Posts Tagged “Nehemiah”

Jerusalem GateDedication of Jerusalem’s Wall – What a Celebration!
Nehemiah 12 describes what I can only imagine as a totally awesome worship, celebration and dedication of  event, but it’s easy to miss it because of all the details and names. So let’s remove some of that and catch a glimpse of the extravagant worship.

27For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem…
Nehemiah 12:27-28 (NLT)

This was no ordinary event. Israelite singers and musicians came together from all the regions. Perhaps you’ve participated in a large worship event. We used to attend a church that had regional retreats and people from a dozen states or so would come together – what a fantastic time of worship that was! A church in our community sometimes holds community-wide worship nights bringing together members of worship teams from several different churches. What a blessing! I attended two Promise Keepers events as a volunteer. I remember going into the stadium as the men gathered for worship at one of them. What an awesome sound as the men filled the stadium with powerful praise to God. I love those events. Better than any concert you’ve ever attended! Yet the worship described in Nehemiah 12 would have out-shined all of those.

The singers and musicians didn’t gather together in a building or stadium. They gathered outside and celebrated around the entire city. The first group celebrated on the east wall of the city, walking toward the Sheep Gate.

31I led the leaders of Judah to the top of the wall and organized two large choirs to give thanks. One of the choirs proceeded southward along the top of the wall to the Dung Gate. 32Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, 33  along with [other leaders]. 35Then came some priests who played trumpets… 36b[Other priests] used the musical instruments prescribed by David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe led this procession. 37At the Fountain Gate they went straight up the steps on the ascent of the city wall toward the City of David. They passed the house of David and then proceeded to the Water Gate on the east.
Nehemiah 12:31-37 (NLT)

Jerusalem Wall during Nehemiah's Time

The second group walked along the west wall of the city worshipping with instruments and songs. Imagine – two large choirs accompanied by instruments walking the perimeter of the city walls as they praised. You’ve undoubtedly seen videos of flash mobs in shopping malls or at hotels. This goes beyond any of those outstanding performances. And I hesitate to use the word performances because the Israelites weren’t performing. They were worshipping. And they ended their worship in the Temple of God:

38The second choir giving thanks went northward around the other way to meet them. I followed them, together with the other half of the people, along the top of the wall past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39then past the Ephraim Gate to the Old City Gate, past the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel, and on to the Tower of the Hundred. Then we continued on to the Sheep Gate and stopped at the Guard Gate [or Muster Gate].

40The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. So did I, together with the group of leaders who were with me. 41We went together with the trumpet-playing priests… 42and the singers…. They played and sang loudly under the direction of Jezrahiah the choir director.

43Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.
Nehemiah 12:38-43 (NLT)

I love the juxtapositioning of worship with sacrifice and joy. We don’t often associate worship with sacrifice or sacrifice with joy. God’s like that. He brings together worship and sacrifice and joy. All that we sacrifice to Him is a form of worship. All that we sacrifice to Him both brings Him joy and is an act of joy on our part. Even when it’s hard.

The Israelites gathered in the city and went to the top of the wall they had just completed. From there the broke into two groups. One went in one direction, the other in the other direction. Both groups playing their instruments and singing worshiping God. So loudly that they could be heard far away. Without any modern sound system!

God is worthy of our extravagant praise! It is offensive to offer less. It is a discipline to put aside the things of the week and the frustration of the day when we step into worship, but it’s a discipline and sacrifice that not only honors Him, it brings us into His presence – which of course, is to our tremendous benefit.

Friends, I challenge you to outdo yourself during worship in the coming month. Don’t just stand or sit and sing the words that appear in the hymnal or on the screen. Worship Him! And make it your lifestyle.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

November is the official start of the holiday season in our house – Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas follows quickly behind it. I love reading the book of Luke in November because it tells the Christmas story so well. It’s the book that will be our New Testament focus this month. Near the end of the month we’ll begin to read the book of Revelation – God’s final words to us.

Our readings take us through the Old and New Testaments over a two year period. We’re winding up our two years this month and next, so here at Apprehending Grace we’re already thinking about our 2014 plan. If you have any thoughts about how you’d like us to organize the readings, let us know. Comment on the blog, send me an email or past a message on our Facebook page.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the November/December bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The November Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for November is below.

2013-11Nov RecRdg

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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Make the DateGod is so good. I love His peace. It comes from sitting at His feet and understanding that He is in control. It comes from sitting at His feet and knowing – knowing – that He loves me.

If you’re following the Resting at the River’s Edge readings with us, you read this verses this week:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NLT)

What a great verse to remind us of the benefits of setting aside time for God! I pray that during this season when things can become so hectic and emotions can run amok, that you are setting aside time to enjoy God.

…Time to linger in His presence.

…Time to be refreshed.

