A new book – Nehemiah

Today’s (Sa 05/08/2017) FDR is Nehemiah 1 and Matthew 18:10-20

Beginning a new book today we can take a brief but broad view of what we are about to read for the next few weeks.

Nehemiah is a book largely about renewal, in this case principally about the wall for the defence of Jerusalem.  The wall that is used to control and regulate the way of life inside the city by the use of its gates in accordance with ritual and commercial processes inside the city.

For us though, there is a strong reason to see this account as a broad euphemism for our own renewal and protection against being drawn into sin and keeping our walk with God righteous.  The image of the wall and the struggles of Nehemiah to establish a rebuilding operation are much like our own struggles to keep evil out of our lives and to walk in the paths of our God.  So too its possible to see in this record’s course our own use of defences and primarily the acts of relying on God for both guidance and sustenance for the whole journey.   For example, the acts of adding weapons to the work parties on the walls mimics our need and adoption of prayer, in faith, and actions that seek to keep us from falling into sin.  Yet there are plenty of distractions in our lives to sin and so too Nehemiah and the people are constantly buffeted by opponents.

Enjoy Nehemiah and encourage each other in our own lives before God and each other.

Glenn

 

 

But we have sinned!

Today’s (Fr 04/08/2017) FDR is Ezra 10 and Matthew 22:1-14

Ezra 10

As we open the last chapter of Ezra we are struck by Ezra being in a confessional mode.  For something serious enough to again remove the Israel nation from its earthly home and worship place.  Israel could again loose Jerusalem, Judah and the Temple!  Ezra 9 disclosed this sin.

The banishment to Babylon came after God’s judgement on a people who had filled their land with abhorrent practices.  Their guilt for accepting this judgement is finally accepted by Daniel. (See Daniel’s prayer at Dan 9:4-19.)

Like other Old Testament leaders such as Josiah, Mordecai and Esther and Jehoshaphat, Ezra adopts an attitude of confession and prayer while seeking to make right what is wrong.

Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19 what use the Law is before God. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Even today the law has the same purpose. Martin Luther too, gave this strong argument based on the same Deuteronomy passage: “… that by the words of the law, man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but that what he ought to do; that is, that he may know his sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength.”

Then Ezra’s people, lead by their leaders, agree to a way to set themselves right before God and they spend a number of months carefully going about rectifying the abhorrent practices so that they may walk in God’s paths of righteousness.

Sending away their wives who were taken from other non-God fearing peoples and their children was a practice we would find very difficult in today’s post resurrection age.  Essentially, Ezra and his people are removing those who would not believe from among the tribes of Israel.  Here a cleansing of God’s people is being undertaken.

Matthew 22

This passage too is about conviction and choice.  Choice to obey or not.

As the King sends out his servants to bring in guests, each time he is refused.  Each time his royal invitation is disobeyed. So each time the King makes a more generous invitation to those less likely by earthly standards to be invited.

Jesus’ parable mimics His own work among us.  Even after the wedding celebration is filled the King finds those who did not respond correctly to his invitation and this person is bound and cast out of the wedding.  Here are echoes of Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats and the sorting out of the ‘faithful’ at judgement time by removing those who mimic the sheep of Jesus.  (see Matthew 25:31-46)

John 1:12-13 makes it clear why there is only one way to become and remain a sheep in Jesus’ flock, or a member of His church.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

May each one of us walk prayerfully and carefully in the paths of our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage and support our sisters and brothers to remain faithful.

Glenn

Some glimpses of God’s son Jesus demonstrating his authority.

Today’s (We 05/07/2017) and yesterday’s New Testament FDRs are Matthew 8:23 – 9:8 and encompass three accounts of Jesus ministry that demonstrate his authority as the Son of God and Messiah.  In each the way in which his verbal and actions are received and responded to tell us much.

The forces of nature  (ch 8:23 – 27)

Here in Matthew, and in the other gospels the description of this incident is pretty clear: The storm that overtakes and threatens Jesus and the disciples’ boat trip is stilled by Jesus.  The action by Jesus, in front of His disciples, shows that Jesus can turn fear and anxiety away.  Jesus shows He, like God, can and does control forces of nature.   More than that, Jesus is prepared to challenge the disciples to assess their lack of faith, read mistrust in this circumstance.

Jesus has demonstrated that we are called to follow Him, in earlier scenes in Matthew, and here shows that life following Him can be rough. But with Jesus as Master of All, we should be emboldened to follow Him as He can look after the problems.

