ABC Sep. 25 – Oct. 1

September 25 — Ezra 7-10 — Ashamed (about 458 BC).  Twice in these chapters, Ezra said that he was ashamed.  First, he was ashamed to ask generous King Artaxerxes for military protection for his transporting 1,754 men and their families, carrying gold worth about $170 million and silver worth about $17 million.  Why?  Because he had told the king that “The hand of our God is for our good on all who seek him” (8:22).  Ezra was concerned about his testimony; if he really trusted God, he shouldn’t seek the help of man.  I have been there before, not being sure how far I could trust my faith.  Have you?  Later, Ezra was ashamed of something else: the sin of his people.  He prayed, “O my God, I am ashamed … for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads” (9:6).  Ezra had not participated in the disobedience of marrying foreign women who worshiped other gods but he deeply felt the shame of the many exiles who did.  Do you feel shame when you see Christians who seem to love the world more than Jesus?  It is even worse when we look around at the corruption of the culture in which we live.

September 26 — Nehemiah 1-5 — Quick Prayers (about 445-444 BC).  Nehemiah was burdened with concern about the condition of Jerusalem since the time that Ezra had led in completing the construction of the temple 70 years earlier.  The destroyed walls around the city and its gates had not been repaired.  King Artaxerxes responded to Nehemiah’s information about Jerusalem with a question: “What are you requesting?” (2:4).  Immediately following that, the text says, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.  And I said to the king …” (vv. 4-5).  There were only a few seconds available for that brief prayer, which probably included the word “help!”  Quick prayers like that imply, first, that the one praying is in frequent contact with God.  To even think about praying at a time like that shows one’s acknowledgment of dependence on God.  This sounds like Paul’s instruction that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)—always in tune and always connected.  Quick prayers.  “Help me, Lord!”  “Give me Your words, Lord!” “Protect me, Lord!”  “Thank you, Lord!”

September 27 — Nehemiah 6-7 — Priorities (about 444 BC).  Nehemiah presents two great examples of maintaining a high level of life priorities.  The first priority was about the work he was leading.  When his enemies tried to coax him from Jerusalem to “meet together” (6:2) for consultation, he refused with this tremendous response: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (v. 3).  His work was of much greater importance than meeting with devious district leaders.  His work was God’s work—his ministry.  Does your ministry have a high place on your priority list?  Nehemiah’s second example came when he was being coaxed to enter the temple of God.  At one place in the text, Nehemiah, the governor, is at the beginning of a list that ends with, “these are the priests” (10:8).  So, if he was also a priest, he had the right to enter the temple-proper but if not, it would be a sin for him.  In either case, the purpose for being encouraged to do this was to go into hiding, which he refused to do with the simple declaration, “I will not go in” (v. 11).  He had high priorities about what he was doing for God and, perhaps, what was sinful in God’s sight.  We should check our own priorities to see if they are setting good examples for others who watch us.

September 28 — Nehemiah 8-10 — Chaldean Circle (about 444 BC).  I noticed an interesting connection in our reading for today that centers on the Chaldeans.  Near the beginning of the long public prayer of the Levites, they reviewed the early history when God “chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans” (9:7).  Chaldea incorporated an area around the northern tip of the Persian Gulf, where Iran is today.  God called Abram out of Chaldea to go to the land He would promise to give to his descendants.  These praying Levites had also been recently called by God out of the same area to return to the same Promised Land.  Ezra called the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar a Chaldean (Ezra 5:12).  Returned exiles from Babylon in Chaldea were remembering their ancient ancestor, Abraham, who had come from the same place.  Full circle.  Although these exiles had been released to return from Babylon, they still referred to themselves as “slaves this day” (9:35) because Babylon still ruled over them “as they please” (v. 37).  We aren’t completely free, either.  There awaits for us a heavenly Promised Land where we will find our eternal rest in the arms of our caring Father.

September 29 — Nehemiah 11-13, Ps. 126 —Shepherd-less Sheep (about 444 – 432  BC).  Nehemiah was a strong and courageous leader.  He had to be because the people tended to wander into sin without his guiding presence.  While Nehemiah returned to Babylon for a period of time, the priests in Jerusalem prepared living quarters in the temple for Tobiah (13:5), who was an Ammonite and an enemy of Israel, as we read earlier (2:10).  Nehemiah had to evict him when he returned.  Also, the required financial support for the Levites had been terminated (13:10) and Nehemiah confronted the officials to correct that problem.  People were doing their livelihood work and merchants were bringing their wares into Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath (v. 15), which Nehemiah confronted and stopped.  Men were beginning again to marry foreign women who spoke a different language and worshiped false gods (v. 23).  When the shepherd is away, the sheep will stray!  We need courageous pastors and other leaders to keep a close watch on their flock in order to challenge them and bring them back if they begin to wander.

September 30 — Malachi 1-4 — Questions of Denial (about 430 BC).  Many times, in this last book of the Old Testament, God’s people ask Him some “How?” questions.  They are really questions involving denial.  God made statements or charged them with sin and they disagreed by demanding proof.  They denied His love (1:2) in spite of the fact that they had been chosen to be His special people.  They denied a lack of honoring God: “How have we despised your name?” (1:6).  They dishonored Him by only giving sacrifices to God that they didn’t want, like blind animals (v. 8).  They denied making God weary by calling evil “good” (2:17), by saying that serving God was useless (3:13), and by robbing God through withholding their giving (3:8).  All of these denials are evidence of not acknowledging sin.  May we always be honest with ourselves and with God about what is right—what He says is right—so that our questions may be turned into thanksgiving and praise!

October 1 — Luke 1, John 1:1-14 — Questioning God.  We move today from a chronological reading of the Old Testament to do the same with the New Testament, encountering events roughly in the order in which they occurred, after a gap of over 400 years.  Two people in this opening New Testament passage had questions for God.  In a sense, they were both the same, asking, “How …?”  There are significant differences between them, however.  After being told that Zechariah and his wife would have a son in their old age, Zechariah’s question was, “How shall I know this?” (Lk. 1:18).  It sounds like an innocent question of ignorance but Gabriel’s reply and his 9-month punishment of muteness, show that he apparently questioned God’s ability.  Gabriel said, “… you did not believe my words” (v. 20).  Mary’s question had a very similar form: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34).  This was not a question of unbelief, however, but a question for information.  After Gabriel explained how the miracle was to be accomplished, Mary accepted it in faith, submitting to the process: “let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38).  God can handle our information questions, but He recoils at our questions of unbelief.  Remember that as you communicate with God in prayer this week.

Published by abibleread

This website honors the Bible as the inspired Word of God through which God speaks to us as we read and study it.

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