Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hebrews 6:1-8

1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Questions to consider:

  • What is the significance of “therefore” in verse one?
  • What is (a) God’s and (b) your part in your maturing?
  • What, do you think, is the purpose of the warning at this place in the Hebrews’ letter?
  • What is its meaning to you?

Possibilities for prayer:

The image of land that receives rain and produces good things being blessed by God is a beautiful one. Let’s ask God to make us into that type of people; the type of people who receive from God and take those blessings, lessons, and opportunities and turn them into something powerful and beautiful. Ask God to give you eyes to see the “rain” falling upon you and to show you how best to use that rain for God’s glory.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hebrews 5:11-14

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Questions to consider:
  • What is the basic problem of the Hebrews?
  • To what extent is this your problem? What can you do today to change?
  • What is the standard for determining righteousness?
  • To what extent do you have trouble distinguishing good and evil? Why?
  • How can you have accurate judgment?
  • How high in your priorities is knowledge of God’s word?

Possibilities for prayer:

The ability to distinguish good from evil seems like a pretty important ability to have, and one that we may not be naturally born with. The author of Hebrews suggests that such an ability is gained through the consumption of “solid food.” It seems that the solid food to which the author refers may be deep and powerful knowledge of God’s word. Today, let’s ask for an increase in desire to know and understand the word of God, as well as revelation of the truths that can be gained from the study of it. Let’s push into the ability to know good from evil, and ask God to guide us in that pursuit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hebrews 5:4-10

4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, 

"You are my Son; 

today I have become your Father."

6 And he says in another place, 

"You are a priest forever, 

in the order of Melchizedek."

7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Questions to consider:

  • Although Jesus is not a descendant of Aaron, how is he able to be called a high priest?
  • In what ways does Jesus’ life qualify him to be a high priest and demonstrate his priestly function?
  • In what ways has Jesus been made perfect?
  • How is obedience related to suffering in (a) Jesus’s life and (b) your own life?
Possibilities for prayer:

The statement of Jesus having learned obedience through suffering speaks to our own lives as well. Does it change how you understand suffering in your own life? I hope that it does--because this means not only that we are taught obedience through the struggles that we experience, but we are also being linked to God as children. If Jesus was to be expected to learn obedience through trial and tribulation, how much more should we! Today, let’s ask for the endurance to make it through times of suffering. But even more than that, let’s ask for a transformation of the way in which we understand suffering in our lives, to recognize the power that it has to produce obedience, and draw us closer to God.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hebrews 4:14-5:4

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

Questions to consider:
  • Compare and contrast Aaron and Jesus as high priest.
  • What are the qualifications for a priest? What is his purpose?
  • How do the qualifications of Jesus as high priest enable you to act in accord with verse 16?
  • In honesty, what is your attitude toward (a) the ignorant and (b) the wayward?

Possibilities for prayer:

It seems to reflect the generosity and grace of God that the fact that Jesus was tempted just as we are gives us the space to approach God’s throne with confidence--even though Jesus did not succumb to temptation and we do. Approaching God’s throne-- repenting and seeking forgiveness-- should not be a frightening thing because God wants to grant us mercy and give us grace to help us in our time of need. Today, let’s thank God for the mercy and grace that we are consistently extended, despite our unworthiness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hebrews 4:11-13

11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Questions to consider:

  • Explain the sort of disobedience evidenced by the Israelites in the wilderness?
  • What excuses do you use to hide spiritual laziness? Why?
  • Characterize the word of God. Compare or contrast your personal view of Scripture.
  • Why can’t you fool God about your attitude toward him?
  • How does God’s word prevent you from pleading ignorance concerning your true attitude?

Possibilities for prayer:

The author of Hebrews reminds us that the word of God is alive and active. My guess is that many of us recognize that the statement is true in some kind of vague or nebulous way; but what would our lives look like if we lived them in that knowledge, with complete and utter faith in the truth of that statement? All of our actions and thoughts could be so much more different, and our world could be transformed! Let’s ask God to increase our understanding of what it means for His word to be alive active, and to give us courage to live lives that reflect the power of that truth.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hebrews 4:1-10

1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

"So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' "

And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "On the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it "Today." This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: 
 "Today, if you hear his voice, 
 do not harden your hearts."
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for those who enter God's rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his.

Questions to consider:

  • Upon what basis is the author convinced that believers can now enter God’s rest?
  • What is the purpose of the illustration of creation in the discussion of rest?
  • Expand the meaning of God’s rest.
  • What is the qualification for entering that rest?
  • What are two events that allow a person to enter God’s rest?

