah 2

2:1–8 Whether Nehemiah awaits his turn to attend to the king, or perhaps awaits the return of the king himself from the royal winter residence in Babylon, some four months pass before an opportune time arises for Nehemiah to disclose his concern to the king. Such an opportunity is afforded him due to his role as “cupbearer” (1:11), a position whose duties may well have included sampling the royal cup to prevent the poisoning of the royal person, but whose influence apparently extended far beyond this. Nehemiah reports (2:1–2) that his sadness—whether heartfelt or artful—contrasted sharply with his usual demeanor, thereby piquing the curiosity of the king and prompting royal concern. Nehemiah’s anxiety at this point (“I was very much afraid”; 2:2) may relate to the dangers of displaying anything other than a cheerful disposition in the Persian court (cf. Dan 1). However, Nehemiah’s apprehension may well be prompted by the prospect of voicing a concern that is, on one hand deeply personal, yet on the other, directly related to Persian imperial interests and policy vis-à-vis Jerusalem (Ezra 4:21).

[…] Before Nehemiah makes his request, he first notes his prayer to the God of heaven—most probably itself a request and if so perhaps similar in spirit (and also brevity) to the one he had been praying in the months previous (Neh 1:11): “Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!” (NRSV).

[…] Nehemiah’s ability to draw directly from the resources of the Persian crown (i.e., the king’s forest; Neh 2:8) may reflect his position within the court or perhaps the perceived strategic importance of the work. Nehemiah does, however, share with the book of Ezra not only the phrase the “good hand of my God” (e.g., Ezra 7:9; 8:18), but also the understanding of this divine agency as the sole motive force behind the Persian crown’s authorization of the return(s) (7:6).

2:11–16 […] Just as Ezra sees the beautification of the temple as being “put by God in the hearts” of the Persian kings (Ezra 7:27), so too Nehemiah understands his plans as those that “my God had put in my heart” (Neh 2:12). The prospect of opposition to these divinely inspired plans—a prospect that 2:19–20 shows to be a very real one—is perhaps the most obvious explanation for Nehemiah’s insistence that what God had told him “I told no one” (2:12). Indeed, one suspects that Nehemiah’s reemphasizing of the completeness of his discretion—cataloged in some detail in 2:16b and celebrated in 2:16a—reflects his awareness of the potential damage that might be done if advance notice of his plans reached the opposition before they could be fully formed and communicated within the community.

2:17–18 […] Having seen the situation for himself, Nehemiah’s articulation of both the problem and the solution in the same terms used by the visitors to Susa (2:17; cf. “trouble/bad situation,” “gates burned,” “disgrace” in 1:3) must have been intentional. In addition to confirming and identifying with the community’s own understanding of its plight (“you see the trouble we are in”; 2:17), Nehemiah reinforces his charismatic authority to lead by sharing his earlier awareness (2:8) of “the hand of God for good” upon him—manifest not only (but presumably not least) in the royal interest in and approval of Nehemiah’s plans (2:18).

Nehemiah’s report of the collective response of the people, “Come let us begin building!”—itself an enthusiastic endorsement of Nehemiah’s approach—is followed by his own summary of their commitment. Nehemiah presumably sees it as no accident that his report of “God’s good hand” upon him leads to the people’s “strengthening of their hands for good”—a turn of phrase that elsewhere has the connotation of enablement (Ezra 6:22) and determination (Neh 6:9).

2:19–20 […] Their opponents’ question, “Are you rebelling against the king?,” seems an allusion to earlier allegations of rebellion (Ezra 4) and a very thinly veiled one at that. However, Nehemiah’s reporting of their hectoring tone (“they mocked and ridiculed us”) and especially his response (Neh 2:20) suggests he has seen through their bluff—armed as he is with the knowledge of Artaxerxes’s own approval of Nehemiah’s activities in the province. That this approval has been forthcoming from the earthly king is credited by Nehemiah to “the God of heaven,” the same God who answered Nehemiah’s prayers and is the ultimate guarantor of the project’s success.[1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 34-36.

Bible Text:

Nehemiah 2:1-10

1 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.

