Tag Archives: confession

Who They Are – The Jews

In Nehemiah 6 the wall is finished. The labor of a building project can be immense and burdensome. I have built buildings and had to repair old ones. Too often after the work is finished there is a lull or better yet a “downtime.” This makes sense for depending on the project the building efforts can be very taxing and affective to the congregation and people involved. There is a great sense of accomplishment, but many times people are just glad to get done with all the dirt and dust of building. One of the aspects that often gets overlooked after a major building project is why they built it in the first place. Sometimes it can be because the old building was in need of attention because of lack of attention over the years. Other times the building project was to facilitate new ministry. The goal always has to be kept in front of people, lest they forget why the endeavor was important to take on in the first place. CAUTION: a lull in physical activity can result in a lull of spiritual progress as well. With a sense of accomplishment, there can be an attitude creep in that says “Take it easy for a while – you deserve it.” The caution is our adversary would like us to put our guard down, and adopt a “period of comfort” and take it easy. There is still working to be done, in our spiritual and physical lives. In Nehemiah chapter 7 we find that there was significant work that needed to be done. The question now with the Temple/altar of worship restored and the walls rebuilt for a physical sense of security. The question for the returning exiles is “who are they?” We must remember that there are only two tribes of Israel remaining, the larger tribe Judah and the much smaller Benjamin. The Lost ten tribes of Israel are no more. When the exiles return from 70 years of captivity, they are identified as “Jews.” Not Israel, for Israel is the greater name of all the people, and carries with it a nation/state connotation. Like in 1948 as a result of the Belfour Agreement, that established Israel as a nation/state.

It was time for the people to figure out who was who of the returning exiles. Obviously there are the priest, Levites, singers  and gatekeepers, but what about the rest of the people? Who are they and do they have legitimate right to the Homeland? A great census was done. There were some that were excluded for “Unclean” purposes and not allowed to live inside the walls. The point of building the wall and the Temple is to become the people of God/Yahweh again. This means more than being a blood Jew for inheritance of the Land, for Us it is being a Jew for our heart is one with God. {See Romans 4}

Being the people of God means we worship and observe the Law. Ezra reads from the Law in chapter 8. We find that he uses a wooden podium, what we would call a pulpit. The people stood when the Word was read. This is a practice that I observed when I pastored churches. Today though it seems people stand for singing and sit for the Word. I have never quite figured that one out. In chapter 8, both the Governor [Nehemiah] and the Priest [Ezra] come together to honor and worship. The festivals are restored, the one mentioned in the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles [usually observed in October]; I observed this festival when I went to Israel in 1993. Interesting is the verse 8:17, it says Israel hadn’t observed the festivals since the days of Joshua; that’s a long time to just forget the “why of worship.”

As reading of the Word normally results in, the people began to make confession. Not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their fathers. The 9th chapter of Nehemiah is a history lesson of how God had literally taken care of Israel from Birth until then. The failure of Israel from the time they left Egypt until they were taken into captivity is addressed. Confession results in REPENTENCE and repentance results in COMMITMENT. The people meant business. They took an oath together and made a COVENANT with each other and Yahweh.

Finally, the Jews were getting to the point of “returning” to the Promised Land. The returning exiles meant business. I think for the first time Israel actually felt that they could lose everything. The Return began a great project of “transcribing the Law and the Prophets.” The capturing of the Word of God became an obsession for the scribes and priests. The LAW dominated life; and as we understand set the condition of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament, but that is another story.

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Unfinished Work

Nehemiah is the sequel if you will to the book of Ezra. Ezra and Nehemiah are intertwined in the restoration of the Temple and the City walls of Jerusalem. It would be easy to categorizes Ezra as the Spiritual leader and Nehemiah as the civic leader; but that would be wrong. All the Work of God is Spiritual, whether moving rocks so those who come after can plant or build; as scripture tells us, one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. [1 Cor. 3:7] Both men had a God-given task to do. The 70 yrs. of exile were over, many of the exiles returned after Cyrus’ edict. The exiles were to build the Temple under Zerubbaal, but “found it was not expedient time to build.” Ezra brings a “spiritual renewal” to the people; but the work was still lacking. Nehemiah opens with him asking how things are in the homeland. The brethren tell him things are not well. Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the King – his face was sad before the King, something that was not acceptable, “why are you saddened?” The people who returned were “reproached” by the people who occupied the barren land. Reproach is a repeated word throughout the book. Reproach means to be “discredited, disapproved of, disgraced, cause for blame, to be continually criticized, or to be censured.” These words are according to our dictionaries. But what is reproach in the Bible? It means to be the cause for blame or ridicule, deserved of criticism and condemnation.