Possibilities for prayer:

Rest is a concept that people in New Haven especially seem to have a difficult time actually embracing. We are often caught up in the various things that we have going on, things that we have deemed important (and in a certain sense, likely are). But God allows us rest, rest that is found in Him and is better even than rest in the human sense. Today, let’s pray against the hardening of our hearts, that we might be among those people able to enter into and truly experience the rest that God has to offer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hebrews 3:12-19

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold firmly till the end our original conviction. 15 As has just been said: 

"Today, if you hear his voice, 

do not harden your hearts 

as you did in the rebellion."

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Questions to consider:
  • In what ways have you been aware recently of the deceitfulness of sin?
  • List characteristics of the Israelites who did not enter the land of rest?
  • Which of these characteristics describe your experience?
  • Whom should you exhort (v 13) today.
  • How do you respond to exhortation from others? Why?
Possibilities for prayer:

Much like the author of Hebrews, I like the idea of encouraging each other daily. It seems that we often don’t realize how much a few simple words of encouragement can mean to a person; it’s so easy to be an encourager. Today, let’s ask God to bring to mind a couple of people that would really benefit from some encouragement. Then let’s take a moment to actually encourage those people (as well as others that we meet along the way!).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hebrews 3:7-12

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts 

as you did in the rebellion, 

during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, 

though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation; 

I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, 

and they have not known my ways.'
11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 

'They shall never enter my rest.' "
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

Questions to consider:

  • Determine the meaning of God’s rest for the children of Israel.
  • What about the nature of God is revealed here?
  • What causes hardness of heart?
  • What can you do to prevent such hardness in your heart?
  • What is God’s feeling toward you now? Why?
  • In what ways is a return to Judaism a falling away from the living God?

Possibilities for prayer:

I think that the author of Hebrews gives us a pretty clear point about which we can be praying today: that our hearts would not be unbelieving or turn away from God. So let’s take some time to pray for the condition of our hearts, that they would be ready to hear God’s voice and receive the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray against hardened hearts toward God.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hebrews 3:1-6

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house," bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Questions to consider:
  • How does this passage build on what the readers know of Judaism?
  • Which characteristic of Christ as high priest is most prominently set out in these verses?
  • How is Moses a good example of this characteristic?
  • In what areas of your life do your actions reveal a low view of Jesus? What specific steps can you take today to right these actions?

Possibilities for prayer:

While the idea of being God’s house is a pretty intense one, it seems important to note that the builder of the house is more important than the house itself. I suppose in this situation it’s easy to see that as true--my guess is that most of us would not be likely to argue that we are of greater importance than God. Nonetheless, today let’s ask that we would be excellent pieces of God’s house, and bring him honor, as the builder.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Questions to consider:
  • What reasons are given here for Christ’s (a) becoming man, (b) death, and (c) suffering?
  • To what extent are you free from bondage and fear of death?
  • What is the work of Christ as your high priest?
  • How does Christ’s having suffered and experience temptation help you?

Possibilities for prayer:

Isn’t it encouraging to think about the way that Jesus was tempted while he walked on this earth? That means that we are not alone in our experiences of temptation, and that Jesus actually understands the emotions that we experience when we face temptation ourselves. Today, let’s ask for the courage that we need to endure temptation successfully, as Jesus did. Let’s share our burdens with Jesus, who understands exactly what we feel and have felt.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hebrews 2:5-13

5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
"What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels; 

you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet."
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, 

"I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; 

in the assembly I will sing your praises."
13 And again, 

"I will put my trust in him." 

And again he says, 

"Here am I, and the children God has given me."

Questions to consider:

  • For what high destiny does God create man?
  • To what extent has man succeeded in ruling the earth and himself?
  • What is the purpose of Jesus becoming a man? To what extent has he identified with man?
  • What is your new relationship to Christ?
  • How will this relationship affect your destiny to rule the world to come?
  • How does it affect your daily living?

Possibilities for prayer:

It’s pretty cool that we, as humans, are made lower than the angels, and yet God has placed all the world under our feet. And related to that, the idea that those who are made holy belong with the one who makes us holy, is an exciting one. It means that we are welcomed into God’s family, despite being in so many ways unworthy. What an exciting and powerful thing to be called the brothers and sisters of Christ! Let’s take some time to think about what it means to be in the family of God, and to thank God for that privilege.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hebrews 2:1-4

1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Questions to consider:
  • How does “therefore” relate these 4 verses to the previous chapter?
  • To what extent are you “drifting away” or “neglecting” the truths of the gospel? With what result?
  • How can you protect against this plight? Why should you?
  • What indicates that the recipients of this letter have heard the message of salvation?

