Posts Tagged ‘nehemiah’

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Have you ever wondered why we do church the way we do? Well the truth of the matter is that church methodology had been prescribed thousands of years ago and is recorded in God’s Word the Bible. Believers know that all scripture is God-breathed, that it’s a beneficial doctrine for rebuke, refinement, and righteous teaching; that is if we desire to be Godly, complete, and thoroughly equipped for Christian service (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Let’s start in the New Testament.

The Early Church

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

I whole heartedly agree with this narrative, as it lays out for us an illustration of what an effective body of believers should look like. However, we can go deeper and consequently put more meat on this bone as we venture back into the Old Testament. While Acts 2 gives us a paragraph, the Book of Nehemiah devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Let’s go through some of those informative passages.

The Earlier Church

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Nehemiah 8:1-2

The faithful gathered and were of one mind. The Apostle Paul, an Old Testament scholar himself, would extend this concept to the believers at Philippi, writing, ‘if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2).

They went to a symbolic place–the Water Gate, where life giving water flowed and where everyone habitually gathered. They were out in the open where access could be easily gained and where secrets could not be contained. No one would be excluded as they happened upon the meeting.

They sought a knowledgeable person (Ezra) and a reliable source—God’s Word, The Book of the Law. I love the fact that it was the only resource utilized.

The assembly was orderly and only those who could hear with understanding were in attendance. Why? Because those without understanding, namely children, were a distraction—a good reason why children should be in Sunday school classes and not in church proper.

Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. Nehemiah 8:3-4

Ezra’s service was about six hours long this day. I submit to you that this was not the norm, but it was what the Lord ordained for this particular day. Understand that the people were eager, willing, and attentive. If the question was raised, “How long is church?” it sounds as if the answer would have likely been, “As long as it takes!” We note that the people were glad.

We see the use of a pulpit, but observe that the preacher stood atop it and not behind it. In other words, he stood upon a platform whereby he could be clearly seen and heard by everyone in attendance. And he wasn’t alone; Ezra had many knowledgeable men at his side.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. Nehemiah 8:5-8

Ezra opened The Book of the Law (a scroll actually) in front of the people making it clear that this was, a) God’s Word and, b) he wasn’t making this stuff up as he went along—he had thirteen men up there on stage with him to testify to that fact.

When the Word was opened, the people stood. We take note that nobody instructed them to stand–it was understood by all that God was in their midst. In honor to God they would stand and later in reverent worship they would kneel. Again, there was no direction to do so; their orderly response was an obedient gesture that was discerned by those who believed.

In addition to the men standing with Ezra on the pulpit, there were more educated men mingling about the crowd assisting those with questions about the text. In this manner, no one left the meeting without clarity. My friends, this is the need and purpose of the church today—for God’s word to be read clearly and with explanation so that the congregation can be equipped for Christian service.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12

At first we’re perplexed and wonder why the congregation wept and was mournful. Let us recall our Bible studies that remind us that the word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).

We can better understand their grief when we understand the text they were studying that day—The Law. The Law brings sorrow to those who understand the implications; i.e., that we fall way short in our compliance and that perfect adherence is impossible. The Law is merely the road sign that points us to our solution found in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:24).

And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” …And there was very great gladness. Nehemiah 8:14, 15, 17b

This passage demonstrates why there is need to go through the Bible cover-to-cover for fear that something be left out or forgotten. Too many churches today follow sermon lectionaries which stipulate particular passages to be highlighted and taught based solely on the church calendar. On the exterior it appears a nice method, but sadly it only minimally scratches the surface of what God would have us hear. Frankly, some topics are never discussed in this system. That ought not to be.

In Nehemiah’s case ultimately, and in due season, there was great gladness within the congregation because the people heard the Word–the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it were. If this does not sound like your church it might be time for a change; what that change looks like is between you and the Lord.

These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. Nehemiah 3:1

The Gates of Jerusalem

In the story of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem to rebuild its fortification wall we see that there are ten gates incorporated within the structure. At first glance these gates might not seem very significant to us, after all they’re just gates. However, if we scrutinize the name of each gate and their placement within the story, we discover a kind of blueprint for our Christian walk. Are these names and their order in Nehemiah’s account some sort of coincidence? You be the judge—I’ve listed the gates in the exact order they appear in the Bible..

The Sheep Gate

The repairs to the wall had to start somewhere, right? I feel it is absolutely appropriate that our walk of faith starts here as well—for two reasons. First, we are likened to sheep who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6) who are exhorted to enter by the narrow gate (Luke 13:24). But more importantly, Who is it that we believe and follow?

