Author: gracepoint

July 28, 2020

Nehemiah 10- 2020-07-28

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 10

10:30 Given the prominence of the theme of separation in the book as a whole (Ezra 9; Neh 9:2) and the aversion for intermarriage (Ezra 9), it is hardly surprising that this concern heads the list of covenant commitments. While some groups (cf. Neh 13:23: Ashdod, Ammon, Moab) may have been more prominently associated with the practice than others, the generic terminology of the “peoples of the lands” here resonates with usage in this chapter and Neh 9 and gives the impression of a wider proscription akin to Ezra 9. Here, as there (Ezra 9:2; Neh 13:26), the giving of both sons and daughters to those outside the community reflects the abiding suspicion of intermarriage as the inevitable prelude to religious infidelity. While the actual fate of any existing marriages with proscribed partners is unclear, the failure to mention their dissolution here gives the impression at least of a more lenient line than was taken in Ezra 9–10.

10:31 While the regulation of the Sabbath in the Torah did not specifically include commerce in its prohibition of work, Amos 8:5 suggests that selling on the Sabbath had already been restricted before the exile, and the extension of the proscription to buying here is an illustration of the progressive regulation of the Sabbath that had thus begun long before the return from exile and would continue long after it. That this commitment is made specifically in relation to again the “peoples of the land” may well have answered a legitimate query regarding the application of the law, but reflects in any case the consuming interest in maintaining the boundaries of identity and community. […]

10:32–33 Whether early imperial financial support (Ezra 6:9; 7:21) had subsequently waned or simply proved insufficient, the voluntary contributions of the community had always been encouraged and noted (1:4, 6; 2:69). Even if it was a one-off contribution (cf. Exodus and Joash’s levy in 2 Chr 24:4–14), and all the more if it was a regular commitment akin to the later temple tax (Matt 17:24), such a voluntary subscription represented a significant step forward, both as a concrete expression of solidarity and as a tangible investment in the institution of the temple and the cultic establishment. The full extent of this investment and the scale of the cult is well illustrated by the range of activities to be supported (Neh 10:33) for the sake of “our” God (10:32–33).

10:34–39 […] The gift of firstfruits (deconsecrated to allow for use of the rest) was mandated (e.g., Exod 23:19), but the further specification of “all the fruit of every tree” appears to be an example of rigorist extension of the law to cover additional cases. The firstborn males of family and flock also are required (and may presumably be redeemed; cf. 34:19–20) while only the clean animals will be offered to the priests (Neh 10:36). Nehemiah 10:37 completes the list with the mention of the first portions of foods produced, but not otherwise covered, with the repetition of the “fruit of every tree” justified now by that which it produces—“wine and oil.” […] The final commitment of 10:39 (“we will not neglect the house of our God”) while certainly resonant with Nehemiah’s accusatory question in 13:11, serves to sum up the pledge of support for the temple articulated toward the end of this chapter (10:32–39) and the theological motivation for offering it (i.e., “our God”). [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) 52-54.

Bible Text: Nehemiah 10:1-29

1 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests.    9  And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu.           14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,           21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 10:1-29

  • Note that for practical purposes, not everyone could fix their seals in making the binding agreement to follow the Law of God and to obey fully all of God’s commands. However, everyone was able to join in the same commitment.  What is my view of my commitment to follow God and his laws regardless of my position within the church? 
  • Reflect on the fact that the people “separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God.” How does this apply to me specifically?
  • In what ways have I entered into “a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law … and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord”?

Prayer 

July 27, 2020

Ps116- 2020-07-27

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 116

    1 I love the Lord, because he has heard

        my voice and my pleas for mercy.

    2 Because he inclined his ear to me,

        therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

    3 The snares of death encompassed me;

        the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;

        I suffered distress and anguish.

    4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:

        “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

    5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;

        our God is merciful.

    6 The Lord preserves the simple;

        when I was brought low, he saved me.

    7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;

        for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

    8 For you have delivered my soul from death,

        my eyes from tears,

        my feet from stumbling;

    9 I will walk before the Lord

        in the land of the living.

    10 I believed, even when I spoke:

        “I am greatly afflicted”;

    11 I said in my alarm,

        “All mankind are liars.”

    12 What shall I render to the Lord

        for all his benefits to me?

    13 I will lift up the cup of salvation

        and call on the name of the Lord,

    14 I will pay my vows to the Lord

        in the presence of all his people.

    15 Precious in the sight of the Lord

        is the death of his saints.

    16 O Lord, I am your servant;

        I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.

        You have loosed my bonds.

    17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

        and call on the name of the Lord.

    18 I will pay my vows to the Lord

        in the presence of all his people,

    19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,

        in your midst, O Jerusalem.

        Praise the Lord!

    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 24, 2020

Ps103- 2020-07-24

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 103

    Of David.

