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Nehemiah 7-9; It’s Not Just History

God inspired the writers of Scripture fairly often to recall the events surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt, their forty year wilderness experience, and their occupation of the Promised Land. This time Nehemiah is praying as he takes us through those historical years.

Last week I watched the video of a lecture David Arthur gave on these chapters, and a lightbulb went on in my brain. I will never look at passages such as these the same ever again. Because  David Arthur did not spend time talking about the history of Jews. He referred to it as the history of God.

Of course!

God doesn’t want us focusing on the people, the nation of Israel. Lots of people write history books. God wants us to SEE HIM in the events and lives of the people He chose for that purpose. We think God chose Israel because somehow He loved them more, wants to bless them more. The reality is He chose the Jews to be an example to the world of who God is, and what He can do for those who obey Him. He chose that people group to reveal Himself, first through the Jewish people, and ultimately through Jesus. (Read Exodus and notice how often God tells us He does things so that the nations will know He is God)

So what does God tell us about Himself through the words of Nehemiah’s prayer? Here’s a quick list:

He alone is the Lord. He is the creator. He is faithful. He is righteous. He is compassionate. He has power over nature. He is present. He is holy. He forgives. He leads His people. He provides. He blesses. He is the victor. He must be obeyed. He is patient. He punishes sin. He is gracious, great, mighty, awesome, keeps His promises, answers prayer. He is just. His loving kindness is real.

I believe with all my heart that this is what God wants us to take away from the way He worked through one people group. The Bible is not about the physical nation of Jews. It’s about God.

It’s all about God.

Do you know Him? There is no better time than this season when we celebrate the birth of His Son Jesus. Read God’s Word and allow Him to reveal Himself to you. That is exactly what He longs to do.


Psalms 62-68; Real Rest

I love the psalms that talk about resting in God. These same psalms may be describing hardship, grief, confusion, frustration, but in the midst of turmoil we are reminded there is a place of rest in the arms of our Father. Listen to some of the verses from these psalms today:

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. (62:1)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (62:5)

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (63:8)

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; (64:10a)

I wonder how often I ignore this rest while I lie awake at night with worry? Or when I replay that incident where someone treated me unfairly, over and over in my mind? Or when I get too busy to read God’s Word and pray? How often do I ignore that rest when I pursue my own agenda without giving God a thought?

One of the great joys of my life has been in being an aunt, and now a great-aunt. Is there anything more precious than when that little one climbs up into your lap, the smell of summer sunshine on his or her skin, and closes their eyes? Their breathing slows, their muscles relax, and soon you are holding that little person you would die for, while the cares of this word drift away?

Sometimes I just want to crawl up in my Father’s lap, lay my head on His shoulder, and just breathe. I can do that by opening my Bible, by shutting out the rest of the world, and talking to the One who loves me more than I can even imagine.

I am reminded my Heavenly Father receives as much joy from my times wrapped up in His arms as I do. Why would I not want to crawl up there every single day?

Psalms 56-61; Praising in the Pit

How do you pray when life seems unbearable? Or do you?

We all know David’s life was hard. I mean, he lived for years in caves, hiding from Saul who pursued him relentlessly in order to kill him. David never knew who he could trust. He was alone and tired, frustrated and discouraged. In 57:4 he describes his life like this:

I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts — men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

But then, in the very next verse David says these words:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Is that your experience? Or on those days when you feel like you’re lying among ravenous beasts, do you stop praying and just focus on the beasts? Do you sit in your cave and feel sorry for yourself? Do you watch other people who don’t have your problems and ask yourself, “Why me?”

Why not take a suggestion from David’s example?

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (56:3-4)

O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (59:17)

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (57:10)

You may be in the pit of despair, but God is worthy of praise. Praise Him! You might feel like there is no hope, but God is our hope. Praise Him! You might think you are alone, but God promises to never leave or forsake His children. Praise Him!

Praise Him just because He is, and He deserves it. Then trust Him with the details of your life.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth!


Psalms 51-55; Don’t Be A Fool

Did you know Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14? I don’t think I realized that before today. (Thank you, Dr. Wiersbe for pointing that out; With The Word, p 342)

So, if God inspired men to include these words twice in our Bible, there must be a reason. As I consider the importance of the message, I see Jesus!

David begins by saying only a fool would ever say there is no God. Then he goes on to confirm that fools exist. “They,” meaning fools, are corrupt, vile, without understanding, with no interest in God. That, my friend, is a foolish way to live.

