Friday, September 30, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 7

Nehemiah 7

-A census of the first returned exiles and the gifts which were given to the work are listed out for the reader by Nehemiah in this chapter. This happened after the walls were rebuilt, the doors had been set up, and the singers and Levites were appointed. Hanani, Nehemiah’s brother, was put in charge of Jerusalem, and Hananiah was the commander of the fortress. Hanani was described as “a faithful man” and one who “feared God more than many.” These are two great traits for us to consider in any leader. Nehemiah instructed them to not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun was hot in the day. He also maintained that they should be standing guard at all times and to have the doors shut and bolted for protection. Guards were to be appointed only from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they were each to be at their post, each in front of their own house. “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses were not built. (Nehemiah 7:1-4).”

-Then God put it in Nehemiah’s heart to assemble the nobles, the officials, and the people to be enrolled by their genealogies. This had been a time honored practice among the Hebrew people, and now they were trying to put their family lines back together after the exile as best they could. Nehemiah found the book, which coincides almost identically with Ezra’s listing in Ezra 2, of those who had come up from the province of Babylonian captivity as exiles back into the Promised Land. These are the ones whom Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had carried away during the time of Jeremiah the prophet and now had come back home, each to his own city. These names include the sons of listings and the men of certain areas. It also lists the priests, the Levites, the singers, the Temple servants, Solomon’s servants, as well as some who could not quite show their fathers’ houses or their descendants to prove they were Israelites. Some of the priests, that were further listed, searched among their ancestral registrations, but they could not be located; “therefore, they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood.” The governor told them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest arose with Urim and Thummim, which represented the Voice of God for His Divine will. The whole assembly numbered 42,360, but there were 7,337 additional male and female servants and 245 male and female singers. Animal listings are even given in this census, and then the gifts that many gave for the work are credited. When the seventh month came, the sons of Israel were back in their cities living. This would have been the month of Tishri, which would be September/October in our calendar and a month after Elul (Nehemiah 6:15; 7:5-73).

*Application* Just because a work is completed doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be maintained. Vigilance is key in our Christian walk even after the decision to accept Christ’s atonement and forgiveness. Satan will never leave us alone. Even when he knows he has lost our soul to the Kingdom of God, he will still attack and try any way he can to make us ineffective in our walk and service. We, like the people of old in Jerusalem, must constantly stand on guard at each of our houses, both spiritually and physically, in this day and age. We need to be faithful and fearfully respect our LORD. Further, embrace the community we live in and have good records of what is going on for posterity’s sake. Especially consider those who have given above and beyond to make things better in our churches and societies. This cultivates a culture of honor and respect, which we need more of in our world today.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 7:3, 6

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 6

Nehemiah 6

-We see the controversy and the plotting of the enemies of Nehemiah in this chapter as the walls are rebuilt. Despite the fact that the doors in the gates had not been set up quite yet, there was now no breach remaining in the walls of Jerusalem. This was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of the enemies that came against God’s people. Sanballat and Geshem in particular wanted to get together with Nehemiah at Chephirim in the plain of Ono (some ancient manuscripts render this place “one of the villages”). However, Nehemiah, in his heightened discernment, perceived that they were planning to harm him. Therefore, he sent messengers to them relaying that he was doing a great work and could not come down to meet with them as they wanted. He rightly saw no purpose in conspiring with the naysayers and enemies of God’s plans and purposes. Four times messages were sent in this manner trying to lure him away from the work he was doing in the leading of the rebuilding project. Each time Nehemiah answered them in the exact same manner, no, not coming because I’m busy with a God-given assignment. This was at the very least a spiritual distraction from the work, what we might call “spiritual warfare” by the enemy. Sanballat sent a messenger a fifth time with an open letter of allegation in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” Nehemiah vehemently denied these false accusations sending a message back, which stated, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” Verse nine sums up the whole episode succinctly, “For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’” Then Nehemiah faithfully turned to his God and asked that He strengthen his hands for the task (Nehemiah 6:1-9). What wisdom, what fortitude, what discernment, what character, what faithfulness we see in this man during a time of temptation.

-Then, Nehemiah enters into the house of Shemaiah as the narrative continues. This man was confined to his house for some unknown reason, but Shemaiah wanted to meet together with Nehemiah in the House of God, in other words the Temple, with closed doors. He told Nehemiah that they, his enemies, were coming to kill him that night, and he needed to go there for safety. However, Nehemiah saw through his deceptive plan, which would have broken the laws of the LORD for His House. He stated, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the Temple to save his life? I will not go in.” It was then that Nehemiah fully perceived that surely God had not sent this Shemaiah. In time he would discover his false prophecy against him was the result of Tobiah and Sanballat hiring him to bring bad news. They had, again, devised schemes to frighten God’s man in order to make him act indecisively and sin, so that they could give an evil report and bring criticism on him. Nehemiah once more prayed an imprecatory prayer, “Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me (Nehemiah 6:10-14).”

-Through all the attempted distractions and controversy the wall was completed in record time, in 52 days, on the twenty-fifth of the month of Elul (late summer near the end of August or early September in our calendar, for interesting insight on this date see: “When the enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” Also, in those days there were many letters that went back and forth between some of the nobles of Judah and Tobiah. Many in Judah were bound by an oath to Tobiah because he was a son-in-law of Schecaniah the son of Arah, and his son had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah (Nehemiah 3:30). They were trying to convince Nehemiah of Tobiah’s good deeds in his presence, and behind his back they would tell Tobiah everything Nehemiah was saying. Then Tobiah would keep sending these letters designed to frighten God’s chosen leader to rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 6:15-19). This indeed was a display of intrigue, suspicion, and deception, but God was on the move to do something special in His land of promise.

*Application* What a convoluted situation, right? There are times in our lives when we don’t really know who to trust and which direction to turn. It is imperative in those instances that we rely on the Voice of God and His Word in Scripture to discern, avoid, and act correctly in these types of situations. When God has us on a mission, there will be opposition. But, the fight is worth it, and our great God and King can surely give us complete victory.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 6:9, 16

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 5

Nehemiah 5

-Social issues become the concern as chapter 5 commences. There was a great outcry from the people against their Jewish brothers as Nehemiah assumed his mantle of leadership. They were in desperate need for basic sustenance like grain so that they would be able to live. They were mortgaging their fields, their vineyards, and their houses to get grain due to a famine in the land. They had to borrow money for the king’s tax, which had been levied on their fields and vineyards. They were kin, but they were being exploited as slaves, even their sons and daughters being placed under bondage. They felt helpless because their fields and vineyards now belonged to others (Nehemiah 5:1-5).

-When Nehemiah, the great leader and savior during this time in Israel, heard about this situation, he was “very angry.” He consulted with himself, which I think is a hilarious but profound comment at this juncture, and then he “contended (riyb- pleaded, debated, strived, chided)” with the nobles and rulers who had power. He said to them plainly, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother.” This was clearly in violation of God’s Law for His people (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:34-43, Deuteronomy 23:19-20). Nehemiah, and the oppressed people, had every right to be angry and cry out in this situation. As a result, Nehemiah held a great assembly against these who were in sin. He proclaimed, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?” This silenced the crowd for they had nothing to say in righteous defense of the accusation. He went further to tell them this thing they were doing was “not good” because it rested on the premise of not fearing God, which was the worst mistake a person in this set-apart nation could possibly do. Nehemiah rightly deduced that if this were to continue, they would continue to be a reproach before their enemies from other nations. He pleaded with them to refrain from using usury against their kinsmen and to give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, houses, the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which they were extracting from them. The congregation responded accurately, “We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say.” Nehemiah then consecrated this commitment by calling the priests to have them all take an oath to do according to their promise. As a symbol, he shook out the front of his garment and verbalized, “Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” The assembly heartedly said, “Amen!” in an enthusiastic and positive response. And then they all praised the LORD together as His people. “Then the people did according to this promise (Nehemiah 5:6-13).”

