Reading #1 – Acts 8
Reading #2 – Psalms 119:49-64
Reading #3 – Proverbs 24
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 33
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 1
Nehemiah 1 – Nehemiah’s Grief for the Exiles. By this time in history, the exile was winding down and a contingent went to Jerusalem to get a good look at the condition of the city. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king and was responsible for testing the king’s food and drink to determine if it was poisoned (Nehemiah 2:1). By listening to Hananiah’s report on Jerusalem, Nehemiah was able to focus his prayer so that it would be effective. So, combining the report from Hananiah and the mess that the Jews made by being disobedient, Nehemiah prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and remembered its distress (Psalms 122:6). There will never be peace, though, until the matter of dealing with the sin that caused the disruption was dealt with (2 Chronicles 7:14). And I said, “Please, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You, day and night, on behalf of Your servants, the sons (descendants) of Israel (Jacob), confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have committed against You; I and my father’s house have sinned (5-6). Prayer will do a couple of things to our hearts: 1st it will humble us, 2nd it will help formulate a game plan, and 3rd it enforces our resolve so that we become part of the solution (11).
Psalms 119:49-64 – Reflective Prayer. Prayer is not just a “bunch of words put together” if it was, the Sanhedrin would have cornered the market on it. Prayer is taking our concerns, deepest longings, and coupling the needs of the people and ourselves before the Lord. When we remind G_d of His promises in His word and His Law, prayer becomes effective (49-50). When we get serious about prayer, those who see it as a “fool’s errand” will ridicule us so we must prepare our hearts for it. The arrogant utterly ridicule me, yet, I do not turn away from your law (51). By being obedient to His law and His statutes, His Spirit will embolden us to stand against the unrighteous and seek healing for the nation and ourselves. We will not receive the rewards of the world and nor will we will receive the rewards of a hero. O LORD, I remember Your name in the night And keep Your law. This has become mine [as the gift of Your grace], That I observe Your precepts [accepting them with loving obedience] (55-56). When we pray and seek G_d’s face, we must be prepared to deal with the Devil’s onslaught against us. Prayer helps us to form a battle plan and see that for every bad thing, there are also good people equally, it helps us to draw support from the right channels. The earth, O Lord is full of Your lovingkindness and goodness; Teach me your statutes (64).
Proverbs 24 – Precepts and Warnings. Serving the Lord G_d is not without its share of trouble. In our word, wickedness is rewarded and righteousness is banned because the Devil is the prince of this world. Because of this, we need to prepare our hearts through the truth of G_d’s word by knowing and following His commands and precepts. Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, And by understanding, it is established [on a sound and good foundation], And by knowledge its rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches (3-4). Prayer should never stop even after the battle has ended. Once the battle has ended, is when there is a brief time when there is a short period of peace and for a little while the people will continue to pray however it is with less urgency. Gradually, the people will be enticed to go back to what they were doing until the next conflict. This kind of lifestyle brings us to deeper pits with each successive battle until we are desensitized to the destruction (31-34).
Jeremiah 33 – Restoration Promised. So the two families Israel in the north and Judah in the south would be destroyed (24); while this was common knowledge, what was not common was that the destruction was not the end of the nation nor the last we would hear about them. Israel’s wickedness just like our wickedness will always be dealt with in the Kingdom of G_d before He deals with the world. ‘While they (the besieged Jews) are coming to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill the houses with the dead bodies of men whom I have slain in My anger and My wrath, for I have hidden My face [in disgust] from this city because of all their wickedness (5).? It would be very easy but very irresponsible to wish for the destruction of the land and the removal of the wicked. Because, if we wish destruction, it will happen in our home first and then the world around us (1 Peter 4:17). The reason this happens is so that our hearts will not become proud or arrogant like saying, “G_d will deal with you because my bible says He will”; so, it is in our best interest to check our home for the things that displease G_d and get them cleared up. Just as G_d can destroy, so he will heal, and if we think that it is impossible for those people called by His name to be left behind, we need to think again (Matthew 24:24).
Acts 8 – The Move of the Spirit in Times of Trials. Saul who would later be called Paul was persecuting the church. Stephen was stoned to death for believing in the name of Jesus and by it confronted the Sanhedrin for their duplicity. Saul agreed with the stoning of Stephen by standing around watching the man die a painful death and held the coats for the people casting rocks (7:59-60). From this tragedy, the church would be persecuted at the hands of Saul of Tarsus (1). From this tragedy, the word of G_d spread like a wildfire into places previously untouched. When the Spirit of the Lord moves, many will seek to be apart of it and want the same power as the minister. The man that Peter met in Samaria was known for his ability to perform magic tricks. When Philip arrived and healed people simply by walking past them, this got the attention of the magician and so he followed Simon Peter and was baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (10-13). When Simon Peter arrived in Samaria and laid hands on the people of Samaria and they received the Holy Spirit of G_d, Simon the former magician was willing to pay for that ability (18-19). o repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are provoked by bitterness and bound by sin.” But Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me both of you so that nothing of what you have said will come upon me (22-24).” Philip was able to minister to the eunuch because he was willing, obedient, and available (25-40).