When Nehemiah is asked by the King, he is ready to give answer of the hope that is within him. I have found that I must ask and answer “questions before they become a question.” What I mean is I have to know what the will and mind of the Lord is in situations that have a reasonable opportunity of transpiring. Be ready when someone asks the question. Nehemiah found the will of God by prayer and fasting. There was brokenness in his spirit or the situation. His prayers are to the Lord God, confession and repentance – a godly sorrow for the acknowledged sins of his ancestors. Come clean before God. If I regard iniquity in my heart, my prayers will not be heard. Before Nehemiah approaches God, he had to deal with the “reproach of Israel before God.”

Nehemiah knew he had to deal with the King of Kings before he entertained talking with the king on earth. Prepared to come in the presence of king Nehemiah understood that the LORD God of Israel was at work. Too many times I believe pastors and churches move to a solution without conferring with the Father in Heaven, then wonder why the plans failed. Nehemiah found favor with the earthly king because he found favor [grace] from God first.

From what can be read, Nehemiah was not guilty of the sins he confessed, but the people where, we find brokenness, conviction, confession, repentance and desire for restoration in the prayer of Nehemiah. Restored spiritually, Nehemiah was ready to do the building and restoration of the city of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah asks the king for provisions, the king granted them to him based on “the good hand of My God was with me.”

Of course when the man of God and the people of God began to restore their lives and communities that had been under satanic control – the demons will come out of the woodwork to cause conflict and more confusion. Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite [see the lineage of Esau and Ammon with the Amalekites] rise up to thwart the work.

Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem, but doesn’t announce his plans; a friend of mine told me about “vision jacking” when someone finds out your plans and derails them before you can implement them yourself – usually with the intention of foiling them. Nehemiah spends three days just traveling and scoping out the ruins of the city. There is much to be gained by having “boots on the ground” before attempting to execute a plan.  Listening, looking and leaning on the discernment from God, Nehemiah finally talks to the people and gives his prognosis of the situation. Man there is a lot of work to be done! Nehemiah said “let’s build so we will no longer be a reproach.” The reproach follows when Sanballat and Tobiah learn of the people “putting themselves to the good work. Plenty of people can and will be critics when the man of God and the Church decides to follow God’s restoration plans. Keep building!


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Do it Again LORD!

Psalms 119:107, 149, and 156 speak of being revived by ordinances, and Word. An ordinance is a decree, law, order or rule. I have read more than a few books on revival; two that have been most beneficial are Lewis Drummond and Walter Kaiser’s books. Kaiser indicates more of a pattern or formula for revival; while Drummond speaks of a “God revealed, driven revival.” Wilt thou not revive us again? Psalm 85:6-8 The Psalmist asks the question, will you oh Lord revive us according to you Word? it is apparent that many today do not even know what revival is. I have asked pastor and congregations “how many have ever experienced “God directed revival?” I have been astounded of how few have ever experienced it. We have debate today as in days past, is revival something that man can orchestrate or is it the Work of God only?

I have heard for years in the ministry of churches having revival services. But when I ask did revival come, there was the pathetic No. In John 3, Jesus says the wind blows where it will and no one knows. G.K. Chesterson has been credited with the saying about revival “Set the sail and wait for the wind to blow.” This makes sense for two reasons, we never know when revival will come; yet we must be prepared to receive it when the “Spirit blows.” This would appear that revival is more “caught” than brought.

The psalmist seems to know the answer of how revival occurs. Through the Word of God. Revival must be prayed through, the purpose may not be so much as to get revival, but to immerse oneself into the Word of God, and as a result of meditation, praying and consecration. Verse 105 – a well-known verse taught in children’s Sunday school classes – Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. In my previous blog entry, there was the discussion of departing from God in acts of rebellion which resulted in punishment and affliction. As a people, we are prone to wander, especially in good times or lack of conflict in our lives. It takes adversity at times to “drive us” back to the bible. I know even in my own life time, when a national or personal crisis occurs, man I beat feet back to the bible and God. However, our nation and churches are guilty of relaxing, or better said return to laissez-faire  lifestyle.

I am concerned for our present day culture, communities and churches; it seems that instead of running to God in distressful times, we have hardened our heart and refuse to return. Judgment looms for every person and institution if we will not return to our Lord.

Revival hurts, it means that repentance has occurred and that I am admitting that I have sinned and drifted from God. The Word of God has the power to restore, but also to cut with conviction. If there isn’t conviction for sin, repentance is not real. We can feel bad for what we have done in a moral sense; but unless we admit that our sin is a result of who we are and our hard heartedness; it’s just feeling bad, but not bad enough to do anything about it.

Revival has often been described as a formula from 2 Chronicles 7:14; however, I do not see this verse and a prescription for revival as much as I see it as a “description” of when revival happens. “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land. Sin is singular; sin of rebellion and unbelief – sin is a nature which produces sins in the flesh. There is a lot of work on the part of the believer before God hears our prayers and responds. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear my prayers.” Conviction [Word of God]; Confession with our mouth; Repentance  with our heart and restoration by God’s mercy and Grace.

If we neglect the Word – If the Word is not in us – why do we expect God to deliver us? People there is work to be done – and it begins with you and me!

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