    1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

        and all that is within me,

        bless his holy name!

    2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

        and forget not all his benefits,

    3 who forgives all your iniquity,

        who heals all your diseases,

    4 who redeems your life from the pit,

        who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

    5 who satisfies you with good

        so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

    6 The Lord works righteousness

        and justice for all who are oppressed.

    7 He made known his ways to Moses,

        his acts to the people of Israel.

    8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,

        slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

    9 He will not always chide,

        nor will he keep his anger forever.

    10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,

        nor repay us according to our iniquities.

    11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

        so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

    12 as far as the east is from the west,

        so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

    13 As a father shows compassion to his children,

        so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

    14 For he knows our frame;

        he remembers that we are dust.

    15 As for man, his days are like grass;

        he flourishes like a flower of the field;

    16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

        and its place knows it no more.

    17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to   

        everlasting on those who fear him,

        and his righteousness to children’s children,

    18 to those who keep his covenant

        and remember to do his commandments.

    19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,

        and his kingdom rules over all.

    20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,

        you mighty ones who do his word,

        obeying the voice of his word!

    21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

        his ministers, who do his will!

    22 Bless the Lord, all his works,

        in all places of his dominion.

        Bless the Lord, O my soul!

    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 23, 2020

Nehemiah 9- 2020-07-23

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 9

Bible Text: Nehemiah 9:26-38

26 “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. 33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. 37 And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.

38 “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 9:26-35

  • What is the pattern of the Israelites’ relationship with God? What warning does this have for me?
  • Why was it important for the Israelites to go through their detailed history of the past several hundred years and what was their conclusion upon reflecting?
  • Do I agree with the Israelites as I look back at my life, “yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon [me], for you have dealt faithfully and [I] have acted wickedly”? Praise God for his faithfulness despite my sins.

Prayer 

July 22, 2020

Nehemiah 9- 2020-07-22

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 9

9:1–5 […] As in Ezra 10, the assembled people here manifest visible signs of mourning, and the Israelites separate themselves from those described as “foreign.” While it is suggested that the Israelites’ separation here is of a quite different sort from that recounted in Ezra—not from foreign women, but from all foreigners—the reading of Neh 9 with Neh 10 where marital separation is very much in view tends to encourage the interpretation of the intervention here in similar terms, whether or not it always had this meaning. […]

9:6–8 […] The repetition of “you are YHWH” from Neh 9:6 invites the hearer to see the election of Abram too as an act of creation, and indeed throughout these verses, the subject, the active agent, is overwhelmingly God, who first chooses, brings out, and gives a new name to Abraham (9:7) and then finds him faithful and makes a covenant with him (9:8). While these verses disclose an awareness of traditions very like (but not identical) to Gen 15 and Gen 17, it is not the promise of progeny, but land—promised to one who had also come from Mesopotamia—that prompts the proleptic acknowledgment of its fulfillment and the expression of adoration (“you are righteous”).

9:9–11 No less resonant for returning exiles was the exodus tradition, reduced here to God’s climactic intervention against the Egyptian oppressors at the Sea (Exod 14–15). The repeated invocation of “our ancestors” (Neh 9:9–10) strengthens the identification of the returned exiles’ own distress (9:9) and insolent treatment (9:10) with that of their ancient forebears, even as the name that God made for himself in those days remains an encouragement “to this day.”

9:12–15 The recital of God’s gracious agency on behalf of Israel continues into the wilderness wanderings, with the tradition of the pillar (9:12) and the giving of Torah at Sinai (9:13) invoked in terms of divine movement/presence (“you led” in 9:12; “you came down” in 9:13) and the gift of divine guidance (“the way they should go” in 9:12). […]

9:16–22 The arrival of the disjunction “but they, our ancestors” sounds the note of rebellion characteristic of historical recitals within the penitential prayer tradition (Ps 106:13). […] The persistent grace of Israel’s God is reiterated in phrases drawn from and otherwise reminiscent of passages like Exod 34:6, before the prayer belatedly invokes that archetypal sin of the wilderness period, the idolatry of the calf (Neh 9:18). Yet such sin is juxtaposed with the mention again of God’s provision of the pillar (9:19), the manna and water (9:20), as well as “the good spirit to instruct them” (cf. Ps 143:10, where “good spirit” is also related to instruction). […]

9:26–31 […] A second invocation of the law and the people’s disobedience of “your ordinances, by which a person shall live” (9:29) is again followed by a reminder of the rejection of “your prophets” inspired by “your spirit” (cf. 9:20). The prayer notes finally the Israelites’ inevitable deliverance into the hands of not merely “enemies” but the “peoples of the lands”—a phrase whose application to those outside the golah community (Ezra 9:1, 2, 11; Neh 10:28) will have confirmed the contemporary relevance of the lessons of the past. While the historical recital ends on a note of divine blessing despite previous rebellion, the transition to petition proper (9:32) is signaled by the prayer’s note that the most recent mercy falls short of full redemption (“did not make an end of them”; 9:31 NRSV) and especially by the movement from historical reflection to present praise: “you are a gracious and merciful God” (9:31).

