Day 90: Revelation 19-22 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 19-22 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I find it interesting that the near the beginning of the bible we see a marriage (Adam and Eve in Genesis 2), Jesus begins his public ministry with a wedding (by attending the wedding in Canna in John 2), and now we find one near the end of the bible (Revelation 19). The marriage relationship points us to God’s design like no other earthly relationship that we may have.  Each wedding is a look back to the first wedding there in the garden and a look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

In these final chapters we see a great separation of mankind. On the one hand, we have those who are welcomed into the new Jerusalem, eternal life, etc. But on the other hand there will be those who never trust in the Lord and they will cast into the lake of fire. God’s judgement is always fair.

In Revelation 21:3 we see what makes heaven, heaven, God will dwell with his people once again. This was what was lost at the fall. This is what was demonstrated with the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem. This is what is demonstrated in Christ. This is the promise received by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We will never be far from the LORD. The mountains are brought low, the valleys are raised up. The sea is clear. The light is the LORD himself.

One final thought. The gates to the city are made of pearl. Pearls are the only precious stone made by an organic creature. A little sand cause irritation in a clam and the clam covers it and covers it until it is no longer and irritation, but has become something valuable. When we cross through the pearly gates we will remember a life marred by sin, but redeemed by Jesus. Our brokenness will ultimately be covered over and fixed by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

FATHER, Thank you for the grace of studying your word. Thank you for the opportunity to read the new testament together for the last 90 days. I ask that you would give us wisdom for the generation and moment that we live in. I pray that we would make the must use of our time for your kingdom and your glory. We look forward to the return of Christ and when all things are truly made new. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

 

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 86: Revelation 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter seven there is a great multitude from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Studying Genesis helps us understand a lot of the book of Revelation. The representatives of the nations that were caused by disobedience and the resulting division at Babel (Gen. 11) are coming together as martyrs in the tribulation. We are beginning to see every effect of sin become undone. I think we also can see a hint of this in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit enables the Apostles to preach in different languages.

Revelation 7:16-17 speaks of Jesus’ provision for the martyrs and is reminiscent of the 23rd Psalm. What a joy it is to continue to see the scriptures play out across the generations. Much of what we see in the seventh chapter with white robes, living water, he shall dwell with them, etc. we will see play our later in the book of revelation as well.

Despite all that we see playing out in the book of Revelation, there will be many who continue to harden their heart against the LORD. It can be a difficult thing to imagine that there would be so many who would continue to rebel against God and refuse to repent. We will continue to see this theme all the way up until the end in the book of Revelation.

FATHER, Thank you for the shed blood of JESUS which makes it possible to approach you and enter into the paradise you have prepared for your people. Thank you for the martyrs of all generations and those who will arise out of the tribulation as a witness for you. I pray that our witness for you is bold in our generation and pleases you. I ask for your gospel to go forth with clarity and power. Thank you for the privilege of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 54: 2 Corinthians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Chapter four is encouraging. Paul  encourages us to endure when we face trials and opposition in the Christian life. I appreciate Paul’s charge, “do not lose heart” (4:1, 16). He compares the present trials to light afflictions in light of eternity (4:17-18).

I’m looking forward to the return of Christ when all is set right. I look forward to the glorious resurrection body that will allow us to experience the presence of the LORD (5:1-8).  This great expectation that we have in Christ should provoke us to live lives set apart for His glory (5:15). We are new creations and we no longer have to live as we once did, we are free in Christ (5:17). As those who have been set free, we are in the position of preaching the ministry of reconciliation to our fellow men so that they might know and experience the grace and forgiveness of God as we have (5:19-21).

Chapter six highlights two results from being made new in Christ. One is that we should press others to enter the Kingdom now while they can. “Now is the acceptable time; Behold now is the day of Salvation” (6:2). The other is that we should live holy lives. We don’t become holy to be saved, but when we are saved, we should start the process of becoming holy. This includes being careful of our closest associations. Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (6:14).

FATHER, Thank you for the grace and ministry of Reconciliation. We give you all the praise and the glory for making us New Creations in Christ. We ask for grace and encouragement to endure whatever struggles we would face in this life. May they be viewed as light and momentary afflictions compared to the glory of Eternity. We ask for earnestness on our part to spread the gospel of reconciliation and holiness in our lives. Thank you for the grace to shepherd your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 44: Romans 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Romans 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Romans 10 Paul continues to point the readers to faith in Christ. Romans 10:2 is the verse that the Lord used to bring me to conviction of sin in my own life. I realized that I had a religious zeal for the things of God, but I didn’t know the LORD.  Hearing that particular Word of God at that time produced saving faith in my own heart (10:17).