…Time to regain your strength.

Scripture says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can only experience that joy when we spend time with the Lord. (Here are some ideas about what to do during that time.)

A few verses later in Isaiah it says this:

So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.
Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

The Lord is waiting for you to come to Him so that He can show you His love and compassion. Do you want to experience His love and compassion this season? In these remaining weeks of 2012, pull out your calendar right now and schedule times (notice that said times, not time) when you will visit with God. I’m guessing your calendar already includes scheduled gatherings when you will visit with family and friends. Add blocks of time when you will visit with God. It is during those times that you will find your peace (quietness of spirit), your confidence and your strength to meet all those other appointments. It is during those times when God can show you His love and His compassion.

Don’t be late for those very important dates! God has something special for you. And just in case you don’t sense or experience it on your first date…don’t despair and don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get to know Someone. And getting to know God is infinitely worth it!

No go grab your calendar and make a date with God!

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the May/June bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the June Reading Plan Here

Here’s June’s reading plan:

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the May/June bookmark.

Share what God is teaching you with otherse. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you watch spring unfold!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the May Reading Plan Here

Here’s May’s reading plan:

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There is only one man God referred to as “a man after my own heart” – King David. Wow! What a way to be known by God! We know that the King was not without his flaws and not without sin, but what earned him the title of “a man after my own heart” was his deep, passionate love for God. God saw into King David’s heart and knew that he had found a friend – someone who would stand by His side forever.

King David was a bit of a renaissance man –

  • Mighty in battle – of course, there’s the story of killing Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and then there’s the refrain that ate at Saul’s heart – “Saul has killed his thousands and David has killed his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)
  • A great King of Israel
  • A true friend – to Jonathan (1 Samuel 18) and then his son Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9)
  • An inventor of musical instruments (Nehemiah 12)
  • An extravagant worshipper of God (2 Samuel 16)
  • A songwriter and poet (the Psalms of David)

That’s quite a contrast – a man of war, a great administrator and a poet! One of King David’s Psalms is described by Matthew Henry, a favorite commentator of many, as being “like none of the rest; it excels them all, and shines brightest in this constellation.” He goes on to describe it as “David’s pious and devout exclamations, the short and sudden breathings and elevations of his soul to God.”

With that as a backdrop, it seems appropriate, even beneficial to study this Psalm. What you’ll find is that such a study will be quite different from most because the Psalm is quite different from all others. It is more than twice as long as any other Psalm, and is written in a distinctive manner.

The psalm of the hour is Psalm 119. Matthew Henry goes on to describe the Psalm:

“The composition of it is singular and very exact. It is divided into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each part consists of eight verses, all the verses of the first part beginning with Aleph [the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet], all the verses of the second with Beth [the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet], and so on, without any flaw throughout the whole psalm.”

Archbishop Tillotson says, “It seems to have more of poetical skill and number in it than we at this distance can easily understand. Some have called it the saints’ alphabet; and it were to be wished we had it as ready in our memories as the very letters of our alphabet, as ready as our A B C.”

In other words…it’s a worthwhile read.

I find it fascinating that when King David decided to put pen to paper in this unique Psalm, when he wanted to write a poem or song that started each verse with a different letter of the alphabet and worked through all the letters, from A to Z (so to speak), the subject he chose to write about is God’s Word. It wasn’t God’s grace or His mercy or His compassion or His love. It was His Word. David’s love for God was so deep and so passionate, that David loved each Word that came from Him.

Reading through the Psalm, you’ll find that David uses many different words to describe God’s Word: statutes, laws, commands, word. King David loved the Lord and he loved God’s Word. As I read Psalm 119 – all 176 verses of it (!), three themes stand out:

David’s love of and delight in God’s Word
The value of God’s Word
David’s request that God teach him from His Word

As we look at a few verses related to each theme, I’m sure you’ll find some that are quite familiar to you. And as we look at them together, I’m praying that God will use David’s words to ignite a love for God’s Word in each of us.

David’s love of and delight in God’s Word

Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
(Verse 24)

David describes God’s statutes – His laws – as a delight! They are not burdensome as some might consider them, they are a delight. We’ll see why when we look at what David says about their value.

David is so confident in God’s statutes that he uses them as counselors. In other words, he uses them to help make decisions.

The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
(Verse 72)

Is God’s Law more precious to you than your gold and silver? More precious than your job and paycheck? When that’s true, we act differently on the job. We are better employees in most ways – because we are obedient to God’s laws about respecting our employers, working diligently and honestly, and being kind and having a positive attitude.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
(Verse 97)

Oh, to have the love for God’s law that David had. Lord, help me to meditate on it all day long! Help me to keep it in my mind while I work through my days.

