Neither Were Mindful – Nehemiah 9:17

As the congregational prayer-leader was led by the Spirit of God that autumn day, he confessed many of Israel’s sins. Despite Jehovah’s blessings on that nation, her citizens had rebelled against the Lord. And now these people in Nehemiah’s day, their children, were suffering the consequences of those sins. Did this man see those sins of the past creeping into his own generation? Can we see those sins being repeated today by both heathen and professing “Christians” ? After recounting blessing after blessing on the people, verse 17 begins with “but.” “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage…” Then after speaking of the blessings of God in the Promised Land, verse 26 begins with “nevertheless.” “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.” Later in verse 28 – “BUT after they had rest, they did evil again before thee.” Several more times in this prayer we read the words “but” and “nevertheless.” I have no doubt that the Lord could teach us today a few lessons from Israel’s example in all of these. But there is one statement in verse 17 that I’d like to sit upon for a few minutes this evening, because the application can be a little more specifically applied....

Deep-seated Theology – Nehemiah 9:5b-38

One of the weaknesses of modern Christians is our lack of God-consciousness – God awareness. How often do we see something equally beautiful, like a flower, a sunset, or a mountain landscape and our minds go to the Creator before thinking of something else? When something good comes our way, at what point do we move from the person through whom the blessing came to the God from whom it originated? And conversely, when something problematic arises, do we immediately try to think of human or physical solutions, or do we turn to the Lord who has the only guaranteed solution? How quickly does your heart turn to the Lord? In my message Sunday night I said that our prayer-leader extolled the Lord, but only at the beginning. I said that the rest of his prayer was basically a history lesson. But as I was reading through this chapter once again, the Holy Spirit brought me to see my mistake. This prayer is filled with theology, but it’s not the organized – seminary – in your face – type of theology. It is deep-seated, in the sense that it is there – but it is under the surface for the most part. This man’s knowledge of the Lord permeated his prayer, but only once or twice after the opening sentences was it his direct theme. This lesson will be quite different from our usual. Let’s read through this prayer a bit more slowly and try to look for references to God and His attributes. But before we do, I need to point out that just about every theologian has...

The Righteous God – Nehemiah 9:5b-10

I can tell you from experience that the more a person studies the Bible, the more he will see which he has never seen before. Sometimes we learn that our doctrinal perspective is askew. But often there is just new stuff that God has not brought to our attention before. We cannot exhaust the depths of God or of His Word. There are always things to learn. And this week I have learned something about the righteousness of God. Our unnamed worship-leader makes a statement in verse 8 which the Holy Spirit highlighted in my mind. The man said, Lord, thou “hast performed thy words, FOR thou art RIGHTEOUS.” At first I thought – Lord you want me to bring another lesson on this? I thought – this is so simple and elemental that it will be difficult to teach – to keep people’s attentions. But I was wrong – at least in part. I may not keep your attention, but this isn’t simple. First, this has nothing to do with what I initially thought, and I think the subject might surprise you too. Second, in the dozen books which I have on the attributes of God, not one of them deals extensively with God’s righteousness, and most don’t even mention it. And third, there are two hundred scriptures on this subject, opening dozens of interesting doors. When I first read this verse my mind automatically substituted the word “holy” for “righteous.” Lord, thou “hast performed thy words, for thou art (HOLY).” But here is the thing – the righteousness and the holiness of God are NOT the same...

