Witnessing Something Special – Matthew 3:13-17

  A few months ago, Sister Rosemary loaned me a book. It was work of fiction based upon the Bible. The author retold the story of the last days of Christ, weaving his imagination into what the Bible tells us. It was entertaining and enlightening. I’m going to try to do the same sort of thing this afternoon. I’m going to create a narrative based on the Bible, but I’m going to try to put you into that story. I want you to be a witness to some Biblical events – one in particular. And like many modern stories, I’m going to begin with today – before going back to fill in some of the background details. Chapter One: Introduction. The scene opens with you and three dozen others intently watching and listening to Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone these days is talking about Jesus, but by the grace of God He is more to you than a point of conversation. You have come to understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. You are a nominal disciple, your faith is in Him, and you are trying to practice what He has been teaching. Somehow there has grown up in your heart a love, a respect, an awe of this man. In fact, it might be said that you worship Him. As the current lesson and interaction are going on, two men come up from the southwest, pushing their way through the crowd until they are standing right in front of Jesus. Politely they announce that they are disciples of John the Baptist. And they say, “John wants...

How to Move God to Action – Nehemiah 9:5b-38

As you have seen, this prayer is filled with references to Israel’s history. I will probably not deal with that history other than to say at this point – “Actions have consequences.” Israel proves that even when God’s people sin, they will be punished. God is “righteous” in the sense that He treats people as they deserve to be treated. He is just. When you sin against the Lord you can expect His backhand. And when you please Him, by living according to His precepts, He will bless you – but perhaps not in ways you might expect. These things are some of the lessons in this prayerful psalm. The Bible shows us that are many different kinds of prayer. The prayer of this godly Levite isn’t characterized by pleading – with requests for great miracles. And this is not a psalm of praise, even though there is praise implied. Despite beginning by extolling some of God’s attributes, this prayer does not focus on the Lord, per se. As I said last week, this is more like a prayerful hymn, directed as much to the congregation as it is to the Lord. It is not what the Seraphim might repeat before God’s holy throne of grace. And yet, there is a lesson about prayer contained here. Before getting to that, I’d like to set the background by asking you to think about another Biblical prayer. Do you remember Abraham’s prayer to God for his nephew Lot and the city of Sodom. In Genesis 18 the Lord appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Mamre. “And the Lord said –...

Why Have Convictions about Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

In a few minutes we are going to hold a baptismal service. Sadly, we don’t have the privilege of observing this ordinance often enough. So it’s important to stop and consider the subject once in a while. There are new Christians who need to be baptized and to go on in their service of the Lord. And it is good for the seasoned Christian to stop and think about his baptism from time to time. Under the circumstances, I thought that this would be a good time to look at this theme once again. The ordinance of baptism is something for which there are extremes on both sides. There those people who believe that salvation is by grace, and they are content to stop right there. They are spiritual minimalists, satisfied to trust the Lord, and they ignore everything else. “Christ,” they say, “nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” Unfortunately for them, Jesus said, “If you really love me keep my commandments.” Such lack of love and obedience to the Lord gives testimony to self-will and a wicked heart. Many of those who willfully reject baptism probably are in rebellion against the King in other ways. They need to repent of their wickedness and pray to God, if perhaps these thoughts of their hearts might be forgiven. Those who refuse baptism are often not born again, and this explains their rebellion. Then there are the people whom Satan has deluded into believing that baptism washes away sins. These include Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, etc. etc. etc. I think that this one heresy has...

The Feast of Tabernacles – Nehemiah 8:13-18

This chapter begins on the first day of Tishri – the Jewish New Year according to one calendar – and the seventh month of the year according to the other. It was also the first day of three important Festivals – Trumpets, Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement. On this occasion, the day began with a brief prayer followed by reading some of God’s Law. Ezra may have selected Leviticus or perhaps Numbers or Deuteronomy. And after six hours of reading and instruction, he probably approached Leviticus 23 or it might have been Numbers 29 – both of which speak of the Fall Feasts. After taking a break for the evening, on the second day of the month, the people regathered – perhaps at dawn once again. They had tasted that the Word of God is good, and they thirsted for more. Notice that, included at Ezra’s feet, where the dozen men who had stood beside him the day before. The experts in the law were admitting they were not as proficient as they had thought, and in humility they assembled with the rest of the nation to learn the will of the Lord. As the reading proceeded, the people began to realize that they were in the midst of a very sacred time of the year. Coming up was the second festival of the season – the Feast of Tabernacles. Everyone was so excited about the Lord’s recent blessings and what God’s Word was telling them that they immediately made preparations for this second celebration. It is said in verse 17 – “And all the congregation of them...

