All Aboard: Bethany – Anger

Luke 10:38-42
Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem when they come to a small town, about two miles east of Jerusalem, called Bethany.  In that village lives a woman named Martha, who opens her home to Jesus.  In that village are also her brother, Lazarus, and her sister Mary.  As mealtime approaches, conflict and controversy erupt.  Martha is hard at work making all the preparations necessary for getting that meal on the table.  Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, ‘listening to His word’ (Luke 10:39).  Martha, in obvious anger, emerges from the kitchen and confronts Jesus, asking Him to tell Mary to get up and help her.  Jesus’ answer is ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be take away from her’ (Luke 10:41-42 NASB).

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All Aboard: Jerusalem – Finishing

Nehemiah 4-6
Well, Sunday sermon has me convicted.  When we moved into our new house 18 months ago we repainted every room.  But there is one spot at the bottom of our stairs which I didn’t do because it needed a large hole patched.  I got the hole patched but that small section of wall sits there unpainted, still with a big ugly un-sanded patch.  I have to knuckle down and get to sanding, priming, and painting.  This week.

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All Aboard: Jerusalem – Restoration

Nehemiah 4-6
Nearly 150 years have passed since the destruction of Jerusalem.  Either no one has bothered to repair the wall or none have had the integrity to see the job through.  The Jewish nation has been scattered and many were even sold to Gentiles as slaves.  God wishes to gather His people to Himself and provide a safe place in which to unite.  At least two waves of refugees have returned to the region, but Jerusalem is still a city with no borders.  God calls upon Nehemiah, a man of uncompromising integrity, and finds him ready to accept the task of rebuilding the wall.  The best intentions produce few results without a plan. Nehemiah fasts and prays over this and the plan is revealed to him.

There is physical work to accomplish, but the real restoration project is in the people of God themselves.  King Artaxerxes agrees to let Nehemiah go to Judah for whatever time may be required and even funds the project down to the military guard providing protection on his travels.  Nehemiah leaves his royal post as the king’s cupbearer and all the benefits afforded that position to fully commit himself to God’s work.  The wall must have structural integrity and Nehemiah is the right man for the job.  Even so, there are and always will be threats to our ability to follow God.  Apart from the threats coming from outside his community, he discovers problems within.  His own people are selling their fellow Jews into slavery almost as fast as Nehemiah can buy them back.  Others are engaged in usury, charging outrageous interest on loans among their own people.

With no physical protection the people have allowed themselves to enter into a state of “dog eat dog” lifestyle.  Those with fewer resources have been forced to sell their daughters into slavery to pay their taxes.  While I can’t personally relate to such a state of desperation, I know it must have been horribly painful as parents faced with what appears to be a do or die decision.  As for those sold into slavery, they face the fear of the unknown, an overwhelming sense of abandonment and perhaps that of total betrayal.  Sold off as a commodity, their fate is that of property.

Those with greater resources are experiencing depravity of their own.  Against God’s law and the protection therein, they are engaged in usury, taking otherwise unthinkable advantage of those less fortunate.  Perhaps seeing this originally as a survival technique, they are choosing to put their faith in money and not in God.  Those mortgaging their homes in order to buy grain just to survive are witness to their own kinsmen living in excess.

Nehemiah confronts those responsible and they are speechless.  As one who has put aside his social status to fully commit to God’s will, his commitment and integrity come through with clarity in this confrontation.  They not only know he’s right, but they have no counter point with him as he’s setting the example.  He’s “walking the walk”.

The people agree to turn from their ways and back toward God.  They agree to return mortgaged property to the owners and pay restitution for usury.  But, as the outside threats continue, they must be dealt with.  With their restored commitment to the Lord, they find themselves fearless against any and all threats.  Half of them stand as fully armored guards while the other half build.  Those transporting materials carry with one hand while wielding a weapon in the other.  And no builder is without his sword at his side.  They are blessed with the fortitude to work from sunrise until the stars come out.  The wall is completed in 52 days and all are keenly aware of God’s provision in this.

God cares about the missions He sends us into, but His main concern is the relationship with His people.  God always cares more about people than the job.  The transformation of Jerusalem’s rubble into a city wall is acknowledged by all as God working in these people.  Even the enemies of the Jews know it, but instead of that fact being the reason to draw closer to God, they choose to turn even further from Him. On the other hand, the transformation happening within God’s people delights His heart.  Their inner journey from rubble to temple has been God’s desire all along.  Regardless of their previous social status or acquired resources, they are pooling together, united in love for God.  God has blessed them with the physical means to unite safely and their restored commitment to Him is expressed as gratitude for His provision, not seeing any of it as their own.  They can begin to see their neighbors as family again, the family of God.

Questions:

  1. What projects have you committed to in the past?  How long did it take for you to experience a threat to your commitment?  What did you do?  What was the result?
  2. Nehemiah prays to God at every turn in this process (Nehemiah 1:4; 2:4; 4:4-5, 9; 5:13; 6:9, 14).  How does his relationship with God affect his resolve?  How does his disregard for any threat not issued by God influence you personally?
  3. Every time you set out to do God’s will, the enemy will test or threaten your resolve.  Knowing this, what tips can you take from Nehemiah?  Do you ever think you possess all the power needed for success?  Who actually does?  What is the result of a decision to keep the relationship you have with God your first priority?

Please post your observations, comments, and questions as we look the decisions we make and the impact they have on our following Christ.

All Aboard: Jerusalem – Character

Nehemiah 4-6
It is late fall in the year 446 BC when Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the Great King of the Persian Empire, Artaxerxes I, receives word from Jerusalem that the walls are broken and the gates have been burned.  As a result, the people, the remnant who had survived the Babylonian captivity are in great distress and disgrace.  Nehemiah’s response to this news is weeping, fasting and prayer.  When he is called to perform his duties before the king, Artaxerxes sees the sadness that is within Nehemiah and asks for the reason.  When Nehemiah tells him of his grief, Artaxerxes sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem with the commission to rebuild the city, a commission that Nehemiah embraces wholeheartedly (Nehemiah 1-2).

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All Aboard: Shechem – Forward

Joshua 24:1-15
Joshua urges the people to “serve the Lord”.  But, what does serving the Lord mean?  How is the Lord truly served?  What’s the cost of such a decision?  What are the benefits?  The list of miraculous blessings Joshua cites more than sufficiently brings them to the truth of their experience with this God and the only cost seems to be forsaking all others.

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All Aboard: Shechem – Strong & Courageous

Joshua 24:1-15
Our text for this week is the opening lines of Joshua’s Farewell Address to the people of Israel.  In that Address he has a challenge for Israel; ‘Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve’ (24:15 NASB).  Joshua has lead a generation of Israelites and most of those who listen to this address don’t know anyone else as the leader of Israel.  Joshua is an eyewitness to most of the history he gives them in this address and has lead Israel through the successful first phase of the conquest of the Promised Land.  But now it is time for him to pass the baton, to ‘go the way of all the earth’ (Joshua 23:14) and in that passing, he points the way for the next generation of leaders and followers and the first question that must be settled is ‘who are you going to serve?’

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