Nehemiah Reflections

Neh 4: A Tool and Weapon

Neh 4:17 – those rebuilding the wall had a tool and weapon…I know what that is like. When you are doing the work of the Lord there are days like this. You are building His Kingdom and fending off enemies or naysayers.

I’d add that those who are truly doing the Lord’s work become enemy #1 for Satan…so I’d be more nervous if you don’t get satanic attacks, honestly.

This is probably the primary thing hitting me in reading through Nehemiah is the amount of resistance and adversity he faced. When we follow Christ this is what we can expect (not as the exception but the rule because Satan wants none of it to succeed). I think all too often we expect ease and comfort and others to go along with us as we follow God’s plans. Let’s remember it will always be the exact opposite and follow Nehemiah’s example. I have really found this book to be amazing so far as well as his example of faithfulness under fire!

I also liked the image about a tool in one hand and a weapon the other. It takes strong conviction to live out our faith like that.

Neh 1: Do We Weep?

I’m so struck and challenged by the visceral response Nehemiah shows over God’s temple being undone. He shakes, cries, repents, fasts, prays, risks his life with the king–all over the agony of knowing God’s temple isn’t built. Now I think about the church as God’s temple today. I look at so much room for God’s people to be built up in Him, and so many areas we’ve missed the mark. Surely there is room for us to weep, pray, fast, risk our lives, like Nehemiah did over the temple needing repair: Do We Weep?

In chapter 9 it talks about how as part of their corporate time of confession they read/listened to the law for 3 hours followed by 3 hours of confession. Seems maybe our churches should look more like this ie anguish vs. entertainment. This is what really resonated to me about the video coupled with what we are reading.

Pray Against Enemies?

I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah praying that God would look upon his enemies and judge them for their blocking God’s ways. At first, my thought was that this all changes post-cross. Jesus himself teaches us to pray for our enemies and forgive, of course (Matt. 5-6). But then I thought about Paul saying something kind of similar in 2 Tim. 4:14, and also see Paul rebuking and calling down blindness on Elymas the Sorcerer (Acts 13:9-12). Both of these are post-cross.

I think the point is thinking about people who are truly being enemies to God’s work…to people receiving the gospel. We should pray they are thwarted. Ultimately, pray that they repent. But if they won’t repent, sometimes God has to use other (harsh) means to get them out of there. Hear me out…we don’t jump to this. I think of it like police officers trained to de-escalate. They are only supposed to use as much force as the situation warrants based on what the person is doing to them and how compliant they are, etc. (and no more). So using their gun is a last resort. Similarly, praying for a sort of judgment to thwart God’s enemies seems like a last resort, and should be Spirit-led. But it shouldn’t be off the table.

I agree that praying for judgement is not something that is off the table. Jesus is a perfect balance of love and justice, equal parts grace and truth. He taught us to pray that his kingdom would come here on earth as it is in heaven, so I think that would mean we would long for the wrong things in this world to be made right.
I think when the balance is altered is where we run into problems (all grace with no truth is soft, all justice with no love is harsh).

Neh 8: Teaching the Bible

I’ve been touched by Neh 8 – there they read the Bible and then “they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). The result? “All the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, BECAUSE they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Neh. 8:12)

So simple, yet so under-appreciated: read the Bible, explain what it means. That should be our teaching strategy.

Nehemiah 6:16

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

I am encouraged in these stories of how pagan people recognize the power of the LORD, even though they don’t follow him.

God’s power is evident when his people fear him and obey. “The fear of the LORD” is something that seems to be mentioned a lot.

Neh 7: Hanani’s Promotion

7:2- Hanani is put in charge “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.”

It is interesting to think about how different the business world would be if the fear of the LORD was the most sought after quality when hiring someone for an upper management position.

This reminds me of Aristotle’s directions for a midwife:

A MIDWIFE ought to be of middle age…A lady’s hand, a hawk’s eye, and a lion’s heart…But above all, she ought to be qualified with the fear of God, which is the principal thing in every state and condition, and will furnish her on all occasions both with knowledge and discretion.