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...

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...

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...

The Work of Discouragement – Nehemiah 6:1-19

As Bible-based Baptists we believe Romans 15:4 – “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written – for our LEARNING – that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” When studying through a book as we are doing, one of my responsibilities is to determine – what is the Lord’s lesson for us? I am to try to explain, as best I can, what the scripture says, and then I am to make a proper application. I don’t know what you see when you read this chapter, but there is a theme which jumps out at me. I see groups of people doing their best to discourage Nehemiah and the work of rebuilding the city walls. With this as at least one theme, the next challenge is to make an application to ourselves. To that regard, as I’ve said in earlier messages, I think we can use Jerusalem and its walls as an analogy. We can look at Jerusalem as a picture of our local church and its various responsibilities under the Lord. We are to glorify God, defend the truth, evangelize the lost, strengthen our own hearts and so on. We all know our Christ’s commission to us – “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The world, the flesh...

Ought Ye Not? – Nehemiah 5:11-19

I saw an article the other day which was entitled – “Social Justice; America’s New Religion.” I didn’t take the time to read it, but I thought “Yes, I can see that.” Since casting aside the God of the Bible, Americans have made the creation of new religions one of their favorite pastimes. And many of those new religions aren’t even remotely spiritual. How about “The International Church of Cannabis” and the “Tattoo Parlor United Methodist Church.” How many men own a copy of “The Fisherman’s Bible” or “The Hunter’s Bible,” but they don’t own the Bible As I was reading Neh. 5 this week, my mind returned to that article, and the subject of false, quasi-religions. To the potentially long list false faiths, I’m going to add the religion of “Capitalism.” You may be an avid capitalist, and I’m not going to criticize you for that. As opposed to Communism and Socialism, Capitalism is a good thing. But a great many “good” things can be abused and turned into evil. And it seems to me that many Americans practice Capitalism as their religion. How many worship money and the methods of making money – the old fashioned way? How many never attend the services of God’s church, because they are worshiping at the cash register of their shop or store? How many Christians think of Capitalism as a doctrine of Christianity? During my first year at university, I took a course in economics – Economics 101, or was it Economics .01? That course didn’t make me an economist any more than visiting a barn in Saskatchewan made me...

Keys to Nehemiah’s “Success” – Nehemiah 4:11-23

Have you ever been corrected by one of the religious morality police for referring to “MY church?” “My church meets on the corner of 12th and Spokane” – “My church is a fundamental, landmark congregation” – that sort of thing. Has anyone, dressed in the spotless robes of the modern Pharisaic constabulary, ever corrected you, pointing out that Calvary Baptist Church is “not YOUR church” but the “LORD’S church?” If you haven’t, I am happy for you, and thankful on your behalf, because I know what it is to be rebuked for that error. Of course, it was not that I had forgotten that this is the Lord’s church. I was simply saying, “The church of which I am a member is Calvary Baptist in Post Falls.” If that kind of language is sinful, then I suppose that Nehemiah was the same kind of sinner that I am. Notice his dreadful slip in verse 16 – “And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of MY servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shield, and the bows and the habergeons.” The tongue police should have rebuked Nehemiah for speaking of the wall-workers as “HIS servants,” because they were not his – they were the servants of God. Of course I am being semi-facetious – except about the Pharisaic constabulary. I’d like to finish this chapter with one more point – and it takes us back to that same police force. Verse 6 says, “So built we the wall.” I think we could say that Nehemiah was...

Rubbish – Nehemiah 4:10

  Are you familiar with Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy from Hamlet? You may think you’re not, but I am reasonably sure you have heard some of it. It goes like this: “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep; No more; and by a sleep, to say we end The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.“ This is about a third of the discussion Hamlet has with himself about death, but the rest takes us beyond my intention. My point comes from the thought – “To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub.” Did you know that William Shakespeare died in 1616 only 5 years after the date usually applied to the version of the Bible which we use? Shakespeare and the Bible spoke the same language. With that being true, what is the meaning of “there’s the RUB?” “There’s the rub” refers to “rubbish.” “Rub” in this case is a noun, and it means the same as “rubbish,” the stuff which comes as a result of rubbing. “Rub” or “rubbish” might be as fine as dust, or it could be heavy beams...

