Today our passages are Nehemiah 5:14–7:60; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Psalm 33:1-11; and Proverbs 21:8-10. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Nehemiah 5:14-7:60 (The Message)
"Remember in My Favor, O My God"14-16 From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah—from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years—neither I nor my brothers used the governor's food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn't have time to line our own pockets. 17-18 I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn't use the food allowance provided for the governor—the people had it hard enough as it was.
19 Remember in my favor, O my God,
Everything I've done for these people.
"I'm Doing a Great Work; I Can't Come Down"1-2 When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that there were no more breaks in it—even though I hadn't yet installed the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: "Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono." 2-3 I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: "I'm doing a great work; I can't come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?"
4 Four times they sent this message and four times I gave them my answer.
5-6 The fifth time—same messenger, same message—Sanballat sent an unsealed letter with this message:
6-7 "The word is out among the nations—and Geshem says it's true— that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. That's why you are rebuilding the wall. The word is that you want to be king and that you have appointed prophets to announce in Jerusalem, 'There's a king in Judah!' The king is going to be told all this—don't you think we should sit down and have a talk?"
8 I sent him back this: "There's nothing to what you're saying. You've made it all up."
9 They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, "They'll give up; they'll never finish it."
I prayed, "Give me strength."
10 Then I met secretly with Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, at his house. He said:
Let's meet at the house of God,
inside The Temple;
Let's find safety behind locked doors
because they're coming to kill you,
Yes, coming by night to kill you.
11 I said, "Why would a man like me run for cover? And why would a man like me use The Temple as a hideout? I won't do it."
12-13 I sensed that God hadn't sent this man. The so-called prophecy he spoke to me was the work of Tobiah and Sanballat; they had hired him. He had been hired to scare me off—trick me—a layman, into desecrating The Temple and ruining my good reputation so they could accuse me.
14 "O my God, don't let Tobiah and Sanballat get by with all the mischief they've done. And the same goes for the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who have been trying to undermine my confidence."
15-16 The wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. It had taken fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.
17-19 All during this time letters were going back and forth constantly between the nobles of Judah and Tobiah. Many of the nobles had ties to him because he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. They kept telling me all the good things he did and then would report back to him anything I would say. And then Tobiah would send letters to intimidate me.
The Wall Rebuilt: Names and Numbers1-2 After the wall was rebuilt and I had installed the doors, and the security guards, the singers, and the Levites were appointed, I put my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the captain of the citadel, in charge of Jerusalem because he was an honest man and feared God more than most men. 3 I gave them this order: "Don't open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is up. And shut and bar the gates while the guards are still on duty. Appoint the guards from the citizens of Jerusalem and assign them to posts in front of their own homes."
4 The city was large and spacious with only a few people in it and the houses not yet rebuilt.
5 God put it in my heart to gather the nobles, the officials, and the people in general to be registered. I found the genealogical record of those who were in the first return from exile. This is the record I found:
6-60 These are the people of the province who returned from the captivity of the Exile, the ones Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried off captive; they came back to Jerusalem and Judah, each going to his own town. They came back in the company of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.
The numbers of the men of the People of Israel by families of origin:
Pahath-Moab (sons of Jeshua and Joab), 2,818
Ater (sons of Hezekiah), 98
Israelites identified by place of origin:
Bethlehem and Netophah, 188
Beth Azmaveth, 42
Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth, 743
Ramah and Geba, 621
Bethel and Ai, 123
Nebo (the other one), 52
Elam (the other one), 1,254
Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721
Jedaiah (sons of Jeshua), 973
Jeshua (sons of Kadmiel and of Hodaviah), 74.
Asaph's family line, 148.
Security guard families:
Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai, 138.
Families of support staff:
Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
Keros, Sia, Padon,
Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,
Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
Besai, Meunim, Nephussim,
Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
Neziah, and Hatipha.
Families of Solomon's servants:
Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,
Jaala, Darkon, Giddel,
Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim, and Amon.
The Temple support staff and Solomon's servants added up to 392.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (The Message)
1 Corinthians 8
Freedom with Responsibility1-3The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all. 4-6Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there's nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don't add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It's true.
7In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It's just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn't everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn't that insensitive.
We need to be sensitive to the fact that we're not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating "idol meat," and are sure that there's something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn't going to change overnight.
8-9But fortunately God doesn't grade us on our diet. We're neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can't stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
10For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn't there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn't you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn't really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn't worth it at the cost of even one of these "weak ones." So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there's any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
Psalm 33:1-11 (The Message)
Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!
Play his praise on a grand piano!
Invent your own new song to him;
give him a trumpet fanfare.
4-5 For God's Word is solid to the core;
everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits,
when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched
in God's affectionate satisfaction.
6-7 The skies were made by God's command;
he breathed the word and the stars popped out.
He scooped Sea into his jug,
put Ocean in his keg.
8-9 Earth-creatures, bow before God;
world-dwellers—down on your knees!
Here's why: he spoke and there it was,
in place the moment he said so.
10-12 God takes the wind out of Babel pretense,
he shoots down the world's power-schemes.
God's plan for the world stands up,
all his designs are made to last.
Blessed is the country with God for God;
blessed are the people he's put in his will.
Proverbs 21:8-10 (The Message)
8 Mixed motives twist life into tangles;
pure motives take you straight down the road.
Do Your Best, Prepare for the Worst9 Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack
than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.
10 Wicked souls love to make trouble;
they feel nothing for friends and neighbors.
Verse of the Day
Thought for the Day
Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”