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Acknowledging the Lord’s Rule (Nehemiah 9: 5-8)

Yahweh is not separate from creation in His reign and rule. He reigns in righteousness because He is righteous. God rules over the hosts of heaven because He alone created all things, and He alone sustains all things by the might of His power. In grace He chooses to lovingly interact with His creation because He is the only gracious and wise God. Whether we acknowledge these facts does not hinder or help Him in any way. So why did Israel acknowledge the Lord’s rule?

Israel understood pragmatically that their health (mental, physical and spiritual) rested in God’s loving kindness. Israel understood observationally that their progress as a people was bound only by the limits their God set. Israel understood experientially that their destiny was inextricably tied to the sovereign will of their God. Thus, it behooved them to acknowledge the Lord’s rule (Psalm 92).

From everlasting to everlasting the Lord has not changed. He rules in righteousness. He reigns in holiness. He orchestrates the affairs of men according to the wise counsel of His good pleasure. He is not absent from His creation, but continues to be a very present help in the calamities of life (Psalm 46:1). Thus, it is incumbent on us to acknowledge His rule (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Assembled for Confession and Worship (Nehemiah 9: 1-4)

The general assembly mentioned is this passage occurred two days after the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles (aka, Feast of Sukkot, lit. Booths), a festival commemorating the Exodus and Israel’s dependence on the will and grace of God during that period when they lived in booths. Here we see a general day of fasting and prayer where the children of Israel re-assembled themselves before God. Six hours was spent reading the Book of the Law of Moses, and an additional six hours was spent in confession and worship. The Levites were present to make sure the people understood their covenant for this time was also spent in covenant renewal.

Israel was reminded of all the grace and favor God had shown to His people from the time of Abraham to the present. As well, they were reminded of their myriad departures and rebellions against the God of their covenant so that they could recognize that their current bondage and oppression was well warranted.

Our covenant relationship with God is one based on God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He has commanded that we (1) love one another and (2) that we fruitfully reproduce, i.e. make disciples.

How many times have you neglected to demonstrate love for others? How often have you rejected those teaching moments and justified your actions by saying something equivalent to: “It’s not my responsibility”? Does your current situation reflect oppression or bondage? In view of all the grace God has lavished upon you, is it time for a covenant renewal?

The Lord’s Faithfulness to David (Ps. 89: 1-15)

God took David, the least of his father’s children, from the sheepfold and made him prince over Israel, His chosen people. He promised to establish David’s kingdom and rule through his descendants forever. This covenant with David is the penultimate display of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Although Israel often rewarded God’s love and faithfulness with disobedience, God remained faithful for He will not deny His own. Israel could sing this Psalm because they recognized that even in chastening the Lord remained faithful.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of God’s steadfast love. He alone opens the way to a new covenant relationship with God by His sacrificial death and resurrection. The Father still chastens His own, but this is further evidence of His abiding care. If we are faithless He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (II Timothy 2:13).

How can you display gratitude for the Lord’s steadfast love in His covenant relationship with you?

David’s Instructions to Solomon (I Chronicles 22: 6-16)

From Israel’s days of wilderness wondering with Moses, throughout the period of conquest under Joshua and beyond periods on apostasy under the Judges, God’s presence inhabited a portable tabernacle. Building a permanent house of worship in Israel for God was the one accomplishment on King David’s heart he longed to achieve. But his lifestyle of war and bloodshed disqualified him from realizing that monumental feat.

Instead, God promised that David’s son, Solomon, would build His house. Contrasting King David’s reign of war and unrest, Solomon’s reign promised a time of peace and quiet. The wordplay on Solomon’s name (Hb. Shelomoh) and the Hebrew word for peace (Shalom) underscores this fact and points to Christ, our Prince of Peace. David’s charge to Solomon in this passage is one of vulnerability, strength of character, and imparting of the vision for which Solomon was prepared to achieve.

Perhaps God has placed a feat on your heart that you cannot accomplish in your lifetime. Is there someone He has called you to prepare? Just as David prepared Solomon, we have been called to prepare disciples to open the way for peace with God to future generations. Dare to impart your vision. And like David’s vision of the Lord’s house, make it exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory!

David’s Preparations for the Temple (I Chronicles 22: 1-5)

At Satan’s enticement King David sent Joab, the commander of his army, to conduct a census of Israel from Beersheba to Dan. It was a decision David soon regretted, for it brought pestilence and calamity upon Israel. By the hand of God’s angel 70,000 men fell in Israel and His angel was about to destroy Jerusalem when God relented from the calamity (1Chronicles 21).

It was at this very site in Jerusalem, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, that God instructed David to raise an altar for the Lord. Ornan offered the property along with oxen, wood, and wheat for the sacrifice, free of charge but King David responded: “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24). By definition our sacrifices must cost us something. This place also became the site of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem.

Before he died, King David amassed the greatest craftsman and the finest building materials from near and far. He spared no expense. In his own words “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” (1 Chronicles 22:5). This was all done for a project he would not only receive no credit, King David would not even get to see the project completed!

God has partnered with us in His kingdom building project of making disciples of all nations. God has privileged us to have hands-on experience in the making of some of His disciples. We may never get to see or receive credit for others being brought into the kingdom. What sacrifice are you willing to offer, and what preparations will you make for the generations of saints yet to come into the kingdom, knowing you may not get to see them on this side of heaven? It’s amazing what we can achieve when we don’t mind who gets the credit.

David Anointed King of Israel (I Sam. 16: 1, 11-13).

