NEHEMIAH 7:73-9:21 | 1 CORINTHIANS 9:1-18 | PSALM 33:12-22 | PROVERBS 21:11-12
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Nehemiah is narrating his mission of repairing the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem, and once all is done, it is cause for great rejoicing. He makes this grand announcement to his fellowmen: “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
And that is exactly what the people do. The text reports that “from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.”
And in addition to the celebrations of eating, drinking, and making merry, the people performed two very important acts of worship: they conducted readings from the “Book of the Law of God,” i.e., Moses’ writings of the Law as it was handed down to him, led by none other than Ezra, the prophet. Also, they publicly made a confession of their sin through the voices of their priests and leaders.
In an assembly that comes together on the eighth day of the celebrations, there is a big announcement made which sounds more like a refresher on the history of their people. There is value to reproducing this in its entirety, as it may serve as a useful reminder to the long and checkered history that the Jewish people have to their name. This is what was told to the people:
“Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.
6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
7 “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.
9 “You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.
13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 1415 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.
16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.
19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
Turning now to our reading from the book of I Corinthians, Paul is establishing his identity and calling as a preacher, and in line with this, he says, 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
Paul was a tent-maker by profession as listed in other places, and the inference from that little fact is that Paul supported himself with his earnings, however meager. He did not depend upon the support of the churches that he had set up and continued to minister to.
And regarding this, Paul is making himself quite clear when he says this: 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find David, the psalmist, singing the praises of the Lord God in these verses. May it be that like David, we are completely confident of God’s provision for every need in our lives—no matter how small or large. Like David, may we also always echo these words:
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs which is a reminder that God will not be mocked. It might seem at times that God allows the wicked to prosper, but in his time, the wicked will get what is coming to them. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, reminds us of this truth:
12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
and brings the wicked to ruin.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.