See https://www.exclassics.com/arist/arist13.htm

Nehemiah 8

This story is in the children’s bible I read to my kids after dinner, and to be honest I wasn’t familiar with it before reading it to them. It is a powerful story. Understanding scripture allows us to repent, and this is cause for celebration!

Neh 13: Rough Dealings

I’ve been thinking a lot about Neh 13:25 ~

I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair…

At first blush, this might seem a bit extreme for him to do.

BUT:

  • we live in a very sanitized and “polished” society compared to a lot of places…in some places, this kind of rough behavior is almost like the “language of the land” you need to use to get their attention (certainly better than killing them or dying under God’s hand for the compromise and idolatry).
  • along these lines, I think Nehemiah may have been acting in a sort of “official” capacity. So you can think of police officers with batons, or Herod with his soldiers who would routinely beat people as a discipline for what they did (we are a society WAY more devoid of corporal punishment than a lot of places…but even in our land, we still allow for a certain level of corporal punishment…I wonder if we could actually curb some really negative things if we used a little more corporal punishment than we do, honestly)
  • You can’t say the Bible doesn’t show the gritty, real-ness of humanity!

1 Kings 5: We Need the Nations!

In 1 Kings 5, we read about Solomon working with Tyre and Sidon (non-Jewish cities) to build the temple of the Living God. Solomon says of these people, “there is no one among us [Israelites] who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.” (1 K 5:6).

Consider that for a moment. God so arranged that outsiders of Israel are uniquely qualified to make the best temple for God. Ask yourself, Why wouldn’t God want to use his own people to make his temple?

The temple of the Old Testament translates to God’s church in the New Testament (Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2; etc.). It was the place where God resided, and now God resides within the souls of his people–and especially when there is a corporate expression united under His Name and Lordship (Matt. 18:20).

So if we put these 2 concepts together–that God’s temple is his church AND the temple was built with the help of outsiders–I wonder if this doesn’t give a unique perspective on God’s desire to evangelize and bring in the nations to work on building up his church.

What skills and ministries and callings does He have prepared to help his church that will be found by those who aren’t yet joined to Christ? Think of the opportunity and extra value this gives within your neighbor, friend, family member who doesn’t yet know Christ. There is yet time. There is yet room. For God’s church to be even more glorious!

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Romans 10:12-15

Faithful Men (Song)

Composer: Unknown. Shared in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania 6 years back (or so).

Faithful Men: Audio

“Faithful Men” sung by Neal Karsten

Faithful Men: Lyrics

There are many today who have wandered away,
They are out in the fields of sin.
Once they walked in the light, now they grope through the night,
Oh Lord, give us faithful men.

CHORUS
Faithful Men, Faithful Men,
To recapture the vision again.
Give us men who are true, and loyal through and through,
O Lord, give us faithful men.

Give us men who are strong, when the battle is long.
Give us men with the will to win,
Men courageous and true, though their number be few,
O Lord, give us faithful men.

There's no time for delay, men are needed today,
Men persistent unto the end.
Men whose feet are secure on the rock that is sure,
O Lord, give us faithful men.

Samson From 2 Angles

I wanted to use this space to highlight 2 recent takes I’ve heard on the story of Samson (Judges 13-16). Both focus on different elements, and I thought could glorify the Lord for us to consider together.

Samson, Angle 1

Author: Neal Karsten

I was really encouraged by the word of Samson killing more through his death than in his life, so I spent a little bit looking at that. I’m sure books have been written on this, but here were a few things that stood out to me.

Samson was far from perfect.  He made huge mistakes and was not deserving of being used!

May we never think that we can’t be used because we have not been good enough!

Do we believe we can only be used if we are good enough?

His head had been shaved, but it was just beginning to grow back (Judges 16:22)

This hair growth was a work of the Lord (Samson had no control of this) and though it was small, it could be used powerfully.  

Do we believe the Lord is at work even when we are not active in it and that even his small beginnings can be extremely powerful?

Samson knew he was dead (16:30).

He was not fighting for his survival, he was longing for the greatest impact through his death.

Are we fighting for our survival, or for the greatest impact as we are dying?

Though he was blind, Samson was intentional about being placed next to the structural pillars. (16:26)

Though we are blind, are we being wise, intentionally striving to be placed to make the biggest impact against the enemy?