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.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 2:1-9

  • What can I learn from the fact that it is four months after Nehemiah first heard about and started fasting and praying about Jerusalem’s condition that he finally receives an opportunity to present his request to the king?
  • Nehemiah was a man of prayer and a man of practical action. Why is it that these two traits are often thought to be at odds with each other?  How can I grow to be more like Nehemiah?


June 29, 2020

Ps32- 2020-06-29

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 32

    Psalm 32

    A Maskil of David.

    1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

        whose sin is covered.

    2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

        and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

    3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

        through my groaning all day long.

    4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

        my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

    5 I acknowledged my sin to you,

        and I did not cover my iniquity;

    I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

        and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

    6 Therefore let everyone who is godly

        offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;

    surely in the rush of great waters,

        they shall not reach him.

    7 You are a hiding place for me;

        you preserve me from trouble;

        you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

    8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

        I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

    9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

        which must be curbed with bit and bridle,

        or it will not stay near you.

    10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,

        but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

    11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,

        and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!


  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

June 26, 2020

Ps30- 2020-06-26

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 30

    A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

    1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up

        and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

    2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,

        and you have healed me.

    3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;

        you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

    4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,

        and give thanks to his holy name.

    5 For his anger is but for a moment,

        and his favor is for a lifetime.

      Weeping may tarry for the night,

        but joy comes with the morning.

    6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,

        “I shall never be moved.”

    7 By your favor, O Lord,

        you made my mountain stand strong;

      you hid your face;

        I was dismayed.

    8 To you, O Lord, I cry,

        and to the Lord I plead for mercy:

    9 “What profit is there in my death,

        if I go down to the pit?

      Will the dust praise you?

        Will it tell of your faithfulness?

    10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!

        O Lord, be my helper!”

    11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

        you have loosed my sackcloth

        and clothed me with gladness,

    12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

        O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!


  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

June 25, 2020

Nehemiah 1- 2020-06-25


Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Nehemiah 1

1:1–4 […] Nehemiah’s concern for “the remnant” resonates with Ezra’s prayer (Ezra 9:8, 13, 15) without differentiating between those who had returned to the land and those who had never been exiled in the first place. While the people and the province as a whole are not forgotten, Nehemiah’s query clearly and significantly connects the fate of the people to the state of Jerusalem (Neh 1:2). Judging from their response (1:3), it seems clear that Nehemiah’s fellow Jews also closely connect the physical state of Jerusalem with the situation and reputation of the remnant: the “shame” of the latter is directly related to the shattered physical fabric of the city’s walls and gates […] Like Ezra, Nehemiah adopts a sitting posture (Neh 1:4; Ezra 9:3, 4, 15) and weeps (Neh 1:4; Ezra 10:1) in keeping with the practice of mourning (Neh 1:4; Ezra 10:6) while also embracing fasting (Neh 1:4; Ezra 8:23; 9:5; 10:6) and persistent prayer before the God of heaven (Ezra 1:2; 5:11–12; 6:9–10; 7:12, 21, 23).

1:5–11 As in Ezra 9, the description of appropriate and presumably heartfelt piety here gives way to a prayer of confession and petition (1:5–11). The prayer opens by invoking again the “God of heaven” (1:5) but now in decidedly Deuteronomic terms: “a great and terrible God” (Deut 7:21), “who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (7:9). […]

The exhortation for God to “remember” (Neh 1:8–9) the Mosaic covenant (1:5) is clearly paralleled (or indeed undergirded) by Lev 26:42, 45 and other priestly texts (e.g., Ezek 16:61–63). […] Finally and typically Deuteronomic too is the understanding of Jerusalem as the place where God chooses to make his name dwell (Neh 1:9; Deut 12:11), even if in Neh 1:10, the echoes of “redeemed” and “strong hand” also suggest an awareness of the language of the exodus tradition (Exod 13:9, 13, 15, 16). Having confessed and “reminded” God of the conditions of restoration, the petitioner finally reiterates his request for divine attentiveness (“let your ear hear”) to the supplications of God’s “servants” (who fear God’s “name”) and more specifically to Nehemiah’s request for “success” in soliciting a reversal of the previously obstructive policy (cf. Ezra 4:17–22) of the king of Persia. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 33-34.

Bible Text:

Nehemiah 1:1-11

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.”

