Fellowship is an essential part of the Christian life. It is a joy to come together with other believers who love Jesus as much as we do. Recently, I found one such group on Facebook: Titus Women’s Gathering. It is a lovely group of women devoted to serving God and His people. In an effort to help each other read, understand, and be able to discuss the Bible better, group administrators facilitate the ministry “Revel in His Word.” In it, a few different bloggers talk through chapters of the Bible and then members can discuss in the comments, supporting each other in understanding and application. This is where I will place my contributions and links to other bloggers’ pieces.
Start at the bottom to read blogs starting with 1 Samuel 1. Feel free to comment here, visit other links, and share as you feel led. Thank you for joining us!
Blogging Through the Bible Psalm 3-4
The Lord Helps His Troubled People
Psalm 3 is a prayer from David during the time his son Absalom had taken control of his kingdom. It was a long story you can read about in 2 Samuel 15-18. But let’s just say that David was distressed. His son betrayed him by getting the support of the people behind his back and then attacking him in Jerusalem. David fled to avoid bloodshed and preserve his own life.
While on the run, he cries out to God because of his many enemies and those who said, “There is no help for him in God” (Psalm 3:2) Now, I’m not sure if that means “Even God can’t help you now” or worse, “God won’t even help you now.” But either way, the next word is “Selah.” Now, some say this is a musical direction, but another opinion is the word “pause.” As in, “Now PAUSE to think about that.
But David doesn’t listen to the naysayers. He know God is his shield and the One who comforts him. Then David starts listing all the evidences that God hears him and has not forsaken him. He hasn’t let him down before, and He never will. I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing the same exact thing when I start to get down. I start remembering situation after situation when I thought things were hopeless or I felt miserable but God was there for me every single time.
David says that God gave him sleep, He protected him to live another day, and had destroyed his enemies in the past. David trusts God to be there for him in this situation as well. He cries out:
“Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!”Psalm 3:7
David ends with a declaration of faith: Salvation belongs to the Lord, and His blessing is upon His people.
The Safety of the Faithful
This Psalm most likely was not during the same time period as Psalm 3. Here, David isn’t concerned so much with his physical safety as that of his reputation. But again, he cries out to his God and reminds Him that He has always been there for him in the past. He begs for God to hear him and have mercy on him.
Then David wonders at the people around him who are tearing his reputation to shreds. How long will they turn his glory to shame? How long will they “love worthlessness and seek falsehood?” (Psalm 4:2). Has David been on Facebook recently? Seriously, we can all relate to his questions about the people of the world. People who chase after things that don’t matter and lie and listen to lies about things that are good.
But we get a great lesson in the next few verses. David gives himself a pep talk that worked for him and can work for us too. He basically says, “But God has different standards than the world, and I belong to Him. He hears me when I call, so I just have to chill. The Bible says ‘Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still.’ I just have to do what I know is right and trust God. He’s got this.”
He ends with a reminder that it is God who brings his heart gladness. It’s not his circumstances, and it’s not the material things that make the world happy. It is God alone who brings him joy and gives him peace, even in distress.
Dear God, please help us always to trust in You for our protection and well being. Even when we don’t understand people, we can always rely on the truths that You gave us in Your word. You aren’t fickle, and You are not a man that You would lie. We can trust you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
Do you have a journal to record all of the times that God has been there for you? (Then when you are sad, you can read it and remember how great God has been to you all of your days.)
Do you have favorite scriptures that you have memorized to remind yourself of God’s truth when you need to hear it?
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Psalm 1-2
Join Renae at In Pursuit of God as she blogs through Job 40-42.
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 38-39.
Blogging Through the Bible Job 37-38
Job 37 starts in the middle of Elihu’s monologue about the works and wisdom of God. These passages are good for us to read because so many times in the hum drum of life, we can forget how very amazing our God really is. Elihu’s heart trembles when he thinks about God, and ours should too.
Among the things He does, God
- Sends forth the thunder of His mouth and lightning to the ends of the earth.
- Does great things we can’t comprehend.
- Tells the snow and the rain to to fall.
- Seals the hand of every man.
- Gives ice with His breath.
- Scatters the clouds at His command.
Elihu Questions Job
Then the whole conversation turns from a list of amazing things God does to an interrogation. I can just see Elihu sort of swing around, pointing a finger as he asks him a couple of questions about those very clouds:
“Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?”Job 37:15-16
But then he gets nervous. How could he speak for God? As arrogant as he has been in his earlier diatribes, he does, at least, have the sense to realize that he might not exactly be doing God justice with his weak words. He reasons that people can’t even look at the sun. How could they possibly stand in the presence of our great God?