Chapter 11 deals with questions about Israel (God’s chosen people) and their presumed rejection of Jesus. It is not as though the purpose of God has failed, but that it has been enlarged (11:12).

Moving into chapter 12, the Apostle Paul begins to write with more application in mind.  Most of what Paul has written so far, has been laying the foundation of a good theology. You will notice this trend in almost all of Paul’s letters. Theology comes first then the practical application flows last. This is what we see in Romans: Man is sinful, Jesus died to bring you to God, God is sovereign, therefore work together, love your enemies and trust God to deal out justice.

[SIDE NOTE: The point of a good theology is action. Some people live with a false dichotomy between theology and action. They say they believe one thing and behave another way. Then others just reverse the false dichotomy and say its all about action and forget why they do what they do. The truth is to have a fully colored in worldview you need to not only respond to God in faith, but know that previously you were separated from God by your sins.]

A love that focuses on the action and not the principle isn’t any kind of real love anyway. Its a coerced at best and a thin veneer over vileness at worst. Only resting in real truth about God and his character will ever free you to truly love your enemies

FATHER, Thank you that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. I pray your word would go out far and wide today and many would put their faith and trust in you. I pray for boldness on our part to share the gospel so that others might believe. I praise you that you are too infinate to fully comprehend and humble myself to realize that I need your counsel in every area of my life. I pray that you would equip me to do my part in the body of Christ and exercise the gifts that you have given me, for your glory and the edification of the church. I pray that my heart rests in you today and I love others in the same radical way that I am loved by you. Help me to grow even more in my knowledge of your love. Thank you for the calling to preach your word and prepare your people. I pray that I would walk faithfully with you all the days of my life. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN,

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 10: Matthew 8-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 8 -10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What sticks out to me in these chapters this morning is the issue of faith and belief.  Jesus could and would heal, but those asking for healing knew that the power to heal wasn’t in their hands, it all belonged to Jesus. They weren’t just sending good vibes through the universe as if positive thinking would heal them. They weren’t trying to ignore the illness or deformity that plagued them, as though if they fooled themselves into thinking they were healthy it would make them healthy. NO… we see time and time again, there was a real and raw feeling of emptiness and brokenness that only Jesus could answer.

Go back with me to the paralytic man (9:1-8). Jesus said to the crowd, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). Think about that question for just a moment. What does this paralyzed man want to hear? What is the desire of his heart?  He is broken. There is no other cure. There isn’t a miracle surgery out there that can change his condition. He is desperate… has come for healing and so if Jesus just merely wants to please this man and his friends, all Jesus has to do is heal this man and He’s got a fan.

But Jesus isn’t looking for a fan, He is looking to bring real healing into this man’s life, a healing that is deeper than this man even knows to look. He has come to heal the rift in his soul. He has come to forgive his sins and reconcile him to God! So he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

What does it cost to heal this man? Seemingly it’s just a few words upon the divine lips and this man is restored to health? What does it take to forgive this man of his sin? The story of the gospel of Matthew is not over. This pronouncement sets Jesus on a course for the cross.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today.

LORD, I thank you that you are a healing God. That in your kingdom there is no sickness or disease. I thank you that those of us who have been crushed by infirmity will find true relief in you. I praise you that sometimes we get a glimpse of the kingdom coming by seeing miracles of healing in our own day. Today, I ask that you would be pleased to work that kind of miracle for a friend of mine who is suffering. I lift up the many individuals I know who are sick and struggling with infirmity. I want to thank you that you are a forgiving God. Thank you for forgiving me. Today I pray for those who are lost in their sins and don’t know it. I ask that they would find true forgiveness through the mercy of the cross. I pray that we would all receive and realize the greatest gift of your grace. Thank you for calling me into ministry and giving me the charge to lead your people. I pray that you give me great grace and insight in preaching the gospel and pointing people to you . IN JESUS NAME. AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Somebody Has Got to do Something! (In Need of a Savior)

Have you ever observed a situation and thought to yourself, “Somebody has got to do something!” It might be something small like the dishes piling up in the sink or even something huge like a national crisis… but the thought emerges and might even escape your lips in the form of a phrase, “someone has got to do something!”

