Tag Archives: repentence

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, singersĀ  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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Blow the Trumpet!

This blog will focus on the book of Joel. The book is a clarion call to the nation of Judah, but also to the believers today, especially in America. From the onset of the book we find that Joel speaks of the devastating condition of Judah. “Has anything like this happened in your days, or in your fathers days?” Already there has been captives taken to Babylon, the city is falling apart, the enemy is camped outside the walls. Jerusalem has not fallen yet, but it is only a matter of time. I know that many have ready Joel and relate a future prophetic message only,but scripture cannot mean something today that it did not mean then. The church is in trouble today, just as Judah was on the brink of total disaster. The wonderful Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey is now a waste land. The vines are broken down, the fields lay barren and wind worn. No crops to feed the people, no hope for a better day tomorrow. Yet with all the devastation clearly in eyesight, the people are sleeping or worse drunken with a stupider and oblivious to what is going on around them. This continuation of the message from Jeremiah, still falls on deaf ears.

When we think of the Baal cultic worship, this agrarian god that promise fertility of crops and vats of wine flowing from the wine presses, and all Judah has to show for their idolatry is a waste land. For a people so dependent on the Land, the absurdity that they will not turn back to Jehovah, who gave them the LandĀ  is ironic.

A repeated phrase “for the Day of the Lord is coming” declares that such a time is conducted at the hands of God. When I think of the apathy, apostasy and anarchy that pervades our country and world today I grieve for the Lord to heal us. But I also know that there must be a brokenness within us. We have to come to our senses, as the Prodigal son did before he returned to his loving father. What will it take for the people of Judah, even America to come to their senses? Is it too late for Judah in Joel? Is it too late for America today? The trumpet call that needs to be sounded in the assembly alarm, the calling together of the people. Like in the days as a child we had civil disaster sirens that caused us to assemble in a designated place, we must assemble at the clarion call of the Holy Spirit. We and Judah had to respond to the alarm, sadly Judah did not – will we go the same way in our stubbornness? In Joel 1:14-15 and Joel 2:15-17 declares the necessary actions for the people to avert disaster. But it cannot be just to avert punishment and calamity, there must be a humility and passion to return to the God who loves us, and to our blessed Savior.

Needed today is for the “trumpet to blow” for the people of God to come together for an out pouring of prayer and repentance – needed today is a “Holy Ghost revival!” Nothing short of a solemn assembly will do. A solemn assemble is a called meeting for a specific purpose. I recently called for a “solemn assembly for my church. It is time to drop what is in our hands and fall before the LORD. Call the elders, all the inhabitants to the House of the Lord your God and “Cry out to the LORD” – alas the day for the day of the Lord is near. God is drawing all things according to His plan. Judah is told to come and PRAY in the HOUSE of the LORD – come to the TEMPLE people!

Every great revival began with a small group of people who were broken for the Lord and over their sin – the Shantung revival in China occurred because the missionaries were broken before the Lord in prayer. Prayer is incense in the nostrils of God – let’s make is a sweet-smelling aroma.

With the call to come to the House of God, proclaim a fast and prayer; the end result “who knows whether He [God] will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.” (2:14) Judah had the chance, but they refused – let us learn from their hard heart refusal and Call on the Lord.

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