God Finally Has Enough
So far God has been silent as the men go back and forth, but He decides at this moment to interject. He’s going to clear a few things up just now, but none of the things he will say immediately answers anybody’s questions or proves any man was right in the argument. He starts with a little comment, possibly directed to the previous speaker Elihu:
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’”Job 38:1-2
Then He tells Job to buckle his seat belt because He has a few questions of His own.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?”Job 38:4-5
The questions involve all kinds of topics, but they are basically all the same. They are asking Job where he was when things were created and if he had the same power as God. They were meant to remind Job that He was God, and Job was NOT. This is a good passage for us to read too. The questions remind us the amazing majesty and power of God and the great breadth and depth of His power. There is no one like our God. And even when we might feel for just a moment that we understand and are in control of our tiny little lives, we really haven’t even glimpsed understanding and are but specks of dust swirling in a wind of His breath.
Dear God, as we go about our ordinary lives, please help never to fall into the trap of thinking that You are are also ordinary. Let us be humbled to remember your great power and majesty and that You are always in control. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
God humbled Job right before He let him off the hook and restored what he had lost. Does God still humble His children today?
God spoke out of the power of whirlwind, but His Holy Spirit is the still small voice. Why isn’t this a contradiction?
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 35-36
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 33-34.
Blogging Through the Bible Job 31-32
I’m. Not. Guilty.
Charged with hypocrisy, Job defends himself again. He knows it’s not all lip service. God looks at the condition of the heart, and Job knows that he has done his best to live with integrity.
“Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps?”Job 31:4
He then starts listing the sins that he HASN’T committed. But, he doesn’t just include the sin. He includes even the mere THOUGHT or desire to sin.
- Dishonesty: he hasn’t used dishonest scales.
- Adultery: he hasn’t even looked at a woman.
- Poor treatment of his servants: he hasn’t mistreated them because he knows they are God’s children too.
- Selfish with the poor: he hasn’t turned away the poor and fatherless.
- Covetousness/Idolatry: he doesn’t love his money more than God.
- Hatred of enemies: he hasn’t cursed his enemy or rejoiced at his destruction.
- Lack of hospitality: he hasn’t turned away travelers from staying at his home.
His reasoning for WHY he doesn’t do these things or even think about them is worthy of note here. It’s the same reason you and I live our lives to the best of our ability in obedience: we fear God.
“For destruction from God is a terror to me, and because of His magnificence I cannot endure.”Job 31:23
After Job’s words, the three friends are silent for a minute. Job just wasn’t getting what they were saying. What point was there in continuing to argue? Then a fourth “friend” shows up to fuss at them all. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting Facebook flashbacks here. How many times have people been having a discussion that was about all wrapped up, and here comes someone else to get everyone riled up again? The man’s name is Elihu, and he’s on nobody’s side.
Elihu Is Really Mad at Everybody
“Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.”Job 32:2-3
Elijhu explains why he was just now joining the conversation. He’s younger than the rest, so he was giving them a chance to speak first. He took their little pause as permission to enter the conversation, so here we go.
He basically says. “Look. You guys are older, so I didn’t want to jump in before you had a chance to use those grey hears for what they are good for: wisdom. But none of you has convinced Job of anything. So, before I absolutely BURST, I’m going to give you the what’s what from the Holy Spirit.”
Dear God, please help us to always discuss matters with others in a civilized way. When we are wrong, let us repent and ask others for forgiveness. When we are injured, let us be quick to forgive. Please let us to remember that in all things we must have order, for you are not the author of confusion. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
Have you ever been in a position in which you must justify your actions in front of other Christians? Did you react in a way pleasing to God?
Have there been times when you have been silent or spoken last out of respect for those who were also in the conversation?
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 29-30
Check out this bonus article on Job 28 from Angela G at No Longer Lukewarm: Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 27-28.
Blogging Through the Bible Job 25-26
So if you have been following the Saga, the argument from Job’s “friends” seems to be that for Job to be experiencing this much trouble, he must be a wicked, sinful man. If he would just repent already, Job could be done with this whole ordeal. This is (again) dramatic irony because we, as readers, know what Job knows: he is innocent before God. Repenting for imaginary sins won’t help. He must simply endure.
In Job 24, Job reminds them that there are plenty of wicked people doing just fine out there. Sometimes God doesn’t smite the wicked. He allows them to prosper (thereby nullifying their argument completely). He makes his point apparently, because Bildad changes tracks.
He decides to remind Job the vast expanse of difference between the power and majesty of God and the lowliness of man.
