NEHEMIAH 9:22-10:39 | 1 CORINTHIANS 9:19-10:13 | PSALM 34:1-10 | PROVERBS 21:13
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Nehemiah continues with the summary of the history of the Jewish people—this is to serve as a reminder of who they are, where they have been, and where they ought to be in relation to their covenant with the Lord.
Nehemiah concludes the history lesson with these words: 32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
And if this history lesson is to serve as a reminder, it is also meant to serve as a catalyst for action: an action which is initiated by Nehemiah and several of the elders and leaders on behalf of the entire nation of Israel.
Nehemiah goes on to say this: 38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
And what this agreement states, in essence, is a renewal of the love and devotion of the people to Yahweh, the God of their fathers. This written document that is called a “binding agreement” outlines the various ways in which the people will observe the Mosiac laws related to relationships, taxes and tithing rituals, worship rituals, etc. The focus of their efforts is going to be the upkeep of the Temple, and toward this end, the agreement clearly states, “We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Turning next to our reading in I Corinthians, we find Paul making observations on his own flexible personality—all in the name of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says, 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul goes on to speak to the matter of self-discipline. It is indeed noteworthy to reproduce and reflect on the analogy of the runner in a race that Paul offers to this end. May it be that like Paul, we exhibit such discipline and diligence in the race of life.
Paul says, 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Another area that Paul wishes to draw attention to is the history of the Jewish people, and how their life and times might serve as an example for avoiding the same mistakes.
Paul offers up a few examples, and then encourages the reader to take heart to view these stories as lessons: 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find one that is a timeless source of encouragement and comfort in Psalm 34. For this reason, I reproduce it today in its entirety:
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, is stating an important truth:
13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.