Israel tried to change gods, but God did not try to change people!
Even when they made for themselves A calf of molten metal And said, "This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt," and committed great blasphemies, You, in Your great compassion, did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.
What can a child of God do to cut himself off from his God?
Israel violated the first and second commandment. They changed gods and they made gods of gold statues. They committed the worst two sins possible. Over three thousand were disciplined to death, but God still placed His tent right in the middle of their camp and refused to leave them.
God's children have always in history been saved by the promises of God apart from good or bad works. Therefore God's children cannot be lost by either failing to do good or doing bad works. Works are not a factor at all in the salvation of God's children.
If sin cannot severe a child from God, what can it do? Who cares about sin? God cares and you should too.
Sin enslaves. Sin blinds. Sin hardens hearts. Sin removes God's children from fellowship with God and His people. Sin invites the discipline of God and results in death. Sin ruins the lives of both saved and unsaved.
Every child of God should fear sin greatly and love God.
Nehemiah persevered in building the wall in spite of opposition by his enemies. Of course the enemies of God will oppose the works of God, but Nehemiah was also opposed by his own nobles (leading citizens) and prophets. The project was completed and the enemies, not Nehemiah, lost heart.
Nehemiah 6:12 Israel's own prophets
Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
It is important to understand that opposition to the work of God can come from the people of God. Satan will hire workers from among the believers to oppose the works of God. In the New Testament we read that Satan will use church leaders who are not saved as well as believers who are not following Christ.
1 Timothy 5:15 Here it is believing women
For some have already turned aside to follow Satan.
John 10:12 Here it is believers or unbelievers
He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
2 Corinthians 11:13-14 Here it is unbelievers who are religious
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
If you are confident that you are doing the Lord's work, do not let the discouragement of Satan keep you from completing the work God has given you to do.
Do not forgive their iniquity
and let not their sin be blotted out before You,
for they have demoralized the builders.
Thus in Judah it was said,
"The strength of the burden bearers is failing,
Yet there is much rubbish;
And we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall."
Yes, God's people were discouraged; yes, the work was overwhelming; yes, there was much rubbish; yes, they were unable; but they kept working. Their perseverance became a witness to God's grace. They joined a large company of believers who persevered and learned that "God is able."
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God wants to show you something of His glory that you cannot receive from a book. It is only revealed to those who persevere. God's grace (1 Peter 4:10) and God's wisdom (Ephesians 3:10) are manifold, and these folds are tucked away from the public eye.
Let's keep working that we might see the glory of God.
In the body of Christ, no one is too important or too insignificant to work for God. Nehemiah 3 is a list of persons who did physical construction work for God. The manual laborers included delicate goldsmiths and perfumers, important high officials, women and girls, and everyone who was willing and able.
Nehemiah 3:12 Workers
Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.
Nehemiah 3:5 Shirkers
Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.
Some thought they were too important to help the work. Overworked men and women were forced to do the work others shirked.
In a perfect world everyone would do their own work, constructions workers would construct, perfumers would perfume, goldsmiths would smith, and nobles would do whatever nobles are supposed to do. However, sin has broken this perfect world, and there are times when it is necessary to get your hands dirty by hard work doing jobs that others have neglected.
Acts 6:2 The Early Church
So the twelve [apostles] summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables."
It is important to do the special job that God gives you to do. It is important to stay focused, It is also important to be a willing worker. All twelve apostles combined in Acts 6 only wrote eight Bible books. One man, Paul, who had callouses from sewing tents and was not beneath carrying wood wrote thirteen Bible books. Callouses and dishpan hands are a badge of honor for any believer. Sometimes God calls you to serve a table and do what seems undesirable.
Get to work today and be a blessing!
If it please the king, let letters be given me…and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.
Nehemiah had done extensive preplanning and praying. When the king asked, he was able to give the king a definite time table and specific material needs. One of those needs was the house to which he would go. The request for a house was for himself, but his request was not selfish.
We need to ask God for every need for the work. We also need to ask God for every need for ourselves. We don't ignore SELF, but we deny SELFISHNESS. I hope we can discern the difference.
Nehemiah was very careful to avoid selfishness and even the appearance of selfishness. Read what he says later in the book.
For twelve years, neither I nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor's food allowance. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God.
Look to the good hand of God for you needs and fear God.