This passage teaches us two things. First, when arguing with brothers and sisters in Christ, there are times when it is best to let a matter drop instead of continuing to argue. Second, no matter what is happening in our lives, we must always remember that God does all things well. There will never be a time when God is wrong and man is right. Our righteousness is but filthy rags.
One more interesting thing from this passage is that it contains yet another clue pointing to Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I super love how you can find little nuggets like little rabbit trails that you can follow to treasure. Here’s a passage in Job 25 that corresponds to Psalm 22:6.
“How much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm?”Job 25:6
This is what Bildad says when referring to the insignificance of man vs an all-powerful God. He makes a distinction here between man and the son of man.
“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.”Psalm 22:6
This is what David says when he is recounting what we know to be the plight of Jesus Himself as He was mocked and ridiculed on the cross to save us from our own sins. The Son of Man is not JUST a man. It is a term synonymous with Jesus, the Christ of God.
Job feels kicked while he’s down. “Why can’t you just give me a little comfort?” he seems to say. Then he echoes the idea of the very power of God and again. In the face of the very arrogance and assurance of his friends that believe they KNOW God, Job again reminds us that we really can’t understand everything about Him, because He is, in fact, God.
“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him but the thunder of His power who can understand?”Job 26:14
Dear God, thank you for your mercy in that even when we don’t understand everything, You never change in Your goodness and mercy. And, thank You for the Bible in which we can see time and again that your Word is truth. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
Have you ever been in an argument with another believer and decided to “agree to disagree”?
Does the power of God bring you comfort or fear? (It should do both!)
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 23-24
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 21-22.
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Job 19-20. COMING SOON.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 17-18
Blogging Through the Bible Job 15-16
Eliphaz Thinks He Knows
Eliphaz is unimpressed with Job and his speeches. He thinks he knows exactly what’s going on here, and he doesn’t hesitate to inform his good buddy. He accuses him of not fearing God and not praying enough.
“Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God.”Job 15:4
He still thinks Job is in sin, and every word out of his mouth that isn’t humble repentance to God is just digging Job a deeper hole with God.
“Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; Yes, your own lips testify against you.”Job 15:6
He also thinks that the very advice he, himself, was giving was sent from God to set Job straight and that Job wasn’t being very smart by rejecting what he had to say.
“I will tell you, hear me; what I have seen I will declare, what wise men have told, not hiding anything received from their fathers…”Job 15:17-18
And he reminds Job that the wicked are the ones with all the problems. (So if Job has problems, he must be wicked.) And God will ultimately judge the wicked.
“The wicked man writhes with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden from the oppressor.Job 15:20
Again, I’m reminded of the times when people THINK they know exactly what is happening in a given situation. We assume that someone is going through a trial to deal with sin, to chasten one into obedience, or to learn a lesson, but when all is said and done, we don’t really know anything. We certainly don’t know how much someone is or is not praying. We shouldn’t assume.
Job Answers Eliphaz
“Some comfort you are,” Job seems to say to his accusers. You have only told me the things I already knew. If I was in your position, I could say the same thing, but I wouldn’t. I would at least try to help you feel a little better!
And now, he’s kind of sick of talking about it.
“Though I speak, my grief is not relieved; and if I remain silent, how am I eased?”Job 16: 6
He’s been through a lot, and it has all been so very PUBLIC. His friends have seen him brought to the lowest of lows, and he has no idea why except maybe that God hates him and wants him to be humiliated.
“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; my adversary sharpens His gaze on me. They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me. God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked.I was at ease, but He has shattered me; He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; He has set me up for His target.”Job 16:9-12
He doesn’t know what he has possibly done wrong, and he again asserts his innocence. He simply can’t fathom how his current predicament is the result of the righteous life he had previously lived.
“My face isflushed from weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death; although no violence is in my hands, and my prayer is pure.”Job 16: 16-17
Job’s friends didn’t know the extent of his innocence, but Job did – and so did heaven. He was starting to see death as a comfort. On the one hand, it would be the end to his suffering. On the other, he might finally get some answers.
It is definitely something to remember that we are the only ones who actually know our own guilt or innocence with God, but even then we might not have the complete picture about a given situation. Job’s friends judged him unrighteously, but even Job’s righteous judgement of himself was missing vital pieces of information. Right now, we see through a glass darkly. That is why it is so vitally important to know the character of God and trust Him in every situation.
Dear God, thank you for helping us to remember that we don’t know everything in every situation. We shouldn’t judge others when we don’t know all the facts, and we must even be careful in judging ourselves when we THINK we know all the facts. You are the only one who sees and knows everything. Please help us to always trust in You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
How does the “Golden Rule” seem to apply in this situation?
