Monday, November 13, 2017

MEMORY WORK: This Week's Catechism Questions (11/12/17)

This Week's Memory Work:

First Catechism Questions: 
FCQ. 51 – What is meant by the atonement? Christ satisfied God's justice by his suffering and death in the place of sinners.

Shorter Catechism Questions: 
SCQ. 35 – What is sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

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UPCOMING EVENTS: This Week's Announcements (11/12/17)

Upcoming Events / Announcements 

November 13 - Women's Fellowship at 6:30pm 
November 20 - Deacons Meeting at 1:30pm 
November 21 - Thanksgiving Service at 7:00pm 
December 17 - Sunday School Christmas Program
Last Updated 11/12/2017
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Prayer-Based Leadership - Pastor Tito Lyro - Nehemiah 1

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Prayer-Based Leadership - Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah was man of character.  He was prepared by God to lead his people.  He was a godly leader even before he was in a position of leadership.  What read here in chapter 1 happened before he was appointed governor of Judea.  This is Nehemiah as he is by the grace of God.  He became a godly leader because he was a godly man.

I.             A Little more about the Man Nehemiah, 1a, 11b.

A.  The name Nehemiah and the name Nahumare versions of the same name and mean the comfort of Yahweh, 1a.

B.  Because of Nehemiah's position as the royal cupbearer, we can deduce some things about him (suggested by Edwin Yamauchi in The Expositor's Bible Commentary).

1.   He would have been well trained in court etiquette.

2.   He was probably a handsome individual by the standards of the time.

3.   He would know how to select the wines that are going to serve the king – "The wine belongs to the master but credit for it is due to his cupbearer."  Babylonian Talmud

4.   He would have to be a convivial companion, willing to lend an ear at all times.

5.   He would have great influence as one with close access to the king (he acted as a gatekeeper to the king).

6.   He enjoyed the unreserved confidence of the king.

II.          Bad News from the Homeland, 1-3.

A.  It has now been almost 200 years since the first group of Jews had been brought to Babylon.

1.   By now quite a few Jews had returned to Judea with Zerubbabel in 539 BC.

2.   The temple is almost rebuilt.

3.   And there have been attempts to rebuild the wall.

B.  Now news that things are not going well at all in Jerusalem, 1b-2.

1.   Artaxerxes had been king for 19 years.

2.   A brother of Nehemiah's comes back to Shushan.

a.    Probably not a family member, but a fellow Jew.

b.   Shushan (Susa) was the winter palace of the Persian kings, but Artaxerxes liked using it all the time.

3.   It was in the month of Kislev, which is the ninth month in the exilic/post-exilic calendar.

a.    As a side note, the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar.

1)   So each month had 28 days.

2)   Thus, in order to keep seasons somewhat in the same times of the year, a 13th month was periodically inserted.

b.   Keep in mind when Nehemiah met Hanani because it will come into play a little later when we see that Nehemiah didn't talk to the king till Nisan – four months later.

4.   Another side note is that Jews started being called Jews during this period (from Judea) – before they were called Israelites.

C.  The report Hanani brings is not about the original destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but to more recent attempts reported in Ezra 4:11-24, 3.

1.   Artaxerxes himself had put a stop on the rebuilding of the wall because of false accusations of rebellion.

2.   He was sensitive to that because another vassal king had just rebelled against him.

III.       Mourning and Fasting for Jerusalem, 4.

A.  Although Nehemiah had likely never been to Jerusalem, he knew it as the place that God chose to dwell among his people.

B.  He longed for the experience of being in the house of the Lord in the city of David, and to know that the place was destroyed brought him to tears.

C.  He also knew what he needed to do – go to the king!

1.   Nehemiah wasn't just going to ask him to do something.

2.   He was going to ask him to change something that the king had already decided!

a.    Remember that Artaxerxes had told the Jews to stop building the wall for fear of rebellion.

b.   You may have heard the expression "The law of the Medes and Persians."

1)   The expression exists because the law of the Medes and the Persians stated that the law of the Medes and the Persians could not be changed.

2)   And Artaxerxes was a Medo-Persian king!

3.   Nehemiah was fasting and praying because he knew he had to do something very hard that could cost his life, and yet, needed to be done.

