Nehemiah 7:73-9:21 ~ 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 ~ Psalm 33:12-22 ~ Proverbs 21:11-12
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Old Testament - We have powerful readings in Nehemiah today! Just to frame up for us the date of these readings, in chapter 8 verse 2 we are reading about October 8, 444 B.C. Verses 2 & 3 today tell us: "So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the scroll of the law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people paid close attention to the Book of the Law."
You'll note in verse 2 that we read about Ezra for the first time in the book of Nehemiah. And of course we just recently read the book of Ezra. Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries. Ezra was a priest and scribe - a religious leader - whereas Nehemiah was the governor - not a member of the religious establishment nor a prophet. However, it's important to note that Nehemiah was a layman who was very devoted to God! Nehemiah pursued God's will in a secular world. Do you suppose that you and I could learn something for our lives today from Nehemiah's devotion to God as a layperson? As a layperson, are you living your life fully devoted to God and pursuing God's will? Let us live like Nehemiah encourages us to live in chapter 8 verse 10 today! "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" What do you think Nehemiah meant here by saying the joy of the Lord is your strength? Today, in your life, is the joy of the Lord your strength? If not, will you pray to know the joy of the Lord as your strength?
In Nehemiah chapter 9 verses 5 through 37 we read one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible! I love it. Think you could ever pray a prayer like this one? I definitely don't believe all of our prayers need to be like this one at all - but it's pretty amazing to think about perhaps writing out a prayer of praise like this to God. Maybe even integrating in some of the amazing ways God has redeemed me. I'll admit I've never done a prayer like this. But maybe someday I will. Maybe someday will you?
New Testament - First Corinthians chapter 9 is an amazing look at Paul's passion for the Gospel! I think in this chapter Paul makes a very strong case for why we should support our local church. Verse 10 says - "Just as farm workers who plow fields and thresh the grain expect a share of the harvest, Christian workers should be paid by those they serve." Our pastors, priests, ministers deserve our support. Our local church deserves our support through our tithes. It is interesting in today's readings that Paul first lays out the case for "sharing our harvest" with Christian workers. But - Paul refuses this payment because he says in verse 12 - "Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ." That is powerful! Paul is not asking for nor expecting nor demanding payment or anything from those he serves, simply because he does not want to put up any obstacle in the way of the Gospel. Incredible. But again, remember this is the apostle Paul we are reading about here - your local church needs your tithe. How is your tithing to your church going these days? Are you consistently tithing to your church? Will you pray about what God would have you tithe to your church and other ministries and nonprofits?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in First Corinthians titled "When a Right May Be Wrong" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 33 verse 12 today is awesome: "In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name." Does your heart literally rejoice when you think about God? Do you trust in God's holy name?
Proverbs - Proverbs 21 verse 11 today is fascinating - "A simpleton can learn only by seeing mockers punished; a wise person learns from instruction." It makes me wonder how we learn things today? Do we learn by seeing others punished? Or, do we learn simply by instruction? I believe that by diving into the One Year Bible here, we are seeking to learn by instruction. Hopefully we are exhibiting some wisdom in doing this. :) And then I guess I think about folks that unfortunately end up in jail. Did they miss the boat on learning from instruction? Are they now only going to learn by seeing others punished? And by seeing themselves punished? I don't know why I go toward people being in jail here. For some reason I occasionally wonder what is the difference between me and a person that ends up in jail? Or, what is the difference between me and a homeless person? Maybe this Proverb gives us some indication. Maybe - though I know it's more complex than just this Proverb. All this to say - I really don't think there is necessarily a huge difference between someone living a "normal" life versus someone who ends up in jail or homeless. I think there may be a finer line than we realize. And - in light of this - and more importantly in light of God's extravagant love for us, I believe we are called to love and serve those who are in jail or who are homeless. I know there are some great prison ministries out there. Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship comes to mind. And there are so many more. And of course there are some great shelters and programs to rehabilitate the homeless and help move them forward in their lives. Will you take the time to share your wisdom and blessings with someone in prison or on the streets? Will you teach them how they can learn from instruction instead of only learning from others (or themselves) being punished?
..."I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:36
YouTube: Chris Tomlin does a nice job quoting from Nehemiah 8:10 - for the joy of the Lord is our strength! - in his song "Holy is the Lord":
Is the joy of the Lord your strength? Click here for Strength!
Comments from You & Questions of the Day: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
[Paul finished up chapter 8 saying he would rather give up meat then cause a brethren to stumble. Some Corinthians thought they had the right to eat meat, because of their knowledge.]