David tells us that fools have it in for believers. They want to destroy us because our presence causes them to be overwhelmed with dread. They hate us because God is present with us, and acknowledging that means they’d have to admit they are wrong to believe He doesn’t exist. To be honest, a fool in God’s presence has every reason to be overwhelmed with dread.

But here is where I see Jesus in these psalms. David pleads with God for salvation. Without knowing it, David is praying for Jesus. Jesus came, lived and died, then rose again to restore the relationship with us that God had with Adam and Eve in the garden. We can walk with God, talk with God, serve Him, love Him through the blood of Jesus.

Because He exists. That is the honest truth.

Don’t be a fool.


Psalm 50; Get Real

Well, I didn’t come close to reaching my goal of studying five psalms a day today. I couldn’t get passed Psalm 50. While I was reading it, God seemed to be emphasizing some verses, so I read it again. And I read it a third time. God seemed to be asking me to think on these things. So I did.

Here are my thoughts. I pray they are His.

God summons all of us from sunrise to sunset. Every minute of every day all of creation is proclaiming that God Is. And God tells us He will not stop revealing Himself to the entire world as long as the world exists. It reminds me that His will is that no one perish without Him. His will is that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.

God summons all of us to be judged by Him, our Holy God, our Righteous Judge, the only one who can judge fairly. Asaph addresses two groups of people being judged by God here in this psalm.

The first group is made up of His children, those who have recognized that He is who He says He is, and have accepted His forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus.

Now back in Old Testament times, before Jesus shed His blood, they were required to offer sacrifices often. In fact, so often that the ritual became a no-brainer. The sacrifice itself became the goal. Listen to what God says about that:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need your goats? Do you think I eat steak from your sacrificed bulls for dinner each night? Those sacrifices are meaningless unless your heart is broken by the sin in your life. Those sacrifices are merely an outward expression of what needs to be going on in your heart.” (obviously a paraphrase)

Makes me think about religious people; people who go through the motions of worship every Sunday, maybe come away feeling good about their worship experience. Worship becomes the goal instead of the One who demands our worship. Maybe they teach Sunday School, refrain from vulgar language, have a fish attached to the back of their cars. But their hearts are not moved, their sins are not confessed.

God is saying:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need you to attend church? Do you think I give out attaboys for good behavior, put a star in some crown when you get your perfect attendance pin? Your service is meaningless unless your heart is broken by the presence of sin in your life. Not just broken once the day you confessed your sin and accepted the gift of salvation bought at the price of My Son Jesus. But broken over what you did or did not do yesterday, over the impure thoughts you think, or the unforgiveness you harbor toward someone. Unless your service in My Name is a result of your broken heart and the confession of sin, it’s meaningless.” (again, paraphrased)

Then God turns His attention toward those Asaph calls “wicked.” Those who can quote the Bible, who claim to be believers, yet align themselves with thieves, who gossip and slander those closest to them.

I think of so many people, whole denominations, who take God’s Word and twist it to make them feel religious without having to deal with sin. Those who deny Jesus’ godship, or who tolerate or condone sin that grieves our Holy God.

The thing is, according to verse 21, God doesn’t zap people who claim to be believers but aren’t. God doesn’t burn down churches where heresy is taught. And because God seems to be silent, they think He’s just like them. They mistake His silence for approval.

But be warned. God will accuse you to your face. He will tear you to pieces with none to rescue. (vs 22) God seems to have complete disdain for those kinds of hypocrites.

If you aren’t following God according to the Bible plus nothing, if your heart is not His though the blood of Jesus when you repented of sin, stop calling yourself a Christian. The consequences for using Jesus’ name in vain are serious, eternally serious.

The thank offering in verse 23 speaks to me of an intentional attitude of humility, recognizing that all I have and am are unmerited gifts from a Holy God. It’s the giving of myself, all of me, to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. It’s recognizing sin in my life, and repenting, asking Jesus to forgive me. And it’s serving Him out of a grateful heart for the privilege of knowing Him. Listen to God’s Words about those who come to Him with thankful hearts:

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. (vs 23)

I am reminded that God is not fooled by religious behavior. Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. And God knows the difference, and will judge us accordingly.

But to those who are real, those who come to Him on His terms, those who honor Him, He guides, directs, protects, all the way home.



Psalms 45-48; Time To Praise

I hope you’ll read these psalms today as though God is your audience. Take time to praise Him who is worth of our praise. He deserves it, and it will take your mind off yourself for a few minutes. Win. Win.

