Friday, October 28, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 4

Acts 4

-The religious leaders again, as when Jesus was among them, came to the apostles and were greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus’ Name, and preaching the resurrection from the dead. They put them in jail for this proclamation until the next day, but many had believed in their message (5,000 in fact). The next day they examined them as to what power and name they were doing their work (Acts 4:1-4).

-Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed these rulers, elders, and scribes including the high priest and all who were of high-priestly descent as a servant of Jesus Christ, the Stone which was rejected yet became the Cornerstone. He proclaimed that there was no other Name under Heaven given to humanity by which men may be saved. These uneducated and untrained men were amazing the religious leaders by their confidence and power, and they had nothing to say in reply (Acts 4:5-14).

-The Council conferred with one another and had a difficult time trying to figure out what to do with them because a noteworthy miracle had taken place that was apparent to all who lived in Jerusalem. They determined to command them not to speak or teach any more in the Name of Jesus, but Peter and John told them that they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:15-22). *Application* What about your life and your convictions? Do you fear God over man? In situations like these that we see here it would have been convenient to repudiate their convictions and dismiss the whole thing. The proof of the resurrection is right here in the text. They could not back down. If the resurrection had been a lie, exposure would have quickly come through this persecution. However, they had seen and heard the Risen Savior and would not denounce Him. This should be the same with us in our witness and testimony every day.

-They were released and rejoiced with holy praise. The Holy Spirit came again when they prayed together with a great shaking of that place and they were filled with renewed boldness to speak the Word of God. Confidence was gained through this whole episode. God’s healing Hand was upon His servants, and signs and wonders were taking place through the Name of Jesus Christ. The church was growing steadily and all had a giving spirit holding all things in common with a unified mind in Christ. They also had great power and abundant grace was upon them all as they were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:23-35).

-Now Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement,” who was also known as Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, is introduced in the narrative. He owned a tract of land, sold it, and brought his proceeds of the money to lay at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37). This is simply a descriptive example of the generosity that was becoming more and more evident in the fledgling church of called out, Holy Spirit filled, saints.

-*Application* Sharing among believers should be a distinctive mark among us as Christians. We should do good to one another anytime there is a need, especially in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). God has given us all so much through His Son and Holy Spirit. Let’s be quick to send out what we have to others in appreciation and thankfulness. Let blessings abound and comradery be built.

Verses to Memorize: 4:11-12, 31

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 3

Acts 3

-Peter, along with John, heals a beggar and lame man from the womb (God considers people humans in the womb, God is pro-life) near the Temple. This man was praising the Lord for this miracle demonstrated by the apostles and all the people saw him with wonder and amazement. It was the faith of the disciples primarily that healed the man for a witness to the glory of God and an opportunity to share His resurrection message of salvation for the Jews that were there in the Temple area. *Application* What God has bestowed on us through faith in His Name must be given out everywhere we go with power and conviction. God is still in the business of performing miraculous demonstrations of His power when we act in complete faith and dependence on Him.

-Therefore, Peter takes this opportunity to preach the Lord Jesus Christ to those congregated from the Old Testament Scriptures. He stressed faith in the Christ crucified as the suffering servant, buried, and risen as eyewitnesses of these facts. His proposition was for them to repent from wickedness and return so that their sins could be wiped away in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). He said some important things about where Jesus was currently in Heaven until the restoration of all things of which the prophets, starting with Moses, all spoke. These were incredible days! *Application* We are also living in incredible prophetic times if we care to observe. Don’t be aloof! Christ is coming soon to restore His Kingdom on this earth (Acts 3:21). This world is passing away (1 Corinthians 2:6-7; 7:31, Hebrews 1:10-2:10, 1 John 2:15-17), but a new time is coming with the Lord in control of all things in complete goodness and righteous. There will be tribulation in the meantime, but Christian brother/sister don’t give up hope. He is the power and glory for those of us who endure to the end and overcome (2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews 12:1-2, James 5:11, 1 John 5:4, Revelation 3:21; 5:5; 12:11).

Verses to Memorize: Acts 3:13, 19, 24

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 2

Acts 2

-The Holy Spirit’s coming to indwell believers as Jesus had promised is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost as the believers were all together in the upper room in Jerusalem (John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:7-8, Acts 2:1). The Holy Spirit came from Heaven with a noise “like a violent rushing wind,” and It filled the whole house where the disciples were sitting. There appeared to them “tongues of fire distributing themselves,” and “they rested on each one of them.” As they were all filled now with the Holy Spirit, each one began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:2-4). *Application* This is the Spirit of Truth and Conviction that draws the whole world to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and gives believers the power over the enemy filling them with His fruits (Romans 15:13, Galatians 5:18-26). This same Holy Spirit is available to us as we receive the gift of Him at the point of trusting in Jesus Christ to save us (Acts 2:38). He wants complete control of our lives to do His will. We can grieve or quench Him, but never lose Him (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Have you received the gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)? Have you been baptized (immersed, totally controlled and consumed) by this awesome fullness of God (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 2:16, Acts 1:5; 2:38)? This is the key to eternal and triumphant living.

-The amazing and miraculous events of Pentecost draw a huge international crowd during this common Jewish festival in which many attended in Jerusalem. They were hearing the disciples speaking to them in their own language, which was in itself a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. These people were amazed, astonished, and in great perplexity asking, “What does this mean?” Some were there mocking these Spirit filled believers saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” Peter is now empowered to take his stand with the eleven and declare the fulfillment of prophecies and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:5-36). The response was incredible. When the message was heard along with these miraculous demonstrations, they questioned the apostles about what they should do to be saved. The apostles’ response was to repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Then, they also would receive this gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for them, their children, and all those far off into the future, “as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself (Acts 2:39). The church age had begun with the ingathering of all the nations to the Lord (Genesis 18:18, Psalm 22:27, Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:37-41, and many more).

-The early church had all things in common. They were continually devoting themselves to prayer and the apostles’ teaching. There was a sense of awe and many signs and wonders were taking place through the apostles. God’s power was definitely on them. They had one mind, the mind of Christ, and there was sweet communion, provision, and fellowship with each other. The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47). *Application* There is no reason why this can’t be the case in the church today. We can be of the same mind only if we all are obedient and conform to the image of Christ (Philippians 2). Our hearts need to be generous and in total worship as we abide in His presence together as the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5, Colossians 3:12-17). This is the kind of church God wants and uses as He leads and directs without interference.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 2:32-33, 39

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Introduction and Chapter 1

Acts 1

-Introduction: This fascinating historical book chronicles the period of time from Christ’s ascension back to Heaven in the mid-30s A.D. until about the mid-60s A.D. shortly before the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul. Luke, the physician, is the well-educated author of this work, and he is a Gentile, which is abnormal but shows the inclusive nature of God’s newly formed church in this new covenant age. The area covered in the narrative stretches from Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives from where Christ ascended all the way to the seat of the Roman Empire in Rome, where the work concludes (Acts 28:11-31). The key verse that would summarize this book can be found in Acts 1:8, where Luke states the words of Jesus Christ, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” This verse lays out the structure basically for the book. The apostles start in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit, which comes upon them in mighty power and miraculous signs to establish the church with the authority of Christ. The church then expands as Peter takes a leading role, along with James and John, there in Jerusalem. But the church expands outward to Judea and Samaria with the diaspora created by persecution in the church by the religious establishment. The Gentiles encounter the Holy Spirit at His leading the Apostle Peter on the west coast of the land of Israel by chapter 10. In the meantime, and even before this happened, Saul, who had persecuted the church, has a dramatic conversion to Jesus and is called specifically to the Gentiles as a minister of God’s reconciliation. As the gospel spreads and the work begins to focus on the Apostle Paul’s (Gentile name for Saul), we are treated to many early accounts of the victories and challenges of Christianity as it spread into Asia and Europe. As we read through this journey, notice the themes of church (ekklÄ“sia- the assembly) beginnings, the Holy Spirit’s work, church growth principles, Evangelistic fervor, the nuances of spiritual warfare with the demonic by mighty people of God filled with His Holy Spirit. This book is sometimes called “The Acts of the Apostles,” but I prefer “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” in early church formation.