Samson called out to God (16:28)

Without the strength of the Lord, no pushing will make the structure fall.

Are we trying to push in our own strength? Are we calling out to the Lord?

Samson pushed with all his might (16:30)

Even though the Lord was his strength, Samson still had to push. 

Are we pushing? Are we joining our prayer with action?

Samson’s intentions were not perfect (“…for my two eyes” 16:28)

It even looks as though his intentions for this were not for the sake of the people of God, or to righteously destroy the enemy, it looked more like revenge / pride.  But God still honored it for God’s glory.

Do we believe that our intentions need to be perfect before God can use us for his cause?  

Samson’s death killed more than his life. (16:30)

Do we believe that the persevering of our lives will have the greatest impact, or the giving up of our lives will have the greatest impact?


Samson, Angle 2 (“Integrity Matters: Judges 13-16”)

Presenter: Peter Williams

“Integrity Matters: Judges 13-16” by Peter Williams (30 min)

Are you Qualified For Ministry?

Something that strikes me in Matthew…and really in all of the gospels, is how hopeless the disciples are on their own. They misunderstand Jesus the whole way through. They try to correct him because they know the better way. They aren’t able to cast out the demons that Jesus seemed to expect them to. They leave Jesus at his hardest hour, even though they all claim they’d never deny Him. They chastise Mary for pouring out the alabaster flask on Jesus. And I could go on.

Anyone else read this and think, “Wait, these are the ones Jesus wants to use to turn the world upside down?” Haha!! I hope it’s actually empowering for all of us to consider this. Jesus is looking to use people who don’t have it together…NOT at all. Anyone who studies church history will see the same thing. It’s always stunning to me to do a deep dive study of heroes of the faith. I can’t think of one I’ve looked at who didn’t have his/her own issues.

Why? So He gets all the glory!

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Cor. 1:26-31

By the power of the Holy Spirit–Christ in you…

Rise up fellow non-influential–non-noble–weak-lowly-despised-fools. We’re just the people God is looking to use, as His Spirit carries us fumbling and bumbling along :slightly_smiling_face:

Ezra Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz, Matt Roefer, Chris Maybury, Brad Holda, and Jake Dong. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

The Temple

Question

I’m looking at Ezra, are those temples still up today?

Answer

So here is a brief history of God’s tabernacle/temple:

  • 1,500 BC – a tabernacle (that is, a sort of tent-temple) was created for God, and moved as Israel moved
  • 900 BC – David-Solomon constructed Temple #1 for God.
  • 500 BC – Temple #1 was destroyed by Babylon
  • 400 BC – Temple #2 was built (which you read about in Ezra-Nehemiah). This is the same temple (though updated) that was around in the time of Jesus.
  • AD 70 – Temple #2 was destroyed by the Romans

That means there is has been no temple since AD 70. BUT WAIT…

God actually did something amazing in that he calls us the temple where He dwells. So the temple built today was made by God – it includes you as an individual (small “temple” if you will), but also the Church as a whole (big “Temple” if you will). God’s best temple design is Him living in you and me.

Ezra 2 & Other Books

I love the subtle connections between the list of names and other biblical books:

in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah)

(Ezra 2:2)

Here we see

  • Zerubbabel (a main figure in Haggai and Zechariah’s prophecies),
  • Nehemiah (book of the Bible about him),
  • Mordecai (Esther’s uncle).

I’m not sure these are always and exactly the same people (though they may be)…but at the very least it shows that these were common names of people for that time period. It’s another of the MANY subtle confirmations of the Bible’s reliability and authenticity!

Ezra 2: People Give Toward Temple

According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priestly garments.

Ezra 2:69

This is pretty radical generosity from a group of exiled people. My Bible mentions that 61,000 drachmas of gold is roughly 1100lbs. I looked up the value in today’s market and it comes out to roughly 23.7 million USD.

This reminds me of the radical generosity of the people in Exodus 38 when they are building the Tabernacle.

I’d add that Ezra 1:4 speaks of surrounding people assisting in the supplies, and 1:6 shows royal assistance in these things. So I’m not sure how much was drummed up completely on their own versus was corporately brought together for this. But either way, there was generosity in this.

