Month: January 2018
Not all days are the same. Sometimes they fly by without any particular happenings to make them stand out or make them memorable. However on the contrary, all of us remember certain days with great clarity because those days changed the course of history or our own journey.
Nehemiah was part of a generation of God’s people who grew up in exile in Babylon, they didn’t live in the Promised Land, the land that was so central to their identity and history, but rather lived in a foreign land that was effectively ‘home away from home’.
Nehemiah and those like him had heard the old stories of the tragic sacking and burning of Jerusalem, it’s walls, it’s buildings including the temple of God. They knew the history. Some Jewish people, a remnant had remained in the land around Jerusalem but life was hard the city destroyed.
But one day when Nehemiah heard the news that he knew already, when he considered the facts that; “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Jeremiah 1:4) Jeremiah is suddenly moved!
Tomorrow we will see what he did with that moment but for today I want you to pause and to think about things in your life, in your church, your neighbourhood, your community that you know about and yet they don’t affect you…
So, ask God, invite God to speak to you about people, situations, injustice, abuse, unemployment, health and education issues and ask God to touch your heart like God touched Nehemiah’s heart suddenly – so that old news came alive and touched his heart and mobilised him into action.
I invite you to track with our church through the month of February as we read the book of Nehemiah…
Nehemiah is the Old Testament narrative history of God’s people in the time of Nehemiah as they under Nehemiah’s leadership they came out of Babylonian captivity (which had lasted 70yrs) and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem thereby restoring life back to the capital city of the Promised Land.
As we read the book of Nehemiah it’s important to know the context. God’s people had repeatedly sinned, and although God had told them through many of the OT prophets that if they don’t repent from their sin He would punish them – they continued in their sin.
Eventually God judged their sin by exiling His people to Babylon, however God’s justice is restorative because God is just and God is love. He is not one or the other but both always.
Because of this, God’s plan was to redeem His people, and so God promised through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10-14) even before they went into exile that He would restore Israel to the Promised Land after 70yrs of exile.
In the book of Nehemiah we witness that restoration starting as a group of people under Nehemiah’s leadership return to broken down Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the fortified wall that was so essential to the restoration of normal life in Jerusalem.
Through the book we will discover that a work of God like this requires good leadership who will follow God, requires people who follow God’s leaders, and people who have faith. We learn that restoration will often not be easy and we learn that doing what God wants often faces tough opposition.
Finally, we learn that restoration is not just a physical thing but ultimately is about our restoration back to right relationship with God!
As you read the book this month, my prayer is that you’d grow in your knowledge God and His ways. May you grow as you read the testimony of these God followers and their journey of redemption challenge and restoration.
Five times in John 18&19 the apostle John makes it explicitly clear that what was happening to Jesus was all a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies and passages. This was true for Jesus’ whole life, but is especially true in these sections covering Jesus’ trial & death & resurrection.
The early church was acutely aware that Jesus was the One who made sense of all of the Old Testament. Jesus was the ‘lens’ as it were that allowed everything in the Old Testament to come into clear focus. Jesus was the promised Messiah and the answer to the unsolved riddles of the Old Testament.
Some have counted 351 Old Testament prophecies and Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled (http://www.newtestamentchristians.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/351-Old-Testament-Prophecies-Fulfilled-in-Jesus-Christ1.pdf).
I can just imagine the preaching of the first apostles week in week out in the early years of the church. Week after week, sermon after sermon preachers preaching with awe and wonder discovering more and more OT Scriptures, seeing them with fresh insight and seeing that Jesus was the answer, the One who made sense of it all, the One who was the fulfilment of it all!
Jesus started this journey of discovery and re-looking at the whole Old Testament with new eyes when on the Emmaus Road Jesus began; “…with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). Jesus showed those early disciples He was what the whole OT was about.
This revelation, seeing that Jesus was the answer, the fulfilment of everything they knew in the Scriptures, caused their hearts to burn within them – Luke says! Their minds staggered as they came see Jesus in all the OT Scriptures they knew so well, but were now seeing as it were for the first time with new clarity!
No wonder that John keeps telling us in his gospel things like; “these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 19:36)
Friend, Jesus is the answer. The answer to every question, every need in our lives and in our world. Jesus is who I need, whom you need. He alone has, He alone is the solution to our problems, fears, our shame, our dreams and hopes.
Friend, we have such good news for the world, and we can share this news with such confidence – because Jesus is the answer.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 in NIV)
Jesus fulfilled every promise and Jesus alone can fulfill our every and our deepest needs, only a life-giving relationship with Jesus can satisfy us completely.
So reach out to Him and trust Him completely! And, more than that, share the good news about Jesus’ life, death & resurrection with everyone you can so that He can step in and be their answer too. Amen.
Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.
“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.
And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.
And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!
Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.
Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.
Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)
Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)
Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)
Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!
Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)
Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…
Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)
But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.
Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)
Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)
And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.
Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)
The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning
Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)
Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life! Behold your King!