-All of this brought about a time of rejoicing in the land as each neighbor blessed one another. Nehemiah was appointed governor in the land of Judah for his expertise in leadership and devotion to the causes of his LORD. For 12 years, from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes’ reign, he nor his kinsmen ever ate of the governor’s food allowance, a type of welfare system. The former governors before him had laid heavy burdens on the people and took bread and wine from them besides 40 shekels of silver. Even the governors’ servants domineered over the people because of their ego trip, but Nehemiah was different. He did not do these kinds of things because of his fear of God (Nehemiah 5:14-15). Not just this, but he applied himself to the work on the walls of Jerusalem. They did not buy any land, and all his servants were gathered there for the purpose of working on God’s holy city. 150 Jews and officials, and in addition some who visited from time to time from other nations around them, ate at his table every day. They would have ox, sheep, and birds prepared for them to partake. Every 10 days all sorts of wine was furnished in abundance. Yet, Nehemiah never had to demand or make request of the governor’s food allowance, “because the servitude was heavy on this people.” Another way of saying that I believe is that God was pouring out His blessings on a faithful and upright servant. Nehemiah’s final comment in the chapter expresses his utter dependence on his Maker and Sustainer, “Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people (Nehemiah 5:16-19).”

*Application* Benevolence is a big part of God’s program on earth. It brings the love of His Kingdom right to the heart of our needs as a society. The giving spirit is evident when we refuse to use and abuse people. Never kick people when they are down. Give them a hand up and lift them to new heights. A great leader will sacrifice his own good to share with others and bless them abundantly. Not only that, it brings the blessings of the LORD upon a society as we reverence Him and love others with our actions. How much better off would we be as a society in America if we could live out these principles set forth in this enlightening chapter of Scripture.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 5:7, 15

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 4

Nehemiah 4

-When Sanballat heard the news that God’s people were rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem, “he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews.” He spread his hatred and venom in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy of Samaria saying, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” An Ammonite by the name of Tobiah was near him and further exclaimed in denunciation of the work, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down (Nehemiah 4:1-3)!” Jealousy, hatred, wrath, mockery, and disdain sum up these enemies from without.

-Nehemiah pleaded with God upon hearing these insults and defamation, “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.” Despite the obvious challenges, the work went on, and the wall was built to half of its original height, joined together, “for the people had a mind to work.” When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard of the progress that was being made to the walls and how the breaches were beginning to be closed for the protection of this city, they were “very angry.” They conspired together as a result to come and fight against Jerusalem for the purpose of disturbance in it (Nehemiah 4:4-8).

-But, Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem “prayed to our God,” and set up a guard against their foes day and night. However, rumors of discouragement began to circulate within as well. It was said in Judah, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, yet there is much rubbish; and we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall.” They also repeated the threatening and relentless words of their enemies, “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” Nehemiah was getting reports that the enemies were boldly planning to come up and surround the city so that the inhabitants could not flee in any direction. Because of this, Nehemiah stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, “the exposed places.” He stationed them in family units with their weapons of war at hand: swords, spears, and bows. Nehemiah, who was now taking the mantle of military general, discerned the understandable fear in his nobles, officials, and the rest of the people. So he spoke courageously and with great inspiration and faith to them, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses (Nehemiah 4:9-14).” Nehemiah continued to show his rising stardom as a leader for God’s people in a desperate time of need. The LORD’s plan was proceeding forward despite many obstacles.

-When their enemies heard that the Jews knew about their intentions to attack the city and that God had frustrated their plans, they refrained from their aims, thus the people of Jerusalem went back to work on the wall, each one doing his or her part. From that day on they worked with half of the servants tending to the wall and the other half guarding the city equipped for a fight with spears, shields, bows, and breastplates. In fact, the captains of the whole house of Judah were in support militarily. Even those working on the wall held a weapon with one hand or girded one at their side while they labored. And, the trumpeter was never far from Nehemiah to alert all with the sound of command. If the sound of attack from the trumpet was heard across the city, the people were instructed to rally to where an attack was occurring. This demonstrated forethought and preparation in the case of opposition. But, they acknowledged where their real help came from when Nehemiah exclaimed, “Our God will fight for us.” So they carried on the work undaunted with vigilance and tenacity from dawn until the stars appeared every day. One further thing was noted in the text regarding all the servants, who were instructed to spend the night within Jerusalem as continuous guards by night and laborers in the day. These, along with Nehemiah and those who followed him as brothers, servants, and men of the guard, did not even remove their clothes taking their weapons even to the water for drinks and purification (Nehemiah 4:15-23). The point is, they were always alert and ready.

*Application* Anything God calls us to do will have opposition. This is the essence of spiritual warfare that we see in the passage today. There will be enemies from outside trying to distract, mock, threat, and discourage. There will also be fears from within and doubts when our eyes of faith aren’t quite what they should be. Nehemiah provides us with incredible leadership principles to note from this narrative. He does not back down from the challenges, he inspires his people, he carefully considers situations and develops a viable plan with vigilance, and he counts on his God in total and unyielding faith. We can do that too as God raises us up to the mantle of leadership, wherever it may be.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 4:15, 20

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 3

Nehemiah 3

-Chapter three gives the reader a listing of the detailed work plan and the individuals who carried out this monumental task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and the gates of the city with all the repairs necessary to protect the holy city. They started at the Sheep Gate on the farthest north boundary of the city and consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. This was accomplished by Eliashib, the high priest, and his brothers who were also priests. Next to them were men from Jericho, and next to them was a group led by Zaccur as they worked westward. Next came the sons of Hassenaah, who built the Fish Gate. “They laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars.” Repairs to the walls were continued to be made as they ventured west and turned slightly to the south led by Meremoth and Meshullam and Zadok. Next to Zadok were the Tekoites making repairs, but their nobles unfortunately did not support them. At the northwest corner of the operation, Joiada and another man by the name of Meshullam, not related to the former above, repaired completely the Old Gate with beams, doors, bolts, and bars as well. Next to them were Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, also making repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River in this empire controlled by the Medes and the Persians. Next to them was Uzziel of the goldsmiths and then there was Hananiah, one of the perfumers, who made repairs in restoring the walls of Jerusalem all the way to the Broad Wall as one goes southward and slightly back towards the east due to the terrain of the land. Then came Rephaiah, who was an official of half the district of Jerusalem. He made repairs in this section. Next to him was Jedaiah, who made repairs opposite his house, and he was followed as they continued south by Hattush, who also was working hard making repairs to the ruins. As things continued south to about the mid-way point of the project on the western side of the city, Halchijah and Hasshub made repairs as far as the Tower of Furnaces. Next to them Shallum, the son of Hallohesh, an official of the other half of the district of Jerusalem, made repairs along with his daughters between the Tower of Furnaces and the Valley Gate. At the Valley Gate, it was Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah who built the gates back up with doors, bolts, and bars. They also built back a thousand cubits (about 1,500 feet) of the wall to the southernmost point of the Refuse Gate. At the Refuse Gate, it was Machijah, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem, making repairs. “He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.” Shallum, the son of Col-hozeh and the official of the district of Mizpah, was the man in charge of repairing the Fountain Gate, which was also at the southernmost point just east of the Refuse Gate. “He built it, covered it, and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.” Now turning back northward on the eastern side of the city, he also oversaw the rebuilding of “the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David (Nehemiah 3:1-15).”