It’s also interesting that this initial zeal is dampened later (read Haggai 1 where they were focusing on building their own houses, while God’s house was still in ruins). Reading Ezra this time through makes me think that this happened around the time that the Persian leader said to stop building. The people almost accepted that a little too readily, and so had a “good excuse” to build their own house instead of God’s. Then the prophets rose up and said, “stop this–get back to building!”

Ezra 5: God is King

I was really struck by the fact that the prophets were stirring the people to rebuild this temple AFTER the king’s decree said to stop! In fact, you’ll read all about this time in the prophetic books of Haggai and Zechariah. I think there were 2 reasons for them continuing even after the king said stop:

  1. God’s Kingship always wins over the kings of this world – God wanted it rebuilt at that time, and so they were to obey God over leaders of this world (see Acts 5:29)
  2. The original order from King Cyrus was for them to build the temple. But then they had a new order saying to stop building the temple (Ezra 4:17-24). The way the law of the Persians was setup is that if the king makes a decree it can’t be revoked by a later decree (see Daniel 6:12, and the dilemma this posed for Daniel). So they were on legal ground to rebuild, even though the Persian King himself didn’t realize that! They appealed to the “original documents” of Cyrus, and ended up winning the legal battle (see Ezra 6).

I think this has a lot of application for the U.S. today as there are A LOT of loud voices saying this country should be this or that. I think a lot of them are truly misinformed and ignorant of the founding fathers’ decrees and intent, etc. (a great example is the “separation of church and state” which originally meant the state had to stay out of the church’s business, but is now taken to mean that the church doesn’t get to be involved with the state–God forbid, the founders would be rolling in their grave!).

All to say, we need to choose to obey God (even above leaders in the land, where they are in conflict). And it’s extra helpful when we have original “decrees” that stand against current dictums and trends today in the political spheres.

Ezra 6 & Esther

This is in the same general time period of the book of Esther. Notice (again) how much the books of the Bible corroborate each other. In Esther you see how quickly the king swings from being for the Jews to being against the Jews. And in Ezra you see the same large swings by the Persian kings. Similarly, in Esther you read about the severe treatment for disobedience (hanging on a gallows made from your house, as I recall). But then I read Ezra 6:11 – “if anyone alters this edict a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it.”

Ezra 7: God Above Artaxerxes

Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons?

Ezra 7:23

I’m not sure whether this is an act of kindness or purely out of selfish motives, but it seems that either way King Artaxerxes recognizes the power of the LORD and does not want to incur any wrath.

I think there was a certain level of respect and fear of God as a true power that seems more prevalent in Bible times than it is today…at least in the West

Ezra 7: Simple, Yet Powerful Principle

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

He set his heart to: Study, Practice, & Teach! What a simple principle…

Ezra 8: God-Reliance

I love Ezra fasting in Ch. 8. It was almost like he recognized he had to live by his words of confessing to the king that God would take care of him. And he realized that–gulp–here he is totally alone with God to take care of him. So they fasted in acknowledgement that they need God (and can’t take care of themselves). It’s really challenged my proud heart to read that…it almost starts with pride on Ezra (maybe?) to say, “we don’t need your help”, but then he ends up humble.

Ezra 10

You have been unfaithful…Now make a confession to the LORD… The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: ‘You are right!’

Ezra 10:10-12

I always find it compelling when God’s people come together to corporately confess their sin. This must have been very uncomfortable. Personally I always find the result of confession very healing, but I find the process extremely uncomfortable.

This is not something that happens in the church very often today. I wonder what that would look like and what would prompt it in our modern times.

It’s always uncomfortable but always healing and also what we are called to do yet also shy away from.

I think it starts with us responding to the Lord and repenting as individuals (I also don’t think that much about various “repentance” campaigns where people repent for other peoples’ sins…we need to take personal ownership and not look like we were innocent and the others were guilty)…the crux of the issue in Ezra is that they mixed too much with the world; holiness was not preserved. If ever there was a reason to repent, there it is.