Possibilities for prayer:

The author of Hebrews seems to suggest that there is a danger in falling away from faith. My guess is that all of have a story of someone who has experienced a falling away from faith in some way--whether that story is our own or that of a friend. Today, let’s pray for the ability to keep our eyes and ears open, to be more aware of the ways in which God is even today still confirming the salvation Jesus talked about.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hebrews 1:5-14

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son;
today I have become your Father" ?
Or again,
"I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son" ?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 

"Let all God's angels worship him."
7 In speaking of the angels he says, 

"He makes his angels spirits, 

and his servants flames of fire."
8 But about the Son he says, 

"Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; 

a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; 

therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions 

by anointing you with the oil of joy."
10 He also says, 

"In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, 

and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain; 

they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe; 

like a garment they will be changed. 

But you remain the same, 

and your years will never end."
13 To which of the angels did God ever say, 

"Sit at my right hand 

until I make your enemies 

a footstool for your feet" ?
14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Questions to consider:

  • What areas of your life still need to be subjected to Christ?
  • What is the purpose of angels?
  • How does this passage convince you of Christ’s supremacy?
  • Determine the Jewish regard for angels. How does the author of Hebrews show that the Son is superior to angels? In what ways is this important for the readers’ understanding?
Possibilities for prayer:

As we have read through various books of the Bible, the idea of giving things over to God has come up repeatedly. Here, we are again confronted with the question: what things in our lives are we still holding onto, refusing to subject to Christ? Take a few moments to prayerfully consider that question. It seems that we are often only able to hand over one thing at a time, so for those of us with many areas of life that we want to give fully to Jesus, here is another opportunity to give something else to Christ. Or maybe you are still working through one particular issue. Today, be encouraged to devote a significant portion of your prayer time to asking God for the courage to submit your life, completely, to Him.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hebrews 1:1-4

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Questions to consider:
  • Through whom has God communicated? Compare and contrast the extent of God’s revelation in them.
  • In what ways does the Son demonstrate his deity?
  • How does the Son’s nature reveal the Father to you? What should be your attitude toward the Son?

Possibilities for prayer:

It’s pretty intense to think of Jesus as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of [God’s] being.” What makes that an exciting thing is that we get to read so much about Jesus’s life through the gospels, it’s as though we are getting to glimpse God’s glory. Today, let’s thank God for the glimpse that we’ve been given of His glory through Jesus’s presence on this earth, and through the stories of Jesus’s life that we have in the Bible.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Micah 7:8-20

8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be my light.

9 Because I have sinned against him, 

I will bear the LORD's wrath, 

until he pleads my case 

and establishes my right. 

He will bring me out into the light; 

I will see his righteousness.

10 Then my enemy will see it 

and will be covered with shame, 

she who said to me, 

"Where is the LORD your God?" 

My eyes will see her downfall; 

even now she will be trampled underfoot 

like mire in the streets.

11 The day for building your walls will come, 

the day for extending your boundaries.

12 In that day people will come to you 

from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, 

even from Egypt to the Euphrates 

and from sea to sea 

and from mountain to mountain.

13 The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, 

as the result of their deeds.

14 Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
which lives by itself in a forest,
in fertile pasturelands.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead
as in days long ago.

15 "As in the days when you came out of Egypt, 

I will show them my wonders."

16 Nations will see and be ashamed, 

deprived of all their power. 

They will put their hands over their mouths 

and their ears will become deaf.

17 They will lick dust like a snake, 

like creatures that crawl on the ground. 

They will come trembling out of their dens; 

they will turn in fear to the LORD our God 

and will be afraid of you.

18 Who is a God like you, 

who pardons sin and forgives the transgression 

of the remnant of his inheritance? 

You do not stay angry forever 

but delight to show mercy.

19 You will again have compassion on us; 

you will tread our sins underfoot 

and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

20 You will be faithful to Jacob, 

and show love to Abraham, 

as you pledged on oath to our ancestors 

in days long ago.

Questions to consider:

  • What is Micah’s attitude toward God while in a sinful society?
  • How would you describe your own attitude toward God while in our society?
  • Can you summarize Micah’s view of God? What is his tone here?
  • What is your response to a God possessing those characteristic and actions?

Possibilities for prayer:

The book of Micah ends on a note of hope. Throughout the book, we’ve been through many challenging passages, passages about judgment that God was promising to bring upon the people of Israel, among other things. And yet, as we reach the end of the prophet’s book, we are shown hope. In the end, God comes through. God brings back the people that were sent away, protects those who would be attacked, and forgives and shows mercy to those who have sinned. God has the same attitude toward us today--as Micah says, God “delight[s] to show mercy” to us. Today, let’s offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for hope; for the hope that we have through Christ, who was prophesied in this book, and the hope that we have through God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Micah 7:1-7

1 What misery is mine!
I am like one who gathers summer fruit
at the gleaning of the vineyard;
there is no cluster of grapes to eat,
none of the early figs that I crave.

