Chocolate. Money. Cell Phones. These things are all enjoyable and not bad in and of themselves. But any can easily become a god to us if we allow it to. Our proverb, today, reminds us what role our stuff should have in our lives.
- 27-43 – This was a large celebration, led by the Levites, to give thanks for the restoration of Jerusalem.
- 6 – Remember that Nehemiah has asked for leave in order to restore the walls of Jerusalem. At this point, he returns to the king.
- 15-18 – Working on the Sabbath disobeyed one of the 10 Commandments. Nehemiah reminds the people of this and explains that they are engaging in the same kinds of sinful acts that their fathers did which eventually sent them to exile.
- 23-27 – The children not being able to speak the language of Judah is just an example of how intermarrying caused the Israelites to lose their national purity.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16:
- 6 – Apparently short or shaved hair was a disgrace for women at the time. Paul is relating to the present culture to make his point.
- 11-12 – God brought man and woman’s dependence on one another full circle by having woman be created from man in the beginning, but now men come from women in birth.
- 1-6 – David seeks God’s help in his fight against his enemies. David is quick to trust God for help throughout the psalms.
- 17 – It is not bad to love pleasurable things, but it is bad to let them rule us.
How do you help someone follow Jesus? Paul makes it really clear in our 1 Corinthians reading. If I’m following Christ, I can simply invite them to follow me. There is obviously a big “if” involved though. I first have to make sure I’m following Christ in order to ask a perspective disciple to follow me.
- 3-19 – This is the list of people who settled back into Jerusalem.
- 1-26 – These are lists of the various priests and Levites post exile.
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:2:
- 14-22 – Paul urges the Israelites not to participate in the sacrifices offered to idols, but to remember that participating in communion makes us connected to all believers.
- 23-30 – Based on how hard Paul is hammering this point home, clearly the Corinthians were struggling with what was good and lawful to eat. His point is that nothing starts out unclean any longer. However, anything already sacrificed to idols is off limits.
- 1 – The perfect model of discipleship. I can feel confident in asking you to follow me if I am confident that I am following Christ.
- 18 – A good reminder when we or someone we love is heartbroken.
There was a show on Nickelodeon called “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in the 90s. I couldn’t watch it then and I feel quite certain I probably can’t watch it now. I hate scary things. But our psalm today reminds us how to conquer fear – seek the Lord. Elsewhere in Scripture it says, “perfect love drives out all fear” and frequently when messengers of the Lord show up they’re first words are “fear not”. So, what are you so afraid of?
- 22-31 – The Israelites conquer several nations and have large growth in their population. Both of these fulfill God’s promises to their ancestors.
- 32-33 – This third of a shekel was in addition to the taxes already put in place by former rulers. This was above and beyond.
1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13:
- 19-23 – Paul found ways to relate to all people so he could better present the gospel to them. This should not be misunderstood that he took on other people’s sins to relate to them.
- 24-27 – If athletes are willing to put their body through intense training to win a race, particularly when only one person wins the race, isn’t it worth it for Paul to discipline himself in order to share the gospel?
- 13 – This is the verse often misquoted and misunderstood as saying, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” Read it again. That’s not what it says. This is regarding temptation and it simply says he will give you a way out of the temptation when you face it.
- 4 – Clear instructions on how to handle fear. Seek the Lord.
- 8-10 – We can see and experience God’s provision in so many ways.
- This sounds similar to the gospel story regarding Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31.
Our psalm today reminds us that our hope should remain in the Lord because he is the only one worthy of putting our hope in. This VBS song from last year reaffirms it:
- 61-65 – While yesterday’s reading was a list of Israelites who returned from exile in Babylon, these verses explain people who returned but could not prove that they were pure Israelites.
- 1-3 – There would have been a huge sense of restoration to the Israelites who were returning to the land given to them by God long before. They wanted to restore their culture as well. Ezra the priest reads the book of Moses’ law to them for hours and they’re all entranced by it.
- 9-12 – The Israelites were mourning for the many years when they were in exile and probably also for the ways they had not obeyed God’s law previously. Nehemiah and Ezra instruct them to, instead, rejoice because they have returned and God has restored them.
- 14-18 – The Feast of Booths was a time when the Israelites were to return to Jerusalem and stay in small booth-like structures to remember the Exodus.
1 Corinthians 9:1-18:
- Paul had been criticized that he was taking money from other believers. He is defending that apostles too have to eat. He did not, however, take a salary so he couldn’t be accused of only preaching for the money.