Right Beliefs & Practices Can Still be All Wrong

Warning

Church of Ephesus

Jesus commends the Ephesians in the following ways:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary…you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Rev. 2:2-6

Consider how excited we all would be if we could see a church that Jesus Himself would evaluate as:

  1. working hard for Him
  2. perservering
  3. not tolerating evil
  4. discerning true from false leaders
  5. enduring hardships
  6. not getting weary
  7. hating practices hated by Jesus

Yet Jesus simultaneously gives the Ephesians this sober warning:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Rev. 2:4-5

Think about that.

They had 7 great commendations in both doctrine and practices. But they were in jeopardy of ceasing to be a church because of 1 (really important) thing they lacked: their first love.

Pharisees

Or consider also some of the great things the Pharisees had going for them according to Scripture:

  1. conservative views on God and Scripture (Luke 11:51; Acts 23:8; Phil. 3:5-6)
  2. zeal to convert people to God (Matt. 23:15)
  3. disciplined prayer and fasting (Luke 18:12)
  4. Bible studying (John 5:39)
  5. fellowshipping (though note it may have been largely/solely with “like-minded” others, Luke 15:29)
  6. thoughtful interpretations of the Bible (Mark 7:11-12)
  7. wanting to please God to the best of their abilities (Rom. 10:2; Phil. 3:5-6)
  8. wanting to follow Gods commands to a T (Matt. 23:23)
  9. schools of learning for other people to know about God (Acts 4:13)
  10. charitable giving (Luke 18:12)

Again, these are 10 things most every church is (rightly) striving for in some capacity.

Yet, Jesus:

leveraged his harshest criticism toward the Pharisees–conceivably to shock them out of their self-righteous complacency. He called them, “Sons of hell,” (Matt. 23:15), or a, “Brood of vipers” (Matt. 23:33).

Holda, “Confessions of a Pharisee”

What was their problem?

[They] trusted in themselves that they were righteous…

Luke 18:9 (see also Luke 16:14-15)

Thus they fundamentally didn’t put their trust and hope in God. They operated out of self, even doing externally good things and having externally good doctrine.

Similarly, the Ephesians lost sight of their love for God in the midst of all their activities (even good activities). They, too, became self-focused over Jesus-focused.

A Better Way

In saying all this, we of course can and should still encourage good doctrine and good practices. This is fundamental to biblical Christianity. But let us be soberly warned that we can do all of this really well, and yet lack Christ as the hub and root of it all.

In contrast, we can see that biblical discipleship goes beyond just passing down good teachings and practices.

Paul – Timothy

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy in his last letter:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me…

2 Tim. 3:10-11

Notice that Paul passed down his teaching (the first thing on the list). But he also passed down much more:

  • his conduct
  • his life aim
  • his faith
  • his patience
  • his love
  • his steadfastness
  • his enduring suffering

In other words, he passed down the life of Christ–the fruit of the Spirit. This is the fundamental difference. You can try to nail a bunch of fruit on a tree and hope it looks good, but God knows the difference. We want to root people deeply in Christ–in dependence on Him and in love of Him. And from there see God’s fruit emerge (as an extension of His life within, not as affixing something external onto something).

Elders

Likewise, I think often of the list of traits God desires in mature believers (i.e. elders in the faith).

See Elder Qualifications & Functions for an extensive list on this. But good lists of qualities are found in 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:3-25; Titus 1:5-9.

In these lists we do see things like, “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), “spoke the word of God to you” (Heb. 13:7), and “labor in preaching and teaching,” (1 Tim. 5:17) among elder qualities.

But the majority of traits listed are character/fruit qualities. Things like:

above reproach, blameless; not volatile, self-controlled, sober-minded; good reputation with church and world; hospitable; not given to drunkenness; gentle, not violent or quick-tempered; not quarrelsome; not a lover of money; not headstrong, but considering of other opinions; a lover of what is good; righteous; good conduct; meek; pure; peaceable; gentle; open to reason; full of mercy and good fruit; impartial; sincere

Holda, “Elder Qualifications & Functions”

And elders are not some super-Christians. They are simply ones who have relatively more maturity than others. Thus, all Christians should aspire to growing in these ways: in doctrine and practices (definitely!), but also in a revealing more of the fruit of Christ in them.