2 The faithful have been swept from the land; 

not one upright person remains. 

Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; 

they hunt each other with nets.

3 Both hands are skilled in doing evil; 

the ruler demands gifts, 

the judge accepts bribes, 

the powerful dictate what they desire— 

they all conspire together.

4 The best of them is like a brier, 

the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. 

The day of your watchmen has come, 

the day God visits you. 

Now is the time of their confusion.

5 Do not trust a neighbor; 

put no confidence in a friend. 

Even with the woman who lies in your embrace 

be careful of your words.

6 For a son dishonors his father, 

a daughter rises up against her mother, 

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 

your enemies are the members of your own household.

7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, 

I wait for God my Savior; 

my God will hear me.

Questions to consider:
  • Describe the Spiritual character of Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Can you explain the metaphors that Micah uses?
  • What has happened to human relationships?

Possibilities for prayer:

Verse 7 of this passage gives me hope. Micah declares that his God will hear him, and he does so with confidence. He has just finished discussing the various ways in which the people left behind do evil, and how he is alone in many ways. There are ways in which we all feel alone at times, even if we aren’t, in actuality. Today, let’s ask God to surround us with His presence, that we might not ever feel alone. Let’s be people who declare, as Micah did,

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior,
my God will hear me.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Micah 6:9-16

9 Listen! The LORD is calling to the city—
and to fear your name is wisdom—
"Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.

10 Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, 

and the short ephah, which is accursed?

11 Shall I acquit a person with dishonest scales, 

with a bag of false weights?

12 Her rich people are violent; 

her inhabitants are liars 

and their tongues speak deceitfully.

13 Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, 

to ruin you because of your sins.

14 You will eat but not be satisfied; 

your stomach will still be empty. 

You will store up but save nothing, 

because what you save I will give to the sword.

15 You will plant but not harvest; 

you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves, 

you will crush grapes but not drink the wine.

16 You have observed the statutes of Omri 

and all the practices of Ahab's house; 

you have followed their traditions. 

Therefore I will give you over to ruin 

and your people to derision; 

you will bear the scorn of the nations.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you learn of God’s character from His comments regarding Israel’s social and economic practices?
  • What seems to be the central cause of Israel’s separation from God?
  • Can you identify areas of your life that are directed by something other than God?

Possibilities for prayer:

Maybe you identified an area (or two...or five) of your life that is directed by something other than God and His wisdom. Let’s take some time to give those things over to God right now. In some situations this might be more difficult than others, but don’t be afraid to take some time and pray through what that hesitation is about. Share with God your fears or anxieties, and give God the opportunity to speak to you in response. The people of Israel had to learn that things worked out best for them when they gave their lives wholly to God--let’s learn that lesson, now, as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Micah 6:1-8

1 Listen to what the LORD says:
"Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
let the hills hear what you have to say.

2 "Hear, you mountains, the LORD's accusation; 

listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. 

For the LORD has a case against his people; 

he is lodging a charge against Israel.

3 "My people, what have I done to you? 

How have I burdened you? Answer me.

4 I brought you up out of Egypt 

and redeemed you from the land of slavery. 

I sent Moses to lead you, 

also Aaron and Miriam.

5 My people, remember 

what Balak king of Moab plotted 

and what Balaam son of Beor answered. 

Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, 

that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD."

6 With what shall I come before the LORD 

and bow down before the exalted God? 

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, 

with calves a year old?

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, 

with ten thousand rivers of oil? 

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, 

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has shown all you people what is good. 

And what does the LORD require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy 

and to walk humbly with your God.

Questions to consider:

  • Can you distinguish between when God is speaking and when the people are speaking?
  • What is the controversy? (We’ll see more in tomorrow’s passage)
  • What does the Lord require of you? Is this an easy request? Why or why not?
Possibilities for prayer:

“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

It’s kind of funny to me that this statement is made as though it’s an easy request, or something that should be obvious. We can ask many questions of this requirement: what does it mean to act justly? to love mercy? to walk humbly with God? This verse is one that populates Christian circles, but I wonder how often people stop to think about what their lives would look like if they did all these things truly and completely. As a church, Elm City Vineyard definitely values all of these things, and we try our best to seek after them and make them realities in our community. But a community is made up of individual people, so it’s important that we as individuals place value on these principles. Today, let’s ask God to show us the piece of this “requirement” that could use the most work in our lives. Then let’s pray and listen for ways that we can be more about that part of what God has “required” of us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Micah 5:7-15

7 The remnant of Jacob will be 

in the midst of many peoples 

like dew from the LORD, 

like showers on the grass, 

which do not wait for mortals 

or depend on any human being.

