13 October 2011

Nobles & Their Necks

Coupled with the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah presents the history of the Jews who returned to the homeland following the Babylonian captivity.  Ezra was a ready scribe of the law of God (Ezra 7:6-10).  The book that bears his name focuses on the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11-2:5), and his book focuses on the rebuilding of the wall of the city.

Chapter 3 is where the work commences.  It’s a description of who built where and repaired what gate.  The names of the gates – and what they represent – make for some great preaching. 

Then there’s this statement in Nehemiah 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.  A couple points need to be made.

1.  If you’re too noble to work, then God will never use you.

The people had a mind to work (1 Corinthians 1:26).  But the nobles refused to participate.  The Tekoites were among those God used to repair the walls and gates of Jerusalem.  But the nobles considered themselves too important for that type of work.  And they missed out. 

Perhaps this is why the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:26 …not many noble, are called:

It’s a noble thing to want to accomplish something in this life for the honor and glory of God.  But whatever it is we might seek to accomplish, it’s going to take some WORK.  Your talent, your ability, your skill is not enough.  Prayer alone is insufficient.  Anything meaningful, anything worthwhile is going to take some labor, some effort, some toil. 

God can use all kinds of people.  But He cannot, He will not use a lazy, self-important man or woman.

2.  There is risk and sacrifice involved in accomplishing something for the Lord.

Read the verse again, Nehemiah 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
Would you not expect the verse to say that they put not their backs to the work of their Lord?  That’s what I expected to read, but that’s not what it says.  It says that they put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

That’s a common expression we all understand.  To “stick your neck out” or “put your neck on the line” is basically to take a calculated risk.  It’s to say, “This might not work, this might not turn out, but I believe it will, and I really think it’s the right thing to do, so here goes…” 

You and I are unlike God.  We can’t see the end from the beginning.  When we step out by faith in obedience to His word, all we have to go on is His promise that in the end, God will be pleased, and He’ll reward us for our labor (1 Corinthians 3:8).  We’re never promised success.  We’re never promised favor.  We’re never promised protection.

When you set out to do something for the Lord, you will be exposing yourself to failure, to ridicule, to mockery, to attack, to opposition.

Perhaps these nobles had listened too carefully to the laughing of Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem (Nehemiah 2:19).  Perhaps they decided to distance themselves from the work on the wall, just in case those guys were right.  Maybe they didn’t want to subject themselves to the ridicule and conspiracy of chapter 4. 

What we need to recognize is that dealing with all of those things is just part of doing God’s work.  So we all have a choice to make.  We can aim at nothing and hit it.  Or we can go ahead and pull the trigger, mindful of the fact that there might be some recoil or retaliation.  We just need to count the cost and figure out whether or not it’s worth it. 

Considering all that the Lord has done for us, we’ve got to say that anything we could possibly do for Him is absolutely worth whatever it might cost us.  May the Lord really help us believe that’s so.

04 October 2011

Bible Facts on Hell

·         Mentioned 54 times in the word of God
·         Mentioned 15 times by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry
·         To deny its existence is to call Jesus Christ a liar
·         To downplay its importance is to criticize Jesus’ preaching

·         Fire that shall never be quenched, flaming torment (Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:24)
·         Occupants cry for momentary relief of one drop of water (Luke 16:24)
·         Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42, 50; 24:51; Luke 13:28)
·         Place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)
·         Left with nothing but your thoughts, memory (Luke 16:25)
·         Everlasting destruction (Matthew 10:28-29; Luke 12:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Hebrews 6:2)
·         Better to pluck out your eye, cut off your hand, cut off your foot than to enter (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48)

·         Location the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40 w/ Acts 2:27, 31)
·         Levels/degrees of punishment: lowest hell, greater damnation (Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 86:13; Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47)
·         Temporary holding place: jail, trial, prison = hell, Great White Throne, lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

·         Jonah cried from belly of hell (Jonah 2:2)
·         Jesus was not left in hell (Matthew 12:40; Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27-31)
·         Jesus has the keys (Revelation 1:18)
·         Will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18)
·         Strange woman’s house the way to hell (Proverbs 5:5; 7:27)
·         Proper chastisement helps children avert it (Proverbs 23:14)
·         God’s presence if I make my bed there (Psalm 139:8)
·         Tongue set on fire of hell (James 3:6)

·         Never full; enlarges itself (Proverbs 27:20; Habakkuk 2:5; Isaiah 5:14)
·         Population continually increasing – 150,000 people die every day, and most of them go there
·         Hell is filling up…with people you care about – your lost friends, family members, classmates, job mates – they’re headed there (John 3:36)

·         Rich man in hell wanted somebody to tell his brothers (Luke 16:27-28)
·         People in paradise would have sought to rescue those in hell were it not for the great gulf (Luke 16:24)
·         Only chance we have is now, and we can make a difference (Jude 22-23)