Most often when we make that statement or think it, it’s passive. What is implied is that someone ELSE should do something. It’s an indication that we are waiting for someone from the outside to swoop in and deliver us from our situation. We are expecting our husband to do the dishes or a politician to save the nation.

Granted on the dishes side of things we dismiss ourselves because we don’t want to do something, but what about those situations where we really wish someone would do something but we don’t see how it could be us. Maybe we dismiss ourselves because we are too old, or too young. We say things to ourselves like, “They would never listen to someone like me.” We make up all sorts of excuses about why we couldn’t be the one to do something and we end up sitting idly by and nothing ever changes.

But what if when we had that thought, we did something different? What if instead of being passive, we did something? What if we simply looked to God in the situation and asked him to intervene? What if after asking God to move we offered ourselves to be his agents of change.  What if we simply prayed, “God, someone has got to do something, I believe you have the only answer. Would you do something in this situation and because I believe you can and will use anything and anyone to bring yourself glory, I offer myself, I’m not giving you much to work with, but I’m banking on the fact that you like to use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. So God, Somebody has got to do something, I’m asking you and I’m offering me.”

In this post we’ll look at three different Judges who saw their nation in turmoil and just when things looked the worst and you could hear the cry of the people saying, “Somebody has got to do something!” We see God answer their prayer by raising up the most unlikely of deliverers.

Othniel  

Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.(Judges 3:8-11 ESV)

We have heard about Othniel before ( in Judges 1:13). He was a young man. He captured a mountain, won the heart of Caleb’s daughter and inherited some of the choicest land in the region. However things changed. The nation slid into idol worship and God gave them over to their idols.

When we hear these words, “He sold them,” they can ring kind of funny in our ears. Does God sell things? Who does He sell them too? Why? We can consider this an idiom. An idiom is when we say something like, “it’s raining cats and dogs.” If you say that to someone who barely speaks English they will look at you and wonder that you mean. They are looking for real cats and dogs to fall out of the sky, but what you really mean is that it’s raining really hard and you used non-literal descriptive language to express how hard it was raining. What this language, that God had sold them, means is that God removed his hand of protection from Israel.

Imagine that I have a dog. Because he is mine I protect him. I feed him. When he gets in barking matches with bigger dogs, I break it up and save his tiny little life, all because he is mine.

Now imagine that I put him up for sale and I sell him. He is now someone else’s to do with what they like because he doesn’t belong to me. He belongs to them. Because he belongs to them, they can do what they want with him. They can make him pull a heavy dog sled, feed him chicken bones, or even stroke his hair backwards.

When he was mine, there was no way I would let anyone mess with him. Now that I have sold him, I no longer possess Him.  Since he is no longer my possession there is no reason for me to act on his behalf.

So when we hear that God has “sold” the nation of Israel, we are to understand that while He loves them, he is allowing them to be handled by others.  He does not intervene. In essence if they do not claim Him, He will not claim them.

Some of you read this and you think. How could a loving God do this to His people? You’re missing a picture of love. How could a loving God not? Love is not bandaging the bruises, love is addressing the behavior that leads to the bruises time and time again. The Lord is not an enabler of this people, but a deliverer. The problem is that sometimes we don’t want to be delivered, we want to be enabled. We like our bad behavior, we like our sin. We want someone to hold our hand and tell us it will be ok. But the biblical truth is that sometimes God gives us enough leash to hit the bottom

The people of Israel end up serving a wicked king. The writer of Judges even comes up with a special nickname for him. His name literally means “twice wicked from two rivers.” It’s a hint that this guy is a bad dude!

How long does it take you to realize that you’ve really messed up and you need God to take you back? It took Israel at least eight years. God hears and he answers. He sends a deliver Judge by the name of Othniel.

It’s important to know that Othniel isn’t the same young man that he once was. He’s a bit older. In fact, some scholars think he might be as old as sixty five years old or older. Not the kind of guy you imagine strapping on a flap jacket and calling in for secret ops. This guy should be retiring, sitting back and telling war stories, not going to war. But when he looked around and saw the condition of his people he didn’t use his age as an excuse not to go to war, he strapped on his gear and lead the charge because somebody had to do something and He was confident that God would use him.

EHUD (Judges 3:12-30)

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them. When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor. Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.(Judges 3:12-30 ESV)

Next we move on to Ehud. The story of Ehud has got to be one of my all time favorite stories from the bible. This is not a story to read at the dinner table before a meal. However, it’s a fun story.