9:32–38 […] The juxtaposing of this divine fidelity with the faithlessness of these same people in neglecting the law and ignoring (prophetic) “warnings” is acknowledged as full justification for “all that has come upon us” (9:34). If the prayer’s owning of the past lapses briefly into further lament of ancestral ungratefulness (“they did not serve you” in 9:35), the continuing abundance of the divine generosity of the past (“great goodness” in 9:35; “good gifts” in 9:36) down to the present day (“rich yield”; 9:37) makes the community’s current status as “slaves” in a land that used to be their own (9:35) all the more painful (“in great distress” in 9:37). […] [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) 50-51.

Bible Text: Nehemiah 9:1-25

1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. 2 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. 4 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

6  “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

22 “And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. 25 And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 9:1-5

  • What is the significance of the completion of the wall as a background for the Israelite’s repentance?

Nehemiah 9:6-25

  • What is so appropriate about the Israelites’ prayer of repentance beginning with praising who God is and recalling God’s history with the Israelites?

Prayer 

July 21, 2020

Nehemiah 8- 2020-07-21

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 8

Bible Text: Nehemiah 8:13-18

13 On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. 14 And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” 16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 8:13-18

  • What can I learn from the progression, repeated throughout this chapter, of studying the words of the Law, understanding, obedience, and celebrating with “very great rejoicing”?
  • What insight does this give about the secret to true joy?

Prayer 

July 20, 2020

Ps91- 2020-07-20

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 91

    1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

        will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

    2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

        my God, in whom I trust.”

    3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

        and from the deadly pestilence.

    4 He will cover you with his pinions,

        and under his wings you will find refuge;

        his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

    5 You will not fear the terror of the night,

        nor the arrow that flies by day,

    6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

        nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

    7 A thousand may fall at your side,

        ten thousand at your right hand,

        but it will not come near you.

    8 You will only look with your eyes

        and see the recompense of the wicked.

    9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—

        the Most High, who is my refuge—

    10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,

        no plague come near your tent.

    11 For he will command his angels concerning you

        to guard you in all your ways.

    12 On their hands they will bear you up,

        lest you strike your foot against a stone.

    13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;

        the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

    14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;

        I will protect him, because he knows my name.

    15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;

        I will be with him in trouble;

        I will rescue him and honor him.

    16 With long life I will satisfy him

        and show him my salvation.”

    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 17, 2020

Ps62- 2020-07-17

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 62

    To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

    1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;

        from him comes my salvation.

    2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,

        my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

    3 How long will all of you attack a man

        to batter him,

        like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

    4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.

        They take pleasure in falsehood.

    They bless with their mouths,

        but inwardly they curse. Selah

    5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

        for my hope is from him.

    6 He only is my rock and my salvation,

        my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

    7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;

        my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

    8 Trust in him at all times, O people;

        pour out your heart before him;

        God is a refuge for us. Selah

    9 Those of low estate are but a breath;

        those of high estate are a delusion;

    in the balances they go up;

        they are together lighter than a breath.

    10 Put no trust in extortion;

        set no vain hopes on robbery;

        if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

    11 Once God has spoken;

        twice have I heard this:

        that power belongs to God,

    12     and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.

        For you will render to a man

           according to his work.

    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 16, 2020

Nehemiah 8- 2020-07-16

Journal

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Commentary: Nehemiah 8

8:1–8 Having described in great detail the diversity and distribution of the returnees in Neh 7, the narrative moves quickly to affirm in 8:1 the unity of (“all”) the people and the singularity of their purpose…it is the people who prompt Ezra to produce the Torah and the people who also feature most prominently in Neh 8:1–12…the Torah is not merely the “law of Moses” commanded by the God of Israel (as at Ezra 7:6), but also the law that “YHWH had commanded Israel.” The inclusiveness of the gathering is further emphasized by the mention of both “men and women” (Neh 8:3) and indeed “all who could understand,” a notion whose inclusiveness of children in 10:28 would seem to imply the presence of the latter here too. That this audience in its entirety (again, “all”) was especially attentive is explicitly emphasized by the narrator—and perhaps implicitly too by the note of how long Ezra read (six hours). […]

That the Torah will be not merely venerated but taught becomes clear as the narrative shifts its attention from liturgy to pedagogy in 8:7–8. In light of the involvement of Levites later in the passage (8:9, 11, 13) and the specific identification of some here as Levites elsewhere (e.g., Jeshua, Bani, and others in 9:4–5), it seems likely that Levites were employed to assist the crowds in understanding what they heard, presumably by circulating among them in some fashion. The technique of the “tutors” includes reading the text themselves, but extends also to some type of interpretation. […] The insistence that the teaching of Torah too is being done now, as it was then, is yet another confirmation of the importance of continuity with the past.

