Author: carmenhsu

July 6, 2020

Ps46- 2020-07-06

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 46

    To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah.

    According to Alamoth. A Song.

    1 God is our refuge and strength,

        a very present help in trouble.

    2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

        though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

    3 though its waters roar and foam,

        though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

    4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

        the holy habitation of the Most High.

    5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

        God will help her when morning dawns.

    6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

        he utters his voice, the earth melts.

    7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

        the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

    8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

        how he has brought desolations on the earth.

    9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

        he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

        he burns the chariots with fire.

    10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

        I will be exalted among the nations,

        I will be exalted in the earth!”

    11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

        the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

    God

  • [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 

July 3, 2020

Ps37- 2020-07-03

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: 

    Psalm 37

    Of David.

    1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

        be not envious of wrongdoers!

    2 For they will soon fade like the grass

        and wither like the green herb.

    3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;

        dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

    4 Delight yourself in the Lord,

        and he will give you the desires of your heart.

    5 Commit your way to the Lord;

        trust in him, and he will act.

    6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

        and your justice as the noonday.

    7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

        fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,

        over the man who carries out evil devices!

    8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!

        Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

    9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,

        but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

    10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;

    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be   

    there.

    11 But the meek shall inherit the land

        and delight themselves in abundant peace.

    12 The wicked plots against the righteous

        and gnashes his teeth at him,

    13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

        for he sees that his day is coming.

    14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows

        to bring down the poor and needy,

        to slay those whose way is upright;

    15 their sword shall enter their own heart,

        and their bows shall be broken.

    16 Better is the little that the righteous has

        than the abundance of many wicked.

    17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,

        but the Lord upholds the righteous.

    18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,

        and their heritage will remain forever;

    19 they are not put to shame in evil times;

        in the days of famine they have abundance.

    20 But the wicked will perish;

        the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;

        they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

    21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,

        but the righteous is generous and gives;

    22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,

        but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

    23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,

        when he delights in his way;

    24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,

        for the Lord upholds his hand.

    25 I have been young, and now am old,

        yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken

        or his children begging for bread.

    26 He is ever lending generously,

        and his children become a blessing.

    27 Turn away from evil and do good;

        so shall you dwell forever.

    28 For the Lord loves justice;

        he will not forsake his saints.

        They are preserved forever,

        but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

    29 The righteous shall inherit the land

        and dwell upon it forever.

    30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

        and his tongue speaks justice.

    31 The law of his God is in his heart;

        his steps do not slip.

    32 The wicked watches for the righteous

        and seeks to put him to death.

    33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power

        or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

    34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,

        and he will exalt you to inherit the land;

        you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

    35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,

        spreading himself like a green laurel tree.

    36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;

        though I sought him, he could not be found.

    37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,

        for there is a future for the man of peace.

    38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;

        the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

    39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;

        he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

    40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

        he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

        because they take refuge in him.

    God

  • [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 

July 2, 2020

Nehemiah 3- 2020-07-02

Journal

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary:

Nehemiah 3

3:1–2 Confirmation of the community’s earlier commitment to the project (2:18: “Let us arise and build”) is supplied by the report here that Eliashib the high priest and his confederates “arose and built” (3:1) the Sheep Gate. This may well have been of particular interest to the priests along with the stretch of wall between the towers of “Hananel” and “the Hundred” (cf. 12:39) because of their probable association with the temple complex (2:8) in the northeast of the city. It is possible that the dedication and purification of the walls mentioned in 12:27–30 is to be identified with the “consecration” of the building work here (3:1), though a separate process of sanctification for repairs to the sacred precincts cannot be ruled out. […]

3:3–32 The Fish Gate—built by the sons of Hassenaah (3:3)—was likely located in the northwest corner of the city and marks the point at which the focus of the work shifted from the late preexilic wall to the earlier one. While the Tekoites are represented in the work party, the list makes a point of noting the Tekoan nobles’ lack of support and loyalty “to their lord(s)” (3:5). Whether or not their lack of support for Nehemiah’s initiative reflects Tekoa’s proximity to Qedar (and an allegiance to Geshem), this incidental note confirms that not all of those who might have been expected to contribute did so. […] Among those engaged in repair work beyond the Broad Wall in the direction of the Tower of the Ovens were two responsible for the two subdistricts of Jerusalem, Rephaiah son of Hur (3:9) and Shallum son of Hallohesh (3:12). The specific mention of the latter’s daughters simultaneously discloses Shallum’s lack of sons and celebrates the commitment of his daughters to share their father’s responsibilities.

[…] Others with leadership responsibility elsewhere (Nehemiah over Beth Zur [3:16]; Hashabiah and Binnui over half districts of Keilah [3:17–18]; Ezer over Mizpah [3:19])—some of whom were apparently Levites (3:17)—also make repairs on behalf of “their district” (3:17). The proximity of the work to the house of the high priest Eliashib (3:20–21)—already involved near the temple enclosure (3:1–2)—may well explain the involvement of the priests (3:22), whose number may have included Meremoth (Ezra 8:33). Others continue the pattern of working on the wall in the vicinity of their own houses (Neh 3:23). […] Whether the Tekoans who carried out the work on the next section (3:27) were the same as those already mentioned (3:5), it is not impossible that the extra investment by the Tekoans was motivated by a desire to make up for the absence of their nobles. [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) 37-38.

Bible Text:

Nehemiah 3:1-32

1 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.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 3:5

  • What can we learn from the Tekoite nobles, who “would not stoop to serve their Lord” in the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem?
  • How does the nobles’ behavior contrast with the description in the rest of the chapter?

Nehemiah 3:6-12

  • Reflect upon the fact that the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall was done by men and women of all backgrounds, even goldsmiths, priests, merchants, and perfume-makers. How does this capture the essence of the local church? 
  • For all but a few, the task of rebuilding the wall was unfamiliar work, outside of their normal range of skills. What does this reveal about what it takes to build God’s kingdom?  How willing and available am I to doing whatever task is necessary to further God’s kingdom regardless of whether I feel comfortable doing such tasks, or whether it’s something I am already good at?

Prayer 

July 1, 2020

Nehemiah 2- 2020-07-01

Journal

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Nehemiah 2

Bible Text: Nehemiah 2:11-20

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 in Jerusalem.”

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 2:11-16

  • What can we learn about the kind of person Nehemiah was by the way he sets out at night to personally inspect the entire wall?

Nehemiah 2:17-20

  • How does Nehemiah describe the situation that the people have been used to for about 140 years? What are some troubling realities I have become accustomed to that I need to redefine as unacceptable?
  • Think about the beautiful response of the people, “Let us rise up and build,” and the words “So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” What does this passage show about the nature of “good work”? What good work has God given me to do, and what has been my response to it?

Prayer 

June 30, 2020

Nehemiah 2- 2020-06-30

Journal

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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?

Prayer 

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!

    God

  • [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!

    God

  • [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

Journal

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?

Prayer 

June 24, 2020

Ezra10- 2020-06-24

Journal

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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?

Prayer 

June 23, 2020

Ezra10- 2020-06-23

Journal

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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?

Prayer 

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