8 The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, 

in the midst of many peoples, 

like a lion among the beasts of the forest, 

like a young lion among flocks of sheep, 

which mauls and mangles as it goes, 

and no one can rescue.

9 Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, 

and all your foes will be destroyed.

10 "In that day," declares the LORD, 

"I will destroy your horses from among you 

and demolish your chariots.

11 I will destroy the cities of your land 

and tear down all your strongholds.

12 I will destroy your witchcraft 

and you will no longer cast spells.

13 I will destroy your idols 

and your sacred stones from among you; 

you will no longer bow down 

to the work of your hands.

14 I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles 

when I demolish your cities.

15 I will take vengeance in anger and wrath 

on the nations that have not obeyed me."

Questions to consider:

  • Read the poem of verses 7-9 aloud. What are the two different images portraying the remnant?
  • In what do people now trust for their strength? How will God assert His strength?
  • What is the basis of your confidence about yourself and life?

Possibilities for prayer:

God finds it problematic when people find their confidence in things other than him (idols and witchcraft, for example). For us, those two things might not be such huge issues, but things like our intellectual or athletic ability, our beauty or financial success, might be things that serve as the basis for our confidence. Today, let’s give those things over to God. Let’s reorient the way in which we find value in our lives, and center that on the fact that God loves us, desires good things for us, and has called us to be world-changers. Those other things are fleeting, unlike God’s never-ending, unfailing love.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Micah 5:1-6

1 Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel's ruler
on the cheek with a rod.

2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 

though you are small among the clans of Judah, 

out of you will come for me 

one who will be ruler over Israel, 

whose origins are from of old, 

from ancient times."

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned 

until the time when she who is in labor gives birth 

and the rest of his brothers return 

to join the Israelites.

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock 

in the strength of the LORD, 

in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. 

And they will live securely, for then his greatness 

will reach to the ends of the earth.

5 And he will be our peace 

when the Assyrians invade our land 

and march through our fortresses. 

We will raise against them seven shepherds, 

even eight commanders,

6 who will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, 

the land of Nimrod with drawn sword. 

He will deliver us from the Assyrians 

when they invade our land 

and march into our borders.

Questions to consider:

  • Compare 2:12-13 with this passage.
  • What type of leadership is promised Israel?
  • What needs of yours could be met by such leadership?
  • What will happen when Assyria invades the land? How will this news encourage the people?

Possibilities for prayer:

“And he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and march through our fortresses”

The idea of God being “our peace” is a pretty incredible one. We’ve likely all asked God to bring or give peace, either for ourselves or those we care about. But this passage describes God as BEING peace, which is pretty cool, especially when we consider that this is in the midst of invasion and plunder. What’s even cooler is that this verse is considered by many to be a prophecy of Jesus!

Perhaps it feels like you are going through a time of invasion or plunder in your own life, in big ways or small ways. Today, let’s ask Jesus to be our peace, even in the midst of hardship and trial, as was prophesied so long ago.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Micah 4:6-13

6 "In that day," declares the LORD,
"I will gather the lame;
I will assemble the exiles
and those I have brought to grief.

7 I will make the lame a remnant, 

those driven away a strong nation. 

The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion 

from that day and forever.

8 As for you, watchtower of the flock, 

stronghold of Daughter Zion, 

the former dominion will be restored to you; 

kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem."

9 Why do you now cry aloud— 

have you no king? 

Has your ruler perished, 

that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor?

10 Writhe in agony, Daughter Zion, 

like a woman in labor, 

for now you must leave the city 

to camp in the open field. 

You will go to Babylon; 

there you will be rescued. 

There the LORD will redeem you 

out of the hand of your enemies.

11 But now many nations 

are gathered against you. 

They say, "Let her be defiled, 

let our eyes gloat over Zion!"

12 But they do not know 

the thoughts of the LORD; 

they do not understand his plan, 

he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor.

13 "Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion, 

for I will give you horns of iron; 

I will give you hooves of bronze, 

and you will break to pieces many nations." 

You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, 

their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.

Questions to consider:

  • Compare the future of the people with a woman in travail. What indignities do they suffer?
  • In what ways are the people of God different from the “many nations”?
  • Compare the nations that besiege Jerusalem with sheaves.
  • Do you feel like you “know the thoughts of the Lord”? Are there ways in which you can seek to know them more?