Opening of 9 is a follow-up to that thought. With rhetorical questions, Paul again establishes his apostolic authority and spiritual fathership to Corinth. Implying - heh - if I (an apostle and your spiritual father) am willing to give up meat, why aren't you? Is your knowledge greater than an apostles?
Speaking of apostleship and spiritual fatherhood, don't Barnabas and I have the right to the support other church founders are given?
I stayed out of the pay ministers debate a while back, but I do not see how anyone can read verses 9:7-12 and not understand that ministers have the right to be supported by the assembly. Have looked at several Greek texts, and even if a word or verse can be interpreted to mean "not compensated", the context of the paragraph would seem to say "they should be compensated". I say this with the idea that the compensation is to be decided by the elders not the pastor, and that like Paul - preachers have the right to refuse compensation.
[NOTE: Given the paragraph and the whole point of this chapter, if there is a supposed contradictory verse, my advice would be to re-examine the content, context, and language of that verse - I am sure any apparent contradiction can be resolved.]
1Cor9:12 "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?" NIV
Again Corinthians like most Greeks were in love with wisdom and man's knowledge - so much so, that they paid large fees to visiting orators, lecturers, and teachers of various topics.
Ex. Sophists - historically garnered large fees for displaying their rhetoric and debate techniques in public, and offering to teach the same.
Ex. Herodotos allegedly held a bias against Corinth because they refused to pay him for a lecture in the city.
The citizens would be so enamored with the stlye, eloquence and mental gymnastics of good speakers they would often give standing ovations at the end of a discourse. Explains why Apollos was a crowd favorite - this was right up his alley.
If debaters and orators were being paid - how much worthier was one who brought the message of Christ and "eternal life"?
Look no further than the temple priests who also were compensated, and most importantly Jesus commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the Gospel (Matt10:10, Luke 10:8).
Yet Barnabas and I do not. Paul accepted gifts and money in other situations - but here in Corinth perhaps it was too close to being associated with Sophists (whose debate trickery was eventually condemned by Greeks), or pay for hire religious entrpreneurs that went from city to city. Maybe Paul thought it wiser not to accept money lest it hinder the Gospel.
Lest some would say, 'Paul, well isn't he like those other guys that go around speaking for money? He is just doing his for a living. So don't take him so seriously.'
"We might think this would make Paul and Barnabas more respected in the sight of the Corinthian Christians. But curiously, it made them less respected. It was almost as if the Corinthian Christians would say, “if Paul and Barnabas were real apostles, we would support them, but since they are not supported, we suppose they aren’t real apostles.” - David Guzik
Posted by: John | August 13, 2007 at 07:47 PM
[Just a little side note based on Mike’s comments about Paul not expecting payment from the church at Corinth for teaching/preaching the Gospel. So too Nehemiah did not accept monies authorized by King Artaxerxes for the upkeep of the governorship and his staff:
From the day that I was appointed governor in the land of Judah, that is, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes twelve years in all neither I nor my relatives ate the food allotted to the governor. But the former governors who preceded me had burdened the people and had taken food and wine from them, in addition to forty shekels of silver. Their associates were domineering over the people. But I did not behave in this way, due to my fear of God.
(Neh 5:14-15 NET.) It seems Nehemiah and Paul was of the same spirit.]
Ezra steps out with the Book of the Law at the urging of the people, the people stand up when they see him, he opens the Book and begins to worship and the people joining in bow down and worshiped also. Ezra reads the Law from early morning to the afternoon, with everyone still standing and everyone listening intently. I know that in the Greek Orthodox Church there are no seats; the entire service is conducted standing up. What would happen in today’s churches if this was implemented, no seats, standing up in a service where the bible was read for three four straight hours, maybe six, with possible breaks between significant passages for the elders to wonder through the crowd explaining the meaning of what just had been read. Then they gathered the next day to study what was in the Law. I think there would not be many people in the pews the next Sunday. Have we become a nation unwilling to go outside of our comfort zone to take part in the things of God?
Today we here a lot of talk about ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder or Syndrome and now Adult-ADD). To those who have been diagnoses with that this may grate against their nerves, but is there really such a thing or have we as a society demanded to be entertained for so long we have become accustomed to the “Give it to me with glass, glitter and a big bang” mentality? Left in front of the TV for hours at a time with commercial programming, shocking and awing, have we lost the art of listening intently? If someone put a gun to our head and said, “If you move in the next 30 to 45 minutes, I will shoot you,” would we override that disorder and stand still to save our lives? Maybe it is time for us to throw up our hands in surrender when God says, “Stick ‘um UP.”