-After Shallum’s section ended, Nehemiah, the son of Azbuk (not the writer of the book or chief tactician) and official of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs as far as a point opposite the tombs of David and the artificial pool and house of the mighty men of ancient times. After him the Levites carried out repairs under the guidance of Rehum. Then came Hashabiah, who was the official of half the district of Keilah. He represented his district in leading this project of reestablishment of the walls of Jerusalem. After him their brothers continued making repairs northward under Bavvai, who was the official of the other half of the district of Keilah. Next to him was a leader named Ezer, who was an official of Mizpah. He repaired another section from in front of the ascent of the armory at the Angle. After him, Baruch “zealously repaired” from the Angle to the doorway of Eliashib’s house, who was the high priest (see Nehemiah 3:1). After him, it was Meremoth who was in charge of yet another section of the wall. He oversaw repairs from Eliashib’s house even as far as the end of his own house. Then, as they continued north, the priests, the men of the valley (Jordan Valley), carried out repairs. Next to them and still going northward to the west of the Kidron, Benjamin and Hasshub carried out repairs in front of their houses, along with Azariah as the project kept going. After Azariah, it was Binnui who repaired yet another delicate section “from the house Azariah as far as the Angle as far as the corner.” Palal “made repairs in front of the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard.” After him, Pedaiah made more repairs along this eastern boundary. The Temple servants living in Ophel were in charge of work as far as the Water Gate and the Projecting Tower. After them the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the “great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel.” Above the Horse Gate, more priests carried out repairs, “each in front of his own house.” After them, Zadok the son of Immer made repairs to his own house as well. Shemaiah followed him as “the keeper of the East Gate” carrying out further repairs. The sixth son of Zalaph, Hanun, and his comrade Hananiah the son of Shelemiah repaired another section. After them, Meshullam carried out fixes in front of his own quarters. After him, Malchijah, another of the goldsmiths, carried out his repairs as far as the house of the Temple servants and of the merchants in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room, which was in the northeast corner of the city. “Between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants carried out repairs.” So, in this complete and detailed account of where everyone was at in the rebuilding process of Jerusalem’s walls and gates, the reader is back from where he/she started in verse one on the northern side of the holy city (Nehemiah 3:16-32). Below is a pictorial of this to help our understanding:

*Application* Any vision that we receive will have to have detailed plans, which are to be faithfully carried out by people other than ourselves. Teamwork makes the dream work, we’ve all probably heard before and it’s true. Anything God calls us to is far beyond ourselves so that we can share the glory with Him and others and not receive it just for our own sinful pleasures or desires. Always remember to give credit and honor to those who have helped in fulfilling the dreams God has given us.

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 3:1

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 2

Nehemiah 2

-Nehemiah’s prayers are answered as the second chapter gets under way in the Medo-Persian Empire’s capital city of Susa. In the month of Nisan (called the “month of miracles” in the Hebrew calendar, it is the first month celebrating their release from Egypt, Exodus 12:2, and it is in the spring time) in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, when wine was set before him, and Nehemiah took up the wine as the cupbearer, the king noticed a somber demeanor in his official. Nehemiah had not been sad in the king’s presence up to this point, so it was obvious to the king that something serious was bothering his servant. This elicited the response by the king to inquire of Nehemiah, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick?” He discerned Nehemiah’s “sadness of heart.” This initially made Nehemiah fearful, but he gathered up his courage, perhaps realizing that this was the time of God’s answer to his prayer for condition changing in his homeland. He respectfully addressed the king, “Let the king live forever.” Then he pleaded his petition before him, “Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my father’s tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” The king replied, “What would you request?” This led Nehemiah to go right back to prayer for a God-given response (Nehemiah 2:1-4).

-When Nehemiah got his word from God, he answered the king stating, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Artaxerxes did want to know the duration of this venture, and when his servant would return. Therefore, Nehemiah did give him a definite time, and it pleased the king to send him on his way with blessing. This was of the LORD for His glory and the fulfillment of His prophetic word. So Nehemiah went further with his request, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River (Euphrates), that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, 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 (bayith- house), for the wall of the city and for the house (bayith- Temple) to which I will go.” Because the good Hand of the LORD was on this situation and His servant Nehemiah, the king gladly granted all his requests. But, when Nehemiah actually came, with officers of the king’s army and horsemen, to the governors of these provinces beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters, Sanballat, the Horonite official, and Tobiah, the Ammonite official, were very displeased that someone “had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel (Nehemiah 2:5-10).”

-Nehemiah, nonetheless, ventured on towards Jerusalem with the authority given by God and the king of the empire. He finally came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. Then, he arose in the night with a few of his men. He did not tell anyone what God was putting in his mind to do for the city, and he did not take any animal with him except the one he was riding on this secret-inspection maneuver. He went out by the Valley Gate (towards the Kidron) in the direction southward towards the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate (where trash was dumped into the valley on the south side of the city) inspecting the walls of the holy city, which were broken down with gates consumed by fire. Nehemiah then passed on in the cover of night to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but he found no passable place for his mount to go close to this area. So he went up, again by night, by the ravine and inspected the walls from there. Finally, he entered the Valley Gate from where he began and returned. “The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work.” Upon completion of this inspection mission, he said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” Then he told them how the Hand of God had been upon him for favor and related to them the king’s words, which had been spoken to him. The people responded enthusiastically, “Let us arise and build.” “So they put their hands to the good work.” But, again, this was not without resistance. When Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked the people of Jerusalem and despised them. They accused them of rebellion against the Medo-Persian king and questioned everything they were doing. However, Nehemiah’s answer to them was courageous and confident, “The God of Heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

*Application* When God has put a call on our life, He will provide the plan, provision, and favor to accomplish that task according to His timing and will for His purposes. This is the great lesson from this text that we should derive. Things will just work out, it’s uncanny. We will see miracles and things will move forward without us even trying to make, or force, them. There will be excitement, enthusiasm, and a can do spirit with most involved. Will there be opposition? Always, we can count on that. But again, we see that confidence and courage, along with some real-life ingenuity and perseverance, can take us through those obstacles. Let’s remember too that faith is all over this process.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 2:5, 18

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Introduction and Chapter 1

Nehemiah 1

-Introduction: Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, writes this intriguing narrative of the events that led to the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem post the Babylonian captivity. A contemporary of Ezra, Nehemiah finds himself leading and organizing a monumental project to secure God’s holy city. He starts out in Susa, but soon leads the third wave of exiles back to their homeland to rebuild the city walls. Nehemiah’s return is dated at 445 B.C. with this writing taking place between that time until around 432 B.C.. Some have indicated that Ezra helped edit the work, but it is primarily written in Nehemiah’s first person qualifying the work as uniquely his. Nehemiah is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament and is a brilliant display of faith renewal after a time of discipline for God’s people. A key passage in the text is Nehemiah 6:15-16, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all the enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” The themes of the book include, but are not limited to, the following: 1) Vision- Nehemiah got a sad report on the condition of God’s holy city and was burdened to do something about it. He first sook the LORD in prayer and then took decisive action to fulfill what God had commanded him to do. Without vision the people perish, or go unrestrained (Proverbs 29:18). 2) Prayer- Both Nehemiah and Ezra are shown to respond to their troubles by seeking the LORD first and foremost. When problems arose in the process, immediate prayer was the prescription followed by courageous action to their revelation from God. 3) Leadership- Nehemiah demonstrated incredible leadership skills in navigating tough terrain and coming through in record time. He was spiritually competent and capable to head God’s call upon his life’s work. He exhibited careful planning, teamwork, problem solving, influence, and extreme courage to get the job done with the respect of his followers. He did the extra things it takes to be successful with faith as his guide. 4) Problems- Nehemiah faced slander, scorn, and real threats from the enemy outside. He also faced the fears, conflicts, doubts, complaints, and discouragement from within his own group. He did not quit in the face of adversity. 5) Repentance/Renewal/Revival- Even with the rebuilding of the Temple and walls of the city, God’s work was actually incomplete until the hearts of the people returned to Him. Ezra instructed on God’s Word, the people listened to him, they responded appropriately to the sin in their lives by confession and recommitment to the LORD, and they removed the idols for total reform. Let’s learn all the principles God has for us as we study the book of Nehemiah, “the wall builder.”

