Daily Devotion Text

August 4, 2020

Nehemiah 12- 2020-08-04

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 12

12:1–7 With the Judahite-Benjaminite settlement of Jerusalem and the region now documented, the account offers a supplementary list of clerical personnel extending across multiple generations. The list is headed by those associated with the high priesthood of Jeshua (12:1, 7) during the first return under Darius I, sixteen of which (in varying forms) are found in the list of signatories to the covenant in Neh 10.

12:8–26 […] Notes concerning the recording of the Levites and priests (Neh 12:22–23) offer a further hint of the consuming interest (visible in these very lists) in documenting who did what in the days of the return, while 12:24 recollects those responsible not just for thanksgiving (cf. 11:17) but now also for “praise,” both of which are seen to have a Davidic connection (cf. Chronicles). The gatekeepers, familiar from 11:19, remind the reader of just how treasured the newly rebuilt temple and its precincts were for the returnees, while the intention of the final verse (12:26) may well be to indicate that the service of the Levites referred to in the previous verse was associated with the days of Joiakim and those later days in which Ezra and Nehemiah are to be found together (when Eliashib was high priest).

12:27–30 Given the numbers of Levites already in the capital (on the basis of the previous chapter), the summoning to Jerusalem of those from towns outside (12:27; cf. 11:3, 20) hints at the scale of the celebrations to come. Their distinctive contribution “rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing”—anticipated already in the foregoing lists (11:17; 12:24)—is elaborated upon here with the mention of musical instruments and indeed the recruiting of additional singers from the environs of the capital (12:28–29). That such preparations would include the purification of the Levites and the priests (12:30) is hardly unanticipated given the mention of this same practice in Ezra 6:20 at the dedication of the temple. […]

12:31–39 […] To facilitate the giving of “thanks,” Nehemiah forms two great companies, the first of which, composed of leaders, priests, and musicians, is led by Ezra (12:36). Nehemiah by contrast (12:38) follows the other half of the people (also giving thanks), with the two parting company from their starting point, likely at the Valley Gate. If this was their point of departure, one may well imagine Nehemiah surveying with some satisfaction the progress that had been made since he passed through the very same gate to inspect the ruined walls in the dead of night on his arrival in Jerusalem (Neh 2). […]

12:40–43 Proceeding on to the temple, the two companies take their places to give “thanks,” with the presence of the priests noted as well as the trumpets (12:41) and singers (12:42). Here, as at the dedications of the temple (Ezra 6) and the altar (Ezra 3), mention is made of both joyful celebration and the offering of sacrifices (Neh 12:43). […] The amplification of such joy is accomplished not only by means of repetition within the verse but also by mentioning that the noise was so loud that it could be heard at a distance, inviting comparison with the similar sentiment in Ezra 3:13. While there, in the early days of the restoration we see both rejoicing and regret; here in Neh 12, at the dedication of the wall, the sound is not a mixture of laughter and tears, but rather one of pure, unadulterated praise.

12:44–47 While the reader has already been informed of the people’s commitment to offer the first portions (10:35–37) and to bring them to the storerooms (10:38–39), the oversight of these chambers and their contents is mentioned as being established “on that day”—that is, the day of the dedication (12:27–43). […] Having also already detailed that the provisioning of the singers was royally mandated (11:23), a further note here describes the means of such provision (also for the gatekeepers), clarifying too the process of supplying for the needs of the clerical classes in terms of “hallowing or setting apart.”  [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) 55-57.

Bible Text: Nehemiah 12:1-47

1 These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.

8 And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service. 10 And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.

12 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13 of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14 of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15 of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16 of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17 of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18 of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19 of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20 of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21 of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.

22 In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. 24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch. 25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. 26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.

27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.

31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate.32 And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, 33 and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; 36 and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them. 37 At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.

38 The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. 40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41 and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

44 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.

45 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 12:27-30

  • What can I learn from the fact that the first thing the Levites did was to “[purify] themselves” and then “they purified the people” before they celebrated joyfully?

Nehemiah 12:27-43

  • What is the significance of Ezra the scribe leading the procession of celebration (v.36)? What is fitting about the scope of this event that took place to thank God?  How is this an apt picture of the church?

Nehemiah 12:44-47

  • What does this passage say regarding how a church should function? What are the “daily portions” that I am to contribute to God’s church?

Prayer 

August 3, 2020

Ps147- 2020-08-03

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 147

    1 Praise the Lord!

    For it is good to sing praises to our God;

        for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

    2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

        he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

    3 He heals the brokenhearted

        and binds up their wounds.

