Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 15 - by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 11, Jonah 3-4
Today's scripture focus is Nehemiah 6

Conspiracy Against Nehemiah

Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God,[b] strengthen my hands.
10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?[c] I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.

The Wall Is Finished

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

David Legge has some interesting thoughts:

we will look at it in more detail, a very very encouraging verse in verse 15 which said this: 'So the wall was finished'. That is an encouragement, isn't it? After we have followed all the opposition that Nehemiah and his forces faced as they tried to do the work of God, we are encouraged to realise that the work was finished and God was glorified. But what I want you chiefly to notice this morning is that before it was finished there was the final and most fearsome assault of the enemy.
I don't know whether you've found this out about people in the life that you live, but there's just some people who can't take good news at all - good news has to have some kind of bad news mixed in among it, and every silver lining has to have a cloud. They are called, commonly, pessimists. I believe these people, and I suppose there's a bit of it in all of us, they feel more secure when things are going wrong because perhaps they're more familiar when things are going wrong. They like to see things fail, not succeed, because it confirms their prophecies of doom that they love to make, and they delight when they come true.
We are told within the Scriptures as believers in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 6 that we, as God's people, are not to rejoice in iniquity but to rejoice in the truth. We as Christians ought not to be pessimists in that kind, but it ought to be no surprise to us that the enemy loves to be in such matters. He loves to turn good news into bad news. He loves, when he hears about good news, to make sure that in some way he can destroy, he can thwart the work of God.

It is soooooo easy to look at the bad side of things. So. Easy. Generally I consider myself a very positive and optimistic person. Generally. However, I do have times when I cannot find any positives in a situation. My attitude sours and I am sure that Satan takes a real delight when he is able to make the optimist a pessimist.

Recently, my daughter Kiandra had a disappointing thing happen to her. After 3 years of being involved in her high school's musical in a fairly significant role she was eagerly hoping to play the lead in her last ever Grade 12 musical. Not only did she not get the lead, she was cast as a very minor character without a significant role.  My normally optimistic self was angry and very bitter. I'm sure Satan relished my bitterness and enjoyed my displeasure at the bad news. Thankfully, my daughter does not wallow like I do and she showed an unbelievable mature response to the situation. You can read about it here.

David Legge has these thoughts about when things always seem to be going well:

Nehemiah was able, by the power of God, to sort out these internal problems, and the work progressed again. But the evil one couldn't leave it at that, his ultimate goal was that the work of God should stop - therefore he pushes these three people again to the fore, unto the stage, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. Now there are some lessons, many lessons, in this book - some we will see this morning - but one of which is simply this: the devil always should be expected on the scene when things are going well. Now that could turn you into a pessimist if you're always looking for the devil, and when something goes well you're thinking: 'Well, I wonder what's round the corner?'. But although we're not to be pessimists, we ought to be realistic about this fact: the devil doesn't like it when the work of God goes well.
Those who are in leadership need to understand this as well, because the position of leadership, whatever it may be - whether it's in Sunday School, or youth work, or in an oversight capacity - in a sense it's a Catch-22 situation and scenario, where you can't win. If things are not going well you get dejected, and when things are going well you get the devil. Spurgeon used to say: 'Satan never kicks a dead horse'. Another has said: 'He who would closely follow God will be closely followed by the devil'. Now please note that here at this point in Nehemiah's work of the building of the wall, they're not starting, they're not at the halfway stage where we saw we can really get dejected and discouraged as we realise there's half of the work still to do, we don't seem to dwell on the fact that half of it's already done, but we're now almost at the point of completion - and it's at that point of success, and of apparent victory, that we as believers and God's people can let the guard down
Things won't always go well. Things don't always go as planned. There are always things that are unexpected. There are always changes in the original plan. How we react to those unexpected changes and our attitude is what is important. Do we model what we know we should?  I know I don't and this recent situation with my daughter puts my sour attitude front and center--shall we even say in the spotlight at center stage?! ;)
We can take comfort (?) in knowing that we are not alone in our fallen nature and some of the most prominent people in the bible also faced trials that would tempt them and test them.
David Legge says:
You can look throughout all the characters of the Bible and see this in their lives. When was it that Bathsheba and David fell into adultery? It was at a time in David's life that he had never, to that point, experienced defeat in battle. He had never known that, he had been successful all along spiritually, militarily, religiously, in his reign over the nation politically - yet at that point, at his strongest if you like, he was his weakest. The devil saw that, and he fell.
You see it in the prophet Jonah - when did he fall into self-pity and sat underneath the gourd? It was after the greatest revival, perhaps, that has ever swept across a city, the city of Nineveh - but here is the prophet dejected. We know the reason why, but nevertheless it was after a great victory. Joseph, you remember when he received that temptation from Potiphar's wife to sleep with her, when was it? It was soon after his promotion from Mr Potiphar, where he was granted charge and a free run of the house. Right after that the devil came in. You can see it, believe it or not, in the life of our Lord Jesus. He is baptised in the Jordan, and the Holy Ghost comes down, you read about it many a time - and then the heavens open and God pronounces this of His Son: 'Here is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased'. It is after this, the next chapter in Matthew's gospel, that we read these words: 'Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil'. Job: behind the scenes God and Satan are conversing. God says to Satan: 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there isn't anybody like him in all the earth?'. Immediately after that, a victory, a conquering success of testimony, the devil's testing comes.

We need help to maintain our optimism even when things seems hard or hopeless. We need help when things are going well to know that it is not by our works alone. We need help when Satan attacks our mind with untrue stories and that we might be able to stand strong when trials come. In our weakness, may we surrender to the One who already knows the future and how the story will ultimately end.

Tomorrow's scripture focusNehemiah 7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Revelation 12, Micah 1-2

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