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

The Fish Gate

Salvation is found in Christ Jesus alone; there is no work that we can do to earn our deliverance. Nevertheless, the born again believer is grateful and Christian duty is the common reaction to that sentiment. It is in fact our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

The Old Gate

Are you beginning to see a pattern emerge?

As we share our faith or as others witness our religious behavior, someone will inevitably start asking questions. That’s a glorious consequence because so many times I won’t have the precise answer they’re looking for. I’m drawn back to the Old Gate, the Bible and as a result we’re both blessed. Jesus Christ is both the Word (John 1:1) and the rejected stone which became the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work . 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Valley Gate

Trials and tribulations are a certainty when we walk with Jesus. Oh we’re not being singled out because of our faith for no one is exempt; believers and non-believers have problems to cope with. What we have is the opportunity to manage our problems differently. In our observance God is glorified.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

The Refuse Gate

I must defer to the King James Version because in it this opening in Jerusalem’s wall is referred to as the Dung Gate and as we all know, ‘dung happens.’ The reality is we’re all going to mess up and satan’s going to come along and remind us how dungy our walk is. The key here is to remember that our adversary isn’t pleased when we fall; he’s pleased when we don’t get up.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

The Fountain Gate

Our Savior is the fountain of life (Psalms 36:9), His law is a fountain of life (Proverbs 13:14), and the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). The worst we can do is to forsake the Source and hewn for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). After the valley and dung how refreshing it is to come back to the fountain. As we mature in the faith we soon learn that the fountain is portable.

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14

The Water Gate

In the typology we might think the Fountain Gate and the Water Gate refer to the same thing. Well (pun intended), to a certain degree they do. The fountain is the source and the water itself is that which we drink up, soak in, and share with others. It quenches our thirst and cleanses the soul.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word Ephesians 5:25-26

The Horse Gate

Now we’re getting into some exciting stuff, because when I think of horses, I think of Christ’s return. Will you be on one of these mighty steeds?

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints Jude 1:14

The East Gate

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:4) Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. (Ezekiel 43:1-2)

If you go to Israel today (so I am told) you will see that the East Gate is all bricked up. It’s been that way since the Seljuk Turks sealed it in about 1100 AD. I’m told that they had learned from the scriptures that Christ would be returning via the east Gate and this was their attempt to thwart His arrival. Silly Turks. Little did they know that they merely were fulfilling prophesy. Anybody think Jesus is going to turn away when He finds the East Gate closed? Me either.

Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. 2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. Ezekiel 44:1-2

The Miphkad Gate

Miphkad means command from the root word which means the appointed place and it speaks to judgment. Every believer should understand that there are two judgments; God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 3:17). The righteous will stand before the Lord and have their works judged; their salvation however is secure:

Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire1 Corinthians 3:13-15

And the wicked will also be judged. Their eternal future is secure too, however…

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.5 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

The Sheep Gate

Wait a minute; we started with the Sheep Gate. Correct! We have come full circle–the Sheep Gate is mentioned at the very beginning and very end of Nehemiah chapter 3. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). Our story begins with Jesus and ends with Jesus; that is of course if you want to call eternity in Heaven with Him a finale.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:11-12

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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21Sin is Bad Because…

We can all admit that some, if not all, the sins we commit have some pleasant or pleasurable attribute; otherwise, we would not bother to do them in the first place. And although we have learned that sin’s byproduct tenders us nothing sustainable (in contrast to what we have in Christ Jesus), it is the fleshly pursuit of gratification that draws us back to them. So if that is all there is to sin, what is the big deal; why is our Lord so against sin?

It’s Kind of Like Tooth Decay

The Greek word for sorcery (from today’s passage) is ‘Pharmakeia, ’ which is where we get the word pharmacy. Therefore, when we see the word used in the Bible, we can know that sorcery is more closely related to drug abuse than it is to those things we might commonly associate with the word sorcery, although those trappings can surely be included in the mix. I have singled out drug use for a reason.

The danger of sin (perhaps more readily identified in the illegal use of drugs), is that during the activity, all things demonic have been given access to our souls. This demonically-fueled evil, if not thwarted (via confession and repentance), leads to destruction. A Christian cannot be possessed by the devil or by demons, but given access they will do severe damage to the spiritual walls that surround our souls. The sinning Christian does not lose his salvation, but there are brutal consequences for his sins he commits.

A Picture of Nehemiah

“The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” Nehemiah1:3

In a way, the sinning Christian is like Jerusalem represented here in the Book of Nehemiah. The Lord has not withdrawn Himself from her, but because of sin and neglect, her walls lie in a shambles, so much so that most believe that they cannot be restored. However, we know how the story ends, and like the Prophet Joel records, if there is repentance, the Lord can and will restore that which the locust has ruined.

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