Most people like to believe they are a good judge of character but often choose poorly when it comes to choosing partners and friends. Given the opportunity to section a leader, especially one to represent God, our track record isn’t very good. In this passage God’s choice of David, as Israel’s second King, was the least likely candidate according to human standards. God’s choice differed even from Samuel, His prophet. Why? The answer is simple: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

How then are we to choose wisely when faced with such grave decisions? We cannot see the heart, as God sees. While the answer is simple, there are two important steps: (1) Pray! “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5); and (2) Wait! “Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.’” (1 Samuel 16:11).”

Perhaps the hardest thing to do is wait for God. But remember, it’s far worse to move ahead of or without God only to wish you had waited. God knows what is best for you, and is willing to give you His very best if you are willing to wait.

Noah waited 120 years for rain; Abraham waited 25 years for a Son; Moses waited 40 years for deliverance; Jacob waited 14 years for Rachel; Joseph waited 14 years in prison; Job waited a lifetime for justice. Are you willing to wait?

The Fulfillment of the Law (Matt. 5: 17-20)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” (Matthew 5:17). At the time Jesus spoke these words the New Testament had not been penned. Thus, His statement equated to the entire revealed word of God. To think that Jesus came to abolish the very scriptures that pointed to Him is preposterous. Yet there were those, and still others today, who disbelieve that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.

We should not be surprised that so many missed the mark as it relates to Jesus. The entire Old Testament is the expression of God’s will. That men misunderstood the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) means they misunderstood God’s will. So Jesus brought clarification, “He taught as one who had authority, and not as their scribes“ (Matthew 7:29).

As Christ’s disciples we are called to live and teach according to Jesus’ interpretation of the Old Testament’s intent and meaning. Thus we are called to a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees. While their righteousness was primarily concerned with their outward appearance, ours must consist of an inward transformation of the heart producing new motivations and actions. This is the source of our conduct toward others.

Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will because He understood His intent and meaning. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s Words (John 1:14). How has your understanding of God’s Word helped others to fulfill the Father’s will?

Right Conduct Toward Others (Exodus 20:13-17)

Of profound importance is the fact that God has always called His people to the highest standard of holiness, Himself (Leviticus 20:26; 1Peter 1:16). While the sixth through the eighth Commandments set forth basic prohibitions (do not murder, commit adultery, or steal), they only provide the minimum standard by which His people are to demonstrate justice. His Commandments set forth the context in which His people are further called to be holy and to love their God with all their heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Commandments are therefore basic principles of what it means to be just. They were never meant to be exhaustive. Jesus corrected this mistaken presumption in His Sermon on the Mount (“you have heard it said” Matthew 5:21).

Acting as a false witness (the ninth Commandment) is not only condemned in Scripture for its disastrous effect in life, it undermines the very character of God whose image we were created to reflect. The tenth and final commandment goes to the heart of the matter. To allow ones heart to covet goes beyond the scope of the previous four commandments. While they focus on actions committed or words spoken, the tenth commandment focuses on a persons heart. To allow your heart to covet someone else’s property violates the center of what is to govern human relationships. Left unchecked it can become the motivation for theft, adultery, and murder.

God takes personally the treatment of his own (Matthew 25:40-45). How does the Ten Commandments govern your conduct toward others?

No Other Gods Before Me (Exodus 20: 1-12)

Most people equate Israel’s covenant relationship with God to the giving and receiving of the Law, specifically the 10 Commandments. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Israel entered into a covenant relationship with Yahweh solely because He chose them. In fact, God chose Israel long before the Egyptian episode began.

His call to Israel, while they languished beneath the oppressive hand of Ramses, was a call to freedom for His firstborn (Hosea 11:1). God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His firstborn go that “he may serve Me”. (Exodus 4:22-23). Thus Israel’s faithfulness to the Law signified their gratitude for what God had already done: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out…” and demonstrated their willingness to honor Yahweh as their only God.

The Law formed the parameters by which Israel was to (1) relate to their God [you will have no other gods before me; make no graven image to worship; not take My name in vain; and remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:1-11)]; and (2) relate to each other [honor your parents, do not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet someone else’s property, (Exodus 20:12-17)]. The Law called Israel to a manner of life that pleased their God.

Likewise, God calls all people into a new covenant relationship based upon what He has already accomplished through His Son. Through His sacrificial death Jesus freed humanity from the bondage and tyranny of sin. We demonstrated faithfulness in our covenant relationship by adhering to the Law He commands. Instead of 10 Commandments, Christ has only one: “That you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Can you think of ten ways to demonstrate faithfulness in your covenant relationship?

The Voice of the Lord (Deuteronomy 5: 22-27) Monday, October 9; 2017

How many times have you wondered what it must be like to stand in the presence of Almighty God and hear His voice? Would it be breathtakingly awesome? Life transforming? A lasting inspiration? Would He reveal the answers to all mysteries? Would you dance in His presence? Or would you kneel in adoration? What would that moment in the presence of God be like?

This passage records Israel’s response to just such a theophany (visible manifestation of God Almighty to mankind) at His giving of the 10 Commandments. Israel assembled at the foot of Mount Horeb (Sinai) and God spoke audibly out of the midst of a thick cloud and darkness, while the mountain was ablaze. Like a toddler frightened by the explosion of an automobile’s backfire, Israel ran to the safety of Moses’ awaiting arms. It was enough if they never again heard that terrifying voice or witnessed the alarming presence of God Almighty. “ . . .If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:25-26). Out of fear Israel requested that Moses mediate for them before their God and God consented.

God’s purpose was to elicit a permanent reverence for Him that would foster a lifestyle of obedience and holiness proving irresistibly attractive to all people and nations. Like Moses was given to Israel, God has given us His Son to mediate as our High Priest before Almighty God. What lifestyle has His ever-present love evoked in you?

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