Have there been times when you examined yourself completely and still had no idea why something was happening in your life?
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 13-14.
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Job 11-12. COMING SOON.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 9-10
Blogging Through the Bible Job 7-8
Job’s Pity Party
To this point, Job has really been handling the whole situation well. Even when his “friends” come to accuse him and his wife tells him to curse God and die, Job really has kept a stiff upper lip about the whole thing. But he’s getting tired. He is hurting, and his patience is wearing thin.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. When something happens, I always start with the best intentions about dealing with things in a godly way. I try my best to continue to love, continue to hope, and continue in my faith. But the longer a trial drags on and the more extreme the test, the more those imperfections that we have been hiding deep down inside me come to the surface. It’s almost like those fish you feed at the park. The pond looks calm and empty until you start to throw some breadcrumbs. Then one or two, and finally a frenzy of fish are roiling and splashing where the once-calm water was.
Job Lets Go
The dam breaks. Job reminds God that his life is short and gives him an earful about what God has been doing to him lately. Of course, we know that it isn’t God at all but Satan who is doing the tormenting. God is just allowing it for His purposes (something we all need to remember, for sure!).
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a sea serpent, that You set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ Then You scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that my soul chooses strangling and death rather than my body. I loathe my life;Job 7:11-16
I would not live forever. Let me alone,for my days are but a breath.”
He feels (rightly) targeted and asks God what he has done to deserve what he is going through. He also asks why God doesn’t forgive him and take away the things that are offensive to Him. Finally, he says he will die and then God will look for him, but he will be gone. Of course, this is ridiculous given that God knows everything, but we say things we don’t mean when we’re upset.
Bildad Gets In On the Action
But his friends still aren’t getting it. It’s dramatic irony in its finest. The reader knows why everything is happening because we were privy to the details in heaven, but Bildad is just a character playing a role. He sees some things, but some things are hidden to him – just like you and I experience every day. The Bible says it this way in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
So he chastises Job for his words to God and accuses him (and his sons) of sins that MUST be the cause of his current predicament. Okay, can we be honest here for a minute? How many times do people do that today? Don’t you know people who really can’t seem to catch a break in life? Sometimes it might be sins catching up with them, but sometimes it might be generational curses, and sometimes it might be God just getting their attention. The point is, we don’t know, so we shouldn’t assume.
But Nobody ever mentioned that to Bildad. He still thinks he has an iron-clad case.
“Behold, God will not cast away the blameless,nor will He uphold the evildoers…And the dwelling place of the wicked will come to nothing.”Luke 8:20 & 22
Again with the dramatic irony. We know that while this is TRUE, this is not true in THIS situation. Here is where discernment, humility, and keeping close to God comes in. It’s a good lesson for us all.
Dear God, thank you for your grace for us when we are hurting and upset. Please help us to always remember that we probably don’t know everything. Help us to be humble and always pray in faith to You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
The last time you went through a trial, did you maintain your Christian witness, or did you slip up and have to repent?
Are there people you know who ALWAYS seem to have something going wrong in life? Have you caught yourself wondering if it is something they might have done?
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Job 5-6.
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Job 3-4.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Job 1-2
Blogging Through the Bible Esther 9-10
Some things in the Old Testament are hard to understand. As Christians, we are taught to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us. But these Old Testament Jews were hard core eye for an eye sometimes.
Chapter 9 opens with the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them. Because of Mordecai and Esther herself, the decree had gone out from King Ahasuerus that, instead, the Jews had free reign to take out anyone who opposed them. Fear of Mordecai fell on the people because he had become pretty powerful by this time, and everybody knew it.
The carnage was intense.
“Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them.”Esther 9:5
On the first day, in Shushan the citadel, the Jews killed 500 men plus the ten sons of Hamon. They didn’t take any goods or money. It wasn’t about that, apparently. That day, the report came to the king about what the Jews had done. The king asked Esther if she had any other requests. She asked that the decree remain in effect one more day and that Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows. So the next day, the Jews killed three hundred more men and hanged the sons.
The rest of the Jews in all the king’s provinces got together and had their days as well. Seventy five thousand enemies were killed, but no plunder was taken. This was the 13thof the month.
The Feast of Purim
On the 14thof Adar, they rested and made a feast. Mordecai decided that this should be a yearly thing to commemorate the occasion, and Queen Esther confirmed it with full authority by sending letters to all 127 provinces. They called it the Feast of Purim because Haman had cast Pur (that is, the lot) to destroy them, but when Esther came before the king, the decree was made to return the evil intent on his own head. It is a day in which the Jews rest from their enemies and spend the day feasting in joy, sending presents to each other and gifts to the poor. From generation to generation, it has been observed among Jews so that the memory of what happened here will never be forgotten.