(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 790-791)

-Chapter 1: Authorship is specially given in the first verse of this work. Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah provides these words for the reader through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now it happened in the month of Chislev (to our calendar it would be November or December), in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes reign, that Nehemiah was in the capital of the Persian Empire in Susa. Hanani, one of his brothers, and some other men from Judah arrived where he was in Susa. Nehemiah promptly asked them how the Jews who had escaped back to their homeland already and those who had remained and survived the captivity were doing in Jerusalem. He also wanted to know the condition of the holy city. Their response was very discouraging. They told him of how those who had survived the captivity were in great distress and reproach. They told him of how Jerusalem itself was in shambles with walls broken down and its gates burned with fire. When Nehemiah heard these sad words, all he could do was sit down and weep and mourn. He did this not for just minutes or hours, but for days. He was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven as a broken man hurting for his homeland (Nehemiah 1:1-4).

-His prayer gives us insight as to how great a man this Nehemiah was. He beseeched the LORD God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps His promises and does so with lovingkindness for those who love Him and obey His commandments, to give His Ear attention and to open His eyes to see that His servant was praying to Him for change. Nehemiah was praying before his LORD night and day on behalf of the sons of Israel (intercession). He let God know that they all were, in a respect, His servants and His prize possession. He confessed their sins as a nation, which they had done against a holy God. He acknowledged that they had acted very corruptly (or wickedly) against their Maker and had transgressed His righteous commandments, statutes, and ordinances willfully, which their father Moses had received from the LORD. He remembered the promise that God would indeed scatter His flock among the peoples of the world if they disobeyed His precepts, which had now happened. But, Nehemiah also petitioned the LORD to recall that He had prophetically declared, “If you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My Name to dwell (Deuteronomy 30:1-4, Nehemiah 1:9).” He reminded God that the people of Israel were His servants, His people whom He had redeemed by His great power and strong Hand. Finally, he begged the LORD once more to have an attentive Ear to his humble prayer because he solemnly revered His Name. Then, Nehemiah asked the LORD to give him success and compassion before the king that he was about to engage. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, and had a request (Nehemiah 1:5-11).

*Application* Leadership starts with our acknowledgement that there is a higher Authority above us and that we must answer to Him in every respect. It also starts with a burden to make this world a better place for those we love and cherish. This is where we find Nehemiah, and where we should find ourselves when God calls us to do something that may seem impossible. Pray, pray, pray. Intercede for those you care so much for and confess all sin. God is loving, God is kind, God hears and sees everything that is on our heart. Take it all to Him and make your requests known before the throne of Heaven (Philippians 4:6).

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 1:5

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Titus- Chapter 3

Titus 3

-Titus is reminded to remind his congregation (flock, those he has oversight over) “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:1-2).”

-*Application* This is a general list that represents the Christian fruits of the Holy Spirit. These things are impossible to do apart from the regenerational and transformational work of God in one’s life, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27). Live by the Holy Spirit, alive in Christ!

-The things that believers have been saved from is listed at this point (Titus 3:3). *Application* Before life in Christ we are all foolish, disobedient, led astray by the enemy and ourselves, slaves to various passions (sexual, lusts for power, materialism, etc.) and pleasures, passing our time in life with malice (evil intent), jealousy (envy), hating others and feeling like others hate us.

-*Application* This is not a good way to live is it? Turn to God and let these things of the world go. You’ll be really glad you did.

-There is no other passage in Scripture that is more precise in explaining what salvation is all about and how to achieve it than in this section (Titus 3:4-7). Let’s examine it a bit for our benefit and our expression to others in witnessing His Glorious work. First note that it is the Lord’s goodness and loving kindness appearing that makes salvation possible (vs. 4). Secondly, note that it is God who saves us and not we ourselves (vs. 5). Our righteousness the Word says is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Further, it is purely and solely on God’s mercy towards us that we can have right standing before Him (vs. 5). His mercy washes us who believe (Acts 16:31, Romans 4:24; 10:9) with the washing (bathing, baptism) of regeneration (rebirth, being made new, a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17) and renewal BY the Holy Spirit (vs. 5). This regeneration and renewal is made possible by the work of Jesus Christ our Savior who richly pours out His blessing of salvation on His beloved (vs. 6). Finally, we are justified by His grace and become heirs according to hope of eternal life (vs. 7).

-*Application* The message is very clear for us. Trust in Christ Jesus and His redemptive and atoning work on the cross to cover over sins with His blood and His miraculous resurrection from death to everlasting life and you will be transformed by the Holy Spirit of God. He loves us all that much! Be thankful and receive His Divine inheritance and favor forever!

-This is a trustworthy statement, and Paul wants his young minister to “insist on these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are good and profitable for people (Titus 3:8).” In other words, abide by these principles and appropriate them for the excellent life in Christ Jesus.

-Paul advises in his conclusion to the body of this letter that Titus avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the Law. He says these matters are unprofitable and worthless to talk about because Christ Jesus has overcome the Law and fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). His remarks indicate that there is absolutely no point in arguing over legalistic matters because the covering of Christ is sufficient in His grace. In other words, it is a waste of time and energy to be concerned over such matters. Paul’s point is that relationship trumps theology when it comes to the Lord. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned (Titus 3:9-11).” *Application* God wants us to KNOW Him and His power in our lives. Correct theology and truth are vital, but they cannot save a person. Only a relationship with the Living God can do that. The Pharisees had extensive knowledge about God, but they missed Him completely when He came. Don’t ever let that happen in your life. Focus on His grace, love, and mercy and walk with Him.

-Paul now gives a few instructions at the ending of the letter for fruitfulness and sends greetings on behalf of all who are with him to all who are in the faith. He pronounces grace on them all as his final thought, which his usual for Paul (Titus 3:12-15).

Verses to Memorize- Titus 3:4-7, 10-11

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Titus- Chapter 2

Titus 2

-Paul desires for this young church leader to teach what is suitable, sound, and healthy doctrine. He presents time honored expectations for older men and women as well as for young (Titus 2:1-8). Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and steadfastness (not quitters). Older women are to display reverent behavior, not slander people (talk bad about people), not drink too much, teach what is good, and mentor younger women to love their husbands and children, be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands so that the Word of God would not be reviled. The young men are to also be self-controlled among the other fruits of the Holy Spirit. Paul urges Titus to present himself with these qualities in all respects as a model of good works, and in his teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned so that every opponent may be put to shame with nothing evil to say about him or any believer. There are also some brief instructions for bondservants in their submission (the act of being subordinate, placing things in proper order) and good faith before their masters in everything as well pleasing, and not argumentative, and not stealing. In short, they were to model the likeness of Christ Jesus (Titus 2:9-10). *Application* Wouldn’t it be nice if the church today would follow out these Scriptural commands. What harmony and peace we would experience if we would simply follow the Word of God. Teach these things and be diligent in them for the sake of goodness.

-God’s grace has appeared and brings the potential for salvation to ALL people. Christ’s work on the cross gives us the opportunity to be trained in the renunciation of ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live differently with self-control (a key theme in this passage), uprightness, and Godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12). We are waiting still for our blessed hope at the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who GAVE Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purifies us for Himself as a possession who are zealous (eager) for good works (fruits of the Holy Spirit, righteousness). These things are to be declared (speak out) by the men (and women) of God with exhortation (encouragement, beseeching, urging) and rebuke (bringing to light, exposing, setting forth truth) with all authority by the Lord who rules (Matthew 28:18). Let no one disregard this biblical teaching by the man of God (pastor, authority). *Application* Paul’s directives are just as strong in application for us today. We must rely on the work of Christ and His Spirit within us to crucify our worldly passions and urges for ungodliness to live the lives He wants from us. We have the authority O believers, simply take hold of what you have in Christ and live sanctified being set free!