The value of God’s Word

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
(Verse 1)

Those who follow God’s laws are blessed. It’s the simple principle of sowing and reaping. Living according to God’s laws puts us in a position to receive His tremendous blessings. Conversely, walking outside God’s laws opens us not only to reap the consequences of our choices, but also to being more vulnerable to attacks by satan.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
(Verse 11)

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts keeps us from sinning. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it helps us to make right choices.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Verse 105)

God’s Word shows us the way we should go. It illuminates our thinking opening creative options when all ways seem blocked.

David’s request that God teach him from His Word

Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
(Verse 18)

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
(verses 33 and 34)

Notice that David promises to follow God’s laws as God leads him in greater understanding of them. With such a valuable resource, David understands that simply reading God’s Word and not obeying it is a travesty and an affront to God.

Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
(Verse 73)

Scripture describes us as “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). David understood that the One who created man is worthy of man’s obedience. He also knew that God didn’t create man and then walk away – He remains actively involved in our world and in our lives if we invite Him in.

All of this leads David to one final overriding theme: Praise for God and His Word.

I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
and I meditate on your decrees.
(verse 48)

Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.
(verse 54)

I like this verse. It challenges me to rejoice over God’s Laws no matter what my circumstances are – wherever I happen to be lodging at the moment, Lord, let me rejoice in Your Laws.

At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
(verses 62 and 164)

Your word, O Lord, is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens.
(Verse 89)

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are they joy of my heart.
(verse 111)

Wow! Another verse that I love. God’s Laws are the joy of David’s heart and are so rich that he considers them his heritage – his inheritance – that thing of value that has been passed down through the generation, preserved and passed on to him. They are an inheritance that, when made his own, enabled David to have a lasting legacy.

They can do the same for us. Whether God’s Word was an inheritance you received from your parents or one you are building for those who follow after you, when you treasure God’s Word as David did, it brings wisdom and joy that enables you to live a life that goes beyond what you might even begin to accomplish in the natural. There’s one more verse I love that applies here:

To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.
(Verse 96)

Everything in this life, even those things that are perfect here on earth, has limits. Everything except that which comes from God. His commands are without limits. His Word is without limits – boundless – and they open opportunities for us to have boundless influence.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to partner with You to impact my world and beyond. Teach me Your ways so that I might know You better.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Construction Jobs, Queens, an Unfaithful Wife, the Love of God, and Wisdom on a Plethora of Subjects – all in the month of June!

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in June, we’ll be reading five different Old Testament books and read portions of Romans and 1 Corinthians. Sounds like a lot, but we’re still reading only three chapters on most days. Here’s just a hit of some of the things that await you in June:

  • Construction, construction and construction – You’ll read about the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity in the book of Ezra. In Nehemiah you’ll read about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
  • Everyone knows the story of Esther – the young Jewish woman who would become queen and save her people. We’ll follow Esther’s story with the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer. The story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer provides a beautiful picture of how God takes us back again and again even when we are unfaithful to Him.
  • I hope you’re enjoying the reading we’ve been doing in Romans. We’ll finish the book coming to such favorite passages as “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8) and Paul’s great prayer “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15).
  • Paul will provide wisdom about all sorts of things in 1 Corinthians: Spiritual pride, sexual sin, marriage, public worship, gifts of the Spirit, and more.

I pray that God speaks to you each day as you read. Remember to pause and pray before reading – ask God to join you and open your heart, mind and spirit as you read.

Blessings, friends,
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

To download a PDF of June’s recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Resting at the River’s Edge in August — Some Reading for a Hot Summer Day

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Ephesians 1:3-4

Ephesians is one of the great books we’ll read in August. It’s truly one of my favorites. I quoted the above two verses, but trust me, I had to restrain myself from quoting the whole first chapter.

We’ll read another book that is many people’s favorites: James. It’s a book chock full of practical advice and favorite verses…or at least verses you know well. How about these?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,… (1:2)

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (4:6b)

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (4:8)

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (5:16b)

We’ll also continue reading in the Old Testament, finishing the last two chapters in 1 Chronicles and then moving on to 2 Chronicles. Ezra and Nehemiah are next — you’ll read not only about the re-building of the Temple, but also about how the hearts of the Israelites were turned again toward God.

Throw about twenty Psalms into the mix and one minor prophet (Obadiah) and that’s our August reading.

Some of you may find yourself beginning to fall behind. Let me encourage you to continue reading. It’s OK to be behind. Maybe you’ll finish reading through the entire Bible in fifteen months instead of twelve — and won’t it have been wonderful to have accomplished such a thing?

Or who knows — perhaps God will provide you with a window of time in September or October or November and you’ll find yourself catching up just in time to read the Christmas story in December!

Take a summer break and read some Scripture! The beach would be a nice location! Enjoy!

To download a PDF of August’s reading schedule, click here.

08AugReading

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