King Ahasuerus was a powerful king, imposing tributes on the lands and islands of the sea. Mordecai was his second in command, and all of their exploits are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. Mordecai was popular with the Jews and always looked out for his people and tried to keep peace with his countrymen.
Dear God, please help us to always remember to forgive our enemies. We know that vengeance is Yours and you will repay. Also, please let us always remember to give thanks to you when you fight our battles for us and give us the victory. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
Have you ever stopped to think about “an eye for an eye”? Why do you think God started with that before He changed it to “forgive your enemies”?
Can you think of a time when God fought a battle for you? Did you thank Him?
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Esther 7-8
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Esther 5-6.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Esther 3-4.
Blogging Through the Bible Esther 1-2
A Big Party
When we open in Esther 1, we find King Ahasuerus in charge of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. He was rich. So rich, in fact, that when he had a party to show off for all his officials, servants, and princes of all the provinces, it took 180 days to show the splendor of it all. Showing off works up on appetite, apparently, so at the end, the king made a feast lasting for seven days. The décor was marvelous, the goblets unique, and the wine was flowing. But drinking wasn’t mandatory. Each person could choose to eat or drink what he liked.
Meanwhile in another part of the palace, Queen Vashti was having a similar soiree for the ladies.
On the seventh day of the feast when the king had plenty to drink, he gathered his Eunuchs and told them to bring Queen Vashti before the king. Now, eunuchs were men who had specific jobs that required to work with women. They were castrated, one would suppose, so there would be no danger of temptation for any funny business with the ladies. Anyway, the king commanded the eunuchs to bring the queen and to make sure she was wearing her royal crown. She was very beautiful, and he wanted to show her off to his friends.
She. Said. No.
A Big Insult
Now, in today’s modern world this might not mean the end of a marriage, but for this king at that time, this was a deal breaker. The king was so mad that he checked with all his top guys about what he should do. He was drunk, he was mad, and this chick was going to pay. And, just like often happens when guys get together (or girls for that matter), they started to get even more worked up the more they thought about it. Pretty soon, they had a national incident on their hands.
“And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.’”Esther 1:16
His reasoning went that as soon as the other women heard that Queen Vashti got away with this kind of thing with the king, pretty soon every wife in the kingdom would quit coming when their husbands called. So he advised King Ahasuerus to make a decree proclaiming that all wives must honor their husbands. Oh, and he should give Queen Vashti’s position to somebody else who deserved it more than she did.
“Good idea,” said the king. He sent letters to all the provinces to each man in his own language that every man would be the master in his own house, and Vashti was out.
A Big Lesson
Poor Queen Vashti had let the sumptuous surroundings, her position as queen, and the freedom within the kingdom go to her head. She realized, too late, that her privileges could be taken as quickly as they were given. This story makes me think of the times in my life when I have gotten a little too big for my britches, times when pride crept in and I thought things revolved around me. As children of God, pride is definitely a big one to watch out for. We must always remember that everything we have has been given to us by God. He gives, and He can take away. It’s all for His good pleasure. But unlike the king in this story, our King loves us and wants what is best for us.
Out With the Old: In With the New
The king’s servants had a new project: Operation Find a New Queen. Beautiful virgins were rounded up from all over the provinces and brought to the women’s quarters at Shushan the citadel. Beauty preparations were given to them, and they awaited their time to meet the king.
Now, in this city was a certain Jew named Mordecai from the tribe of Benjamin. His family had been carried away captive from Jerusalem, and he was the adopted father of his uncle’s daughter who had no parents. Esther was beautiful, so of course, she was rounded up too. She caught the eye of the head eunuch, so she was put into the queue to meet the king. She got an allowance, beauty preparations, and seven maidservants to attend to her. She and her maids were moved to the best place in the house of women.
Mordecai had told Esther not to reveal that she was from a Jewish family, so she didn’t. Each day, he would check on her, and this lasted for a year. She had gone through six months of oil of myrrh, six months with perfumes and other beautification procedures. When it was her turn to see the king, she got to pick whatever she wanted to go in with her. She chose to take the advice of the chief eunuch and take in only what he told her to take. Good move. The king loved her and made her queen instead of Vashti.
To celebrate, the king made a great feast called “the Feast of Esther” and invited all his officials and servants. He proclaimed the day a holiday and gave generous gifts.
