VIDEO Worship and the Word

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people . . .. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:5-6

Lots of events in life give rise to celebrations; fewer give rise to worship; even fewer produce worship accompanied by tears. One occasion of the latter occurred when Ezra read the law to the assembled Jews in Jerusalem: “For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:9).

Why did they worship and weep when Ezra read the law to them? Because they were reminded of the grace of God. The law promised them blessings for obedience, captivity for disobedience, and restoration for repentance. And they had seen it all play out in their lives. They were back in Judea, forgiven and restored, just as God had promised. As Ezra read the promises of God to them, they were motivated to walk humbly with God going forward.

Those Jews were not the only ones to whom God gave “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). Let us marvel with gratitude at God’s faithfulness revealed in His Word.

The Word of God is perfect: it is precious and pure; it is truth itself. Martin Luther 


Preaching in Worship | Nehemiah 8:1-10

Back to the Basics

Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9

Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are—shall we say—attainable. Here are a few from social media:

Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.

Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.

Stop procrastinating—tomorrow.

Get lost without any help from Siri.

Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.

The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).

But the nation first needed to return to the basics—the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).

The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?

Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.

Our Source of Hope

Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, we can have hope for the future

Titus 2:11-14

Some people believe ethical behavior and moral character will get them to heaven. Others think a self-improvement plan is the way to get there. And sadly, there are those who assume they’ll be barred because of their past mistakes. 

The truth is that character and deeds do not determine our eternal state. Rather, the barrier between us and holy God is our sinful nature. Adam and Eve’s sin caused all mankind to begin life spiritually dead and under a sentence of judgment (Rom. 5:12). No amount of good works or moral behavior can change our unholy nature—nor do bad choices make our nature worse. 

Without direct help from the Lord, the entrance to heaven would be closed to everyone, and we’d all face an eternity of separation from God. But the Father had a plan so we could live with Him forever: He sent His Son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself and receive the punishment we deserved. What we were helpless to do, Christ accomplished for us. Through faith in Him, we receive a brand-new nature and get to live in God’s presence forever. 

We don’t have to worry about earning our place in heaven. Because of Jesus, we can be confident of our future there, which gives our life on earth hope and meaning. 

The Book of Books

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.” (Genesis 5:1)

The Bible (literally “the book”) contains over 200 references to books. This implies, among other things, God’s approval of communication by books. Our text, containing the first mention of the word “book” in the Bible, indicates that the very first man wrote a book! “Give attendance to reading,” Paul recommends (1 Timothy 4:13), especially the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

The pattern of first and last mentions of “book” in the Bible is noteworthy, for all refer to divinely written or divinely inspired books. The first use in the New Testament is in the very first verse—“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). The book of Adam’s “generations” is, in a special sense, the Old Testament; the book of the generation of Jesus Christ—the last Adam—is, in a similar sense, the New Testament.

The final mention of “book” in the Old Testament is in Malachi 3:16: “A book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”

The third-from-last verse of the New Testament contains no less than three references to God’s books: “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life,…and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).

Note the significant modifiers attached to these six key references: “the book of the generations of Adam,” “a book of remembrance,” “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” “the book of this prophecy,” “the book of life,” and finally, simply “this book”! HMM

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

I have consecrated My King on Zion, My holy mountain.” I will declare the Lord’s decree: He said to Me, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father (Psalm 2 vv. 6-7).

King of kings and Lord of lords … and he shall reign forever and ever.” My ear keeps playing Handel’s Messiah as I approach Psalm 2, and I am over- whelmed by it’s majesty and glory. My friend Larry McGuill had a similar experience when he sang Handel’s Messiah with four thousand others. During the “Hallelujah Chorus,” he was so overcome with the beauty and intricacy of the music as well as the message that tears flowed down his cheeks and he was unable to sing.

God chose King David, the chief musician, to be the greatest king in Israel’s history. But God also chose David’s great Son to be King of kings. His kingdom will be established, and his reign will be forever. Verses 6-7, the centerpiece of this psalm, speak of the coronation of the King and the pledge of adoption given to David’s heir. As Christ, the Messiah, fulfills this, he becomes the basis for missionary ventures throughout the world.

As I enter the throneroom of God through this psalm, the nations of the world come into focus and perspective. But in a more compelling manner, I am overwhelmed by the dignity, solemnity, and majesty of this King of all the universe. May I learn to give him my full allegiance and loyalty today. May I learn to worship him, adore him, glorify him, and enjoy him! But may the awesomeness of his majesty not rob me of personal intimacy with him.

Personal Prayer

Thank You, Lord, that I can approach your throne of grace with confidence and can receive your grace and help as I need them.

False Accusation

You are blessed when they … falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me.—Matthew 5:11

Today we examine a hurt that often arises within the human heart—false accusation. Has someone accused you of a wrong for which you were not responsible, and though you try to explain or defend yourself, no one seems to believe you? It hurts, doesn’t it? I have known many Christians who, when faced with the hurt of false accusation, turned away from the Christian life altogether. How sad! I have a friend who was falsely accused by fellow Christians in a church, and although I and many others knew the accusation was not true and passionately defended him, he broke down and was placed in a mental institution.

People (even Christians) have their own ways of trying to cope with the feelings that arise when they are falsely accused. Some turn to liquor. They want to dull the pain inside them, and so they take what seems to them to be an easy way to that end. But it doesn’t work, for there is always the morning after.

Some turn to books. That was the advice Edmund Gosse gave to his friend Robert Ross when he became involved in the Oscar Wilde scandal at the end of the nineteenth century. “Turn for consolation to books,” he said. But it didn’t work. Others might turn to nature, to art, or to music.

There is, however, a better way. If you are a Christian, and your heart is heavy because of a false accusation, then I assure you that the blessed Comforter is alongside you even now. Offer the hurt to Him. He delights to heal.

Prayer

Blessed Lord Jesus, You who knew the hurt of being falsely accused, draw near in the power of Your Spirit and heal me now. I take—and You undertake. Thank You, Savior. Amen.

Further Study

Jms 3; 1Pt 2:1; 3:16; Lk 6:7

What is the hardest thing to tame?

For what should we use our tongues?

I Bring My Heart to Jesus

Proverbs 23:26

I bring my heart to Jesus, with its fears,

With its hopes and feelings, and its tears;

Him it seeks, and finding, it is blest;

Him it loves, and loving is at rest.

Walking with my Savior, heart in heart,

None can part.

I bring my life to Jesus, with its care,

And before His footstool leave it there;

Faded are its treasures, poor and dim;

It is not worth living without Him.

More than life is Jesus, love and peace,

Ne’er to cease.

I bring my sins to Jesus, as I pray

That His blood will wash them all away;

While I seek for favor at His feet,

And with tears His promise still repeat,

He doth tell me plainly: Jesus lives

And forgives.

I bring my all to Jesus; He hath seen

How my soul desireth to be clean.

Nothing from His altar I withhold

When His cross of suffering I behold;

And the fire descending brings to me

Liberty.

Herbert Booth, The Salvation Army Song Book