-Chapter 1: Luke continues his historical narrative into the accounts of the early church to Theophilus and all lovers of God everywhere (Acts 1:1). He ties the work together in brilliant fashion and brings up an important theological point by verse six where the disciples ask Christ if this is the time when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. They had been under foreign domination and subjection for many hundreds of years (back to approximately 586 BC). This is the time of the Gentiles, and we are still living in it to a degree. The interesting modern day fact in regards to this is that the modern state of Israel became a sovereign nation once again in 1948. Although, it can be argued that the United Nations, and in particular America, have had a major voice in how Israel has conducted her affairs. This is the first step in the literal fulfillment of Israel becoming the eternal Kingdom under Christ Jesus’ rule (2 Samuel 7, Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-6).

-The disciples rightly recognized that some incredible prophetic events were taking place in their time and wondered what would be happening next in God’s timetable. Jesus reminded them that it is not for us humans to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:7). Then Jesus gives them a contrasting statement that will set the course, for them and the church, for the present age in which we live. He tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them to be witnesses of Him in their locale of Jerusalem spreading out to Judea and Samaria (the local region near them), and even to the furthest and most remote parts of the world. Much could be said about this verse. In fact many sermons could be preached from it, but for the purpose of this work it is suffice to say that this is the clarion call to go and make disciples in His strength (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).

-The ascension takes place now as Jesus goes back to His Heavenly realm from the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. The promise of His return is given by two angelic men robbed in white standing beside them as they watched Him depart (Acts 1:9-11).

-The command for the disciples was to go back to Jerusalem and wait until they were endowed with power from on high by the Holy Spirit. While they were there praying and continually devoting themselves to the work of the Lord, Peter stood up in a role of leadership and summoned them to select another apostle to add to the office of the eleven since Judas had become the apostate. Matthias was selected by prayer and finally the drawing of lots (Acts 1:12-26). *Application* This is evidence that sometimes decisions are simply too difficult to make in our own strength and power. They turned the matter over to God who knows all hearts of men (Acts 1:24). Providential devices (such as the lots here or maybe a coin toss in our age) should become the governing guide only after all thinking and prayer based on the Word of God has been done. Don’t be flippant in making decisions, seek God and His answers. This is what the apostles did.

Verse to Memorize: Acts 1:8

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 10

Esther 10

-The last chapter is a nice, albeit, brief wrap-up with the emphasis on the dominion of King Ahasuerus and Mordecai’s enduring legacy as the second most powerful man in the Medio-Persian Kingdom. Ahasuerus laid tribute on the land and coastlands of the sea to raise tax dollars rather than the gain he would have received from Haman’s wicked and sinister plan. His accomplishments of his authority and strength along with that of Mordecai the Jew were recorded in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia. Mordecai remained great among his people and a very powerful and influential person in the kingdom all his life. His kinsmen adored him as “one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation (Esther 10:1-3).”

*Application* What an epitaph that would be in honor of a truly inspired life. We note that the process was harrowing and arduous, but the end result saw him doing truly remarkable things for his earthly kingdom and the Heavenly Kingdom. His courage is what set him apart from the rest. His character was impeccable. We can surely be people like this too with all the fortitude and resolve that Christ’s life inspires in us. Be willing to take a stand and faithfully allow God to orchestra the process for a truly fulfilled life!

Verse to Memorize: Esther 10:3

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 9

Esther 9

-This chapter now details the events of this 13th day of Adar, which was intended for the destruction of the Jews but turned into a day of great victory for God’s people because of His sovereign plan. It also details the creation of the holiday of Purim, which is still very much celebrated by the Jews even to our present time. When the enemies of the Jews had hoped to gain mastery over them, “it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them.” They assembled in their cities throughout all the kingdom of Ahasuerus to lay hands in defense of those whom may try to destroy them or do them any harm. No one could stand before the Jews now, for the tide had turned with the king’s support and the LORD’s dread upon all the peoples. None of the leaders dared to support the uprising purported by Haman for the destruction of the Jews. The princes of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and everyone doing the king’s business all became allies and assisted the Jews because the dread of Mordecai had come upon them. “Indeed, Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai became greater and greater.” Because of all of this, the Jews were able to strike all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they were able to do what they pleased to those who hated them. At the citadel in Susa, 500 men were killed and destroyed by the Jews including Haman’s ten sons. However, in an act of kindness, the Jews did not lay their hands on any plunder in this vindication. This was totally antithetical to the plans and purposes of their enemies who wanted to profit at the Hebrews’ expense (Esther 3:9, 13). On that day when it was reported to the king the number of those that the Jews had killed in his capital city, Ahasuerus asked his queen what had gone on in the other provinces and what else she might want to have happen. He promised to abide with whatever she desired in further requests. Esther only asked that, if it pleased the king (continued mark of respect here for her authority figure), Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows, which was done presumably to deter anyone else from wanting to rise up against her people ever again. The edict was quickly issued and carried out. The next day on the 14th of Adar, 300 more men were killed in Susa as enemies of the Jews, and again no plunder was taken. In the rest of the kingdom, a whopping 75,000 men were killed that had hated the Jews, and no plunder was taken from them as well. For those in the far reaches of the kingdom, all the action did take place on the 13th day of Adar, with the 14th being a day of rest with feasting and celebration. It was a bit different in Susa, since there were still some conflicts going on, but they rested, feasted, and rejoiced by the 15th day of Adar (Esther 9:1-18).

-The issue of commemorating this monumental event was next dealt with in the text. In rural areas, it was immediately celebrated on the 14th day of Adar as a holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions of food to one another in generosity and thanksgiving. Mordecai recorded these events as a prominent man in the kingdom and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces both far and near. In these letters he obliged them to celebrate on both the 14th and 15th days of Adar respectively and annually, “because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” The Jews readily undertook all that Mordecai purposed to do in his writings to them, for Haman, the Agagite and enemy of the Jews, had schemed against their people and had cast Pur, that is “the lot,” to disturb and destroy them. When the matter had come before the king’s attention, because of the love he had for his queen and Divine providence, Ahasuerus had commanded by letter that this wicked scheme in opposition to the Jews be returned upon the head of this evil villain along with his ten sons by hanging on the gallows. These days became known as “Purim” after the name Pur (the lot). Because of the instructions in this letter by Mordecai, and what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews readily established and made a custom for themselves, their descendants, and all who allied themselves with them this as a perpetual holiday of celebration according to regulation and appointed time annually. Every generation and every family would remember this occurrence so as to not let the memory of this miraculous event ever fade. Queen Esther ratified this with a second letter herself in full authority to confirm this celebration of Purim. She, with her cousin Mordecai collaborating, sent these letters to all 127 provinces of the kingdom with words of peace and truth to establish these days of Purim with all its instructions for their times of fasting and lamentations (crying out to God). This indicates their willingness to never forget to stop, praise, and exalt their God for helping them in a time of severe crisis. So, the commands of the elevated Queen Esther established these customs for Purim, “and it was written in the book (Esther 9:19-32).”

*Application* What we should take from this Scriptural lesson today is the long-term effects and remembrances of God’s Divine work in helping us escape and prosper. He has set us free from the enemy and given us victory unto victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). We should never go back into slavery of sin as believers in His redemption. He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Feasting, rejoicing, worship, giving, peace, and truth should all flow out of us as citizens of the Divine Kingdom.