Possibilities for prayer:

Who can truly know the thoughts or plans of God? That’s a big thing--one that we, as humans, can never completely grasp. And yet, we are offered the opportunity to have little glimpses of God’s thoughts everyday...through prayer. Isn’t that exciting? So let’s take a moment to pray with that kind of understanding and excitement, to realize that a conversation with God, in the form of prayer, is really an opportunity to grasp some of the thoughts of God; the thoughts that He has about us, about our friends and family, about this city--really about almost anything we can think to talk about.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Micah 4:1-5

1 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.

2 Many nations will come and say, 

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, 

to the house of the God of Jacob. 

He will teach us his ways, 

so that we may walk in his paths." 

The law will go out from Zion, 

the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

3 He will judge between many peoples 

and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. 

They will beat their swords into plowshares 

and their spears into pruning hooks. 

Nation will not take up sword against nation, 

nor will they train for war anymore.

4 Everyone will sit under their own vine 

and under their own fig tree, 

and no one will make them afraid, 

for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

5 All the nations may walk 

in the name of their gods; 

we will walk in the name of the LORD 

our God for ever and ever.

Questions to consider:

  • Describe God’s plans for the latter days.
  • What kind of leadership is promised Israel?
  • How does this leadership compare to the present leadership?

Possibilities for prayer:

“All the nations may walk/ In the name of their gods;
we will walk in the name of the LORD/ our God for ever and ever”

For some reason, this verse strike me as particularly beautiful. It might be about the commitment that the people seem to be making to following God, or the way in which God’s permanence is declared--but whatever the reason, this verse makes an excellent prayer. Let’s declare to God today that we choose Him above any other god, and that we will follow His path for our lives.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Micah 3:8-13

8 But as for me, I am filled with power, 

with the Spirit of the LORD, 

and with justice and might, 

to declare to Jacob his transgression, 

to Israel his sin.

9 Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, 

you rulers of the house of Israel, 

who despise justice 

and distort all that is right;

10 who build Zion with bloodshed, 

and Jerusalem with wickedness.

11 Her leaders judge for a bribe, 

her priests teach for a price, 

and her prophets tell fortunes for money. 

Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, 

"Is not the LORD among us? 

No disaster will come upon us."

12 Therefore because of you, 

Zion will be plowed like a field, 

Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, 

the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

Questions to consider:

  • What qualifications does Micah have for his responsibility of warning the leadership of Israel?
  • To what extent are you willing to have a ministry of warning?
  • How can you avoid being disgraced by God?

Possibilities for prayer:

Micah speaks boldly in this passage--something that might have to do with being filled with “power, with the Spirit of the Lord.” This boldness allows him to proclaim difficult things to the people of Israel, to warn them of the ways in which they are going to be punished for their disobedience. Calling out the sin we see in people’s lives is never an easy thing, and needs to be done carefully and with much grace. Today, let’s ask God to use us to give His messages to the people around us, and to give us wisdom in how best we can do that--gracefully and lovingly.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Micah 3:1-7

1 Then I said,
"Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the house of Israel.
Should you not know justice,

2 you who hate good and love evil; 

who tear the skin from my people 

and the flesh from their bones;

3 who eat my people's flesh, 

strip off their skin 

and break their bones in pieces; 

who chop them up like meat for the pan, 

like flesh for the pot?"

4 Then they will cry out to the LORD, 

but he will not answer them. 

At that time he will hide his face from them 

because of the evil they have done.

5 This is what the LORD says: 

"As for the prophets 

who lead my people astray, 

if you feed them, 

they proclaim 'peace'; 

if you do not, 

they prepare to wage war against you.

6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, 

and darkness, without divination. 

The sun will set for the prophets, 

and the day will go dark for them.

7 The seers will be ashamed 

and the diviners disgraced. 

They will all cover their faces 

because there is no answer from God."

Questions to consider:

  • Compare and contrast the characteristics of the leadership (priests, rulers, prophets) of Israel at this time.
  • How will God’s judgment be shown to each group?

Possibilities for prayer:

In the midst of a lot of the hard things that God is saying about and to the people of Israel, one of the striking things about this book so far is the way in which God speaks so clearly to Micah. As Micah writes, he states without hesitation “what the Lord says.” It must have been a pretty intimidating thing to hear from God in such a real and unquestionable way. Though, while it was surely an intense experience, I know that I have had moments when I have wished that God would clearly and audibly speak to me so that I would know what to do next, how to respond to a situation, etc. Today, let’s ask for God to speak to us clearly, and that we would be able to listen and know, confidently, that it is God’s voice we hear.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Micah 2:6-13

6 "Do not prophesy," their prophets say.
"Do not prophesy about these things;
disgrace will not overtake us."

