More than transformed rubble

Nehemiah 12 commences with a generational roll call of eminent priests and Levites (v.1-26) among whom is Abijah (v.4) from whom Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist was descended (Luke 1:5).

Having shared his account of the building of the wall in chapters 1-7, Nehemiah now depicts for us the dedication day, with its twin processions and loud rejoicing for their restoration (v.27-43).

After an extensive rebuilding program that touched the lives of the entire community and brought security and pride to the people of Jersulem again. It was a time to celebrate the goodness of God and give thanks. There is no doubt that this would have been a spectacular event to behold, bringing together Levites, singers and musicians from the surrounding regions. But it was also a sacred event requiring the purification (v.30) of the Levites, the people and gates and wall itself.

Two impressive choirs led the processions which departed in different directions to circumnavigate the city, coming together at the house of the Lord (v.40) where great sacrifices and loud rejoicing was offereds because “God had given them great joy.”

In verses 44- 47, this show of joy and zeal is tapped into, to ensure that worship remains part of the fabric of society with key appointments made to collect and look after the tithes and offerings and lead worship.

While the story of Nehemiah teaches us that rubble can be transformed to restore pride and give security again, the Parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21:33-45 further educates us that more than physical walls can be built with that which has been rejected.

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’?

Jesus prophecises of a time when those very walls that Nehemiah built up, were about to come tumbling down again, because the religious zeal for God had been lost (v.43-45).

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

Matthew 15:31

Ezra 4, Matthew 15:29-39


Matthew 15:31 (New International Version)

31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.


Amazement leads to praise. The people were amazed, and then they praised the God of Israel. Why were the people amazed? Hadn’t they themselves brought the mute, the crippled, the lame and the blind to Jesus to be healed? Even so, they were amazed. We can imagine them coming to Jesus hopeful but unsure, hoping for a cure but scarcely trusting that hope, and then the amazing thing happens – the mute speak, the crippled are whole, the lame walk and the blind see. Amazing! Then their focus lifts from the healing to the healer, to Jesus who has thus revealed himself to be Israel’s Messiah, and they praise God.

So should our focus be not on healing in itself but on the God of Israel and Jesus Christ his revealed Messiah. As God has given us powers and abilities, let us use them in his service. If he has blessed us with sight, let us see aright; if he has made us able bodied, let us work for his glory; if he has blessed us with mobility, let us use that to share the gospel with those who are far off; if we can speak, let us tell others of how good God is. And let us praise the God of Israel!

A generous response, renewed hope

Today’s FDR is 2 Chronicles 31:2-21 and Matthew 9:27-38.

In our our Old Testament reading today we see a bright and prosperous time for Israel. They are led by Hezekiah who appears to be an anomaly  in a line of kings who regularly turn their backs on God. We are told that Hezekiah ‘did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God’ (v20). He sought God with all his heart. We also see that like their king, the people have turned their hearts to God and respond with generosity… to the point of overflowing.

As I read this I am encouraged and challenged that as my heart  turns and seeks God, one of the practical outworkings is generosity – in time, money and effort – joyful generosity! How I long to give of what I have more generously. I will pray therefore, not that I would be more generous but that I would have my heart turned more to and captivated by God!

In our gospel reading, the compassion of Jesus is displayed in the healing of two blind men and casting out of a demon in a third. I am struck straight away by the response of the blind men – Jesus ‘sternly’ warns them not to tell anyone about their miraculous healing and their response…. we’ve got to tell everybody! I can only imagine what it must have been like for them to have their eyes opened, to have their lives changed forever and to want to respond by telling others. In the same situation, I don’t know that I would have been able to contain my joy either!

Jesus ministry so far is summed up in v35 – moving throughout the towns, healing the sick and proclaiming the gospel. We are told of his compassion for the crowds, harassed and helpless. He subsequently encourages, no, commands his disciples to pray for labourers for the harvest. I’m sure that during our world missions conference towards the end of July we will hear many stories of labourers and the harvest in Australia and around the world. As we have been commanded, may we continue to pray for those who have been sent and in so doing realise that we too are called to the harvest as co-labourers in proclaiming the gospel… and willingly follow Christ in that calling.

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)

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

In this passage Jesus ends his sermon on the mount. His final message is probably very well known to many people, even those who don’t know its context or origin.

For us reading this familiar passage it is good to be reminded of the truths behind this proverb. One important aspect is that it is useless to call ourselves Christians unless we put into practice what he has taught us as well as what we are to believe.

It is good to take a look at ourselves and check the foundations our lives are built on. Will we be able to weather the storms, the vicissitudes of our life or will we be washed away? We know the distractions of life, the stresses, the chaos or just plain bad decisions, all lead us away from Jesus. These are all part of our life at some time or another. How we react to these situations or to our own sinful decisions depends on the strength of our foundation.

Our life built on Jesus as our Rock secures us a firm foundation, as long as we take our beliefs and knowledge of who Jesus is and put them into practice. Our own motivation is who we are in Jesus. As I write this, I’m thinking about my own foundations: they sometimes wobble, or small fissures or cracks undermine the strength or even pieces break off and form little mounds of sand. It’s not that I don’t have faith in a loving God, a mighty Creator, a redeeming Saviour but instead of seeking His wise counsel…… well you know the rest.

To be able to weather the storms of life, to please our Lord and glorify Him, we must encourage each other to be real and authentic Christians remembering our lives are transformed and solidly built on His foundations.

For your enjoyment today and to help focus on our Saviour:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand.