Archive for August, 2010

Strengthen My Hands

For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.  Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Nehemiah 6:9

In the process of building the wall of Jerusalem and doing a great work for the Lord, Nehemiah and his countrymen ran into some severe opposition.  There were men who didn’t want to see the wall rebuilt.  There were men who didn’t want to see anyone doing a great work for the Lord.  Then, as now, there were people who just didn’t have any desire to see anything done for the Lord.

Over time, this opposition grew from insults and mocking to vehement hatred and threats.  As they will do to the best and strongest among us, these threats “made us afraid.”  They said that “their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.”  Nehemiah and his builders had been working many days and, no doubt, were starting to feel some physical weakness creeping in.  The thought that their hands would be weakened and they would fail was likely a cause for fear. 

When our hands get weak (as they are going to do), there is but one real choice: turn to the Lord and His strength.  That is just what these men did.  They prayed a prayer that is just as good and relevant now as it was then: “O God, strengthen my hands.”  That is a wonderful and simple prayer that we probably need to pray more often than we realize. 

The Israelites’ hands were strengthened and they finished the work.  When we feel weakness creeping up on us (probably every day), it is the Lord who can give us strength!

I’m Not Coming Down

Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Gesham the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)  That Sanballat and Gesham sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono.  But they thought to do me mischief.  And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Nehemiah 6:1-3

Nehemiah’s enemies had been stop the work of building the walls of Jerusalem since he started.  Here, they discover that Nehemiah had succeeded in building the wall, but wasn’t quite finished yet.  So they try to get him to come down off the wall to “meet together.”  Of course, they had no intention of helping Nehemiah; they simply wanted to slow down and hinder the work that was going on.

Nehemiah then made a great statement in verse 3: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…”  What a great thought and a great attitude.

There are so many things in life that beg for our attention.  There are, of course, many things that we have to do.  But so many things are superfluous and serve only to distract us from the things that really are important.  I have no idea how many hours and even days I have wasted in my life to things that are not important at all.  I have “come down off the wall”, so to speak.  When we spend time in the Word and in prayer, we are “doing a great work.”  When we lift Him up and tell others about Him, we are “doing a great work.”  There are many things in our Christian lives that would qualify as “great works.”  Let us make sure we don’t allow those great works to cease due to worldly distractions.

Jesus Paid It All (Hymn)

Jesus Paid It All
Elvina M. Hall (1865)

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet

This has to be one of my favorite hymns.  Of course, trying to pick a “favorite hymn” is like trying to pick a “favorite verse.”  Just when you think you have a favorite, you think of another one that you like just as much.  But this hymn has so many great thoughts in it, I don’t even know where to start.  I hadn’t heard a couple of these verses, but they are all good.  To me, it is the chorus that sinks in deep: Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.  Jesus did pay it all and it really is “all to Him I owe.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Just Keep Going

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.  And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews?  will they fortify themselves?  will they sacrifice?  will they make an end in a day?  will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

So built we the wall…

Nehemiah 4:1-2, 6a

This is a very simple thought for today.  In the book of Nehemiah, some of God’s people are trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Along the way, they get some people who were opposed to them.  Sanballat and Tobiah do not want to see these men of God succeed and so they do everything they can to stop the work and discourage the workers.  They mock them and jeer them every step of the way.

After some especially vicious jeering and mocking, we find an amazing statement in verse 6: “so built we the wall.”  They just kept going.  They could have gotten discouraged, but they just kept going.  They could have listened to the naysayers, but they just kept going.  They could have gotten tired from the work and from the relentless opposition, but they just kept going.  Despite the troubles and trials, they just kept going.

They built the wall.

So can we.

After all, we do serve the same God they served.

No matter what you are facing, just keep going.

Baruch and the Sons of Hassenaah

But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.

After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.

Nehemiah 3:3, 20

OK, if you have ever heard of Baruch, the son of Zabbai, or the sons of Hassenaah, raise your hand.  Any takers?  I’m sure I have read the names before, but they never stuck out to me.  As far as I know, this is the only time in the Bible they are mentioned.  So what is so special about them? 

I always find it interesting to see the lists of seemingly random people in the Bible.  The truth is, I picked these two verses at random out of this chapter.  Nehemiah chapter 3 gives us a fairly detailed list of people and groups of people who worked on different parts of the wall and different gates in the effort to rebuild Jerusalem. 

In verse 3, we have the “sons of Hassenaah” building the fish gate, with its beams, doors, locks and bars.  I don’t know exactly what the fish gate was all about, but I do know that these sons of Hassenaah were the ones to rebuild it.

In verse 20, we see a man named Baruch, the son of Zabbai, “earnestly repairing” part of the wall by the armoury.  I don’t know anything about this Baruch other than the fact that he was one of the builders of the wall.

The point of this post is simply this:  these men were not famous.  They were not kings.  They were not mighty prophets or thundering preachers of righteousness  (that we know of).  But they did something so important that God put their names in His Holy Word for us to read thousands of years later.  They built the wall.  Now, they didn’t build the whole wall.  They each worked on their part of the wall.  But they worked. The work they did was probably hard work.  They probably didn’t get much credit at the time.  They probably weren’t hailed as heroes.  In fact, we know that men taunted them and mocked them while they worked.  At the time, they were probably just another body working on the wall.  We may not be great and famous pastors or teachers.  But every single one of us can go to work “building the wall” that God has given us.  And that is something great.

Helping Or Hindering?

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  And they said, Let us rise up and build.  So they strengthened their hands for this good work.  But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Gesham the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do?  will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2: 18-19

Nehemiah had a great vision of rebuilding Jerusalem.  He shared this vision with others, and we looked at their response yesterday.  They said that they would “rise up and build.”  That should be our response.  But there were others who didn’t quite respond in that way.  Any time we try to do something for the Lord, we are going to run into some people who fall into this second category.

Sanballat, Tobiah and Gershem did not help Nehemiah “rise up and build.”  They did not “strengthen their hands for this good work.”  They “laughed them to scorn”, they “despised them”, and they mocked them.  It’s easy to look back at a story in the Bible and think that Nehemiah was some super-Christian who wasn’t bothered in the least by these idiots.  But I’m sure it didn’t feel good to him.  Fortunately, with the Lord’s help, he was able to overcome these people, but they did pose a serious obstacle in his road.

The question is, which group do we belong to?  Are we in the group that encourages and helps others in their “good work?”  Or are we in the group that laughs, despises and scorns?  Encouragement and discouragement are the types of things that we will probably never know about in this life.  You never know how the Lord will use the least encouragement to propel someone on to do something great for Him.  You never know when a small amount of help or a kind word will bring someone back from the brink of quitting.  On the other side, you never know when a harsh or critical word might be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”  But God knows all of these things.

Let us always be on the side of the helpers and the encouragers!

Rise Up and Build

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  And they said, Let us rise up and build.  So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18

In the first chapter of the book, Nehemiah finds out that the city of Jerusalem is in ruins.  “The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)  Of course, being a Jew, this broke his heart.  God then put something in his heart and the king allowed him to follow what the Lord had put in his heart.  He was going to lead in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

In the second chapter, we find Nehemiah sharing his vision with others.  After hearing this, they said “Let us rise up and build.”  What a great attitude!  To often, when we hear someone talk about wanting to do something for the Lord, we want to point out all of the flaws of the plan.  Our cynical minds like to think up reasons it won’t work.  Sometimes we just sit back and expect whatever venture it is to fail.  That shouldn’t be our attitude as Christians.  We should always be willing to “rise up and build.” 

The verse then says that they “strengthened their hands for this good work.”  That is what we need to do:  find a work that needs done, prepare ourselves for it, and do it!  Every one of us can “rise up and build” something.  We obviously can’t all build the same thing or do the same thing, but we can build something.  If nothing else, we can be an encouragement to others who are building something for our Lord.  Our time on this earth is short; we need to “rise up and build!”

Fainting and Strength

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

Proverbs 24:10

As I was reading this Proverb, this verse stuck out to me.  I know that there have been many times that I have “fainted in the day of adversity”, and I would describe myself as having “small strength” during those times.  Of course, no man likes to refer to himself as one whose “strength is small.”  I started thinking about how to be strong during adversity, and I came up with a somewhat surprising answer.

I have no spiritual strength of my own.  Again, this was a blow to my masculine ego, but it is the truth.  We like to think that we are good, strong people and that we have enough strength to stand in the day of adversity.  But the truth is that we are feeble and made of dust.  On our own, we have no hope of standing in the day of adversity and temptation.

Fortunately, as Christians, we know Jesus.  He is the source of our strength!  He gives us strength and He is our strength.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)  In our own power, we are going to fall every time.  But in His power, we have all the strength we will ever need to stand in any day of adversity.

It is an encouraging and humbling thought to think that we are so totally dependant on Him.  Let us lean on Him today, and not try to live in our own strength!

Sorrowful; Yet Rejoicing

But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.

Ezra 3:12-13

In these verses, we find people shouting for joy and we find people weeping.  The Temple is here being rebuilt, which gives them great cause for happiness and rejoicing.  But they also know that it will be never be rebuilt to its former glory, when built in the days of David and Solomon.  It was the “ancient men” who were weeping, because they had seen the glory of the first Temple.  The other people were “shouting aloud for joy”, and they had good reason to: God had been merciful to them and had allowed them to go back and rebuild His Temple.  These two sounds mingled together to the extent that you would have had trouble discerning the two.  All of this makes me think of a II Corinthians 6:10 “as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing…”

That phrase was one of many in that passage used to describe Christians.  When you think about it, we are almost always “sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.”  We are sorrowful because of sin:  sin in our lives and in the lives of others.  My own sinful flesh is the source of the vast majority of my sorrow.  We also sorrow for those who do not know the Saviour.  We know their end, and their rejection of Jesus Christ gives us sorrow.  But in the midst of that sorrow, we are “always rejoicing.”  We know that, while our flesh may be weak and we may sin, Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of sin.  We know that, while not everyone will accept His perfect sacrifice, some will.  In essence, we know HIM.  And that is all the cause for rejoicing anyone ever needs. 

Keep fighting the flesh.  Keep striving against sin.  Keep reaching out to those who need Jesus.  And keep rejoicing in Him and because of Him!

Take My Life and Let It Be (Hymn)

Take My Life and Let It Be
Frances Havergal (1874)

Verse 1:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Verse 2:
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Verse 3:
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Filled with messages from Thee.

Verse 4:
Take my silver and my gold:
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Verse 5:
Take my will, and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Verse 6:
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself, and I will be,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I like the devotional aspect of this hymn.  I like the thought that I want Jesus to take everything about me and use it for Himself and His glory.  I know that I am not much- a broken and marred vessel- but I also know that in the hands of the Potter, I can be of use.  I know that I am of no use on my own, but through Him I can find purpose in life.  What a great truth- give everything to the Lord and let Him do with it as He sees fit.