The Feast of Trumpets – Nehemiah 8:1-3

This will be a relatively short but somewhat convoluted message this evening. I approach it with some trepidation, because I’m venturing into territory in which I have never felt particularly comfortable. But I’m hoping that it will be a blessing to you. Prior to the Babylonian captivity, Israel had seven Biblically-proscribed feasts or festivals. In the Spring there were the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits. Fifty days after the Passover came the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrated the giving of the law. Then in the fall there were the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Nehemiah 8 begins on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. That was beginning of the Feast of Trumpets, and it happens to be just about this time of year. It’s coming up on September 18th. Three of the above-mentioned feasts were supposed to be held each year in Jerusalem, and all the adult males were required to be in attendance at the Temple. Those three “Pilgrimage Festivals” were Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – conveniently spaced throughout the year. Over time, more than a dozen other feasts and festivals were added to the calendar. For example, the Feast of Purim, or “Lights,” became one of the more recognized. Purim coincides with the feast of Esther – celebrating the Jews escape from the genocide designed by Haman. For the other three feasts, please turn to Leviticus 23 and let’s read from verse 23 down to 35. These are the autumn festivals, which includes one of the most important events...

August 30

Historians are pretty-well agreed that an Anglican from Gloucester, England, named Robert Raikes, started the first Sunday school.  It is also well-known that it had nothing to do with the Bible.  At a period when there were no child labor laws, Sunday was the only day in which kids had time to be taught to read and write.  That, with his social gospel background, was Raikes’ primary purpose.     On the other hand, a Baptist layman, named William Fox, a member of the Baptist Church in Prescott Street, Goodmans Fields, pastored by Abraham Booth, was the man to start the first Bible-based Sunday School.  It was on this day in 1785 that Fox called a meeting for the purpose of organizing a systematic teaching of the Bible to children.  From England the idea of Sunday schools swept across the Atlantic to enter Baptist churches in this country.     It is claimed that when the Frenchman Alexis de Tocquerville visited the United States he famously said, “I sought in vain for the secret of America’s greatness until I went into her Sunday schools and churches.  Then I understood why France is a slave and America is free.”     Only the Lord can assess the good that has been accomplished over the years by the systematic teaching of children and young people in Sunday schools across this...

Ezra, the Scribe – Nehemiah 8:1-6

We are now introduced to Ezra the scribe – at least as far as our study in Nehemiah is concerned. Of course, he has a ten chapter book of his own, which immediately precedes Nehemiah. I’ve referred to him in passing several times, but here in chapter 8 he stands front and center. I am of the opinion that the last few chapters of both books overlap as both men deal with some of the social corruption of their day. Tonight it’s time to review Ezra’s biography, with the hopes of making a practical application or two. In order to do that, let’s use him as a illustration of ourselves. There are ways in which he might be a picture of the preacher – setting a high example for me. But then there are other aspects of his life which could be used as pictures of any Christian. And that can begin with his family heritage. I’ve already called him “Ezra, the scribe,” but in addition to that he was a priest of the most high God. Either of those offices could be used to speak about us. I’ll come back to this, but as Ezra, the scribe,” he had a special relationship to the Word of God. But before that let’s remember 1 Peter 2:9 which speaks about all of us – “YE are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Every saint is a part of Christ’s “royal priesthood” of which the...

Odds and Ends – Nehemiah 7

Praying over this chapter, the Lord didn’t lay on my heart any more specific sermons. This is mostly a long list of names which were important at the time and were far more interesting than they are today. But there are a few incidentals from which a lesson or two might be drawn. And that is what we will try to do this evening. Verses 1-8. “Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.” I have said several times that Nehemiah’s work was very different from Ezra’s a generation earlier. Ezra was sent from Persia to rebuild the temple and to restore the temple worship of Jehovah. I don’t think the importance of the work of Ezra can be over-emphasized. There is nothing higher and more important than the worship of the Lord – when a congregation of God’s people get together, singing the songs of Zion, praising the name of the Lord and listening to His word. If the city of Jerusalem had been walled but without the temple, it would have been much like any heathen community. All Nehemiah came to do was rebuild the walls to protect and beautify the place where God’s temple rested. Nevertheless, there is a spiritual and heavenly aspect to anything which is done for the glory of the Lord. That made Nehemiah’s work important...