So Israel sins again and God allows the Moabites to take over. They make the Israelites pay tribute and put a large military presence in the land, complete with forts, outposts, etc. The Israelites have to bring in sheep, veggies, money, etc. to pay them off every month or however often.

Ehud is left handed.  (I bet you didn’t know there was a specifically left-handed hero in the bible!) Being left-handed isn’t a big deal to you and I, but back in the day it was considered weird. The right hand was the way to go. Have you ever heard the expression, “He’s my right hand man?” It means that it’s someone you can count on. If you sat at an important person’s right hand it meant that you were important to that person. In fact there is a tribe of Israel whose tribal name is Benjamin.  Do you know what the name Benjamin means?… It means “Son of the right hand.”

So when we are told that Ehud is left handed. That’s a big deal, because the left hand is nothing. Some scholars believe that his right hand was disfigured in some way and he had to learn to use his left hand for everything. If this were the case Ehud wouldn’t have been allowed to serve in the military back then, or even now. But he was ok to help deliver the tribute to Eglon the king of Moab.

Now this is where it gets kind of funny. Eglon means “bull or cow” and the writer makes big deal about how fat he was. Eglon was a big man, but the writer goes out of his way in essence to call him a “Fat Cow.”  Now in our day that’s just a mean insult. It’s impolite. If my kids said it about someone, I’d tell them to hush.  Back in that day it had a double meaning. Not only was it an insult, but you killed “fat cows” to eat or to make a sacrifice. Like in the story of the prodigal son; when he returns the dad says go kill the “fattened calf.” The whole reason you get a calf fat is so you can kill it and eat it. By implication Eglon is fat for the slaughter.

So here is the irony Ehud the left handed man (who happens to be from the tribe whose name literally means “son of the right-hand”) takes the tribute to Eglon (the fat cow)  and drops it off. Everyone starts to head home, but when he reaches the stones at Gilgal, he turns back!

It’s easy to dismiss this as just the place that he turned around, but something you need to know about these stones at Gilgal. These were the stones that were brought up from the bottom of the river when God parted the Jordan river and the nation of Israel first entered the land. Gilgal was where they first camped out in Israel. Check out Joshua 4:19-24.

The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”(Joshua 4:19-24 ESV)

I can’t help but think that at least one little boy in the land had a father who walked by the stones of Gilgal and spoke to his son of the faithfulness of the Lord. One little boy that even though he was left handed, and perhaps even crippled and not fit for military service would grow up and find himself with the job that no one wanted, delivering tribute to the fat bull king. And one day after he has just dropped off the tribute he heads back with the other helpers and he passes these stones, at this place and he remembers! In his heart he knows that somebody has to do something!

Maybe he’s full of excuses on why not him, he is left-handed, he is cripple, he’s not trained on how to kill. However on this day, something comes over him and he doesn’t offer any excuses. He’s had enough. He doesn’t want to endanger anyone else, perhaps he thinks it’s a suicide mission, so he sends the other guys on ahead and doesn’t tell them of his plan, but solemnly turns back to face this fat bull king alone.  He goes to Eglon and tells him, “I have a secret message for you.

Eglon apparently loves secrets and so he sends everyone out of the room. He’s not threatened by Ehud after all… he’s deformed. Little does he know that Ehud has a sword strapped to his thigh. I’m sure the guards patted him down, but not too well, because he hid the sword on his other thigh.

Then Ehud says, “It’s a message from God.” Now at this point Eglon is really curious. He wonders what kind of message God might have for him. So he stands. This was probably really difficult for him to do. After all he was “fat for the slaughter.”

Then Ehud reaches in his tunic produces the hidden sword and with one quick motion plunges it into Eglon. He is not a skilled assassin. As far as we know this is his first attempt. He doesn’t go for the heart or the lungs or even the head. He goes for the biggest possible target and aims for the belly! He pushes it in so hard and so fast that he actually loses the sword in all the fat. There is no way to draw the sword back out again for a second blow. There is no need. Eglon is bleeding to death on the floor.

Now here is the thing. When Ehud plunged the sword into Eglon he actually ruptured his intestines, there is no polite way to say this, his poop starts to ooze out. I know it’s gross right? The whole thing is gross (but it’s in our bible and I think for good reason). Ehud locks the door and walks away. The guards come to check on Eglon and the doors are locked and they smell this disgusting smell so they naturally thing that he’s in the bathroom.

So can you imagine the conversation that goes on outside the door?