Verses to Memorize: Esther 9:1, 22

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 8

Esther 8

-On the day that Haman, the enemy of the Jews, was hanged on the gallows he had vindictively built for Mordecai, King Ahasuerus gave the entire house of Haman to his Queen Esther. Plus, Mordecai came before the king for now Esther had fully disclosed their relationship as cousins and the man who had properly raised her after she had been orphaned. The king took the signet ring off, which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it now to Mordecai as a token of respect and honor (Esther 3:10 is when Haman received the signet ring). Esther quickly set Mordecai over the house of Haman, which meant that he had full charge over his servants and attendants and such. Then, in submission, Esther spoke to the king once more on behalf of her people. She fell at his feet, wept, and implored him to avert the evil scheme Haman had concocted against her people that was an irrevocable law of the Medes and Persians. The king gracious extended his golden scepter to his wife and queen, giving Esther the opportunity to rise and stand before him for her petition. She spoke thus, “If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces.” She pleaded because she would not be able to endure to see such calamity and destruction befall her people, her kindred. Moved, King Ahasuerus remarked, “Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews. Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring may not be revoked (Esther 8:1-8).”

-Therefore, the king’s scribes were called together in the third month of Sivan (May/June in our calendar), on the 23rd day, and they wrote everything that Mordecai commanded them. This was for all the Jews, satraps, governors, and princes of the provinces which extend from India all the way to Ethiopia. There were 127 provinces all together, and this message was written in the script and language of all involved. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s own signet ring making it irrevocable. These letters were to be sent out by couriers on the royal steeds sired by the royal stud. These must have been some magnificent looking horses with world-class strength and power for the day. In the letters, the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and defend their lives. They could destroy, kill, and annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might be emboldened to attack them, including women and children, and they could take as plunder their spoil. This was specifically for the 13th day of the 12th month of Adar (February/March in our calendar), the day assigned for the destruction of the Jews by Haman previously (Esther 3:13). A copy of this edict to be issued as law in each and every province was published to all the peoples for the purpose of readiness by the Jews so that they could defend themselves from any of their enemies. These couriers, hastened and impelled by the king’s command, ventured out on their beautiful horses, and the decree was made public starting at the citadel of Susa (Esther 8:9-14).

-Mordecai, now a national hero and man of great distinction, proceeded out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple. Upon seeing this and with all that was going on, the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. Mordecai was a very popular figure by this time. A lighthearted spirit prevailed. “For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor.” Everywhere that the edict went forth produced the same kind of gladness and joy for the Jews. There were feasts and holidays with celebration in all places of the kingdom. In fact, many among the peoples of the land actually became converted Jews, “for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them (Esther 8:15-17).”

*Application* Awakenings and revivals occur at the strangest of times and in the most bizarre of ways. Who could’ve seen this coming? When all seemed so dark and disparaging, God sent His light through some courageous people and some unusual circumstances. He certainly works in mysterious ways, that sometimes, if we are receptive, leave us amazed, baffled, honored, rejoicing, jubilant, and in sublime ecstasy. This should absolutely get us fired up for the wondering-working culmination of God’s great and mighty works among men. He still produces miracles today! Are we ready, willing, and able to see a few?

Verse to Memorize: Esther 8:16

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 7

Esther 7

-The crescendo in the plot comes in this pivotal chapter as the king and Haman come to drink wine with Esther the queen in the second evening of her banquet. For the third time the king asked her what her petition was promising that it would be granted even up to half of the kingdom. Queen Esther gathered up her courage that was more than likely becoming more and more confident with all that she’d seen God do. She spoke, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.” King Ahasuerus became indignant with this perpetrator and asked, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?” Esther now made her decisive move, “A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!” Then, Haman, the Bible states, “became terrified (ba`ath- suddenly frightened, startled, overtaken by sudden terror, overwhelmed) before the king and queen.” The king, who was known for his angry tirades when filled with wine, arose furiously from his drinking and went into the palace garden. Haman stayed behind with Queen Esther begging for his life because he definitely perceived that harm had been determined against him by the king for this deliberate-prearranged savagery against the queen’s people. When the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they had been drinking, he saw Haman falling on the couch where Esther was. Further incensed, he fumed, “Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?” Even as these words went out of his mouth, his executioners covered the face of Haman. One of the king’s eunuchs, named Harbonah, who was before him, said, “Behold, indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits (about 75 feet) high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” The king pronounced his judgment on the wicked enemy of the Jews, “Hang him on it.” “So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided (Esther 7:1-10).”

*Application* Getting caught in an evil plot can leave one mortified. So it’s best that we never go about scheming malevolence upon our enemies, especially if they are part of God’s family and people. Esther’s prayers and plans had worked out perfectly under the Divine sovereignty of All-Mighty God. Surrendering courageously to His call for “such a time as this” may seem out there or overwhelming at times, but then He shows up and destroys the enemy before us leaving us in wonder and awe of His wisdom, glory, and power. God can easily do it, trust Him and see miracles abound all around.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 7:10

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 6

Esther 6

-During the very night that Haman had his gallows made for the purpose of eradicating Mordecai the Jew, King Ahasuerus could not sleep and had his book of records brought to him to be read. It was found written the incident recorded in Esther 2:21-23 where Bigthana and Teresh, the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, had sought to lay hands on the king and Mordecai’s faithful report of it to authorities. King Ahasuerus wondered aloud what honor or dignity had been bestowed on Mordecai for his heroic act on behalf of the king. It was found that nothing of notoriety had been for this man. So the king asked, “Who is in the court?” Haman had just entered the outer court at that precise time (from the text it is difficult to discern if this was that night of the next morning, I presume it was the next morning) in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai out of his rage and vindictive spirit. The king’s servants reported to him that Haman was standing in the court, and Haman was presented to the king. When Haman came forth before the king, King Ahasuerus asked very matter-of-factly, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” Haman, puffed up with pride and filled with arrogance, thought to himself, “Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?” Then, he proceeded to gush, “For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.’” Haman must have been mortified when the king responded, “Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king’s gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said.” Humiliated by now, Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square proclaiming, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.” Afterwards, Mordecai returned to the king’s gate, probably very pleased and feeling honored for his actions; meanwhile, Haman hurried home, mourning, lamenting, and sulking, with his head covered in shame. When he recounted all that had transpired to his wife, Zeresh, and all his friends, his wise men and even his wife spoke in thus fashion, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.” While these things were still being discussed, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet that Esther had prepared for them (see Esther 5:8; 6:1-14).

*Application* I think the old lyrics from an Elvis Presley song echo true here, “I’m caught in a trap, I can’t walk out…(from Suspicious Minds).” The Divine Hand of God was now actively moving in perfect sequence of time to vindicate and save his faithful servant, Mordecai. In His sovereignty, He was involved of even moving the thoughts of an all-powerful earthly king. God will do that for us too, if we stay pure and true to His Word, following His course and way. The LORD has an uncanny way of bringing about circumstances to favor His people with more honor than we could ever imagine. God is good like that. For the villains, it’s a totally different story. Puffed up pride and scheming arrogance will never prosper in the final analysis. Even the pagans were perceptive to that in our text today. It has a lot to do with the fear of the LORD. Today, I learned from a friend that someone was stealing pumpkins from the church across the street from ours. Last week, someone stole a purse out of a car in that same vicinity in our church’s parking lot. Can you imagine how God feels about people stealing, which is one of His top ten commandments, in His sacred place? These kinds of actions will not prosper these people for long. A day of reckoning is coming, and that is never pretty unless a person repents and makes God desired changes. One more thing to note here in our application. God watches out for His people, the Jews. We have a biblical promise for blessing when we bless them and a biblical curse upon us when we go against them (Genesis 12:3). I pray we all choose blessing over the pain of not blessing God’s appointed people.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 6:13

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 5

Esther 5

-After Esther’s commitment to go before the king with her petition to save the Jewish people, and on the third day of the fast that she had called on behalf of her people, the queen put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace and in front of the king’s rooms. King Ahasuerus was sitting on his royal throne opposite the entrance when she walked in. When he saw her standing in the court, she providentially obtained favor in his sight and the golden scepter was extended toward her so that she wouldn’t perish (see Esther 4:11). Esther came near her sovereign lord and touched the top of this scepter. The king spoke kindly to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given you.” Can you imagine the relief that Esther must have felt at this point? I’m sure a rush of mixed emotions came over her as she realized that God truly was at work in all of this to give her and her people Divine favor “for such a time as this.” But, she held to a preconceived plan it appears despite the king’s offer to almost anything she wanted. Why she proceeded like this is unknown, but it worked out perfectly in time. Esther replied, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.” The king quickly summoned his highly ranked subordinate and complete enemy of the Jews, Haman, to do exactly what Esther desired. At the banquet, they ate and drank an abundance of wine. Then, once more the king petitioned his queen as to what she really desired. Again, he offered her half the kingdom if she would simply ask. Esther, being led of the Holy Spirit and sensing that the time was not yet quite right, asked for the favor of the king to come the next night, again with Haman, to an extended banquet, which she had prepared for them. She promised that tomorrow she would do as the king asked in responding to what she really wanted (Esther 5:1-8).