Faithful and Fearful – Nehemiah 7:1-3

This will not exactly be a gospel message, even though that is my usual intention for a Sunday morning. Spurgeon once told his students: “Every message should eventually come around to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.” And in a round about way, if you hang in there long enough, so will this message. I am currently reading a biography about the life of “Eric Liddell.” Liddell was one of the heros of the 1981 British movie “Chariots of Fire.” It’s a good, clean film that I don’t mind recommending to people, despite its flaws. I also recommend, perhaps a bit more, this book, even though it doesn’t have the catchy music. The film is about the months before the 1924 Paris Olympics and two British runners, Liddell and Harold Abrahams. The Americans not withstanding, Liddell and Abrahams were the two fastest runners in the world. But they were contrasting characters – Abrahams would do anything short of cheating to win. And if he had not won the gold medal at Paris, he would have considered his life a waste. Liddell, the son of a Protestant missionary, ran for the glory of God, and nothing could make him break or bend his Christian principles – not even the possibility of Olympic gold. They were both 100m sprinters, but because some of the early races were to be held on Sunday, Liddell refused to compete. Eventually, he agreed to participate in a much longer race which did not take place on the Lord’s Day. For years he had been training to run the sprint, but in the months before...

August 23

In 1886 J.H, Spencer wrote “A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885″ in which he said, “If a traveller had passed through the whole breadth of the settled portions of North America, in 1799, he would have heard the songs of the drunkard, the loud swearing and the obscenity of crowds around taverns, and the bold, blasphemous vaunting of infidels, in every village and hamlet. If he had returned in 1801, he would have heard, instead, the proclamation of the Gospel to awed multitudes, earnest prayers in the groves and forests, and songs of praise to God, along all the public thoroughfares.” Spencer was describing a revival of God’s truth at the turn of the 19th century. In a letter dated August 23 1802, David Lilly described the revival which he witnessed in South Carolina. “A great work of God is going on in the upper parts of this State. Multitudes are made to cry out, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ A few days ago, I returned from our [Associational meeting]. We have had a truly refreshing season. A vast concourse of people assembled on Saturday, and considerable appearances of solemnity soon took place; but no uncommon effect till Sunday later in the evening. Then the Lord was pleased to manifest his power to many hearts. “On Monday the work increased. The hearts of many were made to melt; and several men, noted for their impiety, were stricken and lay among the prostrate. I must acknowledge it was a memorable time with my soul…. Such a degree of brotherly affection as appeared among the ministers...

A Great Work – Nehemiah 6:3

On four occasions the Samaritan, Sanballat, tried to take Nehemiah away from his work on the wall. Apparently in a most friendly fashion he said, “Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” Maybe the first time it was an invitation to the Starbucks in Cedarville, but after than it was to lunch at the diner in the city of Ono. Perhaps the venue and destination changed each time until it was the fanciest restaurant in Benjamin. Each time, Nehemiah replied with some form of – “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 could see that “they thought to do me mischief” – some evil – some sort of wickedness. Ultimately they wanted to stop Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. For our message this afternoon, I’d like to briefly consider the subject of “doing a great work.” This is, of course, history – ancient Hebrew history. One of the reasons some people take no interest in history is that they fail to see how it pertains to them. They think to themselves, “So Nehemiah was doing a great work. I think I can see that. But that was 2,500 years ago and 6,670 miles from Post Falls. What has that got to do with me?” Well, the whole point of studying history, and specifically, in this case, the history of Nehemiah, is to see how this DOES pertain to us. As I quoted last week, when it comes to...