Demons in a foreign land (ch 8:28 – 9:1)

Arriving in this foreign place Jesus and his disciples encounter two men who live in a graveyard.  But they are more than men.  They are possessed by demons.  Demons who recognise the Son of God and Him being out of expected time and place.  The demons urge Jesus to send them into a second best place to live and while Jesus does this, He also exercises judgement on them and drowns the pigs.  Now, for some local people having lost their source of income and having disturbed the town enough to bring the locals out they want nothing to do with Jesus and send Him away.  From here Jesus returns to his own town.

We will come up against apparently impassable opposition and hardship.  Some of it demonic and Satanic.  However, Christ is in control and we must still follow Him.

Healing and forgiveness (ch 9:2 – 8)

We know faith to be an expression of dependence on our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Here too the faith of the paralytic and his bed carriers is dependence on God.  The scribes suggest that Jesus is blaspheming, or doing God’s role of forgiveness.  Without them ascribing to Jesus the authority and power God has given Him.  So Jesus exercises His mission of saving people from sin and sends the man home healed.

Here, unlike the Gadarenes, the local people of his own town see Jesus for who he really is.  A man, born of God, with God’s mission to forgive and save the people.  The people who will listen.  They rejoice in this revelation.

Here Jesus heals not only the physical sickness but also the spiritual sickness.  Again Jesus demonstrates His God-given authority over us in His ability to forgive us and also to heal us of a much more than serious illness, by healing our spiritual illness.

The son of God and the son of Man

So how do we respond to Jesus as The Messiah?

Here, in these three passages Jesus pre-eminently exercises His authority over the natural world, over the spiritual world and over us.  But not in a offhanded nor uncaring way.  He saves the disciples to challenge their faith.  He judges the demons and frees the possessed men, healing their spirits.  He challenges the thinking of the scribes about God and heals the paralytic man.  Both in spirit and in body.

Who is this man of God?  The one and only Son of the Almighty, Jesus Christ.

He whom we must follow, obey and serve.

God Bless,

Glenn

The following were used as resources for comments and analysis
in the preparation of this blog:
Carter, W. (2003) Textual Notes to Matthew's Gospel in The 
New Interpreters Study Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville. 
(p 1761)
Wilson, A.W. (2000) Matthews Messiah, a guide to Matthew's
Gospel, National Photo Engravers, Singapore. (pp 105 - 106)

Two Kings choose to mock God

Today’s (Tu 04/06/2017) and tomorrow’s Old Testament FDR is 2 Chronicles 25 and 26 and can be read by clicking on the blue link.  (Today’s and tomorrow’s New Testament passage will appear in tomorrow’s blog.)

Other Gods in life (ch25)

Amaziah, as the new king of Judah, begins well.  He deals with those directly involved in his father’s assassination by putting them to death.  This also separates him from any involvement.  Note too, he observes the law that applies here to dealing with sin against other persons and only executes those involved and not their families.  Now to war.  He assembles his own tribes who make a great number (300k) ready for war and hires another 100k from Israel at twice the going rate.

Unfortunately at this time Israel has become apostate.  Although Amaziah is raising a ‘host’ he relies on a reinforced army made up of 25% of non-believers.  (It is thought the purpose was to deal with the sin of the Edomites when they invaded Judah 50 years before.  Considered a sin because the Edomites attacked the people of God.)

This choice to involve the Israelites demonstrates Amaziah’s decision not to rely on the Lord for assistance, but to seek earthly assistance from an apostate mercenary force.  Little wonder the ‘man of God’ is outraged! (v7)

The reading takes us through the victory, in unlikely ways that God brings to the fight, as the ‘believers’ fight on their own with the Edomite southerners.

Sadly, the Chronicles record notes the departing mercenary contingent that raids civilian towns on their unhappy dismissal and returning angrilly home from a bounty of booty they could have expected in plundering the Edomites with Amaziah’s force. (v13)

Unfortunately what then follows  is another poor decision of Amaziah’s.  Rather than destroying the false gods and images of the Edomites where they stood he brings them home to Judah and places them in a special place and continues to recognise them as gods by prostrating himself and making burnt offerings!  At least he did not place these in the Temple of the Lord, yet he worshipped them!

God calls a prophet in His anger to challenge Amaziah!

The prophet asks this rehotorical question.  “Why do you resort to the gods of another people, when they were powerless against you, when you were commissioned by the Lord himself?”  The text records that it was all down hill from here.

For us this should read – “Why do we resort to the powerless gods of others when we know the Lord Himself?”

Too big for his boots (ch 26)

This chapter introduces Uzziah to us and cites his great feat of opening the trade route to Aqab, that had been an aim of Amaziah’s reign (v1&2).  This chapter goes on to record his pleasing behaviour before the Lord, his worship of God and that God made him prosper.  Uzziah was successful before God in fighting, in agriculture and being prepared to defend his people and land (v3 – 15).

