Reading #1 – Acts 11
Reading #2 – Psalms 119:105-120
Reading #3 – Proverbs 27
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 36
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 4
Nehemiah 4 – The Work is Ridiculed. When the enemy of our soul is unable to get to us by indirect attacks, like writing letters to King of Persia, he will attack directly by ridicule and, lastly, warfare (1-4). When life is at its worst, people work the hardest and will be successful. However, let the tension slack off a little bit, and the workers become will become comfortable (Psalms 59:9-). The people returning to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem had to know that the restoration project would not be easy and that old enemies would return eventually. So Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershem start heckling the workers “What are these feeble Jews doing? Can they restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the heaps of dust and rubbish, even the ones that have been burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should get up on it, he would break down their stone wall (2-3).” So Nehemiah prayed for the workers to remain strong in the face of the obstacles. Nehemiah understood the importance of the project and that G_d would not accept excuses for failure (4-5). When Nehemiah turned his eyes and heart towards the G_d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a plan was hatched to protect the project and the workers and it was agreed upon (6). When the heckling didn’t work, then comes warfare but even then, Nehemiah remained faithful and brought his concerns to G_d in prayer (7-9). ur enemies said, “They will not know or see us until we are among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times (repeatedly), “From every place you turn, they will come up against us (11-12).” Nehemiah then encouraged the people to stand fast and see the deliverance of G_d sort of like Moses at the Sea of Reeds (14, Exodus 14). The workers were instructed to keep their weapons with them and at the ready (16-18). Because of the expanse of the project, the people and the nobles were instructed to stay in Jerusalem (22). So neither I, my brothers (relatives), my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each took his weapon [even] to the water (23).
Psalms 119:105-120 – This Psalm is an acrostic in that each of the succeeding letters of the Hebrew alphabet begins with the section letter. Everything in the Bible or Word of the Lord, or “Sword of the Lord” is predicated on our relationship with the Lord. G_d doesn’t expect the world to agree with the word much less give it any credence; yet, He holds his servants responsible for every word in it (105-106). We do not always understand why something is said much less what the writer is going through; but, by knowing his word and following it we will see He was so adamant about us reading the word (John 8:31-32). This Psalm, like all of the others, is personal and that is where we need to get to in our reading of the word. I am greatly afflicted; Renew and revive me [giving me life], O LORD, according to Your word. Accept and take pleasure in the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances (107-108). If we never face the hard times, we will never know why His word is so important. Our job is honoring His word without trying to figure out all of the “whys” and “wherefores”. We cannot change the world around us but we can change ourselves, we cannot make the word like or honor His word but we can apply it in our lives as a daily act of worship (111-112). The first “Great Commandment “Honor the Lord Your G_d with all of your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5) sums up the rationale behind David’s words (113-120).
Proverbs 27 – Warnings and Instructions. As I said above, every word in the Bible is aimed at the believer, not the world. The world and its ways are passing away (1John2:17). We can talk about Heaven but for now, we are alive on this planet and it is incumbent on us to live for Him all of our days. Jesus dealt with the Sanhedrin at the cost of his life, the disciples dealt with Rome at the cost of their life, and we will deal with the world at the cost of being black-balled but, that doesn’t excuse us for walking counter to the Word of G_d (1 John 2:17). The warnings in this section speak to the natural tendencies of the world and the problems it causes. The instructions speak to the direction we need to take to overcome the world (John 16:33). Wrath is cruel and anger is an overwhelming flood, But who can endure and stand before [the sin of] jealousy (4)? As we journey towards the end of our lives, we will be instructed, reprimanded, and excoriated but that should propel us further towards the Kingdom of G_d. Reprimands are not pleasurable because of the pain it causes and the anger it incites 5) but if we can allow reprimand to encourage us to strive towards the mark (Philippians 3:13-14). Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda] (6). We are given the responsibility for controlling our words, thoughts, actions, and, except for our parents when we are in their care, we must act on that responsibility and be accountable for what we do and how we do it. The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold [to separate the impurities of the metal], And each is tested by the praise given to him [and his response to it, whether humble or proud] (21). Fools, like Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershem (Nehemiah 4) do foolish things but that does not mean we have to do things they do.
Jeremiah 36 – Jeremiah’s Scroll. Jeremiah dictated the Lord’s prophecies to Baruch (Blessed) the son of Neriah for him to write on a scroll. The completed scroll was taken into the house of the Lord by Baruch because Jeremiah was incarcerated and could not leave his house (4-5). Baruch was to read the scroll to the priests in the Temple on a day of fasting in the Lord’s Temple (6). The fast-days, independently of the Day of Atonement, are the fast of the seventeenth of Tamuz (the fourth month); the fast of the Ninth of Ab (fifth month); the fast of the third of Tishri (the seventh month); the fast of the tenth of Tebeth (the tenth month); and the thirteenth day of Adar (twelfth month) (Isaac Leeser 1843). Jeremiah knew that not everybody would take the prophecy to heart and that would quite possibly be burnt. Unfortunately, the events in the palace would not be justification for dishonoring the Lord’s commandment. When Baruch reported back about the burning of the scroll, Jeremiah had Baruch dictate another scroll with more words than were on the 1st one (32). The 2nd scroll would be placed in an earthen jar and thrown into the lake which was found in the cave at Qumran or the “dead sea scrolls”.
Acts 11 – Peter Explains Himself. Peter was called by the council of elders to explain his reasons for violating the law of Moses. So Peter explains in full detail the circumstances surrounding his actions (1-18). This situation addresses the need for integrity so that our righteousness will not be evil spoken of” (Romans 14:16). Peter had witnesses that backed up his claim which lent to his credibility. When Stephen was stoned (Acts 7) by the Sanhedrin, people flocked away from Jerusalem and they moved to Phoenicia, Cyprus (located in Greece), and Antioch which is located in Turkey. While the trouble was intended to break the church up, it caused it to expand to areas previously unreached. The news of this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch (22). So Barnabus went to find the new team member Saul of Tarsus who helped minister to the people for a full year. During the exodus, prophets from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and prophesied through the [Holy] Spirit that a severe famine would come on the entire world. And this did happen during the reign of Claudius. So the disciples decided to send a contribution, each according to his ability, to the believers who lived in Judea. And this they did, sending the contribution to the elders by Barnabas and Saul (28-30).