Without this fruit and striving toward such growth in the Holy Spirit, we really are no different than Pharisees–no matter the doctrine and practices we do and train others in.

1 Chronicles Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz, Matt Roefer, Chris Maybury, and Brad Holda. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

The Bible as God’s Word and Man’s Word

and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who ruled in Moab and returned to Lehem (now the records are ancient).

1 Chron. 4:22

“Now the records are ancient”…shows the human side to Bible writing (at least in 1 Chron)…namely that they were using old records to get the information for the genealogies. And it seems like the writer is pointing out that it’s tough to make out all the info on the records they were using.

This seems similar to Luke 1:1-4 where he said he consulted many sources to ensure the accuracy. All the while God oversaw all the writing and preserved it and inspired it faithfully so that “every word” and “all Scripture” is simultaneously Gods very words; He is the author! Fully God and fully man.

Along with all their villages that were around these cities as far as Baal. These were their settlements, and they kept a genealogical record.

1 Chron. 4:33

“They kept a genealogical record”— goes with what I said above. They were using records kept by their forefathers.

Multiplication

Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their clan multiply like the men of Judah.

1 Chron. 4:27

The power of multiplication! Think of all that came through Judah as they multiplied faithfully.

Firstborn & Inheritance

Wow – I totally missed this from my previous times of reading the Bible:

Reuben was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel”

1 Chron. 5:1

This is pulling from some different strands all at once.

First, notice Deut. 21:15-17 (this is KEY):

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

Deut. 21:15-17

Oh man, there’s so much I’d love to unpack here…but let me just say this. God allowed (because of the hardness of their hearts) for a man to have multiple wives. He must give a DOUBLE PORTION to his firstborn (whether he feels like it or not!!).

BUT…in the case of Jacob, it got switched (and 1 Chron. 5:1 explains):

  • Leah gave Jacob his firstborn son (Reuben).
  • Rachel’s firstborn son was Joseph.

According to Deut. 21:15-17, Reuben would normally get the double portion. But when we look at the 12 tribes of Israel we realize that Joseph got the double portion (both of his sons got a portion of the land…so, in effect, Joseph had 2 portions of land).

Why? Again, 1 Chron. 5:1 explains. It is referring to the incident in Genesis 35:22:

Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine

Gen. 35:22

Because of this sexual flagrant offense, Reuben lost his birthright as firstborn. So instead it was transferred over to Joseph.

OK…hope you followed all that. It was exciting for me to learn at least!!

Prodigal Son & Inheritance

One final note…

I think it also illuminates the parable of the Prodigal Son a bit. The firstborn son was to get a double portion of inheritance. But it seems like the father split the inheritance evenly between the 2 sons: “he divided his property between them” (Luke 15:12). That would only happen, it seems, if there was sin on the part of the firstborn (like in 1 Chron 5:1).

WELL…you can imagine how enraged that might have made the firstborn son (a.k.a. Pharisee) who thought he was so pious. It’s like Jesus is showing in that parable that both sons were sinful by dividing the inheritance. Certainly that’s the feel you get at the end of the parable (notice that the Father had to approach both sons to try to bring them back to the house). But the firstborn “pharisee” thought he was righteous where the other son wasn’t, and didn’t recognize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23)

Spreading Seed

A theme in 1 Chron. is how the “seed” is passed down from generation to generation.

That is, who is your father, who is their father, etc.? I often think of this in terms of Luke 8:11 – “the seed is the word of God”, and Acts 12:24 – “the word of God grew and multiplied”.

In other words, ultimately, how are we doing at receiving, sharing, and multiplying the seed of God’s word from one generation to another. It seems that’s the most important thing in God’s economy (I think also of 1 Cor. 4 where Paul said he knows there’s only 1 thing he will be judged by: how faithful was he to steward Christ’s gospel?)

The Land

Another theme of 1 Chronicles is the land being allotted to the people. A lot is about area won or gained. You even see the names of ancestors match the names of territories (because those people gained that land, and it was later named after them). I think there is a lot here to consider (not saying I see all the connections or even close–I don’t!)

David

I was thinking about how every word of the Lord is so important and we don’t want to miss any of it… if He chose to write it/inspire it then it’s important and if this is what we get as the canon as the inspired and inherent word of God we better take it all in and take it all seriously.