-Haman went out that day “very glad and pleased of heart.” I’m sure he was filled with all the pride, contentment, and confidence a man could ever want. But, when he saw Mordecai in the king’s gate still not standing in respect or trembling before him, he became filled with anger against this hated Jew. It was one of those ruin the moment type of scenarios for him. He did control himself in the instant, and moved on toward his house but with irritation now in his heart. Upon coming home, he sent for his friends and wife, Zeresh, to recount to them the glory of his riches, the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified and promoted him above all the princes and servants of the kingdom. He even gushed over the fact that he alone had found favor with the queen in being invited to this banquet with the sovereign king not just for this night, but again on the tomorrow. Yet, he was still ticked off to the point of being dissatisfied with his existence every time he encountered Mordecai the Jew at the king’s gate. This man crawled under his skin and made him insane with rage. This demonic force with Haman was boiling over. His wife and all his friends devised a sinister plan in recommending to have gallows made 50 cubits high (about 75 feet) in the morning and ask the king for permission to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then he could proceed joyfully to his banquet with Esther and the king without having this Jew disrupt his peace anymore. The advice pleased Haman a lot, so he promptly had the gallows constructed (Esther 5:9-14)

*Application* First of all, let’s talk about the satisfaction of proceeding with a God sized plan in courage and boldness seeing it all play out to perfection with His Divine providence. In times like these, when we face our fears and move forward in faith, God erases our fretting worry and turns our situation into complete joy with His favor and blessing. This is what happened for Esther, and it can happen for us too. Secondly, let’s talk about the disadvantages of letting rage rule our spirit. Do people we don’t get along with ever irritate us? That’s a common temptation, right? Doing the complete opposite of what Haman did would help us overcome this ploy of Satan. Jesus tells us to bless those who persecute us and pray for them sincerely when they mistreat you (Luke 6:28). This love for our enemies is a bold new way to defuse any situation and make it come into conformity with the righteousness of Christ (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27). It only happens supernaturally, so ask the LORD to help in loving our neighbor.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 5:14

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 4

Esther 4

-When Mordecai learned of all that had been done by Haman in attempt to kill his people, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city of Susa wailing loudly and bitterly. He went as far as the king’s gates with this mourning and sorrowful protest. He could go no further since no one was to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth by law. In each province, as the news went out of the command and decree of the king against the Jews, there was incredible mourning with fasting, weeping, wailing, and laying on sackcloth and ashes. Eventually, Esther’s maidens and her eunuchs came and told her the news causing the great queen of Media-Persia to writhe in “great anguish.” She sent garments for Mordecai to clothe himself, perhaps so that he could come and speak with her without incident in the king’s gates. However, Mordecai refused the garments. This led Esther to summon Hathach, from the king’s eunuchs whom the king had appointed to attend her. She then ordered him to go to Mordecai, her previous caretaker, cousin, and dearly beloved, in order to learn what this matter was and why it was. The messenger went out to Mordecai in the city square in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him all that had happened to him and related the exact amount of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews (Esther 3:9). He even gave him a copy of the edict’s text, which had been issued in Susa appointing God’s chosen people’s destruction. This was given so that Hathach could show Esther and inform her without a shadow of a doubt so that she would know the seriousness of this situation and be compelled to go before the king to implore his favor and plead with him for her people. As Hathach came back and related the words of Mordecai to Esther along with this copy of the edict, Esther spoke to her attendant and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” This indicates the king’s complete authority and irritation with being bothered while on his throne. Remember, this was a man who was very prone to anger and flying off the handle with ridiculously intense emotions and actions. So we, as the readers, can feel the emotion and pathos of Esther as she makes this reply to Mordecai. As these words were given to the sullen Mordecai, her cousin had a response that proved overwhelming: “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place (veiled reference here to the sovereignty of God in this situation with complete faith) and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther got the point as she responded through her messenger: “Go assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Therefore, Mordecai went on his way and did exactly as Esther had commanded him (Esther 4:1-17).

*Application* How do we handle bad news in our culture when we receive it? Public mourning and sorrow has become less and less of a thing, but we can see the benefit of it if we try. Pent up emotions eventually come out in other more destructive ways, so I believe we have to commend Mordecai for his woeful demonstration that refused cover up. Notice that he didn’t act violently or enrage the Jewish populace in a vigilante fashion. He astutely made his points to someone who could do something about it with complete faith and dependence on his God. He was assured of relief and deliverance. This is what trust and belief are all about. He exhorted his cousin the queen, as a person of influence, to take action at a critical time with powerful words. These are commendable qualities for us to grab onto in times of stress and uncertainty. Let’s also laud Esther for her courage in seeing the reality of a situation and asking for intercession in gaining wisdom and favor. Her words, “If I perish, I perish,” should inspire us to take whatever stand we must take in present day situations and circumstances leaving the consequences to a Higher Power.

Verses to Memorize: Esther 4:14, 16

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 3

Esther 3

-Up until now, everything had been a fairy tale story for Esther and her caretaker-cousin Mordecai, but some evil things were beginning to take place in the plot. After the events of Queen Esther’s marriage to the king and Mordecai’s saving of the king from conspirators, Ahasuerus promoted an Agagite named Haman advancing him and establishing his authority over all the princes of the kingdom. The Agagites were mortal enemies of the Jewish people from ancient times. Prophecy had indicated that there would be perpetual war between Agag, king of the Amalekites (Amalek was a descendant of Esau, for more see, and God’s chosen people as far back as their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 17:8-16, 1 Samuel 15:2-33). The king had commanded all those of his servants at the king’s gate to bow down and pay homage to Haman every time he came through, but Mordecai neither bowed down nor did he pay homage. When asked daily why he transgressed the king’s command, he refused to listen to them and let them know that he was a Jew, which meant bowing to no one other than the LORD (much like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Daniel 3, 6). “When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage (Esther 3:1-5).”

-He disdained to violently attack Mordecai; but because he had been told of Mordecai’s nationality, the wicked Haman sought to destroy all of the Jews throughout the entire kingdom of Ahasuerus. This deal entailed much more than just a vendetta with his personal enemy. In the first month of Nisan (March/April on our calendar), in the 12th year of King Ahasuerus’ reign, Pur (a lot) was cast before Haman every day and from month to month until he deciphered from this practice when the best day would be to carry out his venomous decree. Little did he know he was playing right into the providence of God, for the day of death was actually set for another whole year away. This gave Esther time to make her plea to the king. Purim is the Persian word for lots, which became the name for the holiday of the Jewish people to commemorate this occasion when they were delivered rather than killed as Haman had planned. In the twelfth month of Adar (February/March on our calendar) the Pur finally told him it was time to go ahead with his devious plan. He told the king that there was a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of the kingdom that followed diverse laws from the king and his people. He reiterated that it was not in the king’s best interest to let these people remain and that they should be utterly destroyed. He offered to pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carried out the king’s business of eradicating his enemies for the king’s treasuries. Without thinking too much about this, King Ahasuerus took his signet ring and gave it to Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to sign this proclamation into law. The king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.” By the 13th day of the first month, now in the 13th year of Ahasuerus’ reign, the king’s scribes were summoned to produce this document prescribed by Haman to give to all the satraps, governors, and princes of each province in their own language and script. It was written in the name of the king and sealed with his signet ring as a law of the Medes and Persians, irrevocable and permanent. Letters were sent out by couriers into all the king’s provinces with the message to kill, destroy, and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, male and female, even the youngest children, in one day, which was the 13th of Adar. They were also to seize their possessions as plunder in this Nazi Germany type of scandal. Copies of this edict were published as a law for all the people of the kingdom so that they would have proper communication and be ready for this day. Haman’s scheme seemed to be shrewd, well thought out, and invincible. As the couriers went out impelled by the king’s command in Susa, and while the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city was in mass confusion with these developments (Esther 3:6-15).