Praise God who clothes us with the beauty of His righteousness. Praise God who is our refuge, our ever present help, our river of living water, our fortress. Praise God whose love is unfailing.

Praise God the King, awesome, worthy, beautiful, seated on His Holy throne, reigning forever.

Be still. Know that He is God.

Praise Him!



Psalms 40-44; Snap Out Of It

Have you ever felt blue (as my mom would say) or depressed, and then scolded yourself because you don’t have any reason to feel that way? You’re healthy, you have a job, a home, food on the table, your kids are ok, and the sun is shining? I have. David did.

In Psalm 42 David asks several times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” In other words, “What’s wrong with you, David?”

Often, when my own soul is downcast, I begin to remind myself of all the ways I’m blessed, as though remembering those things should snap me out of it. Then I end up feeling worse when it doesn’t. I tell myself, “What’s wrong with you, Connie? Shame on you. You shouldn’t be down. Look at all the reasons you have to be happy.”

Yeah. That helps.

In fact, it often pulls me further down. Because now I’m not only downcast, I feel guilty about feeling downcast.

A couple of things came to mind as I read these psalms today. First, I need to search my heart to see if these feelings are coming from unconfessed sin. Is this God’s gentle hand of conviction on my life? Is my sorrow a result of my putting distance between my Savior and me? If that’s the case, what I need is repentance. I need to confess my sin and allow God to wash me clean.

Oh, what joy!

Secondly, constantly reminding myself of all the things in my life that should make me happy is destructive on a couple levels. It implies that people who struggle financially, or who are sick, or whose children are troubled don’t deserve to be happy. Do we really think we are only blessed if we have “things”?

I think the beginning of Psalm 42 contains the key for upcasting a downcast soul. It’s that thirst for God Himself, it’s that hope that we have in Him, it’s the trust we have in His unfailing love, the Presence of the Comforter. It’s not what makes me happy, but Who.

I really don’t even like to use the word “happy” because we aren’t promised happiness, are we? I have a friend who is dying of cancer. She’s not happy about it. But you can’t spend ten minutes in her presence without recognizing her joy. You would not describe her soul as downcast. Does she shed tears for her husband and kids? Yes. Does she pray for physical healing so that some day she can enjoy being a grandma? Yes. But those things, as precious as they are, are not her source of joy. Her relationship with Jesus is.

I hope you will read Psalm 40 today if you read nothing else. Listen to some of what David wrote:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God… Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Are you living with a downcast spirit? I won’t tell you to snap out of it. But I will tell you to turn your focus, you thoughts, your energy toward God. Praise Him. Love Him. Let Him snap you out of it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his glorious face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(H. H. Lemmel)



Psalms 32-39; Crush Me, Lord

In the psalms I read today I noticed a recurring theme. David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t get away with sin. God didn’t turn a blind eye toward any sin this godly man committed. And God dealt with David’s sin harshly.

David, under the heavy hand of God’s conviction, said:

When I kept silent (rather than confessing sin), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (32:3-4(comment mine from vv 1-2)

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. (38:3-4) (emphasis mine)

He uses phrases like these: (38:5-14)

My wounds fester and are loathsome

My back is filled with searing pain…

I am feeble and utterly crushed…

I groan in anguish of heart.

My strength fails me…

The light has gone from my eyes…

Don’t ignore the fact that David makes a direct correlation between what he is experiencing, and sin. (38:3) He continues with expressing his pain, his grief, the weight of guilt over sin. God is not going to let him get away with it. He’s not going to let us get away with it, either.

And I am talking to we who have accepted Jesus as our Savior. Conviction is a good thing. And if dealt with early on results in blessing. But if left unchecked, it can lead to some pretty painful times, emotionally, physically, relationally.

The more we ignore the conviction over sin in our lives, the further we get from God. Don’t expect Him to be ok with that. He is going to try to get our attention one way or another, to restore the sweet fellowship He longs to have with us.

Some of the other psalms I read today speak of the blessing of walking with God, of being righteous, forgiven, restored. I hope you’ll read these psalms today and let God speak to you about sin, and about what He longs to do when you repent of them.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (34:18)

I don’t want any sin standing in the way of my relationship with my Savior. I want to be sensitive to the convicting Spirit, then confess my sin and repent. Whatever it takes, I want my walk with the Lord to be as close as He deserves.

Crush me, Lord.