As in true worship the participant sees himself/herself in comparison to the Awesome, perfect majestic God and that caused them sadness, but they were told to rejoice because as in everything perceived by our five senses, it is all about perspective,
(Neh 8:10 JPS) Then he said unto them: 'Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye grieved; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.'
Your view of God, my vies of God, who He is and His Laws and Commandments will either bury us or uplift us. If you think that you must get inline, do right, get right with God all on your own, then the Laws and Commandments will kill you. But seen from the view that God is looking out for our best interest, loves us and cares for us and had implemented these rules and regulations for our benefit, safety and success, then an Awesome and Holy God is a joy and delight to behold. We also have confirmed by the account of two and three witness that the “Just shall live by faith,” and not works, so it ain’t all bout us.
(Habakkuk 2:4 KJVR) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
(Romans 1:17 KJVR) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.
(Galatians 3:11 KJVR) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
(Hebrews 10:38 KJVR) Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
What I love in this passage are the last four verses of chapter nine. They let us know that even when we His people are faithless, God is always faithful and never abandons us.
17"They refused to listen and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they rebelled and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt! But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy. You did not abandon them; 18even though they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, `This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!' They sinned and committed terrible blasphemies. 19But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. 20You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them bread from heaven or water for their thirst. 21For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness. They lacked nothing in all that time. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!
I Corinthians 9:1-18
17If I were doing this of my own free will, then I would deserve payment. But God has chosen me and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice. 18What then is my pay? It is the satisfaction I get from preaching the Good News without expense to anyone, never demanding my rights as a preacher.
Thus Paul concludes his defense of not accepting compensation from the Corinthians as he ministers to them. In the previous chapter Paul admonishes the church to think about the things they do or might do that are theirs to do by “right;” however, in doing them, they cause a weak brother/sister to sin. As far as Paul is concerned, everything he does and he hopes they do will be toward building up the church. The ninth chapter of Corinthians is a continuation of that theme or point with him using himself as an example.
Paul is clearly not operating out of that standard refrain, which by the way does not work, “Do as I say not as I do.”
The verses in this Psalm give us reason to rejoice and revere our God. The Lord should be our strength, not our friend on the other end of the phone, not our job, our social status, our family line—all those will fail us. But it is the Lord that is our High Tower. Nothing that He has not willed for our lives because of the “purpose” and calling He has called us to do and be can happen to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28-29 NET.
(28) And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,
(29) because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Hmmm, this is becoming longer then intended but I want to address the fine line Mike’s sees between those in and out of prison. I think we are separated by a factor called control. The reason why many of us are not in prison is because of external controls and I think that is what the “simpleton” sees in action that keeps him or her in control. Prison is an extreme case of external control, concrete and steel, while, we hope. Most people are contained by external controls of family, societal and cultural pressure. External controls, except for prison, work by means of shame and embarrassment. I believe anything that keeps us in check because of external forces is a tool to teach the “simpleton.”
However, there are internal controls, which the wise use and that is called, instruction. The Book of Proverbs was written so that its readers, if diligent, will gain Wisdom, knowledge and understanding, the trilogy that brings internal controls. If one has that then there need be no written law or corrective punishment to keep them in check for the law is written on their hearts.
Proverbs 25:28, with commentary from John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: Dr. John Gill (1690-1771).
(28) He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
(Gill) He that hath no rule over his own spirit,.... His affections and passions, puts no restraint, unto them, as the word signifies; no guard against them, no fence about them, to curb his curiosity, to check his pride and vanity, to restrain his wrath and anger and revenge, and keep within due bounds his ambition and itch of vainglory; is like a city that broken down and without walls; into which the may go with pleasure, and which is exposed to the rapine and violence of everyone; and so a man that has no command of himself and passions, but gives the reins to them, is exposed to the enemy of souls, Satan and is liable to every sin, snare and temptation.
Posted by: R | August 13, 2007 at 07:49 PM
I thank God that there is ALWAYS hope in the middle of true repentance. Having tried to repent out of my own effort, I can tell you it creates a very depressing and hopeless situation.
We cannot even repent without laying ourselves before the Holy Spirit and praying something like this: “Lord, I see I need to repent, and I want to repent. Please grant me the grace of a deep, lasting, and true repentance. I cannot even repent without Your help.”