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.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 1:3-5

  • What was Nehemiah’s reaction to the news he received?
  • What is my typical reaction when I am confronted with facts that cause me concern or that burden my heart?
  • What are some notable elements of Nehemiah’s prayer?
  • Nehemiah refers to God as “the great and awesome God.” How can Nehemiah view God this way given what has happened to Jerusalem?  Are there some ways in which my view of God shifts with the ups and downs of my personal life, or when some effort at serving God does not go well?


June 24, 2020

Ezra10- 2020-06-24


Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Ezra 10

Bible Text: Ezra 10:16-44

16 Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter; 17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.

18 Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers. 19 They pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. 20 Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. 21 Of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22 Of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23 Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. 26 Of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. 27 Of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. 28 Of the sons of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29 Of the sons of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. 30 Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. 31 Of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33 Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34 Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu. 38 Of the sons of Binnui: Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. 44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 10:16-17

  • Consider the manner in which the work was carried out by the committee responsible for identifying those who had intermarried. What can I learn about how I should struggle against sin?

Ezra 10:18-19

  • What lessons can I learn from the men of Jeshua about the proper response to sin? How does this compare with my response to sin?   
  • Are there certain things in my life that I need to “put away”?

Ezra 10:23

  • What warning can I take from the fact that even the Levites, who were appointed as God’s priests, were guilty of intermarrying foreign women?


June 23, 2020

Ezra10- 2020-06-23


Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Ezra 10

10:1–2 […] While Ezra’s initial reaction attracts an inner circle of sympathizers who sit in silence (10:3–4), his subsequent—equally emotional—outburst of contrition now draws a large cross-section of the community (“men, women, and children”) to the outer courts of the temple, where the people weep in solidarity with him (10:1). The community’s confession of marrying foreign women is voiced by Shecaniah, one of the sons of Elam from the first return. He himself is not named as an offender (10:18–44), nor would the implication of Jehiel (10:26) necessarily implicate Shecaniah or exclude him from the community, even if this Jehiel was his father (10:2). While echoing Ezra’s corporate confession of the community’s “faithlessness” (so the chiefs in 9:2), Shecaniah also suggests that there may yet be “hope for Israel.”

10:3–4 Shecaniah’s proposed solution is to enter into a “covenant” with God (see, e.g., 2 Chr 15:8–15; 29:10) and to “send away” all the women and their children—terminology that is atypical of Jewish divorce and possibility pejorative (see footnote to commentary on 10:1–2). Only now is it made clear that at some point in the preceding four months, Ezra had evidently pointed the way toward this solution. That this solution is in accordance with the counsel of Ezra and “the (Torah) Tremblers” is thus less surprising than Shecaniah’s insistence that it is also in accordance with “the law.” There is no legal requirement to divorce foreign wives, but if Deut 24’s provision for divorce in case of “something objectional” (24:1–4) is in view here, then the women might be eligible to marry again. If what is in mind is another more specific precedent or injunction instead, then this will be testimony to the evolution of the legal tradition within a particular stream of postexilic Judaism. In either case, while Shecaniah clearly hands the initiative back to Ezra (Ezra 10:4: “it is your task”), his additional encouragement (“we are with you”) suggests that the community’s continuing solidarity will be as important as Ezra’s willingness to “be strong.” […]

10:10–11 Ezra begins by clarifying the accusation that was already expressed in his prayer, before insisting on a confession that follows the form of “giving thanks/praise” found elsewhere only in Joshua’s exhortation of Achan to confess his sin (Josh 7:19). This further resonance with the exodus/ settlement/ conquest tradition foregrounds the conviction that the returnees’ sin, like Achan’s, has the potential not only to compromise the divine intention to install his people in the land, but also, as Ezra’s prayer indicates, to undermine the very existence of the community. That praise cannot be disconnected from—and indeed must be intimately connected to—practice is demonstrated by Ezra’s clarification of the requirement that follows from this confession: “do his will”—defined here as the separation from the peoples of the land and, more to the point, in the case at hand, from “the foreign wives.”

