Reading #1 – Acts 13
Reading #2 – Psalms 119:145-160
Reading #3 – Proverbs 29
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 38
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 6
Nehemiah 6 – The Enemy’s Plot. The indirect attacks by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershem had failed because, thanks to Nehemiah’s leadership, the people ignored them. When the wall was almost completed, the hecklers lost the confidence they had in their wisdom. So now comes the olive branch by Sanballat and Gershem to do a “fact-finding” mission or so they said (2). Nehemiah saw through the “olive branch” and saw it for what it was, “ulterior motives”. After the 1st letter was turned down, the trio tried 3 more times; the fifth letter, false charges were made that, when or if reported, the army of Babylon would come in force to stop the building this, was meant to frighten Nehemiah but it too failed. I sent a message to him, saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done; you are inventing them in your mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, [O God,] strengthen my hands (8-9). Because the letters, however crafty they were written, were ignored Shemaiah was sent to hide in the temple with the feigned “fear of being killed”. Shemaiah was a Levite who was living in Jerusalem during the exile and a cohort of Sanballat; so, if anybody knew Mosaic law forbade hiding in the temple to save one’s life, Shemaiah would know (Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19, Proverbs 29:6). Nehemiah also knew the Mosaic law and reproved Shemaiah knowing it was a false prophecy. G_d will never violate the laws He established with Moses (10-13). The construction on the wall was completed in 52 days which, in that time, was a feat to accomplish. The enemies of Jerusalem lost their confidence because they knew that for the wall to be completed in record time and not take shortcuts, the only person to credit “G_d”. The next attack was done by insiders who praised Sanballat to Nehemiah hoping he would soften his stance toward Sanballat which, would not happen. Sanballat had political connections with Meshullam the son of Berechiah through marriage (18-19).
Psalms 119:145-160 – When we cry out to G_d for discernment in every situation, if we wait for His word, He will direct us (145-147, Proverbs 3:4-5). Part of honoring G_d’s word is praying “His promises” not like one would “call in the chips” to get us out of trouble but to pray the move of His hands. To know His promises, we need to know His word and that is accomplished by staying in the word (John 8:31-32). You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth. Of old, I have known from Your testimonies; that You have founded them forever (151-152). For G_d to rescue us or to an “escape plan, we need to stay obedient to Him in and out of season, in the sight and out of the sight of mankind (153). When we ignore the wisdom of G_d’s word in the expediency of life, we get into trouble, and then we are judged according to the law. The sum of Your word is truth [the full meaning of all Your precepts], and every one of Your righteous ordinances endures forever (160).
Proverbs 29 – Warnings and Instructions. Foolish behavior is displayed across the pages of our newspapers, FaceBook, and emails. If legislation was effective in curtailing foolishness, the Police would not be required. The problem is, people do foolish things often without thinking through the process. Consider the Trio in Nehemiah 6 how these men sought to stop the work on the wall, discredit Nehemiah, and force their will on the workers. Fortunately, all of their best-laid plans woefully failed (Steinbeck). The king establishes (stabilizes) the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it (4); a “little foolishness” will do that (Proverbs 6:11). Wise kings just foolish kings do not reign for all times so it is incumbent on the people to learn wisdom and walk in it (16-17). Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained; But happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God] (18).
Jeremiah 38 – Jeremiah Thrown into the Cistern. A cistern was the city’s water supply. Because of the siege by Babylon, the well dried up and so the people were thirsty as well as hungry. The princes did not like what Jeremiah had to say because “he discouraging us” (1-4). When we speak the word of the Lord, we must tell the full word of the Lord not just the “good-sounding stuff”. Jeremiah had been told two years prior about what the Lord had in mind for Judah and the tributaries. Part of the Prophet’s job is to warn people so that they would have the opportunity to turn away from sin which, as we find out, they did not listen hence the warning, “If today you will hear His voice harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). King Zedekiah took the easy way out so that he would appear to be innocent. Then King Zedekiah [fearing the princes] said, “Listen, he is in your hand; for the king is in no position to do anything against you (5).” Thankfully, one man, the Ethiopian, stood up for Jeremiah by petitioning the king for Jeremiah’s rescue from the cistern; this request the King wholeheartedly agreed and let the man rescue Jeremiah (7-9). When the King went to visit Jeremiah to get the scoop on what would soon happen to the nation, what he heard should have stopped him in his tracks but, it did not. Zedekiah had been listening to the false prophets so Jeremiah’s message was like cold water on a hot pipe (22-23). Jeremiah was warned to not disclose the events that transpired during the interview with Zedekiah and so the Prophet followed the instructions.
Acts 13 – First Missionary Journey. Paul and Barnabus were hand-picked by the Holy Spirit to be anointed for a missionary journey. While in Cyprus (Greece), Paul met Bar-Jesus (Elymas) a false Jewish Prophet (6-7). Bar-Jesus enjoyed the attention of Sergius the proconsul who hung on every word from bar-Jesus’ every word until the true prophet, Paul spoke the true word (6-8). Before people can preach on salvation, he or she must have already been saved or the message will be hypocritical. Paul’s message to the people of Cyprus (Greece) was heard by a large multitude but not everybody received it and grew in it. When Paul ministered to the people in Perga of Pamphila, not everybody received the word because some of them used the opportunity to fill their pockets. Paul’s message to the people of Perga echoed what Stephen preached earlier (21-43, Acts 7). Because of the hard-hearted response from the Jews, Paul started preaching to the Gentiles with greater success. I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring [the message of eternal] salvation to the end of the earth (47).