 

And all the while they were sitting outside smelling his poo; Ehud was running back to Israel with the news that he had killed Eglon! He rallies the troops and they stand at the Jordan River so as the Moabite troops start to make their way back they are captured and killed! So this possibly handicap, left-handed member of the tribe whose name means “son of the right-hand” who was probably not fit for military service ends up leading the whole army of Israel and gets the victory!

Don’t you get the picture? It’s GOD who delivers Israel time and time again. First he raises up an older man, next he raised up a left-handed guy, now he raises up a farmer. We have only one verse in all the bible to describe a guy by the name of Shamgar

SHAMGAR (Judges 3:31

After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel. (Judges 3:31 ESV)

Shamgar’s weapon of choice was a long pointy stick that you use to poke cattle with when they are getting kind of slow. It’s not really a weapon at all. It’s not that sophisticated. It’s really just a pointy stick. I’m sure when folks saw Shamgar coming they weren’t afraid.

We don’t know much about Shamgar, but we can deduce a few things. His name suggests that he was not an Israelite. He was possibly an Egyptian. He was probably a farmer and not a soldier given his weapon of choice. That’s all we really have to go on. We also know he killed over 600 Philistines. We don’t know if this was at one time, or in bunches or if he was alone and killed this many or lead a group of men, but we do know that he killed. When you hear Philistines you need to think Vikings. At this point in history they are really like southern Vikings. They would come in from the seas and rivers and take over territory. Everyone hated them.

So at this point it seems like God used an Egyptian farmer to chase off the Philistines. Isn’t that just like God to use the most unlikely of people with the most unlikely of weapons to save his people.

All of these judges foreshadow someone even greater. One day there would come a deliverer who would come from the most unlikely of places (backwoods Galilee) and he would beat the biggest enemy of all (Death) in the most unlikely of ways (dying on the cross and raising from the dead).

Unlike these judges, he didn’t come to provide temporary deliverance, but rather to set us free from our sin once and for all. Everyone who turns to him in trust will be saved and have ever lasting life. The real question is have you ever submitted your heart and life to Jesus Christ?

 

 

Citizenship in the Royal city (Nehemiah 7:4-6)

Citizenship in the Royal city (Nehemiah 7:4-6)

One of my favorite books is Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. One of my favorite scenes is when Christian sees the Celestial City from a distance. He is excited and ready with anticipation to enter the city and see his King, yet on this last leg of the journey he meets an old friend who came in by a different way and as they approach the gate he sees that his friend doesn’t get to enter the city because he didn’t come through the wicket gate like Christian did. This last bit is sobering and it reminds me that many can put on a good front, but only those who are qualified in Christ get to enter into Heaven and those who reject him have rejected his Kingdom as well.

Today in Nehemiah we see something similar as Nehemiah seeks out qualified people to fill the city of Jerusalem. The key word there is qualified. You had to be from the city and from the people of Judah to live in the city. It was a big deal. The right credentials got you a city address. The wrong credentials got you kicked out of the city… it mattered.

Cover

The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. (Nehemiah 7:4-6 ESV)

The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. (Nehemiah 7:61-64 ESV)

We don’t place much emphasis on land these days but generations ago people were tied to geography. It mattered where you came from, even if you weren’t born there, it was “home.” Such was the case for Jerusalem. Many of the people who had come back weren’t born in Jerusalem. They didn’t have memories of growing up in Jerusalem. At best they may have had some old stories shared by their parents or grandparents about what life was like in Jerusalem before an invading army had come in and carried the people off into captivity. They were told to pray for the peace of the city where they found themselves (Jeremiah 29:7), but they never forgot that they really belonged back in Jerusalem. So when the time came and they were free to go back, many did!

I think the image of having a home that you have never seen is a beautiful image of what heaven is like for the Christian. We know that we live this life as aliens and exiles (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13-16) from the one true city that we have yet to see. We are citizens of the kingdom of Heaven. We haven’t seen it yet, but we have heard about it and we can’t wait to get there. Unlike Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem will already have walls and gates (Revelation 21:12), but just like in the day of Nehemiah this New Jerusalem is incomplete without its people.

Just like in Nehemiah’s day, you had to belong to the city before you could become a resident. There will be many who think they belong in Heaven but find out at the last moment that they were never citizens to begin with (Matthew 7:19-21). Jesus told us that the only way to get to God the Father and by consequence the Celestial City in which he reigns was to come through Him (John 14:6).