What to Do in the Face of the Enemy – Nehemiah 4:1-6

The Book of Nehemiah is a very practical and useful book. For example, thus far in our 15 lessons we’ve had a couple of messages on prayer. There have been two lessons on the common maladies of sadness and depression. We’ve looked at the responsibility of the church, and a couple of times we’ve studied sinful society. There have been messages on patriotism, sin and the sovereignty of God. And there is Nehemiah himself. I remind you once again, that Nehemiah was more like us than many other important Bible characters. He was a man “subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly…” He was not a professional priest, but he could carry out some priestly duties just as we are supposed to do. He was not a politician, but the Holy Spirit thrust upon him a position of leadership. Many of us can identify with him – if not completely – at least in some parts of his life. He is now in the city which he loved, and he’s rallying its citizens to rebuild its wall as a first step toward the restoration of Jerusalem’s former glory. This ultimately means the glory of God. There is no other city in the world which is so closely tied to the name and glory of Jehovah. There are some of God’s enemies who realize this – like today’s Palestinians, Syrians and Arabs. But sadly, there seem to be few Christians who really grasp this fact. Satan hates that city almost as much as he hates the Lord. And this is why there is such anger at...

Speak Up – Nehemiah 2:15-20

I don’t know if you have heard, but there is a virus ramping up around the country. There have been about 2.5 million Americans infected and 125,000 deaths, according to one website. Not only is there controversy about those numbers, there are debates about how the virus spreads. Bro. Steve Roberts sends me material from time to time, one of which recently dealt with the question of how this virus passes from one person to another. Apparently catching COVID-19 by touching a door-knob after someone with the virus is possible – but unlikely. If we wash our hands regularly and use sanitizers the possibility of catching cornonavirus by contact is small. And being infected by walking past someone on the street who has the virus is almost impossible. Some experts are saying 15 minutes of constant exposure is necessary – but that is part of the debate. Infected people coughing, sneezing, breathing, singing and spitting creates droplets with the virus in them. Enough of those droplets have to reach you, and enter you, to infect you. And to be specific, those droplets have to contact your eyes, mouth or nose. The virus then has to reach your respiratory tract and use the receptors in your body to enter your cells and start replicating. But generally speaking those droplets from other people fall to the floor or ground and dissipate, which is why the 6 foot rule is encouraged. No one knows for sure how much virus it takes for someone to become infected. In a study published in the journal “Nature,” researchers were unable to culture live coronavirus if...

A Portrait of the Church – Nehemiah 2:9-20

In our first or second message in this series I hinted that we could look at Jerusalem as a picture of the Lord’s church. I’d like to continue with that simile this afternoon. I’d perfer to say that my subject is “Christianity” or modern “Christendom,” but this message would be more appropriate if we think along the lines of local congregations – the definition of “church.” I’d like to say that this representation doesn’t come close to our church, but that may not be exactly true. Let’s use a simple three-point outline – condition, opposition and solution. Nehemiah made a private survey of Jerusalem to discover the CONDITION of Jerusalem. How many weeks did it take this man to travel 1600 miles from Shushan to Judah? I’m not sure where to look for an answer. Let’s just say that it was a long, tiresome journey. Even if the man didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel himself all the way, he was exhausted. Verse 11 says, “So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days” – probably resting and recuperating. And by the way, there is an interesting statement in Ezra 8. After Ezra described his trip to Jerusalem in more detail than Nehemiah, he says in 8:32, “And we came to Jerusalem and abode there three days.” Were these three days just a coincidence or was it a part of general protocol for that day and age? At nightfall on the third day, Nehemiah saddled his beast and took a few men with him for a private survey of the city. He tells us he went...

Nehemiah’s Patriotism – Nehemiah 1:1-11

I am going back to chapter 1, not because I missed something, but because of the way tonight’s theme ties the first two chapters together. In fact, this, in some ways, may be the theme of the entire book. In my background reading on Nehemiah, I ran across the word “patriot” a couple times. And then as I re-read chapter 2, a couple of things jumped out at me in that regard. Let’s say that Nehemiah was a “patriot;” what can we learn about that subject from his example? This may be particularly important in the light of the chaos in our country these last few weeks. Sadly, I am not sure that there is a universal agreement as to what “patriotism” might be. Webster, 200 years ago, defined patriotism as – “Love of one’s country; the passion which aims to SERVE one’s country, either in defending it from invasion or protecting its rights and maintaining its laws and institutions in vigor and purity. Patriotism is the characteristic of a good citizen, the noblest passion that animates a man in the character of a citizen.” He said that a patriot is “a person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.” As is usually the case, I think that Webster got it right. But when I googled the word, the internet computer defined a “patriot” only as – “a person who vigorously supports his country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” There is nothing in that modern definition about “service,” “good citizen” or “noble passion.” And then on the next...