    4 He determines the number of the stars;

        he gives to all of them their names.

    5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;

        his understanding is beyond measure.

    6 The Lord lifts up the humble;

        he casts the wicked to the ground.

    7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;

        make melody to our God on the lyre!

    8 He covers the heavens with clouds;

        he prepares rain for the earth;

        he makes grass grow on the hills.

    9 He gives to the beasts their food,

        and to the young ravens that cry.

    10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

        nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,

    11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

        in those who hope in his steadfast love.

    12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!

        Praise your God, O Zion!

    13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;

        he blesses your children within you.

    14 He makes peace in your borders;

        he fills you with the finest of the wheat.

    15 He sends out his command to the earth;

        his word runs swiftly.

    16 He gives snow like wool;

        he scatters frost like ashes.

    17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;

        who can stand before his cold?

    18 He sends out his word, and melts them;

        he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.

    19 He declares his word to Jacob,

        his statutes and rules to Israel.

    20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;

        they do not know his rules.

       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 31, 2020

Ps121- 2020-07-31

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 121

    A Song of Ascents.

    1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.

        From where does my help come?

    2 My help comes from the Lord,

        who made heaven and earth.

    3 He will not let your foot be moved;

        he who keeps you will not slumber.

    4 Behold, he who keeps Israel

        will neither slumber nor sleep.

    5 The Lord is your keeper;

        the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

    6 The sun shall not strike you by day,

        nor the moon by night.

    7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

        he will keep your life.

    8 The Lord will keep

        your going out and your coming in

        from this time forth and forevermore.

    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 30, 2020

Nehemiah 11- 2020-07-30

Journal

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Commentary:

Nehemiah 11

 

11:1–3 Having recommitted themselves in the previous chapter to a giving of the firstfruits and tithes that would sustain the temple, the people now cast lots in order to “tithe” themselves in the repopulation of Jerusalem (11:1). That specific mention is made of the casting of lots serves to continue the echo of the settlement of the land, which was also done by lot according to Num 26:55–56 and Josh 14:2. Evidently, both there and here, the apportioning of unequal “shares” was seen to require divine impartiality (cf. Prov 16:33). This may also suggest that the relocation was seen to be a costly one, or unappealing at least, for families only recently returned to ancestral lands and keen to extract a living from them. Indeed, this costliness would seem to be confirmed by the note in Neh 11:2 that the people blessed those “who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem” (NRSV), though it may well be that this blessing was reserved for those who moved to Jerusalem without being compelled by the lot. […]

11:19–24 […] Whatever the real cause for the mention of a royal warrant (11:23) for the support of the singers, the impression given of “a settled provision . . . every day” for the descendants of Asaph (11:22) suggests that the musical contribution was no less important than any of the others.[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) 54-55.

Bible Text:

Nehemiah 11:1-36

 

1 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4 And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.

7 And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah, 8and his brothers, men of valor, 928. 9 Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.

10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin,        11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God,  12 and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, 13 and his brothers, heads of fathers’ houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, 14and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.

15 And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God; 17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284.

19 The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.

22 The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. 23 For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required. 24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side in all matters concerning the people.

25 And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages, 28 in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29 in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.          31 The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32 Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 11:1-2

  • What leadership lesson can I learn from the fact that the “leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem” while the “rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem”?
  • What is so beautiful about the people blessing “all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem”? What acts of sacrifice and selflessness for the sake of God do I see around me that I need to notice and bless?

Nehemiah 11:3-36

  • What can I learn about God from the fact that all those “who lived in Jerusalem” are listed by name and remembered in the Scriptures to this day?
  • Reflect on the rich spiritual lineage I am a part of, both at this church and in the whole history of Christianity that includes so many ancestral heroes. How should I live, knowing that I am part of this kind of glorious lineage?

Prayer 

July 29, 2020

Nehemiah 10- 2020-07-29

Journal

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Commentary: Nehemiah 10

Bible Text: Nehemiah 10:30-39

30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law. 35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. 38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”

Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 10:30-39

  • What are the three areas addressed in the covenant the people enter into? What are my commitments to God regarding these areas?

Nehemiah 10:32-39

  • Notice that the things they committed to are listed in specific and concrete detail. What lesson regarding making commitments does this reveal?
  • Reflect on the statement “We will not neglect the house of our God.” What concrete steps do I need to take to make this become a reality in my life?

Prayer 

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

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

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

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

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 

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