It’s interesting to me along those lines in just going through 1 & 2 Samuel + Kings and now Chronicles how much the life and story of David is highlighted. Of course it’s the lineage of Christ and there is so much to learn from his life. When you think about how much time is actually devoted to just his life and kingship alone though it makes me think I should study his life even more and really aim to learn from him and his life/successes/failures.

1 Chronicles has A LOT written concerning the time that David was king. The priests, musicians, cabinet, doorkeepers, David’s family, etc. all seem meticulously recorded. This speaks 3 things to me:

  1. Every word in the Bible is written by God for a reason. And over and over that reason points to different layers of Christ and The Gospel. In the case of David, he is a CLEAR type of King Jesus who would come (born of his line). The NT, in fact, begins and ends with Jesus seen as David’s successor (“the son of David”). So I think a lot of this points to the King of Kings who would begin a kingdom that never ends–and we have been redeemed to participate in.
  2. I also have been thinking about the value in writing down the legacy of God’s works. Lots of the Bible was written around the time of Moses, David, and Jesus. This shows how important these times are for God. This also shows that they saw the importance of those events during the time of, and recorded faithfully while they lived at those times. It stirs me up in writing things down that may help me and others know and remember God’s faithfulness more and more.
  3. Very practical point: David was really good and taking care of what God gave him. Whether it was shepherding sheep, or shepherding a kingdom, at various points we see how David takes efforts to ensure things were well taken care of under his watch. I think his ensuring records were so meticulous while he was king speaks to that (kind of reminds me of Joseph in Gen. 41:49)

David’s Prayer

Something that really hit me was 1 Chronicles 29: 10 – 13. It’s the prayer David gave to the assembly as he was making an offering of his goods to have Solomon make the temple. I recommend reading it and meditating on it. It seems almost like a psalm.

David’s Sacrificial Leadership

I have been really touched by David FIRST making great personal sacrifice toward building the temple, then asking the people to give as they are compelled (see 29:1-5). The result? “the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.” (1 Chron. 29:6).

This is an amazing and God-honoring leadership model:

  • Make personal sacrifice yourself
  • Ask other leaders to contribute as they want
  • Lastly, look to non-leaders to contribute
  • Don’t ask others you lead to do things you have not done (or are not truly willing to do) yourself.

Prophesying Musicians

Question

I’ve been rolling 1 chron 25 1-8 in my head for a few days and am curious what you guys think. Specifically, the musicians are the only ones who are said to have prophesied out of the levites. Also it mentions them prophesying with their instruments. What does that mean compared to prophesying with words? And in verse 2 and 4 it says, “….., who prophesied under the direction of ……” What does it mean to do it under direction, isn’t it just something that comes from the Lord? Or is this more affirming a name it claim it perspective?

Response

I think of it like Elisha saying, “bring me the musician” when he was asked to prophesy (2 Kings 3, maybe?)…somehow, God uses music to assist in helping the prophetic gift “flow” more freely. Like 1 Cor 14 where Paul connects praying with singing, and both done in the Spirit (and understanding). Does that answer?

Question Clarified

But why only the musicians? The gift of prophecy is only for them? And how can you direct someone to prophecy?

Another Response

I think the bit about “prophesying with their instruments” is what I was answering. That is, they prophesied as normal, but did it with the background of music. If that makes sense.

Clearly these weren’t the only prophets (and David knew that when assigning their roles). Nathan, for instance, is a famous prophet in the time of David. But these were people set apart within the priests to use music and prophesy as the Spirit leads.

I’m making a total guess here, but I could imagine the role going something like this “you all are assigned to worship and praise the Lord with music…also, to listen to what the Lord is saying and speak it forth in your songs as prophecy”.

It reminds me of the picture of Saul rolling around and prophesying naked. He was joining the group of prophets who were participating in worshiping the Lord and would prophesy as the Lord inspired them (though many of those prophecies were never recorded).

I also wonder if they are using “prophecy” in a looser way than we use it. Maybe something more equivalent to what we’d say as “Spirit-led ministry”.

