Nehemiah 13:1-31 – Reforms Already?

Read Nehemiah 13:1-31

There are some timing issues in this final chapter that often confound the reader, wondering in what order things are happening. Our last reading so positively set the stage for how life would be in Jerusalem. Now Nehemiah swoops in to shake some sense into the Israelites who must have quickly forgotten their purpose.

It’s almost like “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Nehemiah had returned to Babylon like he had promised the king before he left for Jerusalem. Nehemiah must have gotten word that the people in Jerusalem were struggling. His faithful leadership was needed again!

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Nehemiah 9:1-3 – Confession

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Have you ever confessed your sins out loud to another human? Our sins certainly become a lot more “real” when we do that. It’s also a great way to give away the power our sins have over us, simply by speaking them out loud. And we have an accountability partner to keep us from falling into that sin’s trap!  

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Nehemiah’s contemporaries are ready to make their confession public. I bet you haven’t ever sprinkled dust on your head or worn a burlap garment because of lament over your sin.

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Ezra 9:1-15 – Cry Out to God

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Have you ever been in Ezra’s shoes, totally disgusted with the sinful behaviors surrounding you? It’s hard to not become embarrassed by the way some people choose to live their lives. This frustration is nothing new. The people God has created have a long history of making bad choices. Remember Adam and Eve?

Ezra chose to take his anguish to God in prayer. As if to apologize for all mankind, Ezra speaks of polluted holy race. Clearly the implications of intermarriage in Ezra’s day, and for generations before, amplified the chasm of sin keeping people for experiencing God’s best for them. What would Adam and Eve’s lives looked like if they had resisted the serpent’s cleverness? What would the Israelite people have looked like had they not intermarried people who distracted them from God’s laws?

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Zechariah 11:1-3 – Oracle of Doom

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Chapter 11 is going to speak to the judgment of God promised against the faithless shepherds earlier in the book. These short verses do not paint a very pleasant picture to be sure but will set the tone for what is to come.

Did you know that the majestic cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, and the thick forests are all prophetic symbols of pride? Keeping that in mind, this reading makes a lot more sense and may even speak to us today. That is, if pride is one of those sins that infect your life.

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Zephaniah 1:7-13 – A Moment of Silence

Read Zephaniah 1:7-13

Zephaniah asserts that judgment day is coming soon, and he is not referring to the end times here but to a specific time in history yet to come for those first hearing his words. Zephaniah is not the only prophet talking about it either. God is using many “mouthpieces” to get the message out that he is not happy with his people.

It’s good to take a moment of silence in our own day to take an account of what’s going on in our lives. Do our actions glorify God or disappoint him? Do we see chaos, worry, doubt, thrill, busyness, fear, loneliness, great success, embarrassing failures? What is happening in your life right now? Is God part of the picture? If not, invite him in!

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