IV.        A Lot of Prayer before Actions, 5-11a.

A.  Before he acted, he prayed and he did that for four months – Kislev to Nisan.

"Nehemiah first answers his vocation not with action, but, as is right with prayer – and prayer lasting some four months at that!  This period of waiting upon God is not to be regarded as a sign of weakness on his part.  From the later narrative we know that he was a dynamic man of action.  But if a true vocation has been received to serve God, such a testing of waiting is often to be expected; prayer during such a period will be an indication of whether the call has been genuine and whether commitment to it is unwavering."  H.G. Williamson in Word Biblical Commentary

B.  Nehemiah prayed first because he understood that God was a great God, 5a.

1.   Awesomemeans worthy of awe.

2.   Unlike anything else, so other than everything else that blows our minds.

3.   So it makes all the sense in the world that Nehemiah would pray to him.

C.  Nehemiah prayed first because he understood that God was true and faithful, 5b.

Ps. 18:30As for God, His way isperfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He isa shield to all who trust in Him.

D. Incline your ear to me, 6a – this is what we do when we pray in Jesus's name.

E.  Nehemiah's prayer seems to be based on God's promises and warnings in Leviticus.

Lv. 26:36-45 – And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues.  They shall stumble over one another, as it were before a sword, when no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.  You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.  And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; also in their fathers' iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.  But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land.  The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them; they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.  Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God.  But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.

1.   Nehemiah is confident in his prayer because of God's covenant faithfulness, 6.

2.   Notice that Nehemiah prays God's promises back to him, 8-9.

3.   This is a great example for us – when you pray, plead God's promises in prayer.

a.    In his sovereignty, God has bound himself by the promises he has made to us.

"One good way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer…. Show him his handwriting; God is tender of his word."  Thomas Manton

b.   So pray what God has promised to do for you in the Bible.

4.   Nehemiah did that by confessing the corporate sins of his people, 6b-7.

a.    Corporate confession implies corporate repentance.

b.   We see that during the captivity/exile there were many changes in Judah's behavior that accounted for Nehemiah's confession on their behalf.

1)   They turned away from idolatry.

2)   They valued the Sabbath, the lack of which was one of the reasons they were exiled.

Lv. 26:43 – The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them; they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.

3)   They were humbled.

Ps. 137:1-6 – By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.  We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.  For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"  How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!  If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

4)   They began to value the Word of God on a consistent basis – the synagogue system likely began during the exile.

c.    This doesn't mean that every last individual had a heart change, but Judah as a people reformed its ways.

1)   This shows us that it is not appropriate for us to pray for the corporate forgiveness of the United States because there is no change in behavior as a culture.

2)   We need to pray that the Lord would grant us repentance.

d.   Nehemiah as their representative brings their cry before God – in that way Nehemiah is a Christ-figure for Christ does that for us.

1 Jn. 2:1-2 – My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

F.   Notice that even in this state of exile Nehemiah says that these are God's people whom he has redeemed, 10.

1.   Some think this is a reference to the past redemption in the Exodus.

2.   I think this may look back to the Exodus, but only to point out that these are now God's redeemed people even in the middle of captivity.

G. Nehemiah finishes by praying for success, 11a.

1.   Sometimes our pseudo-piety thinks that it is unspiritual to pray for success.

a.    Success in a game.

b.   Profit in business.

2.   But doesn't success come from the hand of the Lord?

"A day without prayer is a day that totally denies the sovereignty of God and glorifies the self-sufficiency of man." A.W. Pink

WSC 98 – What is Prayer?  Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.

Application & Conclusion

Nehemiah teaches us several things that we can, by God's grace, put in practice in our lives:

·      We should always consider if we are the solution for a problem that we see in the church of Jesus Christ, 1-3.

·      Godly action is always preceded by believing prayer, 4.

·      We should not be afraid to pray for success, 11a.

·      The acting of praying itself is a mercy from the Lord.

"A praying man can never be very miserable, whatever his condition be. For he has the ear of God; the Spirit within to indite, a Friend in heaven to present, and God Himself to receive his desire.  It is a mercy to pray, even though I never receive the mercy prayed for."  William Bridge

·      We may be the answer to our own prayer – Nehemiah prayed and then he went to talk with the king.

The Lord blesses the prayers of his praying people.
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