*Application* Courage in the obedience to the things of God will always stir up a ruckus. We can count on that. Had Mordecai bowed down and paid homage to this vile human being, Haman, nothing of note would have happened in Queen Esther’s kingdom. However, he did refuse because this man was not worthy of worship. This amounted to idolatry, and Mordecai was smart enough to recognize it. Also, he was willing to stand up to it even though he genuinely could have predicted an inflammatory reaction. Who knows, he might could have expected death from the outcome of his persistence and bravery. This did not stop him from doing what was right. Now he let people know his identity, and fought the good fight for the LORD without compromise. We need to be like that too in our own day and age. While evil is on the rise, what kind of stand are we willing to take to set us apart from the pagan crowd? Rest assured, when we do, God will come to our aid though there be fire in the offering. Don’t fear the despicable human reaper; rather, fear the God of the harvest (Matthew 3:1-12, Luke 12:4-5).

Verses to Memorize: Esther 3:5, 13

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 2

Esther 2

-There are a few years between the time of Ahasuerus’ extravagant banquet (Esther 1:3) and the beginning of chapter two (Esther 2:16). Historically, there may have been a military campaign that went somewhat unsuccessful, and upon his return he enters a time of reflection, after his anger had subsided, and remembered his former Queen Vashti with all that had transpired in that situation. It appears from the text that his forlorn spirit was perceived by one of his attendants that served him, and this particular individual recommended that “beautiful virgins be sought for the king.” He continued to advise that overseers should be appointed by the king in all the provinces of his kingdom that all the available beautiful young women be gathered to the citadel in Susa and placed in a harem under the custody of one Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women. They would be given cosmetics for even more beautification and then present themselves before the queenless king for inspection. This was a type of Cinderella story that recent movies and works have depicted for us to relate. The young lady that impressed the king the most would then be named queen in the place of Vashti. This advice from his attendant pleased the king, and God’s will was becoming manifest through unforeseen circumstances. Then, this plan was carried out which had pleased the luxurious king so much (Esther 2:1-4).

-Now, providentially there was at the same time of all that was going on in the royal family at Susa a Jew by the name of Mordecai. He was a Benjamite who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, during the time of Jeconiah, king of Judah. He was bringing up an orphaned young lady by the name of Hadassah (Hadaccah- myrtle), or Esther ('Ecter- star), who was his uncle’s daughter. She was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and mother died, Mordecai, her elder cousin presumably, took her as his own daughter. It came about when the decree and command of the king were heard, Esther was taken to the king’s palace into the custody of Hegai, who, again, was in charge of the women ushered into the king’s harem. Esther found favor in Hegai’s eyes and she pleased him, which led to her getting all the cosmetics and food she needed very quickly along with seven choice maids from the king’s palace. Hegai transferred (shana- to change, to alter) her and her maids to the best place in the harem. But Esther, for all this blessing, did not make known her people or her kindred. Mordecai, her caretaker, had instructed her that she not make this information available to those who were holding her people captives in a foreign land. Every day Mordecai would pace back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn about how Esther was doing and how she was faring. This was a man who took great concern and cared for his extraordinary cousin. Even though the text does not express it explicitly, I believe he was praying fervently for her (Esther 2:5-11).

-At the end of twelve months under the regulations for the beautification of the women, each lady was to take a turn to come and go in to King Ahasuerus. They had had six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics of women. Anything that the women desired for their appearance to become attractive was given to them as they came from their harem into the king’s presence. Does this sound pretty plush ladies or what? They had their dream opportunity to make an impression before royalty. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem under the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of all the concubines. They would not return to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name. Probably some pretty tough competition there. When Esther’s turn came up to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai advised. This was the first sign of wisdom in this profound woman. She took council from someone who assuredly knew what the king delighted in. A fashion consultant if you will. Esther was the bomb. She found favor in the eyes of all who saw her before she was taken to the king in his royal palace. This happened in the tenth month of Tebeth (December/January in our calendar), in the seventh year of Ahasuerus’ reign (Esther 2:12-16).

-“The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Then, Queen Esther received a banquet in her honor for all the king’s princes and his servants. The king declared a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts according to the king’s abundant bounty (Esther 2:17-18). The LORD had elevated her to a very prominent position for His glory and the preservation of His chosen people.

-An unspecified elapsing of time goes by as the narrative moves to verse 19. It was somewhere between the time Esther was named queen in the later part of Ahasuerus’ 7th year of his reign and the twelfth year of his reign (Esther 3:7). The virgins were gathered a second time (unknown as to the reason for this occurrence), and Mordecai found himself sitting at the king’s gate there in Susa. Esther still had not yet made known her nationality or people, even as her cousin had commanded her; “for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” This shows us, as the readers, that there continued to be interaction between the queen and her beloved relative as the days went by in her kingdom. She displayed a tremendous amount of loyalty and respect here (Esther 2:19-20).

-In those days of sitting at the king’s gate, Mordecai discovered a plot by two men who were the king’s officials that guarded the door. These guys, named Bigthan and Teresh, had become angry over some matter and sought to lay hands on the king, King Ahasuerus. He told Queen Esther about the situation, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. When the plot was investigated and found to be true, both of the infidels were hanged on a tree (gallows). The matter was providentially recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in the king’s presence. This is an important development that would play out later in the story (Esther 2:21-23; 6:1-2).

*Application* God is working behind the scenes of our lives to orchestrate and work His good plan even when we may be completely unaware of it (Romans 8:28). God uses imperfect people to do providential things that accomplish His plans and His purposes in remarkable ways. Stay yielded to God when things don’t quite make sense in all that we go through. In time, and with wisdom, we can endure and see the fruit of what God wants in all His glory, blessings, and favor. We don’t have to stress. We don’t have to strive. God will develop the plot, even as it thickens, and rescue us from all evil. Just wait, be patient, and see. Dreams do come true.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 2:17

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Introduction and Chapter 1

Esther 1

-Introduction: This intriguing, made for the movies/TV, thriller of a real-life story takes place in the Persian Empire somewhere around the years of 486-473 B.C.. It is the courageous encounter of an unlikely queen and her uncle who carried out God’s divine plan for the deliverance of His people while some of them were still in captivity. The first exiles had returned to the land in 538 B.C. and the Temple had been rebuilt in 515 B.C., but many of the Jewish nation still languished as a minority in and around the capital of the Medo-Persian Empire in Susa. This is the setting for a book that never mentions the Name of the LORD, or God, but has all the workings of His Spirit in a unique experience that would initiate the Hebrew Feast of Purim, which occurs in February or March of our calendar. Esther (otherwise known as Hadassah, Esther 2:7), who was an orphan being raised by her cousin Mordecai, is the heroine of this narrative. But, Mordecai deserves much of the credit for the success of what happens. He discovers a plot against King Ahasuerus (otherwise known as Xerxes), raises a Godly girl, stands firm against the plots of evil men, and exhorts incredible redemptive action with wisdom. In the end he is exalted in the kingdom as the vile-villain, Haman, is extinguished from the earth. Authorship of this book is generally credited to Mordecai (Esther 9:29), but some have suggested a later authorship or editing from perhaps Ezra or Nehemiah due to its similarity in writing style. It was written around 470 B.C. after the events of the narrative. Although coming after the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the cannon, the events of Esther take place some 35 years or so prior to the cup bearer’s exodus back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and some 20 years or so prior to Ezra’s return to the Promised Land. Keep in mind that Ahasuerus (Xerxes, Esther 1:1) was the father of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1, Nehemiah 2:1) in the historical timeline. The Greek historian Herodotus confirms the timeline in much detail with exact harmony to the text of Esther in regards to Ahasuerus’ dominion, military expeditions against Greece, and his taking of a new queen (Herodotus 3.97, 98, 7.8, 9, 9.108, 109). Archaeological discovery has also confirmed the description of the royal palace in Susa described in Esther 1:6. The structure of this story goes something like this: The King Loses a Queen (Esther 1:1-22), Esther Becomes the New Queen (Esther 2:1-23), The Jews are Threatened (Esther 3:1-4:17), Esther Intercedes for the Jews (Esther 5:1-8:17), The Jews are Delivered (Esther 9:1-32), and Mordecai is Honored (Esther 10:1-3). Themes of the work include, but are not limited to: God’s Sovereignty, The Ridiculousness of Racial Hatred, Divine Deliverance, Taking Action, and Using Wisdom in a Threatening Environment. Let’s enjoy the reading and studying of this saga in a crucial time of God’s chosen race, and remember with application that the LORD may be calling us to do something special and courageous “for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).”