- 12-19 – We put our hope in all kinds of things that are not the Lord. He is the only one who is worth putting our trust in and yet we are so hesitant to do so.
- Because we are prideful, we often hate instruction or punishment. We rarely recognize that it is for our ultimate good and we need it to grow.
Today’s reading in Nehemiah reminds us how easy it is to get distracted from God’s purposes and plans for us. These days, we have far more avenues for distraction than the post-exilic Israelites. What do you do to keep yourself focused on God’s purposes for your life?
- 1-14 – It is easy to get distracted from the work God has set out for us to do, but Nehemiah was faithful in refusing to be distracted from finishing the restoration of Jerusalem’s wall.
- 6-60 – This is a listing of the people who returned to Israel from exile in Babylon.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13:
- Much of Paul’s instruction in this first letter to the Corinthians regards caring for those who aren’t as far along in their faith development. Though our faith may be strong enough to withstand certain temptations, others’ may not be. We are called to cater to their needs in those situations.
- We are to offer our praises to God because he is able to do great things and he does great things.
Sin causes separation from God. That is a terrible consequence and should be enough to deter us, but often times, it’s not. Today’s psalm also reminds us that sin has additional consequences. Sin also hurts us and causes us pain and misery. Sounds like we should do our best to avoid it.
- 15-32 – This is a continuation of all the people who help repair the walls of Jerusalem. It is powerful to listen to how they all worked one after another to fix section after section of the wall and gates.
- 7-9 – The strength of a city wall was very important during foreign attacks. The enemies of the Israelites did not like that their walls were getting stronger and thus their city was more protected.
- 1-13 – The wealthy and powerful were taxing those who had less. Nehemiah made them stop because this was weakening them when they were trying to rebuild their city.
1 Corinthians 7:25-40:
- 25-35 – Paul had a mindset that Jesus might be coming back tomorrow. He lived his life in a way to be prepared for that. His advice to the unmarried folks of his day was that it would be better and easier for them to stay unmarried instead of being distracted by a marriage relationship.
- 36-40 – Paul isn’t saying that marriage is bad. He’s just saying people can focus on God better if they stay unmarried.
- 1-5 – David gives thanks to God for forgiving his sins and in so doing gives instructions on how to seek forgiveness.
- 10 – Sin is evil against God, but it also makes life more difficult for the sinner.
- 5 – The Proverbs encourage us over and over again to think through our actions and decisions and not act hastily.
There are a number of passages, like the one in today’s 1 Corinthians reading, which have been misinterpreted as condoning practices we don’t generally think God would condone. Here it is marrying a non-believer. In other areas of Scripture it’s divorce or owning slaves. These passages should not be read as God condoning the behavior, rather as guidelines for people who are already engaging in these practices. I.e. If you’ve already married a non-believer, don’t divorce them. Instead, act like this for a chance to bless them.
- Nehemiah was originally combined with Ezra as one book.
- 3 – The walls of Jerusalem were broken down from when the temple was destroyed and the Israelites were taken into exile.
- 8-11 – Nehemiah reminds God of his promise that he would always allow people to return to him even if they had strayed. This is a good reminder for many of us.
- 11 – The cupbearer was a very important position. This person made sure the king’s drink was not poisoned or tampered with in any way. This person had to be very trustworthy. In Genesis, Joseph makes friends with the kings cupbearer who is imprisoned because the king thought he was trying to harm him.
- 1-8 – These were big asks. Even being sad in a king’s presence could get you in major trouble, but then also asking to be gone and for him to write special letters for you. The king, here, is being kinder than he had to be, but it says that’s because the hand of the Lord was on Nehemiah.
1 Corinthians 7:1-24:
- 1-5 – This may seem like an odd section of Scripture, but it is encouraging us to have regular sex with our spouses. Withholding sex can lead to all kinds of sins and temptations for both partners.
- 12-16 – This is not encouragement to marry an unbeliever, but instruction that if you are already married to an unbeliever to stick with them because you could be the conduit through which they come to faith.
- 22-24 – Here David makes an interesting point. He explains that in a panicked situation he assumed God was not with him, but recognized that God did, in fact, hear his cries. With this he encourages others to wait on the Lord.
- We always have reason to be humble because we are not God.
It’s finally time for the Israelites to return home from Babylonian exile. They’re city and everything they’d worked to establish is destroyed. They’re still under the watchful eye of their captors, and well, what will their relationship with God be like? Check out these powerful books that you may have overlooked in the past.