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...

The Virtuous Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31

After a couple of years we come to the last verses of the Book of Proverbs. These are not actually proverbs but a poetical treatise on the beauty and characteristics of a good wife. And most likely it was patterned on some actual person’s wife. Solomon’s? Probably not. It is unlikely that Solomon’s wives were anything like the ordinary wives in Israel – or in Post Falls. But we don’t know the writer or the subject, and maybe it is a good thing that we have no names. In my mind I began looking for a nice 3 point message for this scripture to be ended with a poem. I came up with only two points, but I did find a poem – a piece of Hebrew poetry. Tonight I’m only going to give you point number 1, leaving the second for next Wednesday. I know people who do not like my use – or anyone’s use – of the original languages. Some say that God has preserved His word perfectly in English and when anyone refers to Greek and Hebrew they are inserting the intellect of man into God’s Word. The truth is just the opposite; in referring to the original language we are seeking out the Spirit’s intent. And there is sometimes genuine beauty lost in the translation from Hebrew into English. For example, in these verses each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet – in order. It would be as if verse 10 begins with the letter “a,” 11 with “b,” 12 with “c” and so on. If some expert in Hebrew doesn’t...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 31:1-9

Let’s entitle this message: “Lemuel and His Mom.” This is very different from the usual devotions we have been pulling from Proverbs thus far. In fact, there are no proverbs at all in these verses. And like the last chapter, these are not from the lips of Solomon – they originate with someone’s mother. “The words of king LEMUEL, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” Once again, we see that the word “prophecy” must not be confined to foretelling future events. The word often refers to the forth-telling of God’s Word through the ministry of His servants. Sometimes that means looking into the future and sometimes it simply means looking at the Lord. Our first job tonight is to reach some conclusion about these people – Lemuel and his mother. This is the only place in God’s Word where “Lemuel” is mentioned, so we have no help in identifying him. But we are clearly told that he was a king, so that limits the number of possibilities. Some commentators think that it was good King Hezekiah, with the only explanation being that his mother was the daughter of Zechariah – II Chronicles 29:1. Was this that Zechariah – the prophet? If so then that might explain where Hezekiah got some of his good genes. But there is no Biblical reason to make those jumps – Hezekiah, Lemuel, Abijah and Zechariah the prophet. Some people say that Lemuel was a heathen king – perhaps a Chaldean. Their argument is that some of the words in this “prophecy” have a Chaldean background. That is hardly conclusive evidence of anything, as...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30:24-28

As I said last week, our proverbist, is now in the midst of giving us groups of related thoughts. And just as we have skipped over many of Solomon’s proverbs, we won’t look at all of these. Our verses tonight bring me back to my childhood, when I loved collecting creepy-crawly things. Job once said, “Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee.” Tell us what Job? They teach us about their Creator, and they teach us about our responsibilities as God’s children. Let’s consider what Agur says about these creatures, and then we’ll transition to a very easy spiritual application. Exposition: Verse 24 – “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise.” In this case,“wisdom” is not referring directly to our salvation or to our Saviour who gives us salvation. These four little creatures are wise in earthly areas – areas where the Lord intended them to be wise. There is a tendency, growing out of our pride, to think that since we are wiser in some area than another person, we are more wise – or better – than that person in a general sense. But that just may not be the case, and there is always someone wiser in some things than we are. Someone knows more about auto mechanics, or accounting, or astrophysics than you do. Some time ago I sent Judy a link to a news video of an elderly man suffering from cerebral palsy. For 60 years or more he had been suffering from...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30:21-23

If a man who writes psalms is a “psalmist” is a man who writes or records proverbs a “proverbist”? Our proverbist, whether Solomon or Agur, is now in the midst of giving us groups of related thoughts. We won’t look at all of them – just the ones the Lord highlights for me. Verse 21 – “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.” The word “disquieted” may mean something to you, but it might be something else to another person. To me it usually speaks of being upset – like a quiet evening disquieted by an upset stomach from too much spicy pizza for supper. The Hebrew word is used 41 times and has been translated with many different English words. Some of them are what I picture – “quake,” “move” and “shake.” But more often than these it is related to some sort of fear – “tremble,” “troubled,” and “afraid.” To “quake with fear” is common in literature. And then sometimes the word is translated “rage.” “For three things the earth is [shaken and troubled], and for four which it cannot bear.” There are some things which are so unnatural they upset the system. There are things so unnatural that the world can’t stomach them and vomits them up. There are things so outrageous it makes the world angry to think about them. From the proverbist’s list, let’s start with the second verse – with the women. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.” “For an odious woman when she is married; and an...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30:11-17