(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 817-818)

-Chapter 1: In the third year of Ahasuerus’ (Xerxes) reign over the Medo-Persian Empire, which stretched from India to Ethiopia and incorporated 127 provinces, these events took place in Susa where his royal throne sat at the citadel. King Ahasuerus gave an extraordinary banquet in his presence for all his princes, their attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of his provinces. Historically, this might be connected with a military campaign that was forthcoming against the Greeks. In this extreme party that lasted for 180 days, about half the year, he displayed “the riches of his royal glory” and “the splendor of his great majesty.” When these days were completed, King Ahasuerus gave another banquet, which lasted seven days for all the people of Susa, from the greatest to the least, in the garden of the king’s palace. The Bible describes this ornate setting with intricate detail. There were hangings of fine white and violet linen, and they were held on cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and other precious stones. Drinks were served at this celebration in golden vessels of various kinds, and the royal wine was indeed plentiful to the point of no limits for the guests. Each person had to the desire of their heart. This gives us a sense of the lavishness of the occasion. His queen, Queen Vashti (meaning “sweetheart”) also gave a banquet for the women in this beautiful palace that belonged to the king (Esther 1:1-9).

-On the seventh day of the feast, when the king’s heart was merry with wine, Ahasuerus commanded his seven eunuchs who served him to bring Queen Vashti, with her royal crown, to come before them and display her extraordinary beauty before all the people and the princes. This more than likely indicates a drunken man’s request for her to expose herself to all at the party, which would have been culturally inappropriate and ultra-demeaning to this woman of class, dignity, and wealth. She courageously opposed this request in the face of a king’s commands, which angered this very temperamental ruler. The text describes him as being “very angry and his wrath burned within him.” He consulted, as was the custom, with his closest princes of Persia and Media who had special access to his presence and sat in high positions of authority in the kingdom. There were seven of them. He asked them specifics about the what the law said about this situation of disrespect coming from his queen. Memucan spoke up at this juncture and said, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes, and all the peoples who are in the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.’ And this day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger.” Then, this Memucan suggested that if it pleased the king a royal edict be issued by him according to the irrevocable law of the Medes and Persians that Vashti be forbidden to come into the king’s presence and her crown taken from her as queen. Another woman would get this privileged title who would be more worthy than the perceived renegade. This, Memucan rationalized, would ensure a dispersal of knowledge throughout the kingdom causing women everywhere to give complete honor and obedience to their husbands for the tranquility of the land. This word pleased the once enraged king, as well as all the princes, prompting the king to do exactly as Memucan had proposed. He sent letters to all of the king’s provinces, according to their language and script, that every man was to be master in his own house and “the one who speaks in the language of his own people (Esther 1:10-22).”

*Application* The anger of man never produces the righteousness of God (James 1:20). A rash decision can still be used of God though for His purposes as we will see in this narrative. On our part, we must deal with things that tempt us to get frustrated, or angry, in a way that will please the LORD. When self-control is lost, we are like a city without walls, left unprotected and vulnerable to schemes of the evil one (Proverbs 25:28). Ahasuerus lost his queen because he was being foolish, getting drunk and trying to impress people. This type of activity didn’t behoove him and will never benefit us.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 1:19

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 13

Nehemiah 13

-In this final chapter we see the reality of an ongoing struggle to keep people’s hearts right and in tune with the righteous laws of God within the land of Judah, even Jerusalem, as time went on. The chapter begins with the audible reading of the book of Moses in the hearing of the people. It was discerned from that reading that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God (Deuteronomy 23:3-5). The reason for this was historical. They did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water when they sojourned through their territories during the wilderness wanderings, but instead hired Balaam to curse against the people of God. However, God, in all His power and glory, turned the curse into a blessing. Therefore, after hearing this the Jews excluded all foreigners from Israel for a time (Nehemiah 13:1-3).

-It appears there is some passage of time in the text from this point as Nehemiah shares with the reader that he had returned to King Artaxerxes in the 32nd year of his reign. During all this time that he was away from Jerusalem, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the Temple, the House of God, prepared a large room for Tobiah because they were related by marriages. This large room was supposed to be where the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils, the tithes of grain, the wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the contribution for the priests were to be kept. When Nehemiah asked the king for leave and a return to Jerusalem, it was granted, but what Nehemiah found upon his return troubled him greatly. What Elashib had done for Tobiah was evil in preparing this room for him, a Gentile, in the courts of the House of God. It went against everything the Law prescribed and what the Israelites had committed to in the wall building/revival years prior. This is why Nehemiah described the situation as being “very displeasing” to him. Then he took action. He threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room and gave an order to cleanse the rooms. After that, he returned the utensils of the House of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense. This reminds me of Jesus’ righteous retribution when He turned over the tables of the sellers and exchangers in the same Temple area who were polluting His House of prayer (Nehemiah 13:4-9, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46).   

-Further reform was needed as Nehemiah discovered upon his return that the portions legally due the Levites had not been given to them. This had led to the departure of these Levites and singers who performed service in God’s House. They had each gone back to their own fields to make a living. As a result, Nehemiah reprimanded the officials saying, “Why is the House of God forsaken?” Then, he again took righteous action to correct the situation by gathering them back and restoring them to their posts. This led to all Judah bringing their tithe of the grain, wine and, oil back into the storehouses. Nehemiah appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, Pedaiah of the Levites, and Hanan to be in charge of these storehouses now because “they were considered reliable.” It was their task at this point to distribute the proper allotments to their kinsmen. Nehemiah is shown next in the text as asking God to remember him for these loyal deeds which he performed for the House of God and its services (Nehemiah 13:10-14).

-Another problem confronted the great restorer of Judah and Jerusalem as he observed what was going on with the corruption of the Sabbath in the land. He saw some in Judah treading the wine presses on the Sabbath and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys to bring into Jerusalem for profit. Not just wine, but grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads were being brought in on the LORD’s anointed day. Nehemiah admonished them, and he also saw men from Tyre living there in Judah who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise. These foreigners were selling to the sons of Judah on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. This led Nehemiah to more admonitions of the Jewish nobles of Judah, “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” Then, again, Nehemiah took specific actions to remedy this sin. As it grew dark every Friday, he commanded that the doors at the gates of Jerusalem be shut until the Sabbath was over. He stationed some of his servants at these gates so that no loads would enter on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside of Jerusalem, but Nehemiah warned them that if they continued to do that he would use force against them. “From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath.” Further, Nehemiah commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify this holy day. In the end of this action, Nehemiah once more asked his LORD to remember him and have compassion on him according the greatness of His lovingkindness (Nehemiah 13:15-22).