When I heard THESE WORDS, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, "I beseech You, …. "Remember THE WORD which You commanded Your servant Moses…"
When you pray, bring God His own word back to Him; and pray, "God, remember your word!" Nehemiah heard "these words" (the words of men); but he approached God in prayer with the "the word" of God.
The difference between "these words" and "the word" is the difference between chaff and wheat, and it may be the difference between answered and unanswered prayer.
Are you being honest with God?
Ezra was honest to God about his sin. Here is a series of phrases from Ezra 9:
Jewish leaders closed their hearts and lied to Jesus about their sin in John 8:33-34:
They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?"
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin."
Ezra was open and honest with God about his sin, and God freed him from slavery. The Jewish leaders in Jesus' day, lied about their slavery, they tried to hide their slavery, and they never became free!
Real freedom begins with real honesty. Do you want freedom? God knows you and what you have done. Your slavery to sin is not new information to God, but He wants to hear it from your lips.
And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Jesus came to save slaves. Are you a slave?
Are you horrified?
Ezra 9:1-2 The Action of Sin
…the princes approached me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites HAVE NOT SEPARATED THEMSELVES from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness."
Ezra 9:3-4 The Reaction of Holiness
When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down APPALLED. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat APPALLED until the evening offering.
To be appalled is to be surprised by horror, to be horrified. Have you ever been so frightened that the color went out of your face? That is appalled. When Ezra learned that the believers had married unbelievers, he was horrified. He could not stand. He had to sit in shock and horror.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, dating or marrying an unbeliever is a horrifying thing. You may not be appalled, but God is. God has joined you to His Son. If you join your heart to an unbeliever, you are joining your Savior, Jesus Christ, to the sin, death and shame of that unbeliever.
Ezra knew that God removed His children to the land of Egypt because Jacob's family failed to separate from Canaan. Israel suffered a civil war because Solomon married unbelievers and corrupted the nation. Northern Israel was joined to unbelievers, and God swept them off the map by Assyrians. Judah (southern Israel) followed northern Israel and refused to separate from the women and gods of Canaan. God took away their country and carried them to Babylon for seventy years. Ezra knows that God will do it again for the sake of God's holy name. He is appalled.
God asks you to be separate in all your behavior from the world. He has proven in history that He is serious. He joined Israel to Himself and He joins believers today to His one and only Son. It is a serious love relationship that should not be broken.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?
Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
============== note ==============
Are you having trouble breaking a bad relationship? Read Ezra 7 to the end of the book.
Ezra 8 contains a good example for just about everything in the life of believer. Here is one.
Ezra 8:21 Ezra takes a Journey:
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava,
that we might humble ourselves before our God
to seek from Him a safe journey
for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.
Ezra organized the people of God before their journey, then he looked to God for safety. I always commit journeys to God. We went to Chicago last week. We prayed to God for safety. At the beginning of our trip on highway 80 a huge deer walked directly in front of the car. A few seconds earlier and we might have hit him. It was good timing but not good luck. God's people do not live on luck; they live on grace; and God supplies that grace when we spend time at the throne of grace. Then we are promised mercy and grace to help in times of need.
Hebrews 4:16 God's Promise and Command
Therefore let us draw near
with confidence to the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.
Today is the beginning of a new week. Should I seek God for a good week? A safe week? A week of grace?
Ezra 3:11-13 The Foundation of the Temple is Completed
They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, "For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever." And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.
The new temple was a genuine work of God, and everyone shouted because the foundation was laid, but compared to Solomon's temple it was nothing! The old people cried. They had seen better days. It is good to recognize that God is working whether big or small. It was not a big temple, but it was a temple that was just right for its day.
God gives works that are suited for the day. We could weep because we know of bigger works and better days, but that would only hinder the work. Weeping would also be like an accusation against God, that He does not know what He is doing, or that He is miserly. That would not be good. God does know what He is doing. His work is His choice.
Consider this also. The temple of Solomon was built out of the national surplus, but the new temple was built on a foundation of scarcity and sacrificial service. Solomon's temple was built with slave labor, but the slaves of God in the new temple were the people of God themselves. The end product was smaller, but in many ways it was more precious than the larger temple. What does God think of a man or woman who perseveres faithfully in days of scarcity and small resources? God commended the church of Sardis for "the few people," and he commended the church of Philadelphia for their "little power." It is what God gave them for the work, a minority of faithfulness in a sea of apostasy.
Whether big or small, believers should be singing the same song of praise and thanksgiving to God, for He is good.
For me to live is Christ.