Tag: Nehemiah

Examples of Biblical Love

I Corinthians 13:1-3 shows the futility of trying to live the Christian life or do Christian service without love. Without love, we are “empty gongs”, “nothing” and our work “profits nothing”. There is no reward given for any work done without love. All labor done without love is done in vain.

Three times in the Sermon on the Mount (when you do a good deed and sound a trumpet, when you pray so that you can be seen, when you advertise the fact that you are fasting), Jesus said that those who do something for show have their reward. Any recognition on earth is all they get.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells of love that never fails – the love that does count with God.

Love suffers long – is patient – endures long – ABRAHAM

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:15).

Abraham left his homeland and followed God. It was 25 years after God promised a son from Sarah that Isaac was born. Patience is understanding God is in charge and His timing is perfect.

Love is kind: DAVID

Now David said, “Is there anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”(2 Samuel 9:1)

What David did for Mephibosheth was done purely for the love of Jonathan. David was king. He did not need to bless Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth’s grandfather tried to kill David. David’s friendship with Jonathan was so strong that he could not rest until he had discovered if there was anyone in Saul’s household that he might bless – simply because he loved Jonathan.

Love does not envy: CAIN, JOSEPH’S BROTHERS, ANDREW AND PETER

CAIN: And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry and his countenance fell… and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him (Genesis 4:4-8).

JOSEPH’s brothers were an example of jealousy and envy. They sold him into slavery, broke their father’s heart, lived with their sin for years until Joseph called them to Egypt and forgave them. That’s what we have done to God. We break His heart with sin, but His love forgives.

These examples of envy and jealousy were of brothers. How easy it must be for a brother to be jealous of another – even in the family of God. Thankfully, we have the example of Andrew and Peter.

ANDREW AND SIMON PETER. Once Andrew met Jesus, he immediately went to get Peter to introduce him to the Lord. We hear little of Andrew after that. Peter is the brother we hear the most about. There was no hint of jealousy in Andrew’s heart. He loved the Lord and he loved his brother.

Love does not parade itself – does not boast – is not puffed up – is not proud: THE TAX COLLECTOR

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14). 

… He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). 

Love does not behave rudely – does not dishonor others: JOSEPH, HUSBAND OF MARY

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly (Matthew 1:19). An humble and obedient man, Joseph believed God.

Love does not seek its own – is not self-seeking – does not insist on its own rights: JONATHAN

Jonathan was an example of someone who truly loved David. It was evident because he was not jealous of David nor did he envy his talents, his prestige, or his relationship with his father. His love for David was truly unselfish. Jonathan was the king’s son but did not insist on his own rights.

Love is not provoked – easily angered – is not touchy, fretful or resentful: NEHEMIAH

When Nehemiah was told that the survivors … left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The walls of Jerusalem [were] also broken down, and its gates… burned with fire (1:3), he wept, mourned, fasted and prayed. Nehemiah had a place of privilege with King Artaxerxes. For his own convenience, he could have stayed right where he was, but for the love of his God and his countrymen, he was compelled to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Not only would this be a tangible assignment; it would also give encouragement to those who had survived the captivity.

During the rebuilding of the wall, many tried to ridicule him, stop him, and told lies about him so that he would not accomplish this task. Nehemiah never gave in to those attempts. He remained focused, knowing that God would deal with those who were attempting to stop him.

Instead of being provoked, Nehemiah prayed, set guards around the work that was being done, and continued doing the work. Four times Nehemiah asked God to remember what he was doing and why. Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services! (Nehemiah 13:14).

Love thinks no evil – keeps no record of wrongs – takes no account of the evil done to it: JOB

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1) Job’s “friends” angered God by the advice they gave to Job. Job did not hold that against them. And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before (Job 42:11).

As believers, Satan has lost the battle for our souls, but not for our influence. Satan wants believers to quit doing God’s work God’s way. Over time, as Satan tempts us to be discouraged, live a worldly life, or just take credit for what the Spirit is doing through us, he has succeeded in our good deeds being done in vain and even having a negative influence on others. Jesus’ condemnation of the church in Ephesus was “You have left your first love”. As we call on others to repent and trust Jesus, we must also repent if Christ is not our first love and our only reason for what we do.

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2016

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Pray and Work

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).

…”let Your servant prosper this day, I pray and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer (1:11).

Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven (2:4).

And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me (2:8).

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.” A quote credited to Saint Augustine, Ignatius and Francis Cardinal Spellman, it is worth repeating.

Everything does depend on God. He wants us to pray. He expects us to work.

Printed above the Ramsey coat of arms is Ora et Labora. Dave Ramsey says, “For hundreds of years, the Ramseys have been known for those two things: prayer and work… Pray and work. I think that’s what God expects of us. That’s the kind of attitude and activity He can bless. God promises to feed the birds, but He doesn’t throw worms into their nests.” (from The Legacy Journey).

Those of us who really like to work sometimes need a reminder that not all work will produce something that is God honoring. It is God working through us that will do that. Instead of not finishing a task or finishing it and realizing that it was not done well, we should go to God first. Regret is having to say, “I wish I had prayed about that.”

Pray and work. That is exactly how Nehemiah accomplished the task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He first prayed; then set about doing the work God assigned Him to do. At every point along the way – even with hateful opposition – he practiced this principle.

When Nehemiah discovered that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, the gates had been burned with fire and the survivors of the captivity were in great distress, he prayed. He not only prayed. He fasted and prayed. Nehemiah prayed for forgiveness for the children of Israel, he prayed for forgiveness for himself and asked God for mercy as he contemplated his next step.

Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer, an important position in the service of King Artaxerxes. He prayed for mercy before he stood before the king. As the king observed Nehemiah’s sadness, he asked the reason why. Before Nehemiah answered the king, he prayed. When the king granted his request to go to Judah to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah knew it was because the good hand of God was upon him.

Nehemiah and his fellows Jews who were rebuilding the wall encountered great and vicious opposition. Nehemiah turned the matter over to God. “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and given them as plunder to a land of captivity” (4:4). The opposition grew and conspired to attack and create confusion. Nehemiah continued to pray and work. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night (4:9). As his brothers’ strength began to fail and they became afraid, Nehemiah reminded them who was in charge. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work (4:14-15). Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared (4:19-21).

As Nehemiah continued to stand in the gap for his countrymen as the rulers dishonored God with their practice of lending, buying and selling, he asked for God’s blessing. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people (5:19). He rebuked the continued opposition from outside the family and continued to work – first asking God for strength. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands (6:9b). He left judgment in God’s hand. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prohetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid (6:14).

God answered Nehemiah’s prayers, He strengthened his hands and under his leadership, the task was completed. So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days (6:15).

Pray and work. The order was important. In fifty-two days, Nehemiah and his team rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. And God received the glory.

And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God (6:16).

Nehemiah had an assignment from God. He took it seriously. He knew it was not his work. It was God’s work. He needed God’s guidance and protection as he did His work. Since he prayed first, Nehemiah was then not reluctant to ask for God’s continued blessing on his work and his life.

“Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for its services!” … “Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me accounting to the greatness of Your mercy!”… “Remember me, O my God, for good!” (13:14, 22, 31).

Pray and work. Everything does depend on God. He wants us to pray. He expects us to work. He remembers us when we do.

© Stephanie B. Blake

August 2015

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