Verses to Memorize- Titus 2:1, 11-15

Bible Study Notes in Titus- Introduction and Chapter 1

Overview of Titus for New Testament Reading

Strong leadership is crucial in the church of Jesus Christ. If there is to be a continuance of gifted men of God in the church, Christ Jesus must be our Savior and the Head of all things, which leads us to good deeds and spiritual success. This is Paul’s message to Titus, a Greek, who was probably converted under Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. He had become Paul’s special representative on the Isle of Crete (Titus 1:5) and needed instruction on how to properly care for the flock of believers with which he had been entrusted. Paul, knowing that he would not always be there to build, encourage, discipline, and teach, spent valuable time teaching young men of God, like Titus, in the work of the Lord. Above all the Apostle Paul urged young leaders like Titus and Timothy to center their lives and preaching on the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and to train others to carry on the mission of extending God’s Kingdom (2 Timothy 2:2). Titus was a model in the continuing effect of discipleship and was given to the elders of the church in Jerusalem as a living example of what Christ was doing among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-3). Titus was a traveling companion of Paul’s and one of his closest friends as he learned to be a mature Christian and responsible leader (2 Corinthians 7:5-16). Therefore, this book serves as a pastoral letter to advise in the God-given task of supervision for church leaders and Christians in general. This letter was written at approximately the same time as 1 Timothy making it right around the year 64 AD.

Major Themes:

Salvation- Titus 3:3-8 is one of the clearest passages in the Bible on what it takes for a person to be saved by a loving God. Living a good life will not pay for one ounce of sin, which all of us have committed. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, which transforms us from a life filled with evil to one of good deeds. We are saved by faith to serve Him, not the other way around. So good deeds are stressed as a result of an exchanged life, Christ’s righteousness for our own way. He lives in us and does the good work through our surrender to His Holy Spirit.

Character- Titus’s responsibility in Crete was to appoint elders so that they could maintain proper organization and spiritual discipline. Therefore, Paul listed numerous qualities needed for leadership in the church beginning with their leadership in their homes. The people God uses exhibit self-control, spiritual and moral fitness, and exemplary moral character. Who you are is just as important as what you can do.

Church Relationships- People of every age and group have a lesson to learn and a role to play. Church teaching must relate to various groups. Older Christians are to train and lead and be examples to younger Christians. Treat relationships with other believers as an outgrowth of your faith.

Citizenship- Christians should be good citizens in a society, not just in the church. Believers need to obey the God given authorities and work honestly. Your community life should reflect Christ’s love as much as your church life does.


Paul begins with an extended greeting and introduction in this epistle as he outlines the leadership progression from his own ministry (1:1-3) to Titus’s responsibilities (1:4-5) to those Titus would appoint and train (1:5). Paul then dives straight into an extended list of pastoral qualifications (1:6-9) and he contrasts faithful elders with the false leaders and teachers (1:10-16).

As chapter two commences, Paul emphasizes the importance of good deeds in the life of a Christian by telling Titus how to relate to the various age groups in the church (2:2-6). He urges Titus to be a good example of a mature believer (2:7-8) and to teach with courage and conviction (2:9-15).

In Chapter 3, Paul discusses the general responsibilities of Christians in society (3:1-2), before giving God’s clear plan for salvation (3:3-8). He then warns against divisive arguments (3:9-11) before concluding with a few matters of itinerary and personal greetings to the believers (3:12-15).

This is a brief book, but it has great significance in the disciple making process that Christ Jesus commanded His followers to do before He went back with His Father in Heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).

Key Verses:

Titus 1:5- “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”

Titus 3:4-7  4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

*Notes from this overview were aided by:

New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1995, pgs. 2147-2148.

Titus 1

-Paul gives an extended greeting to Titus, who is his “true child in a common faith (Titus 1:4).” This letter was written for the purpose of 1) extending the proper doctrine of eternal salvation based on faith and 2) teaching in the church to gain that knowledge of the truth by command of God (Titus 1:1-3). Paul announces his common grace and peace from the Lord as he ends his introduction (Titus 1:4).

-The first order of business in the body of this pastoral epistle (letter) is instruction on putting things in proper order and appointing elders in the congregation of Crete. Qualifications for oversight include: being above reproach, the husband of one wife, believing children, unstained by charges of debauchery (sinful, wicked, corrupt, depraved, dishonest) or insubordination (rebellious, disobedient), not arrogant, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, and not greedy for material gain (Titus 1:5-7). On the positive side they are to be hospitable, lovers of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, holding firm to proper teaching and doctrine, able to teach, and able to rebuke false teachers who contradict sound doctrine in the faith (Titus 1:8-9). *Application* The qualifications for church leadership are numerous and should serve as a guard for the truth and knowledge of the Holy One. Make sure that your church holds these prerequisites in high regard to follow the Bible’s directions for overseers. Slacking in this area will have disastrous effects on the local body of Christ. These areas serve as a buttress to guard against corruption and ineffectiveness in God’s Kingdom on earth.

-Paul goes into the problems that the church is experiencing in Crete now with Titus. Insubordination, empty talking, and deception, evil, laziness, and shameful gain, especially of the circumcision party (legalists, Judaizers, the outwardly religious crowd) is denounced (Titus 1:10-12). In fact, Paul addresses Titus to sharply rebuke these for the purpose of straightening out their faith from the ancient Jewish myths (man-made traditions concerning what salvation is all about) and things that turn people from the truth. He says that “to the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled (Titus 1:15).” Correct those that profess to know God, but deny Him by their works. These kinds of people Paul says are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work (Titus 1:16). *Application* Church discipline is a theme of this last paragraph. Sometimes a sharp rebuke is needed and the only thing that will bring correction to false belief systems that are contrary to the true and accurate way of the Lord. We cannot make up our own standards of righteousness and religion. Conformity to the ways of God through faith in the work of Jesus Christ is the only true path, and that path is narrow (Matthew 7:13-20, Luke 13:23-28). Contrary to popular opinion, the New Testament (Covenant) is just as strict in following God correctly as the Old Testament (Covenant). Abide in Christ for salvation! Don’t be defiled. Have a pure heart (Psalm 73:1, Matthew 5:8, Hebrews 10:22).

Verses to Memorize- Titus 1:5, 15-16

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Joel- Chapter 3

Joel 3

-A future event is prophesied with these time phrases, “in those days” and “at that time (Joel 3:1).” The future event is the restoration of the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem specifically. God will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat (area is unknown from this text, Jehoshaphat means judgment, this is the important concept the prophet is conveying). This is where God’s final judgment will come down in support of His people and His inheritance Israel. This refers not only to physical Israel, but also the spiritual Israel, which are all people from all nations who call on the Name of the LORD (Joel 2:32, Acts 10:34-35, 1 Peter 2:9). God will now bring into account those who scattered His people among the nations and divided up His promised land (Joel 3:2b). *Application* I believe this judgment parallels the third woe when the seventh trumpet is sounded in Revelation 11:15-19. God’s people will be saved, but the enemies of the LORD will perish in this great and awesome day of the LORD. It is described in Joel 3:14 as the valley of decision. We all have our choices to make. Whose side are we really on? “The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel (Joel 3:16).” The earth will know that He is the LORD God Almighty. Nothing will stand in His way. Blessings are for His people, but destruction for those who turn away from Him and refuse His grace and mercy. Our God dwells in Zion and His children will inhabit it with Him forever (Joel 3:20, Revelation 3:12; 21:1-8).

-Joel began with a prophecy about the destruction of the land and ended with a prophecy about its restoration. He stressed the need for repentance in the beginning and ended with the promise that those in Him would receive the forgiveness and protection that repentance brings. Joel was trying to convince the people to wake up, the sweet wine of His goodness was about to be cut off (Joel 1:5). In the end, the sweet wine drips off of the mountains again with His blessings (Joel 3:18). *Application* God wants us to get rid of our complacency and realize the danger of living apart from Him. While there is still time and a chance, call on His Name and be saved (Acts 2:21). This morning I forgot to put out the trash for the trash truck that comes by to pick up the garbage. If I had been watchful, alert, and prepared the filth of our waste would be gone. As it is, the time came for the truck to come and go and our trash was not in its proper pick up spot. I missed the opportunity because of my negligence and forgetfulness. This is a minor thing as we will have extra trash pile up this week and get it picked up at this time next week. But its analogy is worth considering. Our souls are a far more important matter. God’s desire is for us to turn back to Him while there is time and opportunity. Don’t delay in receiving Him and His goodness and blessings. Time will eventually run out for us all and we will be held accountable for every sin we’ve committed if Christ does not cover them by His blood (1 Peter 4:5, Revelation 1:5-6).