8:9–12 As in Ezra 10, the emotional response of the gathering expresses itself in “weeping,” a visible sign of mourning and emotional distress comparable (if not identical) to that found in 2 Kgs 22:11, where Josiah is convicted by the hearing of the law, as seems to be the case here. While such a report reaffirms both the power of the law and the tenderheartedness of the people, the admonitions first in Neh 8:9 and then twice in 8:10–11 (“do not be grieved”) suggest a popular response quite out of keeping with the spirit that the leaders wished to cultivate on a day that was “holy” (three times in 8:9–11). The choice of the first day of the seventh month, announced already in 8:2, was evidently far from accidental, with Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, being a traditional day of “holy gathering” (Lev 23:24). […]

8:13–18 That the community has been captivated by their engagement with Torah is suggested by the narrator’s insistence that the very next day, a now more restricted group of laymen—the unnamed heads of the ancestral houses—together with the priests and Levites, take the further initiative of gathering around Ezra the scribe to “study” (8:13) the words of Torah. […]

While Neh 8:18 (“they kept the festival seven days”; NRSV) implies that the community proceeded to observe Sukkot more or less immediately, 8:16’s focus is on where it was observed, namely, in both private homes and public spaces in Jerusalem, including within—and perhaps in proximity to—the temple. […] the final verse captures neatly the dynamics of the chapter as a whole. On one hand, the “he” (singular) who is noted as reading (Neh 8:18) can only be Ezra, whose six-hour recitation of Torah was the starting point from which all else flowed. On the other hand, the mention of the now solemn assembly (“they”) with which the observance concludes reflects the fundamental part played by the people themselves in responding to the Torah read by Ezra, but given by God. [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) 47-49.

Bible Text:

Nehemiah 8:1-12

 

1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 8:1-6

  • Reflect on the significance and rightness of the scene of “all the people gathered as one man,” standing for 6 hours with their ears “attentive to the Book of the Law” as the first order of business after completing the wall.

Nehemiah 8:7-12

  • What can I learn from the people’s response to the message of God’s word?
  • Reflect on the words of Nehemiah to the people: “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” To what extent am I experiencing strength that comes from the joy of the Lord?

Prayer 

July 15, 2020

Nehemiah 7- 2020-07-15

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 7

Bible Text: Nehemiah 7:4-73

4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:

6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

The number of the men of the people of Israel: 8 the sons of Parosh, 2,172. 9 The sons of Shephatiah, 372. 10 The sons of Arah, 652. 11 The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,818. 12 The sons of Elam, 1,254. 13 The sons of Zattu, 845.   14 The sons of Zaccai, 760. 15 The sons of Binnui, 648. 16 The sons of Bebai, 628. 17 The sons of Azgad, 2,322. 18 The sons of Adonikam, 667. 19 The sons of Bigvai, 2,067. 20 The sons of Adin, 655. 21 The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. 22 The sons of Hashum, 328. 23 The sons of Bezai, 324. 24 The sons of Hariph, 112. 25 The sons of Gibeon, 95. 26 The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188. 27 The men of Anathoth, 128. 28 The men of Beth-azmaveth, 42. 29 The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. 30 The men of Ramah and Geba, 621. 31 The men of Michmas, 122. 32 The men of Bethel and Ai, 123. 33 The men of the other Nebo, 52. 34 The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. 35 The sons of Harim, 320. 36 The sons of Jericho, 345. 37 The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721. 38 The sons of Senaah, 3,930.

39 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, 973. 40 The sons of Immer, 1,052. 41 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 42 The sons of Harim, 1,017.

43 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodevah, 74. 44 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 148. 45 The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, 138.

46 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 47 the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, 48 the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Shalmai, 49 the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, 50 the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, 51 the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, 52 the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephushesim, 53 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 54 the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 55 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 56 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.

57 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, 58 the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 59 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Amon.

60 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.

61 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 62 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. 63 Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.

66 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 67 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. 68 Their horses were 736, their mules 245, 69 their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720.

70 Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. 71 And some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns.

And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 7:4-6

  • Nehemiah needed to enroll the people by genealogy, because although the walls were completed in such amazing fashion, there remained the task of populating the city in order to restore it to a functioning state. This required further sacrifices by people, because to live in a desolate city, even if it now had the protection of a strong wall and gates, was not convenient or comfortable.  Reflect on what this shows about building God’s work and about his community.

Nehemiah 7:64-65

  • Taking into account the importance of the genealogy documents, what can I conclude about these people who could not find documents of their family records?
  • In what ways do I need to steward well my spiritual genealogy?

Prayer 

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