10:12–15 Like their forefathers at Sinai (Exod 24:3), the people respond (Ezra 10:12) clearly (“with a loud voice”), decisively (“we must do”), and apparently collectively (“all the assembly”). While they are conscious—and quite reasonably so—of the impracticality of a group so large trying to resolve the problem then and there, their awareness of the seriousness of the situation (“for we have greatly transgressed”) leads them to an alternative proposal. Given that the leaders have been engaged from the beginning (9:1; 10:5), it is not surprising that they are commissioned to form a representative committee to adjudicate the cases of intermarriage brought before them by those concerned, in the company of local authorities who might speak on their behalf. Once completed, it is hoped that the process will be sufficient to assuage the divine wrath that it is assumed will otherwise destroy the community (cf. 8:22; 9:14). […]

10:18–19 As is common in Ezra, the book here includes a list apropos of the foregoing narrative. Like the list of Ezra’s returnees, this one begins with the priests. Unsurprisingly, it is the sons of the house of Jeshua, listed in the first return (2:36), who are indicted, rather than the Aaronic priests who had only just returned to the province with Ezra. Also unsurprising, given the seriousness of the trespass, is that the sending away of the wives was accompanied by a guilt offering.

10:20–24 […] The absence of temple servants from the list suggests to some that intermarriage was more prevalent among the upper echelons of the community, where both the temptation and opportunity to secure the societal advantages of such matches may have been greater (cf. 9:2). Alternatively, it may be that the problem among the upper classes was not more prevalent, but simply more relevant to the writer—on the assumption that once the practice was addressed and eliminated among the so-called leaders, the rest of the community would soon follow suit. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 27-29.

Bible Text: Ezra 10:1-15

1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.

6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. 7 And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.

9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 10:1-2

  • What does this passage show about the potential of one person’s response to sin clarifying the spiritual or moral dimensions of a situation for others?
  • In what ways does this apply to me as I live out my Christian identity?
  • What does Shecaniah’s statement, “But even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this,” reveal about their understanding of God? How do I view God when sins are exposed in my life?

Ezra 10:10-12

  • What can I learn from the response of the assembly?
  • How do I respond when some sin is pointed out to me?


June 22, 2020

Ps27- 2020-06-22

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 27

    Of David.

    1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

        whom shall I fear?

      The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

        of whom shall I be afraid?

    2 When evildoers assail me

        to eat up my flesh,

      my adversaries and foes,

        it is they who stumble and fall.

    3 Though an army encamp against me,

        my heart shall not fear;

      though war arise against me,

        yet I will be confident.

    4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,

        that will I seek after:

      that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

        all the days of my life,

      to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

        and to inquire in his temple.

    5 For he will hide me in his shelter

        in the day of trouble;

      he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

        he will lift me high upon a rock.

    6 And now my head shall be lifted up

        above my enemies all around me,

      and I will offer in his tent

        sacrifices with shouts of joy;

      I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

    7   Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;

          be gracious to me and answer me!

    8   You have said, “Seek my face.”

        My heart says to you,

          “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

    9   Hide not your face from me.

        Turn not your servant away in anger,

          O you who have been my help.

        Cast me not off; forsake me not,

          O God of my salvation!

    10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

          but the Lord will take me in.

    11 Teach me your way, O Lord,

          and lead me on a level path

          because of my enemies.

    12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

          for false witnesses have risen against me,

          and they breathe out violence.

    13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

          in the land of the living!

    14 Wait for the Lord;

          be strong, and let your heart take courage;

          wait for the Lord!


  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

June 19, 2020

Ps20- 2020-06-19

  • Bible Text: Psalm 20

    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

    1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!

        May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!

    2 May he send you help from the sanctuary

        and give you support from Zion!

    3 May he remember all your offerings

        and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

    4 May he grant you your heart’s desire

        and fulfill all your plans!

    5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,

        and in the name of our God set up our banners!

      May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

    6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;

        he will answer him from his holy heaven

        with the saving might of his right hand.

    7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

        but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

    8 They collapse and fall,

        but we rise and stand upright.

    9 O LORD, save the king!

    May he answer us when we call.