-In those days, Nehemiah also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab, which was against God’s commands as His separated people (Exodus 34:11-16, Deuteronomy 7:1-5). The children of these marriages were speaking the foreign languages of the pagans, so Nehemiah once more took decisive action to purge the lawlessness. He contended with them and cursed them. He struck some of them and even pulled out their hair. Pretty tough work, right? Then he made them swear by God that they would not give their daughters to these foreign sons or have their sons take any of the foreign women in marriage. He cited King Solomon’s error in this debauchery regarding these things, which caused him to sin even though God loved him and made him king over all Israel as no king like him. This, as Nehemiah rightfully pointed out, was a great evil because of their unfaithful actions against their covenant God. Even one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore, Nehemiah boldly drove him away from his presence. He prayed an imprecatory prayer of vindication as he asked God to “remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.” In the end, Nehemiah purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties that the priests and the Levites should lawfully do, each in his task. He arranged for the supply of wood at the appointed times and for the first fruits. Then he asked his God one final time to remember him for good (Nehemiah 13:23-31).

*Application* We generally call a man like Nehemiah “the heavy.” He was the one who became the enforcer of God’s Law in the land as they returned from captivity. Anyone who has had this type of task as an overseer knows that it is tough to take a strong stand and carry out discipline. It is necessary though. People are evil in their hearts and constantly need correction. Just ask our law enforcement officers how difficult the job is today, and we will see. What we see with God’s holy, perfect, and righteous Law is a restraining of evil, but remember only He, through His life giving Son, can impute righteousness on the believers. That’s why we always should aim at the heart when we correct people. This has more lasting results, always. It must be intrinsic, not extrinsic (Galatians 6:1-10).

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 13:11-12, 14

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 12

Nehemiah 12

-The priests and Levites who came up with Zerubbabel and Jeshua were listed including Ezra and other important men in the first 21 verses. The chief Levites are then given honor as being registered (Nehemiah 12:22-26). The dedication of the wall of Jerusalem is then discussed. They sought out Levites from all their places in the surrounding region, and they were brought to Jerusalem for the mega-celebration that was about to take place. This dedication to the LORD their God was received with great gladness, hymns of thanksgiving, and songs accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres. The Levites purified themselves and all the people along with the gates and the wall in preparation for this monumental event in their national history (Nehemiah 12:27-30).

-At this point Nehemiah had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall and two great choirs were appointed. The first choir proceeded to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate. Half the leaders, including a man named Hoshaiah, followed this first choir. Some of the sons of the priests went with trumpets and some of the instruments of David, “the man of God.” Ezra the scribe went before them. At the Fountain Gate they went directly up the steps of the city of David by the stairway of the wall, which was above the house of David, and then they proceeded to the Water Gate on the east. The second choir proceeded to the left, with Nehemiah following them, and half the people were on the wall above the Tower of Furnaces all the way to the Broad Wall and above the Gate of Ephraim, by the Old Gate, by the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred, the Sheep Gate, and the Gate of the Guard. “Then the two choirs took their stand in the House of God,” so did Nehemiah and half the officials with him. A listing of priests sang with Jezrahiah, their leader. “And on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.” On that day men were appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes to gather into this holy place from the fields of the cities according to the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites; “for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served.” These men performed the worship of their God and the service of purification along with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and his son, Solomon. In the days of King David and the worship leader, Asaph, which were ancient times some 500 or so years prior, there were leaders of the singers who sang songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. “So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron (Nehemiah 12:31-47).”

*Application* This was an awesome time of praise and worship as we can imagine. Times of rejoicing lead to great generosity and sharing of the blessings God has provided. A giving heart is seen all throughout these verses as people come together to declare the mighty worth of God and live in His glory. We can practice this as well in our homes, churches, and communities. Sing with all our heart, rejoice with the joy of the LORD, and give abundantly. Let the world know we have a Savior!

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 12:43

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 11

Nehemiah 11

-As time was beginning to pass now with the walls completed and a renewal of the covenant with their God, living arrangements became an important concern now in the holy city. The leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, making it once again the capital area of importance, but lots had to be cast to bring one out of every ten to come live in this sparsely populated walled city. All the people blessed those who volunteered to live in Jerusalem away from their inheritance. The heads of provinces who lived in Jerusalem are listed with a type of census counting them in number. Among these were the Israelites (sons of Judah and Benjamin), the priests, the Levites, the Temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants (Nehemiah 11:1-36).

*Application* Moving into the city from their inheritance would have been a monumental sacrifice of reestablishing their homes and businesses, which would have meant a major investment of time and money. No wonder all the people blessed those who would take this on voluntarily. Living in the holy city would have also confronted people constantly with a holy God and His Word in that place. This was probably intimidating for some because of the accountability factor. The tendency for us humans is the proverbial “out of sight, out of mind.” Now that we are the Temple of God by His indwelling Spirit in the believer (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20), what sort of volunteering are we doing? In other words, are we “going in” to live in His presence, which is readily available? The saved who volunteer to abide in Him will produce much fruit and receive more of His blessings (John 15:5-11, Revelation 22:12).

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 11:2

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 10

Nehemiah 10

-Verses 1-27 list out the names of men who were on the sealed document of agreement with the LORD on their nation’s sinful condition and commitment to restore proper relationship with their faithful, covenant-keeping God. There were priests, Levites, and leaders who put their names to this obligation before the LORD. The rest of the people including the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the pagans of other nations to follow the Law of God with their wives, sons, and daughters (all who had understanding and knowledge) joined in with their kinsmen and nobles to take on this potential curse and oath to walk in obedience to God’s Law. The Law, given to Moses, God’s servant, was to be kept and observed in its entirety with all its ordinances and statutes. They committed to the purity of marriages within their covenant society so as to not give their daughters to foreigners or take foreign daughters for their sons. They committed not to buy or sell on God’s holy Sabbath day, and they resolved to forego the crops in the seventh year with the exaction of every debt according to Mosaic Law. They also placed themselves under responsibility to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the House of God, the Temple. This would benefit things of need in the ministry of God’s House like the showbread, the continual grain offering, the continual burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moon, the appointed times on the calendar, the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel. All the work of the House of God was to be taken care, which they had neglected for so long. Further, they devoted to cast lots for the supply of wood among the priests, the Levites, and the people so that they could carry out God’s required sacrifices by fathers’ households at the fixed times of the year as it was written in the Law. They would also ensure the bringing of first fruits before the LORD from every tree. In addition, the firstborn of their sons and livestock would be brought before the LORD according to His commands, so that the priests could carry out their proper functions upon them. Contributions were stressed on the tithe, even in the rural areas, so that His storehouse would be full to overflow. This would benefit all who were ministering before the LORD. The final statement says it all, “Thus we will not neglect the House of our God (Nehemiah 10:28-39).”

*Application* We can always tell when people really get serious about the things of God. His priorities become our priorities, and the other things don’t really seem to matter much. God’s commanded sacrifice for us in this dispensation (or age) is our total being (Romans 12:1-2). This requires a transformation, which only God can give. Marks of this transformation are a renewed mind thinking like Christ, a conformity to the Kingdom of God rather than this world, and a following of God’s good and acceptable and perfect will for our lives. The standard of excellence has actually heightened in comparison to these Old Testament requirements, if we care to admit it, with the work of Christ on the cross and His Spirit’s indwelling of the believer. Let’s give our lives completely over to God.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 10:29, 39

