Ezra 9:1-10:44; Nehemiah 1:1-2:20
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Below is an image for Ezra chapter 9 verses 1 through 3: "But then the Jewish leaders came to me and said, "Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons... To make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders." When I heard this, I tore my clothing, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down utterly shocked." And then a wonderful prayer of repentance from Ezra on behalf of the Israelites comes forth in the remainder of chapter 9 today. When is the last time you prayed a prayer of repentance? Should we pray prayers of repentance regularly?
We have some powerful readings in Ezra chapter 10 today, as we read about people publicly confessing their sin! An image is below for verses 10 through 12 - "Then Ezra the priest stood and said to them: "You have sinned, for you have married pagan women. Now we are even more deeply under condemnation than we were before. Confess your sin to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what he demands. Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from these pagan women." Then the whole assembly raised their voices and answered, "Yes, you are right; we must do as you say!"
Today we begin the book of Nehemiah!
Date: Fifth century B.C.
Content: The book of Nehemiah continues the story begun by Ezra and deals with life in the restored community. The major point of Ezra is the rededication of the Temple. The major point of Nehemiah is the rebuilding of the city walls of Jerusalem. The book begins by explaining the need Jerusalem had for protection that walls would give. This is followed by a discussion of how the walls were build in spite of numerous problems both in the community and outside of it. A national day of repentance was called for and the project was completed.
Theme: The main theme of this book is the sad fact that people are slow to learn the lessons God wants to teach them. The Israelites had been carried into captivity because of their sin, but now the very same problems rose again. The people were neglecting worship, prayer, and Bible study, not to mention the fact that they were treating each other unjustly. But God in his patience continued to send his messengers to them to offer salvation and pardon. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 8-9) More commentary on the book of Nehemiah is at this link: https://bible.org/article/introduction-books-ezra-nehemiah
Below is an image from today's readings from Nehemiah chapter 1 verses 3 & 4 - ""Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been burned." When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven."
Today in Nehemiah chapter 2 verse 17 we read “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I am fascinated by the rebuilding of the Temple that we read about in Ezra and now the rebuilding of the Walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah. The thought of rebuilding is something that I think each of us needs to meditate upon at times. I believe that over time in our lives we unfortunately can tear things down. Things that need rebuilding. Perhaps we have torn down our faith in some way. Perhaps our love for God. Perhaps our connection to a church community. Perhaps our relationship with a family member. Perhaps our service to the poor. Is there an area of your life that is in need of rebuilding? Will you meditate upon your life and begin to rebuild in that area? Will you pray to God for strength in rebuilding in that area and will you allow his Spirit to lead you? I pray you will be encouraged by our readings this week in Nehemiah as you read about the Israelites rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. And I pray you will begin rebuilding the things in your life that have perhaps tumbled down over time!
Worship God: Today's readings reminded me of the song "Bring the Rain" by MercyMe:
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