God allows us the freedom and responsibility to repent and to follow Him—THANK GOD for that. But we can only really make that choice with the help of the Holy Spirit. And certainly we are not able to sustain our choice and do God’s will without the Holy Spirit.
Romans 7 (NKJV)
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
It is unfortunate that many of the elders of Israel “hardened their necks, and did not heed [God’s] commandments.”
It is wonderful to see that their children finally began to get the message. They, too, needed to depend on the refreshing Presence of the Holy Spirit. “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them.”
WE NEED REGULAR TIMES OF WORSHIP, PRAISE, AND REPENTANCE. May we all follow that example in our personal lives and as congregations, and as the Body of Christ in each nation and in each country of the world.
I Corinthians 9 (NKJV)
What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible has this comment:
“It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may [waive] his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support. (1Co 9:15-23).”
I thank God for ministers who share God’s Word with the right spirit—whether they accept offerings or not. I recall an evangelist and traveling minister from Africa who came to speak at our service. The pastor of our congregation asked us to give a special offering for him, the African traveling minister then explained that he wanted to give that offering back to the congregation. He then asked for prayer, and the elders and our pastor prayed for him as he was on his knees.
It was a very touching moment to see that this traveling minister wanted to make sure that he kept a pure heart, and that he wanted to preach and live in the anointing.
Psalm 33 (NKJV)
The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.
Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.
May I—and may we—give ourselves over as living sacrifices of worship and obedience to the Lord. May we allow the Lord to fashion us as He wills.
True joy in the Lord—the joy that is our strength—comes out of a determined faith that exercises our soul in seeking, depending, and relying on the Lord.
May Your Mercy—steadfast unfailing covenant love—and May Your Grace rest on us every day!
Proverbs 21 (NKJV)
When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.
May we listen and repent quickly. May we always keep ourselves in an attitude worship always. Sorrow will come. Either at the beginning—a willing sorrow to grieve over my heart when it is hard—or it will come as a destructive and harsh taskmaster as a result of sin.
I Peter 4 (NKJV)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin
May we seek godly sorrow which works repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7). True comfort and joy in the Lord will come only as we insist that ONLY JESUS and HIS SPIRIT will be our joy and comfort.
In this world where God has provided blessings for the body and soul (beautiful sunsets, food, etc.), may we never forget that Christ alone is our Peace.
Posted by: Vance | August 13, 2007 at 07:51 PM
Although I am not against the idea of setting aside 10% as a 'tithe', for the life of me, I see no mention of 'tithing' as we have come to speak of it in 1 corinthians 9 or in any of Paul's other writings on 'giving'. If anything Paul says later in 1 corinthians 16 that 'each of you should put aside some amount of money n relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering.'
I don't want to stir up a hornet's nest but I think we would all do well to check our traditions 'at the door' and make sure we think biblically about giving. Without getting into a big debate I highly recommend Gary Friesen's book DecisionMaking and the will of God, where he gives some sane advice on the issue of tithing a 'full tithe' vs proportionate grace giving, etc. I am weary of religious leaders imposing yet another $$$ tax on Christians under the guise of being 'faithful stewards'. What if we teach that a full tithe is to go to the local church only, what does that do to kingdom ministries all around the world that are doing works of dealing with injustice, serving the poor, helping children, reaching university students, doing bible translation, and many other ministries that the Spirit of God gave birth to.
I'm sure someone out there will be able to lay out all the old testament patterns for 'tithing'. Apart from Jesus' mention of tithing just ONCE in Matthew 23 (and that in a comment referencing the old testament), where else is tithing taught in the New Testament. If we just focus on tithing then the one who makes $500000 a year is getting off easy having to give only 10% of that, but what about the single mom who makes less than $30000 a year and gives 10% of that, who is really sacrificing? This issue is complex. I see no problem in sharing a 10% plan to give, an 10% plan to save, and live on the rest, but let's make sure we separate 'practical realities' from what our traditions teach.