  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

June 18, 2020

Ezra9- 2020-06-18


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Ezra 9

9:1–2 […] The problem voiced by the chiefs (9:1a) relates to the intermarriage of Israelites, including primarily or initially some of their fellow chiefs (9:2b) with the “peoples of the land” (9:2). That such a practice represents “faithlessness/sin” (9:2) in their own eyes is explained by their association of the “peoples of the land” (i.e., those who were not identified with the returnees) with the abominations of a list of nations that is generally familiar from the Pentateuch (e.g., Gen 15:19–20; Exod 3:8). The tradition assumed here seems to be drawing upon a combination of Deut 7:1–3, which proscribes intermarriage with the usual seven nations indigenous to Canaan, and Deut 23:2–7 which excludes from the community Edomites and Egyptians up to the third generation and Ammonites and Moabites altogether. […]

9:3–5 […] If he had offered instruction on the passages of which the chiefs seem to be aware, but was himself -unaware of the scale or existence of the problem, Ezra’s dramatic reaction here may well be intended to suggest the strength of his own personal shock and dismay. If, however, as is perhaps more likely, Ezra was already specifically aware of the problem, the strength of Ezra’s response here will be primarily for the benefit of galvanizing the community into the appropriate response.

Much like the term “Quakers” of the more recent past, “all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4; Isa 66:2, 5) evidently became a way of referring to a party within the returnees distinguished by their particular reverence for and interpretation of the Torah (Ezra 10:3). Their sympathies may well have been wholly or partly prompted by Ezra’s ministry, but their solidarity with him is unmistakably expressed here by their sitting “appalled” with Ezra, in much the same manner as Job’s friends do (2:13).

9:6–7 Now that others have expressed their solidarity with him, Ezra commences his confession by identifying with the community’s sin (“our iniquities”) in spite of his own individual innocence. It is precisely because the community’s sins and iniquities have “climbed to the heavens” (9:6) that Ezra is ashamed to “show [lit., lift] his face” (Job 22:26) to the God of the heavens (Ezra 1:2; 5:11–12; 6:9–10; 7:12, 21, 23). […] Ezra here insists that the sins of his own generation have added height to the tower of trespasses already erected in the preexilic period.

9:8–9 The guilt of Ezra and his contemporaries is all the greater, he admits, because of the grace that the “remnant” (i.e., the community associated with the returnees) has experienced “for a brief moment” (i.e., since the edict of Cyrus). The “givenness” of this grace is expressed in the gift of “a stake” (NRSV; lit., “a tent peg”) in the holy place, which likely intends a contrast to the nomadic transience of exile (see, e.g., Isa 33:20). […] . While Ezra’s prayer acknowledges that the “bondage” (Ezra 9:8–9) of exile is not ended, God’s graciousness is seen in the extension of love to them, such that their Persian overlords (as in 7:28) have in turn allowed them a minirevival (9:8–9) defined in terms of restoring the ruins of the temple and setting up a “wall” in Judea and Jerusalem. […]

9:10–15 […] Like the prayers of lament found in the Psalms, Ezra’s prayer displays a profound awareness of the problem in the relationship between God and his people. […] Ezra’s prayer includes features such as a request for attentiveness, a historical recital/reflection, and rhetorical questions toward its conclusion. Given Ezra’s role and activities as described earlier in his memoir, it is hardly surprising that even when praying, he is also preaching/teaching Torah (primarily as mediated by Deuteronomy). [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 26-27.

Bible Text:

Ezra 9:1-15

1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6 saying:

“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 9:1-2, 10-14

  • What was the Israelites’ crucial mistake? In what ways have I “not separated [myself] from the peoples of the lands with their abominations”? How is God warning me through this passage?
  • What is especially tragic that “in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost“?

Ezra 9:13-15

  • Based on this passage, what are the components of genuine repentance? What is the proper posture when coming into the presence of God?


June 17, 2020

Ezra8- 2020-06-17


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Commentary: Ezra 8

Bible Text:

Ezra 8:21-36

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. 28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord.” 30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.

31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. 33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui.  34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.

35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 8:21-23

  • How is “proclaim[ing] a fast” a way to “humble ourselves before our God”?
  • Are there situations in my life that require this kind of humility and fasting?

Ezra 8:24-34

  • Why did they go through such care to ensure that “the whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded”?
  • What does this reveal about Ezra’s character?


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