Verse to Memorize: Joel 3:2, 16

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Joel- Chapter 2

Joel 2

-The alarms are sounded for the day of the LORD is coming upon Zion and its inhabitants. It is a day of darkness and doom, a day of clouds and thick darkness as a mighty army comes like nothing ever seen before, nor will there be after it (Joel 2:2). This army is programmed with incredible discipline and fierce force with destruction and desolation left behind them. They carry out the word of the LORD in vengeance (Joel 2:11). *Application* When the LORD gives a prophecy it will be carried out. His word never fails. “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).” O the devastating effects of turning away from the LORD.

-Yet He always gives us a chance to return to Him and bless us. The ray of hope is given beginning in verse 12 as we see God pleading for a return back to Him with fasting, weeping, and mourning. The LORD wants the heart rent in two rather than the traditional outward sign of rending clothes apart in anguish. He wants to show His grace and compassion. He is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relents of evil (Joel 2:13). There is a sliver of a chance that He could take pity and relent of the coming doom leaving a blessing behind Him (Joel 2:14). A gathering is prescribed with fasting and a solemn assembly to sanctify the congregation and a crying out for sparing them (Joel 2:15-17). *Application* God always leaves a way out of trouble and doom. The Word says He will never put on us more than we can handle. There will be a way out if we care to take it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God always has a way of escape for our endurance and well-being. Take His way today and be satisfied eternally with His presence.

-A change in fortune occurs in the prophecy beginning in verse 18. The LORD will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people. He will bless again after the destruction and malaise that has occurred. He will never again make them a reproach among the nations in this season, and He will remove the northern army far from them (Joel 2:19-20). The pastures will turn green again and the land will yield its produce (Joel 2:22). The rains will be plentiful in their season and the LORD will make up for the years the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:23-25). They will have plenty to eat and be satisfied praising the LORD their God and knowing that He is in their midst as no other (Joel 2:26-27). *Application* God is true to His promises and will come through even after He allows for misfortune. Stay reliant upon Him in the tests and trials of life and count on His provision through it all. It is His way of drawing us close to Him and letting us know our power is limited, but His is all sufficient. Trust in Him alone!

-This next section is quoted by Peter at the time of the Holy Spirit’s coming in Acts 2. I believe this to be a prophecy that has multiple applications in its fulfillment. God’s Spirit is no doubt poured out at Pentecost on the disciples. We are now experiencing the church age where the Gentiles are being gathered into the Kingdom of God as all the nations (Matthew 24:14, Luke 21:24-25, Romans 15:10-16). There is coming a time again when the Spirit will be poured out like never before as the day of the LORD approaches. Prophecy, signs and wonders, dreams, and visions will intensify with both male and female and wonders in nature will be displayed preceding the LORD’s return (Joel 2:30-31). *Application* It is important for us to remember Joel 2:32 in summation. Whoever calls upon the Name of the LORD will be delivered from the day of the LORD. There will be those who escape and there will be survivors whom the LORD calls. God’s way out should be taken while there is a chance and a hope. Otherwise, His wrath will be on you. Don’t delay, His return is sudden and will not be known (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, Revelation 3:3; 16:15).

Verses to Memorize: Joel 2:12-13, 28

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Joel- Introduction and Chapter 1

Joel 1

-Introduction: Joel, the son of Pethuel, records the word of the LORD in this short book primarily warning Judah of God’s impending judgment in the day of the LORD because of their sins and urging them to turn back to God before it is too late. Joel’s ministry goes from approximately 835 BC to 796 BC and little is known of this prophet other than what is given in the Scriptures. He probably lived in or near Jerusalem. Judah had been become prosperous and complacent, taking God for granted and becoming self-centered with idolatry and sin. This kind of activity inevitably will bring the judgment of the LORD. This will have an impact on the short term as well as the great and awesome time in the last days when God consummates all things.

-Chapter 1: This message that Joel is giving from the LORD is to be told to sons, sons’ sons, and future generations (Joel 1:3). There is the imagery of the locusts devouring the rich and luxuriant fields leaving desolation and wailing by gnawing, swarming, creeping, and stripping (Joel 1:4). This represents, as we see in verse 6, an invading army who is mighty and without number with strong bite and force. It makes the land a waste and consumes everything in it (Joel 1:7). *Application* Sudden destruction is a fearful and devastating concept for us as humans to fathom. We see it in nature (i.e. tornados, fires, hurricanes, floods, etc.) and sometimes through human means (i.e. atomic or nuclear weaponry). Joel is preparing his people and us of the coming judgment of the LORD upon this world by using foreshadowing. It will be a time of mourning and woe, which the world has yet to experience its fullness. Joel was calling the people to awake out of their stupor and repent (Joel 1:5). It would behoove us as well to open sensible eyes and hears to the reality of a world gone far from the LORD. Return to Him before it is too late. Accept His grace and mercy in times of distress and judgment. He is calling you. He is our only hope.

-The grain and drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD (Joel 1:9, 13b). This has happened and will happen again in the great tribulation. There is great mourning and wailing as the Temple and land lay in ruins. Nature itself is reeling from the effects of this judgment. Shame and agony grip the inhabitants and rejoicing dries up in these difficult days.

-The call goes out to put on sackcloth and consecrate a fast proclaiming a solemn assembly gathering all the elders and inhabitants of the land to the House of the LORD. “Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty (Joel 1:15).” Even the beasts are groaning in the conditions they are under where finding food is futile. There is no pasture for them and the cattle wonder aimlessly; even the sheep suffer (Joel 1:18). The call for the people is to cry out to God in their misery due to this fiery judgment (Joel 1:14b, 19). *Application* There come times in our lives that all we can do is cry out to the LORD in our hurt and suffering. The New Testament speaks often about encountering these trials of life as a means of spiritual growth and proven character (Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, James 1:2-3). Allow the LORD to show you “what” He wants to teach you when trials and suffering come. The “what” is a better question to Him than the “why?”

Verse to Memorize: Joel 1:15

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 2 Samuel- Chapter 24

2 Samuel 24

-The last chapter elaborates on the situation in David’s reign when he looked to the physical instead of the spiritual for protection in his nation. The LORD’s anger burned against Israel, which may have indicated some type of attack or unforeseen distressing situation. 1 Chronicles 21:1 attributes the issue to Satan, rather than the LORD, for the temptation that was ultimately allowed by the Sovereign God. Whatever the case, this condition caused David to be incited to petition his commanders to “Go, number Israel and Judah.” They were to go throughout all the land from north, Dan, to south, Beersheba, to register the people in a military conscription type of census. David wanted to know this presumably for his self-assured confidence in his fighting force. It was a carnal act of putting trust in his armies rather than relying on the power of God. Joab frankly argued with him on this command, “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see; but why does my lord delight in this thing?” However, David’s command prevailed against Joab and against all the commanders of his army. So they went out and obeyed the king in his edict to register the people. They crossed the Jordan and camped in Aroer, “on the right side of the city that is in the middle of the valley of Gad and toward Jazer.” Then they came to Gilead, then the land of Tahtim-hodshi, then Dan-jaan, and then they came around to Sidon and the fortress of Tyre. They visited all the cities of the Hivites, of the Canaanites, all the way south in Judah to Beersheba. When they’d gone through all the land registering, which took them nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem and gave their report. In Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who could draw a sword, and 500,000 in Judah. Well over a million able bodied warriors for the cause of the kingdom. But David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people irresponsibly and carnally. He confessed his sin before the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly (2 Samuel 24:1-10).”