Then at v16 Chronicles records Uzziah’s departure from relying on God.  Although he has reached the watershed of his reign and become very successful as God’s earthly representative he becomes arrogant and violates one of the rights of God by entering the nave of the Temple to offer incense.  This is a role of the priests alone, as commanded by God, and is done twice daily in normal circumstances.

Here we see a mark of the respect and fear in which Uzziah was held (v17).  Quickly we see both the priest’s proclamation of judgement and God’s judgement placed on him in the form of a skin disease.  Interestingly the passage records Uzziah’s awakening to what he has done (v20).

God’s judgement includes Uzziah now being isolated from all he has done and his own people and family as prescribed by Leviticus 13:46.  Even when he dies his body is buried rather than placed in the sepulchre of the royal house (v23).

For us the priests’ question can be rephrased, “What arrogance will lead us to deny God his rightful place in all we do?”

Sisters and brothers, although we can see these kings of God’s choosing and their stories as part of Old Testament history they also speak to us .  Through Jesus we too are elect of God and can succumb to the temptations of the evil one to choose other gods or think we are cool enough to treat God with disrespect, even unthinkingly!

A prayer:  Father and Almighty God,  I too am able to turn away from you and pay attention to other things I put in the place in my life that You only should have.  Sometimes these are things I might worship.  Sometimes these are things I might do that push you aside from being central in all I do, think and say.  Help me Father to realise when I have done this.  In Jesus’ name forgive me please Almighty God?  Help me to keep You central in my life in all times.   I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen

God Bless,

Glenn

The following publication was used to assist in preparing this 
blog: 
Johnstone, William. (1997) 1 & 2 Chronicles Vol 2  in  Journal 
for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 254, 
Sheffield Academic Press, Midsomer North. pp 150 - 169

Finishing well

Today’s (Mo 05/06/2017) FDR readings are 1 Chronicles 27 and 1 Corinthians 16

The Chronicles reading today from chapter 27 is about finishing well. At this point David’s kingdom is in a fairly good state and here we see the numbers counted for the army, those in charge of agriculture and provisions, and those in charge of various responsibilities with the King’s Court. But you may recall that there was a problem when David decided to count the army. Verse 24 just gives us a hint of what that problem was.  This comment links through to 2 Samuel 24 where we read reports that David chose to ask for the census of the fighting men. This appears to have represented a glorying in human power and not the power of the Lord.

However as you’ll see with tomorrow’s reading this appears just before the Ark was moved into the rebuilt temple and so there is an opportunity here for David to have relied on himself and the nations that he ruled, rather than God. God’s judgement and the punishment meted out is also referred to in 2 Samuel 24.

 

In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul is trying to close off his fairly critical letter to the Corinthians. If you’ve been a teacher, coach, parent, or some other supervisor of people, after admonitions and criticisms and answers to difficult problems, it is difficult to round off and finish well. As we mentor people in our spheres of influence, including our brothers and sisters in Christ, we may have critical or direct things to say.  We want to balance our criticisms with some supportive or encouraging finish while still maintaining our stand on the correction that we’ve asked for. Not just to make it work but to make it work so that the outcomes glorifies our God.

Paul uses three things here that are not extremely important nor not particularly critical, but things that directs the attention onto other matters. (i) He writes about   finances and what needs to be done before he gets there, (ii) he mentions some personal arrangements and his visiting plans, and finally (iii) he finishes by acknowledging God working among Christians.

As we serve each other we too must remember that we have a responsibility to encourage others in the broader perspectives as well as the individual one that we might be concerned about.

A Prayer – Our Father God, as we exercise our responsibilities under You for our brothers and sisters we ask for wisdom to work with them fairly and honestly as we encourage them in a life following your son Jesus Christ. Help us to see each person as a cherished child of Yours. Help us to walk with them in the Christian life and to be frank, fair and understanding in our love and care for them. We ask these things in your son’s name, our Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Glenn

A pair of Kings, from different houses and judgement

Today’s (Wed 31/05/2017) FDRs are 1 Samuel 26 & 27 and Revelation 17 & 18

As we continue our reading in the books of Samuel about two earthly kings from different families we continue to see a stark contrast between Saul and David.  Saul is now under God’s judgement and has been given over to an evil spirit or demon.  Do you remember after which sin God turned His back on Saul?