I like certain kinds of old things. I don’t understand antique furniture enough to enjoy them or to have them. A piece of antique china may appeal to my eye once in a while, but I usually feel no need to buy it. A well-cared for 150 year old postage stamp is a beautiful thing, and I am delighted to own many of them. And a 150 year old envelope written by a future President of the United States is particularly special to me. Yesterday Judy got a box from one of her brothers containing an old, old book filled with 19th century photos of family members and others. I am excited to spend some time in there. But these things are all relatively recent compared to the Word of God. We need to remind ourselves that the letter of Paul to the Ephesian church was written 2,000 years ago. It is more than ten times as old as the oldest stamp, envelope or document in my collection. And this chapter from Proverbs was written about a thousand years before Paul wrote his letters. But the Bible is not like any ordinary book or human document. It is timeless. And a case in point are these verses from chapter 30. Agur says, “There is a generation” which does this and that, probably referring to young people he knew. But we could say the same thing about young people we know today – teenagers and pre-teens. The Bible was authored by the timeless Holy Spirit. By “timeless” I mean, the Spirit of God, doesn’t pass through time; He isn’t governed...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30:7-9

I have just finished a good size book written by C.H. Spurgeon, a third of which are prayers to God. I don’t know if these were written for the book; if they were private prayers; or if they were public prayers which had been recorded by stenographers. I have had another little book called “The Pastor in Prayer,” which contains 24 of prayers. These were publically offered to the Lord in the morning services of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Some them are more than 10 minutes long. And I have to admit that I don’t enjoy reading them, because they convict me so severely. I believe that in the three verses we’ve just read, we have an example from the prayer life of Agur. It isn’t from the heart of Solomon, because at least one of the circumstances wouldn’t apply to the king. Why is this recorded here? Because Solomon appreciated the value of this prayer and what it might give to his children and subjects. This is a lesson from the Holy Spirit – who is the regulator of Godly prayer. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” What can we learn by considering Agur’s prayer? Going back to Sunday evening, we learn to pray as if we are dying. “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die.” First, don’t be distracted by the verb “required of thee.” In prayer, we had better not think that we can...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30-1-6

  There is a bit of mystery in these verses. For example, who are these people, and what should we make of their names? Every thing in the Bible has been placed there by the Holy Spirit for a reason, but sometimes determining that reason is difficult. There are no other references to Agur and Ucal, so the Lord is not leading us to specific events, and we can’t learn anything more about them from other scriptures. Ithiel is a name mentioned in Nehemiah, but because of the years, that was obviously not the same man. What if we said, these are not real people and we should look for lessons only in the meaning of their names. What if they are allegories? Agur is described as the son of Jakeh, and as a word “Jakeh” has its root in the idea of obedience. Could we say that Agur was who he was out of obedience to some divine commission? Agur was a child of obedience. It would be marvelous if on each of our tombstones there were the words, “A child of obedience.” Ucal literally means “eat,” “devour” or perhaps “devourer.” Was he known to devour, or soak up, everything that Agur ever told him? Was he a good student? There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But is that God’s lesson for us? Ithiel is a really interesting name and creates confusion, because it means “God has arrived,” and thus it is related to “Immanuel” – “God with us.” Are we to look at Ithiel as the preincarnate Christ, and if so for what purpose? He is...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 29:13

On Monday night’s evening news I saw a video of a SUV upside down at some intersection in North Spokane. The explanation was that there had been a collision with another vehicle. There were no major injuries, but the driver of the SUV had been hanging upside down in her car for some time before the firemen were able to extricate her. Of course, neither driver left home, or work that day, expecting to be in an accident. Both of them were carrying out their business, perhaps stopping here and there to buy gas, get some groceries, drop kids off, leave a bid for a job, pick up supplies or whatever. Perhaps one of them even started that journey an hour or two before the other. They didn’t know each other, but in a circuitous way, they came to that intersection at the same time. Obviously, someone was at fault, but no charges were filed, so I don’t know who caused the accident. If there was genuine fault, we might describe one of the drivers as the poor, unfortunate victim. The other will be issued a ticket, and depending on the investigation, perhaps spend time in jail. I give you that illustration to get us pointed in the right direction in regard to verse 13 – “The poor and the deceitful man meet together; the Lord lighteneth both their eyes.” First, let’s consider the TRAVELERS. One of them is described as “deceitful.” There are eight Hebrew words translated “deceitful” in our Bibles, and most are more common than this one. When I read Bro. Strong’s explanation of this particular...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 29:18

There are three powerful, often quoted, verses in chapter 29. For example there is verse 1 – “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” That is a scripture worthy of memorization and regular repetition – even we need to be reminded. I hope you have verse 25 stored away in your heart – “The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” We’ll come back to that in a minute, as well as verse 18 – “Where there is no vision the people perish.” After these three there weren’t really any of these Proverbs which jumped out at me, demanding our attention. I was looking for something which might be appropriate for the season, but I didn’t see any. So I have only a few passing remarks before we take prayer requests and go to God’s throne of grace. Verse 18 is an interesting scripture sandwiched within a common theme. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.” The verbs in verses 17 and 19 are the same Hebrew word – “correct.” But more often than “correct” the word is translated “instruct,” so we could place that word in there to see if our understanding changes at all. “INSTRUCT thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” A servant will NOT be INSTRUCTED by words: for though he...