One day while the virgins were gathered together, Mordecai sat within the king’s gate. While there, he happened to overhear two of the king’s eunuchs plotting against the king. Mordecai told Esther, and she told the king in his name. After an investigation, the two men were hung on the gallows, and the incident was recorded in the chronicles in the presence of the king. Meanwhile, Esther still kept her mouth shut about her family heritage.
Dear God, please help us to always remember that everything we have has been given to us by you. The world does not revolve around us. It does, however, revolve around YOU. Please also help us to honor our family commitments and stand fast in the position that God places us for His glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
Have you found yourself acting like Vashti in the past? How did you correct it?
We aren’t very far into the story, and already Esther’s obedience is plain (first to her guardian and then to her eunuch handler). Are there places in your life in which God is talking to you about obedience?
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Nehemiah 13.
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Nehemiah 11-12.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Nehemiah 9-10
Blogging Through the Bible Nehemiah 7-8
With Nehemiah’s building project complete, he begins the real work of getting the city back up and running the way it should. He starts with a grand opening and appointing watchmen for the walls.
“And I said to them, ‘Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.’”Nehemiah 7:3
The Concept of the Watchmen
The concept of the watchmen is all through scripture. It’s mentioned in Isaiah 62:6-7 in the same way as here: men who physically watched for invaders trying to breach the walls of Jerusalem. But it’s also mentioned in Ezekiel 3 and Isaiah 56:10 in a more spiritual sense. Men (and women) are appointed by God to watch for spiritual danger for God’s people. When they sense it or hear it from the Lord, they are to sound the alarm, letting people know the danger. If the people turn from their wicked ways and repent, good. If not, the blood is on their own heads. But, if the watchmen get slack and do not warn the people and they do not turn away from their ways, the blood will be on the heads of the watchmen. It’s a pretty sobering concept, and it is one that is very much alive and active today. Just tapping into social media for a minute, you will find several people letting us know that the hour is late, the time to prepare and get right with God is at hand, and Jesus is coming very soon.
The People Return By Houses
Now, the city was all ready to go, the watchmen were on the wall, and the doors were about to be opened, but the houses had still not been rebuilt. It was going to take some administration to get everybody in and working on the NEW projects at hand. Nehemiah says, “Then my God put it into my heart…” I LOVE that! It shows that God was interacting with His people then just like He interacts with us today. Anyway, God tells him to gather up all the nobles, rulers, and people and register them by family.
See, Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon had carried away those people, but they were coming back, everyone to his/her own city. A big list follows with lots of numbers, but the list had some interesting characteristics that are worth mentioning.
First, some people were listed by name. How important those men must have been to be listed by name when the rest of the list are in thousands. Those men were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamia, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.
The Big List
Next there is a big list of the people who are returning, but the list is really strange. First, it starts off with a list of men and their sons – 18 to be exact. The format is “the sons of ____” where the blank is the name of a man, and then it gives the number. Now, “sons” here is obviously not in the literal sense. Nobody can have 2,172 sons, for example. But it does show that family lines were extremely important. A person’s family line could tell someone a lot in those days, and the honor in a family was not to be underestimated (as we will see when we get to the list of people who could not tell their lineage).
But here’s the weird thing. Right in the middle of this list, we switch from “the sons of ____” in which the blank is the name of a man to “the men of ____” where the blank here is the name of a city. There are eight of those, and then we go back to “the sons of ___” for five, and then we switch to priests. There are four “the sons of ____” listed under the heading of priests.
Then there is a paragraph break, and we sense that we have entered another type of list. These are people who are involved in the temple system. It starts with the Levites and lists two “sons of ___” with numbers. Then the singers with one “sons of ___” and a number, and then the gatekeepers. After the gatekeeper, there are 6 “sons of ___” with only one number at the end of that list. Then the Nethinim, or temple assistants, are listed with thirty-two “sons of ___” but no number after it. Then the sons of Solomon’s servants were listed with ten “the sons of ___” listed of those. The number for all of the Nethinim and the sons of Solomon’s servants comes at the end (392).
Then we switch to people who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherob, Addon, and Immer. They didn’t know their lineage. There were three “sons of ____” and then priests with 3 “sons of ___”
Interestingly enough, it was so important that the people know from which house they came that the priests who could not identify their lineage were excluded from being priests in Jerusalem. They counted them as “defiled,” and they were excluded from the most holy things until a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummin, objects worn by the high priest that could somehow tell God’s will in a situation.