They Confessed their Sins – Nehemiah 9:1-3

This evening we’re going to deal with a word which is commonly emphasized in some denominations, but probably not mentioned enough among fundamental Baptists. For some it is an essential part of their doctrine of salvation. But for those whose salvation is based on grace, this Biblical precept is often ignored. Even though it is crucial for good fellowship with the Saviour. “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and CONFESSED their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.” Forty-four times the words “confess,” “confessed” and “confession” are found in the Bible. They come from two Hebrew words and two Greek words. Two of those references are here in our text. The two Hebrew words are closely related, and a part of their root means – “to throw open one’s arms.” Picture a guilty man standing before his judge spreading his arms apart and exposing his heart in surrender. The Greek words are “exomologeo”and “homologeo” – both containing the Greek for “word.” The idea is to “speak out” – and in “homologeo” there is the idea of “speaking out with an agreement.” Agreeing with God about sin is a part of repentance. Sadly, some people are willing to confess their sins, but not to repent and renounce their sins. Some people are willing to confess their sins to a priest, but unlike the people in our scripture, they are unwilling to confess their sins to God. Those forty-four references speak about two different kinds of “confessions.” When they are rendered down to their very bones, they are admissions – acknowledgments. You might say that...

Separation – Nehemiah 9:1-5

The book I am currently reading is entitled, “An Anthology of the Early Baptists in Rhode Island.” It is 600 pages of historical documents from 17th and 18th century. To say the least, it is difficult, but sometimes interesting, reading. As you should know, Rhode Island was founded on Baptistic principles. It was the first colony or state in the world to offer total religious liberty to anyone who chose to live there. And as a result, after the first few decades, Quakers, Anglicans, Antinomians, Arminians and others began to move in. And they lived peaceably among each other – totally unlike the colonies around them – Connecticut, Massachusetts and Plymouth. But – when it came to church membership, the Baptist church pastored by John Clarke, received only people who had been born again and immersed in water as a testimony of their faith in Christ. Religiously, the First Baptist Church had spiritual fellowship only with those who held to similar doctrines. Jerusalem, in Nehemiah’s day, was much like early Rhode Island. It was typical of cities around the world – both then and today. Its residents included a wide variety of people – including different races and religions. But for the most part they got along well enough, until their religions got involved. There were occasions when Nehemiah and Ezra demanded that God’s people separate themselves from the unbelievers because they intended to take care of something spiritual. And on 24th of Tishri in about the year 445 BC they again made that demand of the people of Jerusalem. I would not be surprised to learn that the...

The Congregation in Worship – Nehemiah 8:5-6

This evening, we are dealing with a couple things which have always confused me. We have all heard good Baptist people refer to the Sunday morning service as a “Worship Service,” but I’ve often wondered where the worship is. My preference is to think of the 11 o’clock hour as a “preaching service” – a gospel service. The only worship that might take place in the average Baptist Sunday morning service is through 15 minutes of hymns and the 3 minutes of prayer scattered throughout the hour. I’m not proud of the fact, but Baptists are, generally speaking, not very worshipful. Having said that, Nehemiah 8 describes an evangelistic meeting of sorts, where there is a hint of worship. Depending on the hearts of us modern Baptists, perhaps we can join these worshipers. And that leads to my second question of the evening – do you see Ezra “blessing the Lord”? “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.” What is it to bless the Lord? Maybe you have no problem with the word, but it has confused me, because I know the meaning of the Hebrew word. A great throng of people gathered in the street before the water gate, begging to hear the Word of God. A pulpit had been built so that Ezra and his helpers could be seen and heard by the crowd. The man of God then read the scriptures for about 6 hours. I think we have a summary of the morning in verses 2-4, and verse 5 actually describes how the day began. It appears to me that before he started reading,...

Joyful Strength – Nehemiah 8:1-12

Our text this evening are the famous words of verse10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Let me begin with a warning, I run the risk of making a few people slightly angry with me. How can I anger people by talking about joy? By destroying their misconceptions. In our English Bibles we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” While that is a perfectly acceptable translation, we usually read those words with our own definitions in mind, but our definitions and ideas might be different from the Lord’s. As I mentioned last Sunday, what Nehemiah said that day was more literally – “the joy, which comes from God, is your stronghold.” Since I gave you my introduction to this statement Sunday morning, you can expect me to be brief tonight. Let’s start with the context – always a good place to start in any Bible study. For six hours Ezra, with the help of his staff, had been reading and explaining some major part of God’s Word. They read from Moses’ Law. Considering the fact that this was the Feast of Trumpets, and the next few days were leading up to the Day of Atonement, I believe what was being read was not Genesis or chapters from the history of Israel. And when we see the people’s reaction, I am even more convinced, that these were the laws and statutes which God commanded Israel. Notice verse 1 once again, “and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had COMMANDED to Israel.” “Commanded...