Malachi Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz and Jake Dong. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Mal. 1: What Do You Give God?

But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor!

Malachi 1:7-8

Giving our tithes and offerings is the way that we are able to trust God with what is very personal and close to us. God does not need our wealth, but he does deeply desire our devotion and our heart. He wants us to be all in so we can experience the way that is best, HIS way.

I also was impacted by Mal. 1:7-8, but I’d like to challenge us to think about this principle on some other levels…

Namely: what sort of time, money, energy, resources are we offering to the Lord and building up his kingdom? (kind of like the call in Haggai to stop making your own house so beautiful while God’s house lies in ruins)

Maybe we can think of this another way:

There have been seasons (maybe you all can relate) where my wife and I find ourselves spread thin doing all these things that seem “so important” that by the time her-and-I connect, we sort of give each others the leftovers. We’re both exhausted, it’s late at night, and our times where we had the most energy were spent elsewhere. That should not be, and we repent for that when it does happen.

Now consider what it’s like with the Lord. Is He only getting brief prayers before meals that are more mechanical than from the heart? Does He only get us quickly reading the Bible here and there without praying, considering, studying, and devoting ourselves to the principles laid out? Or maybe is His body (the church) hurting in ways we clearly can serve, and our time, energy, money is mostly spent elsewhere except for throwing a few scraps to honor God’s church here and there?

I think all of these things are examples of not heeding the charge in Mal. 1:7-8.

Lastly, and interestingly, I find that when I do prioritize giving the Lord my best, it helps me prioritize my time and puts me in a position to give my wife my best, and everything else falls into place from there. Sort of like what’s said later in Malachi – “watch what will happen when you give me your first/best…and how I will bless you with surplus!” (my paraphrase). Also similar to, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you”

Mal. 2: Our Marriage Unions

Malachi 2:13-15 is really hitting me:

You cover the Lords altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

Mal. 2:13-15

Wow! God is seeking Godly offspring. He brought my wife & I together with a portion of His spirit. Yet, I have so often trampled on that with lust in my thoughts…I see that this unrepentant sin is going to lead to potentially unanswered prayer… powerful.

My wife and I have also been going through some things Mal. 2 speaks to:

  • marriages and potential marriages that we are involved with and are struggling
  • my own thought life can be unfaithful to my wife; I’ve been confessing this to her, which has brought us closer together
  • some dreams that seem to attack our marriage union – since praying about them, they haven’t returned

All to say, I definitely sense this as a theme for us lately. Something Satan is trying to sow division in, but God is challenging us to uphold the unity of the marriage covenant.

Malachi 4: Devotion to God

I sometimes struggle with the practical application of how to put my devotion into action, as sometimes my natural tendency is to feel like I need to make huge life changes or large gestures that seem overwhelming. However, I am slowly learning that our devotion to the LORD is made up of many, many small decisions made everyday.

The bulk of our daily lives is what would be classified as “mundane,” and I think seeking God in the mundane is so important. I am often reminded of marriage in this context as well. A wedding day is a great event (kind of like a large gesture of devotion), but choosing to serve our wives everyday of our marriage (the mundane) is where devotion is really tested.

The end of Malachi sums this up somewhat subtly:

  • 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
  • 4:4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”

The law was given to his people to give them a framework of devotion in the mundane, daily routine of life.

Mal 1 & 4: Sons Who Serve

I noticed the beginning and end of Malachi ties sonship with service to the Lord. Mal 4 – “son who serves”

This is different than slaves who serve for payment. Sons serve because it is right, it pleases their fathers, it brings honor to the family, there is fatherly discipline where they don’t, it is tied up with how they will steward the inheritance.

All to say, people who teach that being sons of God somehow absolves us from serving God don’t know the Scriptures. We still serve him, but our inheritance and salvation isn’t dependent on how good we served. We can’t stop being sons—that is a work of God. John 1:12

Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About The Resurrection Of Jesus (Peter Williams)

As we continue thinking about Jesus resurrecting, I wanted to send an excellent teaching on the subject that was recorded years ago, but it still is powerful, in my humble opinion:

Video: Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About the Resurrection of Jesus

Video: Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About the Resurrection of Jesus (1h 40m)