-When David arose the next morning, the prophet Gad was told by God to go and speak with David. God, speaking through His prophet, offered David a choice of three potential consequences for his sin. It would either be seven years of famine in the land, three months of fleeing before his foes while they pursued, or a three days’ pestilence in the land. David was to seriously consider these options and send back his answer to the LORD through Gad, the prophet. With hearing his options, David spoke, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the Hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” Therefore, the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from that first morning until the appointed time. This was indeed a brutal pestilence as 70,000 men from Dan to Beersheba died. As the death angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD finally relented from the calamity and told the angel that “It is enough!” He told His angel to relax his hand now as the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then, when David saw the angel that was striking down the people, he said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your Hand be against me and against my father’s house.” So God sent Gad back to David that very day and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” David did this according to the word of God just as He had commanded him. As Araunah looked down and saw the king and his servants crossing over towards him, he went out and bowed his face to the ground before the king. Araunah asked why he had come, and David replied that he was attempting to buy this man’s threshing floor so that he could build an altar to the LORD so that the plague would be held back from the people. Upon hearing this, Araunah graciously offered to give this property for free as well as oxen for the burnt offering, threshing sledges, and the yokes of the oxen for the wood wanting the LORD to accept David’s sacrifice. But David responded, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David purchased the threshing floor and the oxen for 50 shekels of silver. There he built his altar as God had commanded and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Him. “Thus the LORD was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel (2 Samuel 24:11-25).” And this is where the book ends.

-*Application* First, we must acknowledge that God can lead us into temptation and testing having ultimate control over everything, while at the same giving us a way out. Satan is glad to assist in this spiritual battle and wants very desperately to have us act in a fleshly-carnal fashion just like David did here in the text. When Jesus taught us to pray, He instructed that we petition God not to lead us into temptation, and to deliver us from all evil (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4). There is no doubt a spiritual battlefield that we participate in here on this earth. The choices are ours, and we will bear the consequences. Sometimes God gives us choices even in the consequences just as He did with David. We can run or face our failures. Confession is key, penance is real. There is always a price to be paid for sin. It will cost us something and often affects innocent people around us. Thankfully, God pays our cost in the person of Jesus Christ, who offered the ultimate sacrificial atonement. Jesus is our way out if we put our trust in Him. Christ is our saving mercy.

Verses to Memorize: 2 Samuel 24:10, 24-25

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 2 Samuel- Chapter 23

2 Samuel 23

-David’s last words in the form of a song are declared. He was the son of Jesse raised on high by the call of the LORD, anointed by the God of Jacob. He was the sweet psalmist of Israel. The Spirit of the LORD spoke to him; His word was on his tongue. The Rock of Israel spoke to him and called him the one who rules over men righteously because he feared God. His house would be like the morning light that has no clouds, but springs tender grass out of the earth like right after rain. He was the recipient of the eternal covenant for the coming of Messiah. All of these things were ordered and secured by the Creator. He would sustain this and make it grow. However, for the worthless, they will be thrust away like thorns, “because they cannot be taken in hand.” The man who touches these worthless ones must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, and the worthless ones “will be completely burned with fire in their place (2 Samuel 23:1-7).” I interpret this to be prophetic to the perils of the coming kingdom of Israel and Judah, and the prophets who would encounter many worthless kings and religious leaders with the truth of God’s Word. Jerusalem would eventually be burned with fire and taken captive into Babylon (Jeremiah 39:1-9).

-Now in a wrap up of David’s valiant warriors who had helped him achieve his legendary stature, a quick synopsis and listing is given. (1) Adino, who killed 800 men at one time, (2) Eleazar, who killed Philistines by himself until his hand was weary clinging to the sword in one battle that gained a great victory for Israel from the LORD, and (3) Shammah, who took his stand in the midst of a plot and defended it by striking down Philistines to achieve another great victory were listed as the “three.” These were the mightiest of the mighty men, and were honored with this title. These three went down based on a wish of their leader, David, and valiantly retrieved water from the well of Bethlehem’s gates when the Philistines had a garrison stationed there. David then devoted this precious water to the LORD by pouring it out to Him. Then there was the thirty, or literally 37 in all, when they are enumerated. Chief among them were (1) Abishai, brother of Joab who killed 300 at one time, and (2) Benaiah, who killed the sons of Ariel of Moab and also a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day as well as an impressive Egyptian man with his own sword. These two were very close to attaining to the three, but were not numbered among them. They were commanders and honored among the thirty though. The rest of the names are mentioned in recognition of greatness including Uriah the Hittite, whom David had had killed in battle after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 23:8-39)

-*Application* David’s last psalm acknowledges his dependence on the providence of his Master. David was indeed the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He pursued Him and was blessed. The same can go for us when we trust and obey listening to the LORD’s Voice and His promises for us individually. It was not an easy journey, but David stayed faithful and compliant with the LORD’s purposes and plans. For this he was honored, and so can we if we don’t falter or fade in His will. The mighty men who are recognized remind us that we each have a part to play in the grand scheme of things. Let us be mighty people of God and fight all the battles that he wants us to engage in for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Verses to Memorize: 2 Samuel 23:5, 12

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 2 Samuel- Chapter 22

2 Samuel 22

-David speaks a song to the LORD in the day that He delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. This lengthy psalm revolves around quite a few important theological themes. God is portrayed as David’s rock, his fortress, a place of refuge (2 Samuel 22:2-3, 31- 33, 47). The anointed of God was never exposed for the enemy to have a clear shot at him. God’s protection is thus the concept. Deliverance, or in other words salvation or rescue, is also a primary theme that is developed in the song (2 Samuel 22:4, 17, 20, 28, 36, 47, 49, 51). Our LORD is the God who saves. David knew that it was only by the LORD’s grace that he survived and was blessed. This leads us to the theme of righteousness, which the psalm explores. There is the balance between God’s clothing when it comes to His work in making one righteous and the devotion of the recipient to faithfully do the work of following God’s commands in receiving His righteousness (2 Samuel 22:21-27, 33). We see the power of God displayed throughout this song. This becomes another important aspect of the text. God’s sovereignty is magnified and exalted by the writer. Praise then becomes a key factor in David’s acknowledgement of his blessings. He is quick to give God thanks and calls Him “worthy (2 Samuel 22:4, 50).” Prayer is also punctuated in this stanza. In David’s distress, he called upon the LORD, he cried to Him, and God heard from His Temple (Heavenly home since there was no physical Temple as of yet) and helped with His miracles and wonders (2 Samuel 22:5-14). Victory was another theme that exudes from this psalm. The shattering of all those that rose up against God and His anointed king are enumerated (2 Samuel 22:15, 18-19, 25, 37-46, 48-49). God was his strength (2 Samuel 22:30, 34-36). Light is another theme that comes forth in this exaltation. The LORD is David’s Illuminator and Lamp (2 Samuel 22:29). We can also see the holiness of God in this chapter (2 Samuel 22:31). Finally, we see the lovingkindness (checed) of God expressed upon His anointed and the promise of an eternal Kingdom (2 Samuel 22:51).

-*Application* We too can have the heart of the psalmist to praise and adore our LORD with speech or song. The most beautiful times in our lives are when we are in tune with our Creator and giving Him the proper credit and thanks for all that He has accomplished in and through us. Take some time today to make our own psalm unto the LORD. What has He taken us through in victory? Where has His rescue been as we look back? How does His salvation secure our future? Let’s give Him praise and glory for all He is, just like David did!