“Altogether the whole assembly was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred and forty-five men and women singers. Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty.”Nehemiah 7:66-69
There has to be a reason why this list seems so ADHD. It must have to do with the familial importance of the people listed. Somebody, somewhere, might get the significance. As for us, it is enough to understand that we may not always understand. The Bible is a big, beautiful project. We can learn and learn until our time to go Home, but we will likely never unlock all the mysteries inside.
Donations To the Treasury
The end of this chapter talks about the cash flow. Treasury donations came from some of the heads of houses, the governor (that was Nehemiah himself), and the people. They donated gold drachmas, basins, priestly garments, and silver minas.
Then everyone dwelt in their cities and Ezra (who must be at least 90 years old by this time) reads the law.
Day 1: They Gather At the Water Gate
When Ezra the priest and scribe reads the law, it is the seventh month. Everyone gathers in front of the water gate, and there is a feast for seven days. This is significant. Many archeologists put the water gate near the Gihon Spring, a distribution point for fresh water. Think about it. In Jesus’ time, He attended the feast and gave a Word about the Holy Spirit who would make His home with all who believe on Him. John 7:37-38 says, “ On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Ezra reads from morning to midday. He’s standing on a platform of wood made just for this purpose, and a list of people are given to his right and left. The people stood to listen, “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.” And the people answered “Amen, Amen!” while lifting their hands, bowing their heads, and worshiping the Lord with their faces to the ground. Then others stood to help the people understand the Law, and the people stuck around to listen. Then the people wept. What a picture of revival!
Then Nehemiah said:
“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10
The Levites comforted the people and sent them away to eat and drink and rejoice. That was day one.
Day 2: Feast of Tabernacles/Feast of Booths/Sukkoth
On the second day, the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were still at it with Ezra, searching the scriptures to understand the Law. Then they found the place in which God had commanded Moses to tell the children of Israel to dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month. They should announce and proclaim that in all cities of Jerusalem. They said:
“Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”Nehemiah 8:15
Then the people made booths on the roofs of their houses, in their own courtyards, in the courts of the house of God, in the open square of the Water Gate, and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. All those who came back from captivity made booths and sat in them. This was the first time that this had occurred since Joshua’s time, and there was great rejoicing. Ezra read every day for seven days, and they kept the feast for all seven. On the eighth day, there was a sacred assembly.
What’s the Deal With the Booths?
Like little huts, people made these temporary shelters that probably reminded them of the Israelites’ temporary life in Egypt and their journey through the wilderness, moving from place to place. Even more, it gave them a picture of our temporary pilgrimage on earth and the permanence of an eternity in heaven. They would spend hours and days relaxing, meditating on God, and considering their past, present, and future. Their prophets had given them so many revelations about the truth of the importance of waiting on God. They might have even thought about Jonah who made a booth while waiting on God to decide about Ninevah.
Here are a couple more pictures from my friend’s celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles:
Dear God, please help us to always listen when your watchmen speak. Even more so, let us always be attentive when You, Yourself, lay something on our hearts for us to do for you. We praise you and thank you for the rivers of living water You have given us through Your precious Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
What have you heard the watchmen saying lately?
Do you have an appointed time each day in which you, yourself, get shut in with God to meditate on Him?
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Nehemiah 1-2
Blogging Through the Bible Ezra 9 and 10
Temple rebuilt? Check. Levites and priests installed? Done. Families returned to Jerusalem. Yes! Wait. About those families…
Not Good News
Ezra was trying to get things running the way they were supposed to be. He worked so hard in seeking the Lord, doing God’s will, and teaching others what to do. So, when Ezra heard from the leaders that there was something amiss with the people, he took immediate steps to correct it. It seems that the people of Israel (even the priests and the Levites) had intermarried with the heathens while in captivity “so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands.” Not good.
When Ezra gets the report, he tears his garment and his robe, plucks out some of the hair on his head and beard, and sits down, astonished. Have you ever been so frustrated that you pulled your own hair? I have. It’s an intense reaction here, but Ezra worked so hard to make things right, and they just…weren’t. These guys had just spent a long captivity because they hadn’t done things Lord’s way, and already the people were blowing it again. Those who fear the Lord gather around him, and they just sort of sit there, stunned, until evening.
Ezra Spills It All To God
At the evening sacrifice, Ezra falls down on his knees and spills everything to God. He basically says, “Wow, God. I can’t even look at your right now. I’m so ashamed. We have been so guilty of so many things, and for those crimes we were delivered to the kings of other lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to humiliation. And right when you show us a little grace, get us a rebuilt temple and even a wall in Judah, this is how we repay you? You TOLD us that we weren’t to mingle with the heathen or to want the things they want, and it would be well with us. After all this, you punish us less than we deserved, and we break your commandments by committing these abominations? You are righteous and we are guilty. ‘Nobody can stand before you because of this!’”