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 9

Nehemiah 9

-On the 24th day in the seventh month of Elul, the sons of Israel assembled with fasting in sackcloth with dirt upon them. They separated themselves from all foreigners and stood to confess their, and their ancestors’, sins and iniquities before the LORD their God. While they continued to stand in their place, they read from the book of the Law of the LORD for a forth of the day. For another fourth of the day they confessed and worshipped God. On the platform of the Levites were heard crying with loud voices by many of these religious leaders. Then they commanded the people to, “Arise, bless the LORD your God forever, and ever!” A lengthy prayer ensued glorifying the LORD for His uniqueness, power, and holy Name. His creative abilities were extolled, and His choosing of Abram was given thanks. The prayer acknowledged that it was Abram’s faithful heart before his God that ensured the covenant between the LORD and this people. As a result, all of the Promised Land was given to the Hebrews as a perpetual inheritance due to a righteous Father who fulfills all His good promises. He was the One who saw His people’s affliction in Egypt and heard their cry by the Red Sea. He was the One who performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his servants, and all the pagan Egyptians of the land. God knew their arrogance towards the commands He had given, and He made a Name for Himself as a result. He divided the sea before His people as a means of escape to pass through on dry ground, and the pursuers He hurled into the depths (Exodus 14:1-15:1). Their God had led them through the dessert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night “to light for them the way in which they were to go.” The LORD had come down to earth on Mt. Sinai and spoke from Heaven with His servant Moses to give His people His “just ordinances and true laws,” His “good statutes and commandments.” God made known to them His holy Sabbath and gave them every commandment, statute, and law they would need to achieve a successful society as His representative on earth. Their LORD had provided for them in the wilderness with bread from Heaven (manna) and brought water from a rock to quench their thirst miraculously. He had given them permission to enter into the Promised Land to possess it as a fulfillment of promise. But, as the prayer continues, the ancestors acted arrogantly themselves, much like the Egyptians, and became stubborn, not listening to the commandments of God. They refused to listen and did not remember His wondrous deeds which He had performed. So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return them to their slavery in Egypt, but God was forgiving, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness. He did not forsake them in their waywardness against Him. Even though they made a molten calf of metal to worship and committed great blasphemies against the LORD, God had shown His restraint and did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire did not leave them, and continued to show them the direction they needed to take. Even God’s good Spirit was given to them to instruct them and the manna never ceased. For forty years God’s people never were in want and even their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell with all the walking around they had to do. God gave them kingdoms and peoples, and He allotted to them a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). They continued to grow in number and power so that the promise to Abraham was fulfilled that his descendants became as numerous as the stars of Heaven (uncountable), and they eventually inhabited the land again as His chosen people. God won for them every victory as they conquered their Promised Land. They captured fortified cities and a fertile land taking possession of houses filled with every good thing: hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. “So they ate, were filled and grew fat, and reveled in Your great goodness. But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your Law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who had admonished them so that they may return to You. And they committed great blasphemies.” Therefore, the LORD delivered them over to the hands of their oppressors who ruthlessly oppressed them as discipline from the LORD. But when they cried out to their God in the time of their distress, He heard from Heaven, and according to His great compassion gave them deliverers who freed them from their oppressors. However, as soon as they had rest, they recommitted themselves to doing evil before their God. As a result, the LORD abandoned them for a period to the hand of their enemies once more so that they ruled over them. But when they cried out again in their distress, God once more heard from Heaven and many times He rescued them according to His great compassion. And God admonished them so that they would turn back to His righteous Law. Yet they continued to act arrogantly and did not listen faithfully to His commandments and sinned against His ordinances “by which if a man observes them he shall live.” They kept turning a “stubborn shoulder” and “stiffened their neck” and would not listen to the Voice of their Maker and Sustainer. God bore with them for many years in His patience, admonishing them by His Spirit through His prophets. But they would not give ear. Their hearts became hardened. Therefore, God finally had to give them over into the hands of people from foreign lands. But, God in His great compassion, lovingkindness, grace, and faithfulness did not make a full end of His people, nor did He totally forsake them even though they definitely deserved it. The prayer ends with exaltation now as they had returned from their captivity. God was lifted high for His greatness, mightiness, awesomeness, covenant keepingness, and lovingkindness. They asked that all the hardship, which had come upon them, not be insignificant before Him. The kings, the princes, the prophets, the priests, the fathers, and all the people had learned great and mighty lessons in humility from the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and the Medes and Persians up until that day. In repentance, they acknowledged that God was just in their punishment because He had been faithful to the covenant and they had been wicked in the way they had acted by disobeying His Law. They had not paid attention to His commandments nor His admonitions even though He had blessed them beyond measure. They recognized that they were still slaves to the Gentiles that day, and their produce was for these foreign kings, which had been set over them because of their sins. These ruled over their bodies and over their cattle as they pleased and this was continuing the children of God’s distress. This is how the prayer ends (Nehemiah 9:1-37). A covenant would result, which begins in the last verse of the chapter. “Now because of all this we are making an agreement in writing; and on the sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites and our priests (Nehemiah 9:38).”

*Application* Times of remembrance in prayer are important for us to process everything that the LORD has actually taken us through. When we do this honestly, we will find that His faithfulness, compassion, grace, forgiveness, and admonition is just as evident in our lives as these repentant Hebrews we have been studying. Take some time today to truthfully pray to God about the past, the present, and the future as we seek to obey Him better and be freed from any oppression that still besets us.

Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 9:29-30

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Chapter 8

Nehemiah 8

-The second section of this book, which could be entitled, “The Reformation of the People Phase,” begins in this chapter. Nehemiah, and the rest of the leadership now in Jerusalem, had more than just a wall to repair. The Law of the LORD had been neglected and trampled on for so long that they needed a revival in their midst. When the wall was completed with all its gates and bars, all the people gathered in unity as one man in the square that was in front of the Water Gate section of Jerusalem. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given Israel, and read it before them with explanation. All who could understand, both men and women and children, came to listen on the first day of the seventh month of Elul. Ezra read from early morning to midday in their presence, and all were very attentive to the Book of the Law. He stood at a wooden podium, much like what we might call a pulpit in our modern day churches, that was made exactly for this purpose of proclamation. There were those of importance that stood to Ezra’s right and left hand as he voiced the words of God to the people from above them. When he opened the Book, all the people stood up in reverence. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, with all the people in attendance saying, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands in praise. Then, they bowed low before the LORD in worship with their faces to the ground. True repentance, true honoring was evident in this powerful display of emotion, pomp, and pageantry. Just for the edification of the common people, there were also men, with Levites among them, that explained the Law to the people while they remained in their place. There were translations to give a sense so that they would really understand the reading (Nehemiah 8:1-8).

-The governor, Nehemiah, and the priest/scribe, Ezra, along with the Levites who taught the people said to all of them, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” The people were distraught when the Law was read before them, for they realized their failures to obey it. But Nehemiah assured them, “Go, eat of the fat (abundant blessings), drink of the sweet (enjoying the goodness of the LORD), and send portions to him who has nothing prepared (a giving spirit); for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people as they chimed in, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” After that, all went away to eat and drink and give portions and celebrated with a great festival. They did this because they understood the words of the Book which had been made known to them, and they realized the abundant grace of their God, Yahweh (Nehemiah 8:9-12).

-On the second day all the heads of the fathers’ households of the people with the priests and Levites gathered up to Ezra the scribe so that they could get more insight into the words of the Law, which had been read. They found written in this Mosaic Law that God had given on Mt. Sinai a commandment to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. Therefore, they proclaimed and circulated to all their cities, including Jerusalem, to go and gather up olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and other leafy trees from the hills and make these booths as it was written in the Law. The people joyfully did this and made their booths on the rooftops, their courts, the courtyard of the House of God, and in the squares of the Water Gate and Gate of Ephraim. The entire assembly who had returned from the captivity made booths to live in for the appointed time outlined in the Book of the Law. This was the first time they had actually obeyed this commandment since the days of Joshua the son of Nun. It had been nearly a thousand years since they had followed God’s commands to regard this festival in this way, which reminded them of their people’s journey through the wilderness (Leviticus 23:39-43, Numbers 29:12-40). Because of the spirit of the people inclined back to their God, there was “great rejoicing,” and Ezra kept reading from the Book of the Law of God daily. From the first day to the last day of this festival, God’s Word was read, and the people celebrated. It lasted seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance of God (Nehemiah 8:13-18).

*Application* Our nation in America obviously needs a revival of this nature. We, as God’s people, are praying for this kind of awakening where people join together in unity to reverence, respect, and worship the Living God of the universe unashamedly. A return to the loving commands of the LORD would bring great rejoicing and celebration because people would be free from the dominion of sin and depravity in their lives. Let’s fervently pray for this kind of revival in our land. It’s not too late to make Jesus the most honored Man in America.

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 8:10