Nehemiah: One filled with sorrow

Nehemiah was filled with sorrow because the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and gates were burned. The King was concerned about Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of going back and helping to rebuild Jerusalem. It took 52 days to rebuild the walls. When the walls were completed, they were solemnly dedicated and guarded continually.

The Book of Nehemiah, presumed to have been written by both Ezra and Nehemiah, around 430-420 BC details Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city wall, and all about Nehemiah’s reforms.

The book begins by talking about Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, for thirteen years had passed since Artaxerxes issued the decree for Ezra to go and reform Israel. Now, Ezra’s work had been an early success, but when the Jews wanted to rebuild the city wall, they ran into many problems. Many of Israelite enemies accused them of rebellion against Persia, so the Israelites avoided any building of a wall.

We read about Nehemiah, for in Persia, Nehemiah, who was a Jewish official in the king’s palace, had become a cupbearer (which I have recognized is someone who is a wine steward). The Jews heard about Nehemiah and wanted to speak with him, for someone so trusted had to be someone they could trust also maybe. Nehemiah, though, was a man of God who prayed much, and therefore, knew the people’s troubles were resulting from sin. Therefore, Nehemiah brought a confession before God and interceded before Him for four months.

He prepared to speak to the king about this, but the king was taken aback about Nehemiah’s return. However, he was given permission after all to return and carry out the reconstruction of the wall that was planned. He obtained the necessary building materials. Soon, the rebuilding of the city wall had commenced. During the period of building this wall, a lot of antagonism had occurred. Much of the antagonism involved mockery, treachery, extortion, compromise, insults, and other forms of disloyalty – before it was finally accomplished, as we see in chapters six through seven. Right before it was completed; there was a significant event, in which people attempted to draw Nehemiah out of the city in order to kill him. However, Nehemiah knew their tactics and did not budge from the plan of completing the wall. In completing the wall, Nehemiah made a record of all of those that lived in Jerusalem now.

Next, now that the wall was finished, it was time to execute Nehemiah’s reformation. By the end of the sixth month, the wall was complete, which was right before Israel’s mid-year meetings and festivals had occurred, so he thought this is the perfect time for a celebration of the completion of the wall. After this, the people requested that Ezra, assisted by some Levites, would read the Law and explain it to the people, because it had been so long since they heard it. When people looked upon themselves and figured how far they had departed from the Law, they began to grieve and worry. Nehemiah thought that the festivities were going to be filled with a bunch of sad people. Nevertheless, to his surprise, there wasn’t much to worry about. People were intently focused on attending every reading of the Law.

After the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles, more readings of the Law occurred. Then, there was a time of confession and worship that was led by the Levites. After confession, a fresh covenant promise was made so that they would be faithful unto God. An oath was created as well, which was signed by many leaders. All of the people involved in this oath were bound to the covenant document that told them to be obedient to the Law. There were specific matters in the document, which involved mixed marriages, temple taxes, the Sabbath Day and Sabbatical Year, maintenance of the temple and rituals, and tithes and offerings. After that, listings were created of residents, and priests and Levites. Then, we see the dedication of the wall. After the reading of the Law and miscellaneous celebrations, it appears that they dedicated the wall. People joined in offering sacrifices, praised, and rejoiced God. Officials were then assigned to watch over the money and supplies that were brought by people to the temple. All of the Israelites gave one-tenth of their income to the central fund. After the funds would be collected, it would be distributed among the Levites, as they worked in different functions in the temple. People were also reminded to keep God’s temple holy and that Pagans were not allowed inside.

Now, after serving about twelve years governing Jerusalem, Nehemiah had been called back to Persia for a while. Some of the Jews’ old enemies had returned and caused issues, such as a mixed marriage for example. Nehemiah had heard and quickly corrected this situation, since it was a violation of the promise made. Also, they hadn’t paid tithes in quite a while, and because of this, the Levites no longer worked at the temple, but went to the fields to work instead. If that wasn’t bad enough, people were working and trading on the Sabbath.

All of these things broke the covenant promise that was made. Nehemiah was furious and intent on putting an end to it. He closed the city gates on the Sabbath, which prevented people from bringing goods into the city to sell. He made doubly sure that no one sold right outside the gate either. Nehemiah had continued to correct the people and helped them follow God’s Law the best they can. Nehemiah was remarkable in trying to keep up with the reformation and overall was helpful in continuing Israelite living in Jerusalem.

The Twelve Disciples are Chosen (Journey 18)

Part 1: Jesus prays, and the Twelve Disciples are chosen

We begin in Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16, and Jesus journeyed from Capernaum around the shore of the Sea of Galilee to “The Mountain,” about 5 miles.

It was expedient that the Lord Jesus appoint helpers immediately (as He was in prayer for many hours overnight), twelve of them that is, to which, they would be commissioned to heal diseases and cast out devils.

They were known as “Apostles,” ones whom are sent out. He would continue to train them further until His Appointed Time had come (for His death and Resurrection of course), and then they would need to continue the work. This was all similar to the Twelve Tribes that formed the basis of the People of God.

The ones whom were called were Simon Peter (or Cephas), Andrew the brother of Peter, James the son of Zebedee, John the brother of James, Philip, Bartholomew (or Nathanael), Thomas the Twin (Didymus), Matthew (or Levi), James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus (or Lebbaeus, or Judas the son of James), Simon the Zealot (or the Patriot, or the Canaanite, or the Cananaean), and Judas Iscariot (or the traitor, the betrayer, or the one who betrays).

What can we learn from this?