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...

Think upon Me, My God – Nehemiah 5:19

With our last message, I was thinking that we’d move on to chapter 6. But I couldn’t get the last verse of this chapter out of my mind. I found it disturbing that Nehemiah would speak to God this way. And this isn’t the only time he prays like this. Nehemiah 13:14 – “Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.” 13:22 – “And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.” 13:30 – “Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.” I was disturbed by these words because they seem unseemly – inappropriate, uncomely. But as I was thinking about them and our text in particular, it occurred to me that I was looking at them incorrectly. First, I reminded myself that this was a godly man – in fact it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that he was speaking as a prophet of God. While anyone could be speaking from the flesh, I don’t think that Nehemiah was. Second, this is the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit gave these words to us for our instruction. The question is:...

Rebuilding the Walls – Nehemiah 3:1-32

Potentially two things could happen during our lesson this evening. The most natural response would be to become bored out of your mind as we read through this chapter. Or, with the Spirit’s blessing you might see some potential lessons and applications to yourselves. You might become fascinated with the accuracy of the map I gave you. Or your ears might perk up with the mention of a few of the names in this chapter. I will do my best to keep you awake, but the as to the rest, the choice is yours. Nehemiah 3: Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. The sheep gate is at the top of your map – the most northerly part of the city. It was the gate closest and easiest for access to the temple. It was the way in which the live animals were brought into the temple for sacrifice. Now notice that the most important man in the city was not unwilling to do his part in the wall building. The lesson is: no one has a pass; no one has an excuse not to do the work which needs to be done. We can’t argue that we have other important responsibilities; this wall was essential at this point. And if dirty hands and tired muscles are necessary, then let’s get to work. There are two other things; what do you know about Eliashib?...

Sorrow of Heart – Nehemiah 2:1-2

Sometimes a poor memory and short attention span can be good things – not usually – but sometimes. Last month I brought a lesson from verse 2 – “This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was sore afraid.” The title was “What makes you sad?” Just for this evening, I’d like you to forget that message and forget that the word “sorrow” can be translated “evil” and “wickedness.” I hope that I made my point three weeks ago, and the Lord blessed us. But this evening, looking at Artaxerxes’ words again, I’d like to bring a entirely different devotional. We are all prone to sorrow. I confess that at times this week my heart has been as gloomy as Monday’s and Tuesday’s weather. I may have said the same sort of thing during my last message from this text. Don’t assume that this is my usual condition; that I’m clinically depressed or something. But the truth is I have down days and down hours as much as I have positive up days. During this week there have been things to cause that gloom and most of them were not the same as those of three weeks ago. I’m not embarrassed to mention this, because I’m guessing that you have had your blue moments as well. As I say, we are all prone to periods of sorrowful hearts – similar, but less intense, than Nehemiah’s. The root reason for this is the natural condition of our hearts – spiritually, not cardiologically. Nearly every reference I will make this evening to the heart is to the same Hebrew...

Ordering your Cause – Job 23:1-6

Tonight we were to have Bro. Fulton start a new series of messages. I was smiling to myself Sunday when Austin was showing his excitement about beginning this evening. But as most of you know, he returned to Colorado with hopes of getting a few more days of work done before that state closed down completely. It did just that this afternoon. Anyway, you are stuck with me once again. I’ve decided to go back to the subject of prayer, taking up where we left off two weeks ago, and also incorporating a thought or two from Sunday. As you know Job had problems. If Job were an American, how many people might have walked up to him and asked, “How are you doing?” It is customary here to greet people with that question. Over the last several weeks, hasn’t the question been asked with a little more sincerity? “How ya doing?” Well, for me, life is just a bit topsy-turvy. Unusual. Out of ordinary. But my health is fine; I have food in the fridge and pantry; I have a wonderful companion and a library full of books. And the truth is, I don’t personally know of anyone whose current problems are as bad as those of Job. For those who are moaning and groaning about lock-downs and lack of toilet paper, I point them to Job and remind them, things could get worse – perhaps things WILL get worse. Job had problems which can be summarized quite easily. He was suffering great pain with “sore boils from the sole of his foot, unto his crown.” It wasn’t...