Posted by: Luch | August 13, 2007 at 07:51 PM
Luch, I heard a sermon preached one time that I would never forget. Pastor Shackleford of the Lutheran church I attended, which had many young military families in it that lived on very limited income addressed the need of tithing 10 percent of what you have – not specifically of money. He talked about giving monetarily all that you could without damaging the well being of your family and then to give of your time to make up for what you couldn’t give monetarily. He said that it is important to give what you can financially in order to support the church and pay the church staff but God did not intend for families to go without the necessities – food, shelter, utilities, clothing, transportation, medication, education – to tithe 10 percent of their income. God realizes that He has children that are able financially to give 10 percent or more of their income and that He has other children who are barely able make it from one paycheck to the next and struggle financially just to have enough to meet their daily needs. We do not all live under the same economic umbrella but we all are given the same minutes in a day. Where some may be able to tithe their money, others may be able to tithe of their time to make up for what they can’t give monetarily. God looks at our ability to pay, our desire to give of what we have toward the support of His ministry, and the actions we take after talking it over with Him. Maybe this will help you in some way with the idea of tithing. It sure was a comfort to me as I was one of those young military families at the time.
Posted by: Pat | August 13, 2007 at 07:52 PM
your thoughtful words speak wisdom borne of compassion. I think sometimes some well intentioned (and not so well intentioned) people strain at a gnat to 'get people to give more' without fully appreciating the plight of their parsiohers. I honestly believe that we could all give a lot more than we are giving, and that 10% is a good start pointing, but my concern is when tithing is taught as the 11th commandment...you know the one that says, "Thou shalt tithe 10% of your gross income to the Lord, and specifically to OUR local church..."
Just read through Acts, since it's the blueprint that everyone in church growth circles likes to reference, and watch the 'giving patterns'. In a book of the Bible that is so freely drawn upon for 'church growth' has anyone ever seen a mention of tithing. Giving is very prevalent. Just witness Barnabas generosity and Lydia's, as well as the early chapters of Acts, but this was born of giving from the heart and 'not under compulsion as we'll see later in 2 Corinthians 9:5-9.
thanks again for your good words Pat.
Posted by: Luch | August 13, 2007 at 07:52 PM
I am one of those single mothers (living on $10.00 per hour/40 hours per week with no health or retirement). I know that God is my Provider & He has shown Himself truly able & willing to keep me. If I should have money problems I go to Him & He has never ever failed me.
NOW...I don't tithe (hope I'm not stoned for saying that); I tithe my time to Him & sit at His feet & minister to those that He sends my way - even to the point of laying down my life & losing jobs over witnessing.
The church I came out of (megachurch with mega bills) has always taught that God does not bless you but curses you if you don't tithe & there is scripture to back it up in Malachi. I have never been cursed by God for not tithing actually just the opposite - I am very very blessed in so many many ways. Don't get me wrong - through out my life I have tithed faithfully & over & beyond what I was supposed to/10% - so maybe my bank account is balanced in other ways. I also know there are many many blessings in giving/tithing whatever you want to call it of your money & you will get a return in some way or another - when you need it & not when you want it & sometimes when you least expect it (surprise from Him - His unfailing love & mercy).
I am not tithing per se/10% of my money but in other ways - sitting at His feet adoring Him & passing that adoration on to others - impartation of my love for Him & I am truly blessed & not cursed for sure.
He knows the condition of our hearts & pocket books & deals out justly - I am so thankful it is Him & not the "church" doing it. Or I would be a cursed red headed step child for sure!!! :)
Posted by: Jan | August 13, 2007 at 07:52 PM
I believe in proportionate giving (as Luch mentioned), and I thought that was taught in New Testament??? in a place we have not gotten to yet?
I have been blessed financially (pre and post salvation), and post-salvation I know it is not mine.
What I "offer" I do not miss. Yet my family thinks I am crazy.
I do believe that "offerings" of whatever amount should be made by young Christians, college students, and people struggling. The amount should be between them and the Lord. If someone gives of their time to help ministries, then I see no problem with that offsetting offerings.
If the offering cannot be given joyfully and freely, then I do not believe it should be given at all.
Posted by: John | August 13, 2007 at 07:53 PM
I have to comment on this, because I consider myself a good person, yet I ended up in jail for making a wrong decision. But I knew God had a purpose for me, and while I was there I learned more than I ever would have had I not gone. I'm thankful that I had that time to learn, without the distractions of everyday life. God put me there for a reason, and I made it through and became a better person in the process. I pray now for everyone that's still locked up, because it's a very hard thing to go through.
Posted by: Amanda | August 13, 2007 at 07:53 PM
Amanda, thank you for sharing & I believe that many people find salvation/deliverance in prison & probably are more free than the people on the outside.
God knows what it will take to get our attention & that is what He does & as you can now see - you look back & thank Him for the expereice - your salvation & deliverance.
Think of Joseph & many other very prominent Biblical characters/people that endured prison many times & it was God's will for sure.
Posted by: Jan | August 13, 2007 at 07:54 PM