Verses to Memorize: 2 Samuel 22:7, 18-19, 26-27, 31, 51

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 2 Samuel- Chapter 21

2 Samuel 21

-The section which could be entitled “The Later Years of David’s Rule” begins in chapter 21 with the three-year famine that occurred in Israel during his reign. David sought the presence of the LORD on this matter when it began to get really bad as the land thirsted for rain and the resulting waters. The LORD frankly told His servant, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” There had been a covenant made with this remnant of the Amorites, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah during his reign (see Joshua 9:3-20). Therefore, at the hearing of this message of the LORD his God, David came to the Gibeonites to ask what he could do for them to make atonement for this grievous error so that they might bless the inheritance of the LORD rather than bring a curse on it. The Gibeonites had no concern for silver or gold from Saul or his house. Neither was it for them to put any man to death in Israel, but David told them he’d do whatever they asked. Then they decided, “The man (Saul) who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel, let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” David consented to this retribution, but he spared Mephibosheth because he was of the house of Jonathan whom he had a lasting covenantal oath with himself. David took the two sons of Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah and Saul, as well as the five sons of Merab, who was also a daughter of Saul. So in sum, seven men grandchildren of the deceased former king were handed over to execute justice on the breaking of this ratified covenant (or promise). They were hanged in the mountain before the LORD in the first days of the barley harvest. Rizpah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock from the beginning of this harvest until it rained on them from the sky. She would not let the birds to rest on them in the day nor the beasts of the field by night (2 Samuel 21:1-10).

-When David learned what she was doing, he went and took the bones of Saul and Jonathan back from the men in Jabesh-gilead, who had valiantly stolen them from the open square of Beth-shan where the Philistines had ruthlessly and disgracefully hanged them after the battle at Gilboa (see 1 Samuel 31). These bones were now properly laid to rest with the bones of the seven who had died sacrificially to make atonement in the country of Benjamin in Zela in the grave of Kish, the father of Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2). “Thus they did all that the king commanded, and after that God was moved by prayer for the land (2 Samuel 21:11-14).”

-War came back to the nation from the hands of the Philistines in David’s later years. The veteran warrior went down to fight alongside his servants, but David became weary in his aging body. Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant (Goliath), had a new sword with which he intended to kill King David. However, in a heroic feat of strength, the legendary Abishai, son of Zeruiah, had his back, helped him and struck the Philistine with a killing blow. At that scary point the men of David swore to him that he would no longer go out to battle. Otherwise he could possibly “extinguish the lamp of Israel.” They loved their king and venerated him in his posterity (2 Samuel 21:15-17).

-After this there was another war with the Philistines at Gob. It was there that Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down another descendant of the giant by the name of Saph. War eventually erupted again at Gob with the Philistines, and this is when Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear like a weaver’s beam. Then, another war occurred with the Philistines where there was a man of great stature with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He was a descendent of the giant as well, but when he defied Israel, just like his ancestor he was struck down by Jonathan the son of Shimei, who was David’s brother. “These four (Ishbi-benob, Saph, Goliath the Gittite, and the six-fingered/six-toed man) were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants (2 Samuel 21:18-22).” It had taken hundreds of years, but Israel was finally facing their giants in faith and boldness (Numbers 13:25-33).

-*Application* There are a couple of thing we would do well to note here from this chapter. First, keep your promises and make sure future generations know the importance of steadfast oaths unto others. God hates lies, and He can’t stand for people to go back on their word. So we must be people who keep our word and make it a permanent bond. Secondly, we must have faith and boldness when the enemies of the LORD come against us. We cannot back down or wimp out. David, even in his old age, was ready, willing, and able to go to battle with the young guns. Thankfully, we can have the support and help of: 1) those who have been our trusted friends through the ages and 2) those who are new blood coming up to defeat the foes in our conflicts.

Verses to Memorize: 2 Samuel 21:14, 22

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 2 Samuel- Chapter 20

2 Samuel 20

-A worthless fellow named Sheba happened to be there when this discussion between Judah and Israel was taking place over the kingdom of David (see 2 Samuel 19:41-43). He was the son of Bichri, a Benjamite. He blew the trumpet of rebellion and proclaimed, “We have no portion in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” This led many in Israel to withdraw from following David, and they followed after this Sheba. Judah, however, remained faithful and steadfast to their king, from the Jordan all the way to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 20:1-2).

-David eventually came back to his house in Jerusalem. When he came, he took the ten concubines whom he had left behind and placed them under guard providing them with sustenance. But, he would no longer go into them sexually, so they were shut up until the day they died much like widows (2 Samuel 20:3).

-Soon David called his new commander, Amasa, to bring all the men of Judah before him to present themselves. He gave him three days to accomplish this mission, but Amasa delayed longer than the set time appointed. Due to the delay, Amasa was not with them when David assigned Abishai to take the lord’s servants and pursue this dangerous man, Sheba. The king rightly discerned that he would do more harm than Absalom if left to gather support, weapons, and protection in fortified cities against David’s kingdom. The king did not want to let this one escape out of his nation’s sight. So Joab’s men also went out from Jerusalem after Sheba, along with the Cherethites, the Pelethites, and all the mighty men from David’s forces. When they were at the large stone which was in Gibeon just north of Jerusalem, Amasa finally showed up. Joab is described as having his military attire on with a belt over it that had a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist, which would fall out as he leaned forward. Joab gave a bogus-cordial greeting to Amasa. With hidden animosity he chimed, “Is it well with you, my brother?” Then, he took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him in greeting. Amasa was not on guard for a murderous attack that was coming. Joab had slipped the sword into his hand as he leaned forward; then, he venomously struck David’s newly appointed military commander in the belly pouring his inward parts out onto the ground. This killed him. Immediately, in a war hawk frenzy, Joab and his brother, Abishai, took off to get Sheba too. There was a young follower of Joab who then proclaimed, “Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.” Meanwhile, Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the highway. When this young fellow saw that it was causing all the people to stand still, he removed the carcass into a field and threw a garment over it. As soon as Amasa’s dead body was out of the sightlines, all the men returned to their focus and followed on after Joab to pursue Sheba (2 Samuel 20:4-13). A deadly day in the land. Violence was far too prevalent.

-While this was going on, Sheba was going through all the tribes of Israel all the way up to the north where Abel, even Beth-maacah, was. This was near the tribe of Dan in the northern most section of the land of Israel. Joab’s forces now besieged this fortified city, even casting up a siege ramp against the city by the rampart. All those with Joab were wreaking destruction in an effort to topple the wall of the city. But, at this point, a woman, who is described as being “wise” called out to Joab for a discussion. Joab showed some reasonability now as he entered this dialog with this “wise” woman. She maintained that she was of those who were “peaceable and faithful in Israel.” She reasoned with Joab that it would not be prudent to destroy a whole city, “even a mother in Israel,” since it was an inheritance of the LORD. Joab agreed that this would the right thing as he stated, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy!” Kind of ironic considering the source, but he went on to tell her exactly what Sheba, who had come from the hill country of Ephraim, was up to in lifting his hand against King David. Joab asked for him and then all would be peaceful in the city. She told him matter-of-factly that his head would be thrown over the wall to them to appease this conflict. Then the “wise” woman came to all the people of Abel Beth-maacah with the plan, and soon it was carried out. They cut off the head of the want-to-be usurper and threw it to Joab over the city wall. This initiated Joab to blow the trumpet of dispersal and they all went back to their respective tents. Joab went back to Jerusalem as well with mission accomplished (2 Samuel 20:14-22).

-The rest of the chapter gives the reader an update on the ones holding office now in David’s kingdom. Joab was back over the whole army, unpunished once again apparently. Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites. Adoram was over the forced labor division, and Jehoshaphat was the nation’s recorder. Sheva was the chief scribe, while Zadok and Abiathar remained as priests. Ira the Jairite was also a priest to David (2 Samuel 20:23-26).

-*Application* The violent nature of the things going on in this ancient culture is enough to make us sick, I fully concur. In the midst of a violent society, and our American culture is growing in this unfortunately, we can be “wise” with how we handle situations to bring a substantial impact for peace. Cultivate wisdom in handling each and every situation to bring resolution without further damage. This is the theme of this section in a very fallen-vicious context.

Verses to Memorize: 2 Samuel 20:10, 22