When the Lord calls us to do something, we should do it to our best ability, with excellence, as we are specially called from Him directly! No matter what the Lord calls us to do, we must do it best as we can, which means we should be continually attending to His Calling for us! Just as a doctor is on call all the time, this is similar to our calling from the Lord that we should be ready anytime for apt in ministry.

Jesus Heals a Paralytic (Journey 15)

Part 1: Jesus heals the paralytic

We begin this journey in Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26, where Jesus comes from Galilee back to Capernaum.

Back in Capernaum, Jesus preaches to a large crowd that fills Peter’s house and overflows. Pharisees and educators were there from “every town of Galilee,” and from as far away as Jerusalem, thus revealing how well known Jesus was becoming. Healing power was, in a special way, ready to operate.

A paralytic is lowered through the hole in the roof, and Jesus forgives his sins and heals his body. The Scribes and Pharisees mentally charge Jesus with blasphemy in claiming power to forgive sins; but Jesus, knowing their thoughts, claims that the power to heal the body is evidence of power to forgive sins.

Jewish opposition has begun against Jesus, as a group of leaders has found out Jesus’ Works and Preachings. A paralyzed man had friends who had asked Jesus to heal him. They stopped at nothing bringing this man to Jesus—as they lowered him through a hole in the roof of where Jesus was. Soon, Jesus heals this man, and then He even forgave his sins.

The Jewish leaders noticed Jesus claiming to be God—for they knew only God could forgive sins. Therefore, the leaders determined either Jesus was really God, or that He was just a blasphemer. Of course, they thought just anyone could say someone is forgiven or healed. The healing can be proven visibly, though, however, forgiveness cannot—they thought. Those that saw the man was healed knew that Jesus is just as He says He is.

What can we learn from this?

Seeing these men carry the paralyzed man, we can see they indeed had faith. Through this, and other situations reviewed already previously, true faith and strong faith work in various ways—however, Jesus is willing to accept any of it and help. Christ proved the power to forgive sin by showing that He could cure the paralyzed man—for they had no techniques that could cure paralytics medically. We see that there are physical afflictions; however, sin is an affliction of the soul, to which, Christ can only resolve. The ones who need help will show their faith unto Jesus Christ by humility unto Him.

Part 2: Call of Matthew and a special dinner

This journey begins in Mark 2:13-17; Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32. The next one to join Jesus’ group of Disciples was a tax collector named Matthew, who many people knew as Levi. Matthew took Jesus to his home for a meal and invited fellow tax collectors, as well as other friends to join Jesus and him.

Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) from his customs office to be a Disciple. Levi gives a great dinner in His honor at which many “publicans,” and “sinners” were guests.

This, of course, riled up the Jews, because they disliked or even hated the tax collectors and wished that all Jews would stay away from them. Therefore, when Jesus was having dinner with several tax collectors, this caused a ruckus in the Jewish leadership.

The Pharisees saw Jesus eating with them as well, and soon despised Jesus. However, He replied to them that if the tax collectors were really as bad as they claimed, then tax collectors were the ones that truly needed His help. God was pleased in Jesus’ showing of mercy to outcasts; however, He was not pleased with sacrifices of those that feel they are better than others are.

What can we learn from this?

People of many age groups become outcasts, and many times, it is by accident. Sometimes, it is on purpose. However, we must realize that if someone is being an outcast accidentally or on purpose, there has to be a reason internally that someone acts the way they do.

Pharisees and Jews despised these tax collectors, which only made the problem worse for the tax collectors. They did not care about the tax collectors, and commonly spoke against them—which only made the problem worse for them as outcasts.

Jesus came, however, in His mercy, to pardon the greatest sins, and give grace to change the greatest sinners to make them holy.

To make these tax collectors more faithful and fair dealing, a change of heart was needed about them. Because the Jews hated them, the tax collectors obtained an ill name, to which, Jesus wanted to change, because He knew that inside they could truly change. This is why He called Matthew to be a Disciple, is because He knew that Matthew could change so much that it would truly glorify the Lord and improve his work overall.

We see multiple times that the Lord did not ever waver in connecting with and conversing with sinners and outcasts, because He knew He could help them. He was unconcerned with what society said about them, because He knew that there is no discrimination for the Kingdom of God, and as He is building the Kingdom of God, He knows that there is no difference in race or type of people.

Part 3: Three parables that vindicate (clear blame of) fasting

We talk about this part where the parables are discussed of such: marriage, the old and new cloth, and wine skins. We read in Mark 2:18-22; Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39.

John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees agreed that Jesus’ Disciples did not fast or keep up with their normal ceremonies. They questioned Jesus, to which, He compares His Coming to the coming of a bridegroom to his wedding feast. In a time of such joy, no one really thinks of fasting, which is why Jesus’ Disciples did not fast while He was with them, but that Jesus eventually would be taken away from them and killed—to which they would fast again due to great sorrow.

Their eventual sorrow would be turned into joy again when they see Him rise again from the dead, victorious!

Jesus also reminded them that now that He had come, they should not expect the old tradition of the Jews to continue, because He had not come to repair, improve, or even update Judaism. However, Judaism was worn out and completely useless.

Jesus brought something new, to which, made Judaism as an old worn out coat (cloth) that could not be sown or as a brittle old wineskin that could not stand pressure of new wine. However, the Pharisees insisted upon their old worn out religion.

What can we learn from this?

Slanders will come against us, especially when we try to make a difference in people’s lives. It is up to us to bear them, so that, we keep things in order especially to the Will of God. We also should not cling to old traditions so much as to not accomplish what God wants for us. We must be willing to change, as God needs us to.