David is still making day to day decisions with God’s supremacy and will in his mind.  So he chooses not to take revenge opportunities that he comes into but to leave judgement to God.  Given our first impulses many of us will want to react to offences given. Just like David’s men in both the cave and Saul’s tent.  It is hard to restrain the ‘urge’ to strike out at the person who has hurt us.  Perhaps we’ve been passed over for a promotion or the desired cream task has been handed to somebody else! Perhaps our friends have been told a false story about us or our family that they’ve believed!

In the moment we discover that this has happened to us we often want to teach the perpetrator a lesson!

Jesus teaches us that there, in the flash of a thought to take revenge, we have sinned!  How do we remedy this response in us?

Why do you think we see David acting differently?   Look into Jesus’s teaching and the apostles writings about how to keep ourselves from sinning?

As we read our Revelation chapters today, are you struck, as I am, by the immense forces unleashed on  the earth and its people.

We read, hear or see news of apparent threats from North Korea and this country’s testing of missiles that could carry nuclear war heads onto our country.  War heads that can unleash tremendous destruction and desolation.  What will these end-times forces that God is sending in judgement do?  Why judgement?

Whatever you believe the form of these visions in Revelation are, it is pretty clear they depict the end of the world and its peoples.  The way in which these descriptions occur and are written are similar to any other passages in the Bible where God brings judgement on an individual, on a people, on nations and on countries.  As a direct example look at the earlier Samuel passage where Saul is judged as God withdraws Himself and allows an evil spirit to control Saul.

While David’s prime role in the Bible is to continue the line from which the gracious gift of God is made, that of Jesus Christ in the form of forgiveness for our sins.  This is so that forgiveness comes to life personally in our world.  So too we are reminded by Revelation that judgement can and will come to us all.

David’s life, although faulted, becomes an exemplar for our own life.  To live in faith and hope under the glorious grace and mercy of our Triune God.  Our Father God!

I trust this hymn and its words build you up and encourage you as you seek to live as God asks.  I encourage to go into today with these words and your commitment to our Almighty God on your heart and mind.

I, the Lord of sea and sky

May we be blessed by God and bless each other as we seek to walk together as children of God.

Glenn

Thanks to youtube.com for the clip above.

 

Diverging responses to Gods calling. How do we respond?

Today’s (Sa 06/05/2017) FDRs are Jonah 4 and Acts 26.

It is easy to be a Jonah and act as he has.  Just find an easy or a lazy way to avoid God’s calling in whatever form it comes!

It is pretty tough, from a human perspective, to do as Paul did?  It takes faith, hope, love, . .

Ah, excuse me?  But aren’t these fruits of the Spirit? (see Galatians 5:22)

But why is Jonah included in the Bible. I can only speculate with some commentators, that it has both an original Hebrew purpose and its current Christian purpose is to teach and compare. For Israel; it is to provide a device to show what would happen to Israel if it did not respond to God’s call to obedience. For Christians; to remind us of our need for obedience and to demonstrate God’s ongoing grace in forgiving us our sinning.

Today’s Acts chapter is Paul’s own summary of how he became a Christian and what he has done, as God’s servant.   While trying to dissemble the Jewish Leaders arguments against Paul, he is working to make the gospel clear   But also his words and purpose aim to do exactly what Agrippa accuses him of (see v28).

Another comparison can be made between Jonah and Paul.  Jonah, disputes God’s grace that is extended to himself and Nineveh.  He gets into an inactive sulk still wanting to see Nineveh destroyed from his safe vantage point.  In fact this last chapter leaves the final discussion between God and Jonah unresolved.

So too the close of the hearing before Agrippa and Festus does not resolve Paul’s circumstances.  (We will read in the next few days about Paul’s next trip.)

While you could assume that in both circumstances God’s purposes have been completed, I’d rather you looked at the two human personalities and their responses to being called and the markedly different personal outcome.  Jonah finally does as God wants and more than 120,000 persons are saved from destruction with their animals.  But Jonah definitely went the long way around to saving Nineveh.

Paul is healed of his blindness and straight away he commences learning and preaching about His Lord even while he is in Damascus. We know from other accounts that Paul commenced a ministry that, through the Holy Spirit’s actions, saved many from eternal damnation.

Perhaps it would be more correct to add that Paul’s ministry goes on through passages like Acts 26 and the Bible that shows us today what is possible with faith.

A prayer – Heavenly Father and Loving God I thank you for who you are in my life and relationships.  I thank you that you bless me with knowledge and understanding of you and forgive me for my sins.   Lord I ask that as I live my life I might do so in faith in you and through your son, Jesus and Holy Spirit.  Lord guide me that I might faithfully and carefully seek to bring others to know you so that your name is glorified.   I ask this in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.

Glenn