7 House of Jacob, should it be said, 

"Does the LORD become impatient? 

Does he do such things?" 

"Do not my words do good 

to those whose ways are upright?

8 Lately my people have risen up 

like an enemy. 

You strip off the rich robe 

from those who pass by without a care, 

like men returning from battle.

9 You drive the women of my people 

from their pleasant homes. 

You take away my blessing 

from their children forever.

10 Get up, go away! 

For this is not your resting place, 

because it is defiled, 

it is ruined, beyond all remedy.

11 If liars and deceivers come and say, 

'We will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' 

they would be just the prophets for this people!

12 "I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;
I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,
like a flock in its pasture;
the place will throng with people.

13 One who breaks open the way will go up before them; 

they will break through the gate and go out. 

Their King will pass through before them, 

the LORD at their head."

Questions to consider:
  • To what extent do you speak out against religious and socio-economic injustice?
  • What is the response of the people to the prophet’s message?
  • What does the response reveal about their attitude toward God?
  • What promises does the Lord make to Israel?

Possibilities for prayer:

Look! Remember how yesterday we talked about the need to push through to see the good things--rescue, redemption, and the like--on the other side. In verse 12 God promises to gather all of the people that just a few verses before were going to be subjected to disaster. Today, let’s take some time to praise God for the way that He always comes through, even when it seems like things are taking longer than expected...or desired.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Micah 2:1-5

1 Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning's light they carry it out
because it is in their power to do it.

2 They covet fields and seize them, 

and houses, and take them. 

They defraud people of their homes, 

they rob them of their inheritance.

3 Therefore, the LORD says: 

"I am planning disaster against this people, 

from which you cannot save yourselves. 

You will no longer walk proudly, 

for it will be a time of calamity.

4 In that day people will ridicule you; 

they will taunt you with this mournful song: 

'We are utterly ruined; 

my people's possession is divided up. 

He takes it from me! 

He assigns our fields to traitors.' "

5 Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the LORD

 to divide the land by lot.

Questions to consider:

  • Characterize the wicked classes of people.
  • Relate the religious and economic evils.
  • Compare and contrast the two devisers of evil as the (a) kind of schemes devised, (b) reasons, and (c) sufferers.

Possibilities for prayer:

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be counted among those who plan iniquity. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the people of Israel fell under that category and God has some serious punishment in store for them. God needs His people to learn a lesson from their mistakes, and that lesson is not going to be an easy one. It’s easy to read passages such as these and see a rather vengeful God and become discouraged. But don’t lose heart! We have to push through these passages to see the promises of redemption and rescue. So today, let’s ask God for the perseverance to push through our times of trial and tribulation, proclaiming all the while that God has a plan for rescue in the end.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Micah 1:8-16

8 Because of this I will weep and wail;
I will go about barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
and moan like an owl.

9 For Samaria's wound is incurable; 

it has come to Judah. 

It has reached the very gate of my people, 

even to Jerusalem itself.

10 Tell it not in Gath; 

weep not at all. 

In Beth Ophrah 

roll in the dust.

11 Pass on in nakedness and shame, 

you who live in Shaphir. 

Those who live in Zaanan 

will not come out. 

Beth Ezel is in mourning; 

its protection is taken from you.

12 Those who live in Maroth writhe in pain, 

waiting for relief, 

because disaster has come from the LORD, 

even to the gate of Jerusalem.

13 You who live in Lachish,

harness the team to the chariot. 

You were the beginning of sin 

to Daughter Zion, 

for the transgressions of Israel 

were found in you.

14 Therefore you will give parting gifts 

to Moresheth Gath. 

The town of Akzib will prove deceptive 

to the kings of Israel.

15 I will bring a conqueror against you 

who live in Mareshah. 

The nobles of Israel 

will flee to Adullam.

16 Shave your head in mourning 

for the children in whom you delight; 

make yourself as bald as the vulture, 

for they will go from you into exile.

Questions to consider:

  • How does the prophet personally feel about the situation?
  • What is your attitude toward people and nations in obvious sin?
  • What is Micah’s appeal to the people (remember, shaving one’s head is a sign of mourning)?