Fear and Sin – Nehemiah 6:10-14

On a scale of 1 to 10 how fearful are you? 8, 5, 2 ??? For example, do you fear the Corona Virus? Apparently millions of Americans do. Do you fret about whether or not the government is going to force us all to receive their virus vaccination? Does your blood pressure rise when you hear about electronic currencies or the implantation of a chip? Are you anxious about the upcoming election? Do you worry about potential rioting when the results are announced? I don’t fear any of these things, and perhaps you don’t either, but many of our unsaved neighbors do. There may be as much fear in America today as there was during the Cuban Missile Crisis or World War 2. As I was thinking about today’s panic-stricken society, some of Thomas Paine’s words returned to me. I have never before publicly quoted Thomas Paine, and you’ll likely never hear me quote him again. But Paine, at the time of the revolution against Britain, was one of the most influential men in America. His pamphlets “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis” are sometimes said to make him the father of Revolution. But as a Deist, he also wrote “The Age of Reason,” which was an attack upon Christianity and the Bible. And for that reason I don’t want to give him much credit for anything positive. And yet here I am quoting the man – and deliberately misquoting him as well. On Dec. 23, 1776 Paine published an article called “The Crisis” which with some editing could be reused today. He began with the words which came...

July 2020

Partial Return to Normalcy We seem to be experiencing a partial return to normalcy here in Stillwater. However, medical mandates remain in place concerning mask wearing and social distancing. We have begun to translate for Latino men once again in court. We also had better attendance in our services, 12, 9, 11, and nine. We seem to be adjusting to the medical mandates and the way things are being done to accommodate them. For many churches, attendance has been seriously dampened, but we are running almost full capacity and rejoicing in the excellent spirit among the believers. Prison Closure Bro. Dick and Sis. Connie Gaches have been involved in the prison ministry for over forty years. The prison in Cushing, Ok., has closed permanently, and they have lost their prison ministry. However, Bro. Gaches still goes to the Payne County Jail for services on Sunday afternoon. There is a great spiritual vacuum in the jails and prisons, and this is a great burden to Bro. & Sis. Gaches. Latino Ministry I have not reported on the Latino outreach much because the Covid-19 virus has seriously truncated our contact with Latinos. Apparently the police have not been arresting very many of them because we have not been called into court to translate for them. However, this month we have seen four new Latino men and have translated for them in court. Their names are, Balan Dimas, Jose Gaspar, Francisco Ramirez, and Emmanuel Fernandez. I have been able to talk to Emmanuel about spiritual things a little bit because he is doing his community service with us. Forty-Seventh Anniversary With great...

We’ve often mentioned the persecution which the early Baptists faced in the Commonwealth of Virginia. By most accounts there were 43 Baptist ministers jailed there for preaching the gospel before religious freedom became common. Most of these jailed preachers were “Separates” like Samuel Harris and Shubal Sterns. The other major type of Baptist in the day were the Regulars most of whom associated with the Philadelphia Baptist Association. As reported by David Benedict, a major historian of the day, there was very little doctrinal difference between the two varieties of Baptists; it was only that “The Regulars were considered less enthsiastick than the Separates.” One of the Virginia Regular Baptists who was arrested and often persecuted was David Thomas. He was born on this day (Aug. 16) in 1732. He was blessed with a better education than most of his Separate neighbors, having studied at the first Baptist preachers’ school at Hopewell, NJ. Later he was honored with a Master’s degree from Rhode Island College. In 1762 Thomas became pastor of the Broadrun Baptist Church of Fauquier County, but he preached Christ throughout the countryside, reaching as far away as Fredericksburg. This brought him severe persecution. Once he was pulled from the pulpit and dragged out the door. On another occasion a man pointed a gun at him, but it was wrenched from his hand before he could fire. The Broadrun church started 5 or 6 other churches and those churches were similarly persecuted. The Chappawomsick church had a live snake thrown into the auditorium during one service and on another occasion a hornet’s nest was tossed in. Nothing...