When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong
Meanwhile, while Ezra is weeping and praying, a large assembly of people start to gather to do some weeping of their own. It’s starting to sink in that God wasn’t playing before. He gave them another chance, and they were already starting off on the wrong foot. There is a reason why it says in in Proverbs 9:10 that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Smart people fear God.
Then somebody comes up with an idea. Let’s just follow the law.
“And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassedagainst our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.’”Ezra 10:2-3
Here, I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, I totally get that God rules, and when we screw up, sometimes we just have to abandon everything and just sort of shake the Etch a Sketch and start over from zero. Nothing we ever lose on earth can compare to what we can lose by not being obedient to God.
On the other hand, I can’t help thinking about those poor little babies losing their mommies and daddies. It wasn’t their faults that one of their parents was a pagan, and now they won’t even get the benefit of being raised by someone who followed the one true God. This reminds me of the story of Naomi. Her sons die, and she says to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your pagan gods.” Ruth doesn’t go, but Orpah is like…”Do-tee-do, going back to paganism now.” Hello? Pagans don’t go to heaven. They go to be with their gods in hell. But God knows people’s hearts. He knows who will repent and who won’t no matter what. Maybe that’s what this is here.
In any case, everybody swears that they will put away their pagan families. Ezra is fasting because he still feels bad about it, and a proclamation is issued that everybody gather at Jerusalem within three days. People who choose to stay with their heathen familes will get their property confiscated and be cut off from the remnant of God’s people.
After three days, everybody gathers, and Ezra addresses them, instructing them to repent and separate. The people agree to do both, but at this point, it’s pouring down rain, and they beg for a little time and order for the process, which they receive. Ezra and some elders start interviewing people, a man at a time, until they get through everybody.
The rest of the chapter is a list of people who had taken pagan wives, even those who were associated with the temple. Sons of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and more promised to put away wives and even children to follow the Lord His way.
Dear God, please help us to always admit when we are wrong. You are God, and we are not. We may not understand everything, but we know that you have our best interest in mind. Thank you for helping us to be obedient. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
Can you think of other places in the Bible in which things looked unfair from the natural?
What might have been the consequences for keeping those wives and children around?
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Ezra 3-4
Ezra 1 and 2
People make their own choices for good or evil, but God can stir a heart like no other. Babylon had taken the Jewish people captive seventy years before, and as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah, that time period was ending. King Cyrus of Persia was in charge then, and God stirred up his spirit to make a proclamation to free the people and get them back on the road to worshiping the one true God.
King Cyrus Makes a Proclamation
He basically acknowledges that all of his kingdoms have been given to him by God, and that God has commanded him to build a temple in Jerusalem. He tells anybody who names God as his own to go to Jerusalem and build the house of the Lord God (for He is God). Everybody should help by donating silver, goods, and livestock besides the freewill offerings for the house of God.
Then God moves some other spirits too. He touches the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, the priests, and the Levites, and they all head over to Jerusalem to start building. Everybody else gets all their goods and “precious things” together and makes a big offering.
Finally, King Cyrus digs out the articles which Nebuchadnezzer had taken from Jerusalem to put into the temples of his idols and gets the treasurer to hand them over to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. Items listed include: 39 gold platters, 1,000 silver platters, 20 knives, 30 gold basins, 410 silver basins, and 1,000 other articles. There were 5, 400 articles of silver and gold.
Then Sheshbazzar took all the loot plus the captives who were still in Babylon and delivers everything and everybody to Jersusalem.
This whole situation reminds me to keep hoping for salvation for my lost loved ones. God can and does stir hearts to do His will. He can change a situation in a heartbeat.
The Captives Return
Ezra 2 starts with the people’s return from captivity. Nebuchadnezzer had taken them away so many years before, but now they were returning, each to his/her own land. The Bible lists the people by the land and the number returned. Then it lists the number of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple assistants, and sons of the priests as well as Solomon’s servants. In total, there were 42,360 besides the 7,337 male and female servants plus lots of horses, mules, camels, and donkeys.
When they got to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem everybody gives generously to support the work on the temple. The people gave 161,000 gold drachmas, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priestly garments. Then the people dwelt in their cities.
Dear God, thank you for being a God who still stirs hearts. Help us to know what to pray in accordance with Your will to accomplish Your purposes. Let us always remember that wherever we might wander, You are our true home. Help us to always give from our hearts to your house. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
What are you asking God to stir for you?
The people gave from their hearts. Are you always a cheerful giver?