The Throne of Grace – Hebrews 4:16

Next Wednesday we’ll start a new series with Bro. Austin as our teacher. In the mean time I wanted to use the two weeks between our study of Proverbs and this new series to encourage our hearts in the matter of prayer. Last week we considered “The cry of the raven” – that unclean bird. Despite its fallen nature; despite its awful screech; despite its lack of authority or invitation, God “giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” – Psalm 147:9. We who have been called and saved by God’s grace; we who are clean through the blood of Christ; we who have an invitation and exhortation to bring our requests unto God, should be encouraged toward prayer by watching God’s care of the raven. The raven is encouraging, but not more encouraging than Hebrews 4:16 . “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Before we get to that exhortation let’s consider its context. The immediate preceding verse is the equally great declaration that we have an interceding High Priest. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us THEREFORE come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Not only did the eternal Son of God become the sacrifice necessary for our salvation, He was the priest who shed the...

The Cry of the Raven – Psalms 147:7-11

I checked my records and discovered that we began our study of Proverbs in April 2017. After 2 months short of 3 years we have completed a brief survey of that great book, skimming its surface. I hope that it has been as helpful, and as much a blessing, to you as it has been to me. In 2 weeks time, while I am at the conference in Canada, Bro. Fulton will begin a new series. We will let the Lord determine its length, but it probably won’t be as long as Proverbs. But in the mean time, since this is our Prayer Meeting, I’d like to bring you a few thoughts about prayer. Several months ago I was reading a rather unusual book by C.H. Spurgeon. Nearly everything of his that I have read, before this book, has either been short devotions, as in Morning and Evening or Faith’s Checkbook, or it has been a compilation of sermons on particular subjects. But this book was specifically written as a lengthy book – a study of Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. One chapter caught my attention, and I jotted its theme down in my notebook for future consideration. And the future is now. The thought was originally the Lord’s; Spurgeon highlighted it; but this message is Oldfield’s. God CARES about RAVENS, He EMPLOYS ravens, and He HEARS the prayers of ravens. Including in this scripture, these birds are mentioned 10 times – 90% of the time in the Old Testament. In the one New Testament verse, the Lord Jesus says, “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which...

The Virtuous Christian Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31

Last Wednesday we spent a few minutes in an exposition of this paragraph. I gave our thoughts the very obvious title – “The Virtuous Woman.” I also said that we’d come back here this evening. You may have thought that we’d take 3 or 4 verses and lay into them more fully, but that was not my intention. What I’d like to do is go back over all 22 verses with a different pair of glasses. You might be tempted to say, I’ve taken my glasses off entirely. Let’s allegorize these verses, making them apply to something the writer never intended – a virtual wife. Some Old Testament prophet might have preached that this virtuous woman was the wife of God – Israel. And then someone today might take these words and apply them to the Lord’s church – the Bride of Christ. But me? I’d like to re-read these verses with the thought that you and I, as individuals, are this woman. Let’s give these thoughts the title “The Virtuous Christian Woman” and apply it to men as well as women. I’ll have to stretch some of these verses almost to the breaking point, but I believe that each point will be scriptural in and of themselves. The virtuous Christian woman. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” The Hebrew word “virtuous” is rooted in “strength,” so let’s apply this to a spiritually strong Christian person. But how many truly strong saints are there in these days of laxity and compromise? When we get to the end of this chapter tonight, how...