Reading #1 – Acts 9
Reading #2 – Psalms 119:65-80
Reading #3 – Proverbs 25
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 34
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 2
Nehemiah 2 – Nehemiah’s Prayer Answered. It was the month of Nisan (March) the time of the barley harvest. The Barley harvest was used for making drinks for the King. As the Cup Bearer, Nehemiah would test the drinks before handing it to the king. Nehemiah had prepared his heart and mind to answer the king’s questions by praying for wisdom and direction from the G_d he served. What he had to say was as important as how he said it because the king had the authority to hand a death sentence and could do it without impunity. and I said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire (3)?” But knowing what to say also meant having a suggestion on how to rectify the issue. When asked “what is your request” (4), the first Nehemiah did was pray silently to ask the Lord for help in putting words in an attainable plan (5). When the Queen asked “How long will you be gone”, Nehemiah set a time and did so respectfully. Going to Jerusalem was a risky task because there were people on the road that will cause problems for the traveler so to be prepared, he asked for letters of passage and access to the supplies (7-8). Any time we set off to do the work of the Lord no matter how much we pray, prepare for it and set a time of fasting, there will always be people like Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Gershem the Arab who will use whatever means possible to stop us (10, 19); this trio would be a constant headache for Nehemiah and the builders Sanballat was from Samaria or present-day Iran. Tobiah was from Ammon and the possibility that he had some Jewish blood in him. Gershem was of Arabian descent the name according to research meant, “Cook”. What we are not told is “why these three would cause problems for the builders; possible ulterior motives like wanting the land themselves. At first, this trio tried to offer their help although I am not sure they would be of any help. Nehemiah responded politely and without embellishment. I answered them, “The God of heaven [has appointed us for His purpose and] will give us success; therefore we will arise and build, but you have no portion, right, or memorial in Jerusalem (20).”
Psalms 119:65-80 – G_d’s promises, unlike His gifts, come with the responsibility on our part to be obedient. Learning good judgment is the pathway by which we either pass or fail. When Nehemiah was asked “why he was so glum”, he answered with integrity and honesty (Nehemiah 2:1-2). Teach me good judgment (discernment) and knowledge, For I have believed and trusted and relied on Your commandments (66). Each one of us makes mistakes in judgment so when we learn from the mistakes, we grow wise if not, we repeat the mistakes (67). Unfortunately, as Nehemiah and Ezra would find out, we are powerless to stop people from making similar mistakes but we can choose to either be negatively affected or infect the situation with the truth from Heaven depending on the order of our lives and who we choose to listen to (71-72). While we may not have the requisite information, skills, and/or experience, we do have the Word of the Lord so that through the study of the lives that have gone before us, we can know “the good, the bad, and the boy-oh-boy” without having to redesign the wheel (John 8:31-32). O may Your lovingkindness and graciousness comfort me, According to Your word (promise) to Your servant (76). We are held accountable to know G_d’s word and apply it to our lives whether or not anybody else does. A reverent fear of the Lord (79) should compel us to honor Him by our choices and walking in His pathways (79-80).
Proverbs 25 – Similitudes and Instructions. A similitude is a likeness to an image. It takes a physical item like an apple or filthy rag and compares it to a difficult concept to help the student understand. During the 3.5 year ministry, Jesus used parables to help the listening ear understand the concepts of Heaven and Hell. The teacher’s job is not just to impart information but to help the student assimilate the information so that he and/or she could put it to practical use. As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, So the hearts and minds of kings are unsearchable (3) in other words, just as you cannot give a definitive number to the height of the heavens nor the depth of the sea, so it is near impossible to understand what is going on in the mind of man or what that person is all about or the moral compass of their life without first conversing with them and following it up with spending time with them. The words “High” and “deep” are not clearly defined because each person has his/her perception so, before saying “the sky is high” you would need to measure it. Regretfully, mankind is known for operating on “assumption” and “rumor” this is where problems occur in our communities and homes. Argue your case with your neighbor himself [before you go to court]; And do not reveal another’s secret, Or he who hears it will shame you And the rumor about you [and your action in court] will have no end (9-10).
Jeremiah 34 – A Prophecy against Zedekiah. In 587BCE a year before the exile and the subsequent destruction of the Temple, Zedekiah the governor or regent of Judah rebelled against Nebuchadrezzar because he was under the delusion that Egypt would come through for Judah which, they did not (Isaiah 30:7). Zedekiah had the opportunity to save his life and that of his staff but he chose not to listen (Proverbs 25:15). When Jeremiah broached the subject about the practice of the Jews to enslave fellow Jews and how it violated the Mosaic law, the people quickly agreed to release the enslaved Jews but only long enough to placate Jeremiah. But when the Lord didn’t come to their rescue, the people went back to enslaving Jews (11). The people blindly obeyed the word of Zedekiah without considering the implications of that vow. In Mosaic law, making a vow was binding for the adult male which is who Jeremiah had been talking to.
Acts 9 – The Conversion of Saul. Saul had been persecuting the church because he felt it was his “G_d given calling” and he did so without impunity. The thing is, as humans we do not always know what G_d going to do or is doing because we use our human faculties. Saul should have been overlooked and excorticated because of what he used to do. Yet, Jesus sends Ananias to go minister to him. Knowing what kind of man Saul was and what he was capable of doing, the prophet tried to argue his way out of the assignment. Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying [there], and in a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight (10-12).” Ananias knew what Jesus commanded and how he lived his life so when given directions to go minister to Saul, he went without question. By the same token, when we stay in the word of the Lord, we know the truth and go with the same heart as Ananias. So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers] (31).