Possibilities for prayer:

Micah has a pretty intense (and sad) message to convey to the people of Israel. Messages of condemnation are often the most difficult to give--it’s generally much easier to tell someone that you felt God was telling you that He’s pleased with you than it is to suggest that God might have some issues that He wants to work out with you. Maybe you haven’t yet had the experience of needing to convey a difficult message from God to someone(s) else, but that day may indeed come. Today, let’s ask God to give us grace for people in situations that pretty obviously need to be addressed, but let’s also ask for the courage to be speakers of truth into the lives of others--but truth that is covered in love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Micah 1:1-7

1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

2 Hear, you peoples, all of you, 

listen, earth and all who live in it, 

that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, 

the Lord from his holy temple.

3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place;
he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.

4 The mountains melt beneath him 

and the valleys split apart, 

like wax before the fire, 

like water rushing down a slope.

5 All this is because of Jacob's transgression, 

because of the sins of the house of Israel. 

What is Jacob's transgression? 

Is it not Samaria? 

What is Judah's high place? 

Is it not Jerusalem?

6 "Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, 

a place for planting vineyards. 

I will pour her stones into the valley 

and lay bare her foundations.

7 All her idols will be broken to pieces; 

all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; 

I will destroy all her images. 

Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, 

as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used."

Questions to consider:

  • Visualize verses 2-7. Characterize God as portrayed here.
  • What will happen to (a) nature and (b) the capitals of the northern and southern kingdoms?
  • Imagine everyday life in Judah and Samaria. What do you think their reactions were to such judgment?
  • What authority does the prophet have to give his message?
Possibilities for prayer:

I really like the way in which the Lord’s arrival is described. The images of mountains melting and valleys splitting give our minds an opportunity to begin to grasp the greatness of God. Let’s take some time to think about images that help us understand the overwhelming power and majesty of God, and pray into those. Use these next several minutes to really try to express, as much as possible, the overwhelming-ness of God.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nehemiah 13:15-31

15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 16 People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. 17 I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? 18 Didn't your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath."
19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, "Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you." From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. 
 Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
23 Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: "You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?"
28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. And I drove him away from me.
29 Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.
30 So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. 31 I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me with favor, my God.

Questions to consider:

  • What laws of God does Nehemiah find the people violating?
  • What measures do you take to bring fellow believers out of sin and into obedience?
  • Contrast modern regard for zeal, purity, and strictness.
  • Summarize what Nehemiah has accomplished. In what areas of life?
Possibilities for prayer:

There’s something truly beautiful about Nehemiah’s parting line--
“Remember me with favor, my God.”
It’s a simple request, and yet filled with a lot to ponder: Is that our request, that God would remember us with favor? What would it look like for God to do so? How should we be living our lives in order to see that come true?

“Remember me with favor, my God.”
Today, let’s make that our prayer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nehemiah 13:1-14

1 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
4 Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, 5 and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.
6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.
10 I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. 11 So I rebuked the officials and asked them, "Why is the house of God neglected?" Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.
12 All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. 13 I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.
14 Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.

Questions to consider:

  • What indicates that the Israelites continue to abide by their written covenant?
  • Are you immediately obedient when you become conscious of sin?
  • What does Nehemiah find when he returns?
  • What further neglect has come upon the house of God? How?
  • Who does Nehemiah hold responsible?
  • What precaution does he take against future neglect?
Possibilities for prayer:

Humans are so fallible. If we somehow manage to miss that in our everyday lives, the Israelites are here to remind us of it. Just as we’ve praised the people for rallying around the gatekeepers, musicians, and priests, we find out in the next chapter that these commitments were not well kept. It takes Nehemiah re-entering the scene and reminding them what they were supposed to do to get things back on track.

We often need reminders ourselves. We make commitments to others, or even to God, but then fall off the path we’ve set for ourselves and go about other things in our lives. Today, let’s ask God to place people in our lives to keep us accountable, to remind us of the commitments we’ve made and to help us keep to them. Let’s also ask God for the diligence we need to keep pressing into our promises, especially to God.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nehemiah 12:44-47

44 At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites. 45 They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did also the musicians and gatekeepers, according to the commands of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.

Questions to consider:
  • Have you ever been involved in a demonstration of praise to God?
  • How do the Israelites regard the men who minister to them?
  • How do they express their regard?
  • How do you express your regard for those who minister to you? Why?
Possibilities for prayer:

It’s nice to note the way in which everyone came together to support each other. Nehemiah writes that “all Israel contributed” for those who were musicians and gatekeepers. There’s a sense of unity in that, the way in which people (seemingly) happily contributed to the livelihoods of others. The people find it important to return to the way of things “long ago” and are willing to sacrifice for it, to provide for the musicians and gatekeepers, honoring them for the work that they are doing for God. Today, let’s think about the ways in which we can honor and provide for people in our community and ask God to provide us opportunities to act upon that.