Acts 2:14-42 : The New Touch

But Peter, [o]taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the [p]third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
17 And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all [q]mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19 And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man [r]attested to you by God with [s]miracles and wonders and [t]signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of [u]godless men and put Him to death. 24 [v]But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the [w]agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held [x]in its power. 25 For David says of Him,
‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;
Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
27 Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor [y]allow Your [z]Holy One to [aa]undergo decay.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’
29 [ab]Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is [ac]with us to this day. 30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one [ad]of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of [ae]the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh [af]suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted [ag]to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into [ah]heaven, but he himself says:
The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and [ai]Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 
37 Now when they heard this, they were [aj]pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “[ak]Brethren, [al]what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “[am]Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand [an]souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and [ao]to prayer.

*** 

This first sermon of Peter's is pivotal. If he did not explain what had just occurred correctly, the people would have been convinced that it is just the work of too much wine. But it wasn't because of the wine. Peter makes this very clear. What was it then?

Peter stands, addresses the crowds and obeys the calling of Jesus on his life (see John 21). There is no doubt in my mind that Peter is filled with the Spirit when he speaks. He addresses the crowd, but note how he addresses them.

The crowd were men from Judea. Most-likely these were some of the same people that were in the crowd shouting for Jesus to be crucified. They clearly understood what had been taking place in their city with Jesus' crucifixion - crucifixions were always made very public. What is also clear is that these are the types of people that tended to go where the noise was the loudest. This people heard a sound that was recognizable to them and they came to investigate. Hearing their own languages spoken, they asked what this was and got an earful.

Peter, in great application, for us as teachers of the Word, revealed the Scriptures to his hearers by using passages that they would know well. These passages of Scripture we find that Peter uses would have been very recognizable to their ears. Their most well-know prophets, David and Joel, are used as a spring-board to their understanding of Who Jesus really is. The exact purpose of the Old Testament prophets was to point the way to Jesus - and this is exactly what Peter does - and there is great effect. David's exact role was to be in the historical line of Jesus and through this line, salvation comes to these people! Joel clearly had a mind, when he wrote his words, to point people to their salvation. What is interesting to note is that Joel brings together the touch of the Holy Spirit with salvation - the very thing that these people are experiencing.

Peter answers the what (what was this that they were hearing) but then he answers the how. The people, in response to Peter's words, asks the question that we all long to hear after a sermon: What shall we do? The answer is simple. Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (vs. 38).

This is the first revival that takes place in the Book of Acts. We will see many more responses like this one. Yet rest assured, those that the LORD are calling to Himself are still asking, 'What shall we do?' 

Are we willing to stand and speak the Word with words they can understand? 

The world is hungry for the Truth. There are still many who do not know the touch of the Holy Spirit.

Are you willing to go?

Acts 2:1-13 : The New Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost [a]had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire [b]distributing themselves, and [c]they [d]rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other [e]tongues, as the Spirit was giving them [f]utterance.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own [g]language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “[h]Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own [i]language [j]to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and [k]Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and [l]visitors from Rome, both Jews and [m]proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of [n]sweet wine.”

***

In our next section, we will answer this question - What does this mean? - but I would like to focus our attention on what has just transpired...

The followers of Jesus have just returned from seeing Him ascend into heaven. Jesus clearly told them to wait for this filling of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5ff) and so, yet again, we see a promise fulfilled by Jesus. His followers were gathered together in one place (we will see this theme of unity throughout the book of Acts) and all of a sudden, Pentecost had new meaning. Another fact that we would do well to take notice of is the intermingling of 'old' Jewish tradition and the new covenant that Jesus brought to these people. Many, many times over the Jewish people had gathered to celebrate Pentecost (literally the word fiftieth; meaning 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits - see Lev. 23:15-22) but now, it will hold new meaning; fulfilling Old Testament tradition with New Covenant prophecy. Wiersbe writes,

'The calendar of Jewish feasts in Leviticus 23 is an outline of the work of Jesus Christ. Passover pictures His death as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Cor.5:7), and the Feast of Firstfruits pictures His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20–23). Fifty days after Firstfruits is the Feast of Pentecost, which pictures the formation of the church. At Pentecost, the Jews celebrated the giving of the law, but Christians celebrate it because of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church.' 

This forming of the Church is literally the spring-board to all that would transpire after this event in the Book of Acts. Yet, I would like to point out a contrast from this event and an earlier event we find in the Old Testament.

In Genesis 11:1-9, we see men gathering together to build the Tower of Babel. As one who has always reflected on that event and grieved, this section of Acts gives me great hope. As the LORD was in the business of reconciling His people to Himself in the Old Testament, in our own frailty, we can look at that event and ask why the LORD would do such a horrible thing - dispersing people by language so they could not understand each other. But this passage we look at today answers that question. Note that when the followers of Christ came together, they experienced the Holy Spirit (as Jesus said they would) and the outflow of this touch was language utterance. The utterances of these people were not unknown languages or even babbling, but clear, concise, recognizable language that was so unmistakable, people who understood these languages were so intrigued, they could hear it in the streets and were drawn to their voices!

The truth is, this passage marks for us a reconciling of God's people to Himself. We might have read the account in Genesis and ask why - we now have our answer. The LORD has sought to reconcile all mankind to Himself from the very beginning. And how is it that He goes about doing this? By His own very Spirit. 

This truly was a New Day for Pentecost. Our response to this can only be praise. We see a reconciling God who desired, from the very beginning, to have people from every nation under heaven (see vs. 5) come and worship Him. The response is wonderful. But there still needs to be explanation for people to understand. We will look at that section next.

Acts 1:12-26 : They Gathered...

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the [j]mount called [k]Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a [l]Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and [m]James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, [n]James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the [o]son of [p]James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
15 [q]At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty [r]persons was there together), and said, 16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19 And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Let his homestead be made desolate,
And let no one dwell in it’;
and,
Let another man take his [s]office.’
21 Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out [t]among us— 22 beginning [u]with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to [v]occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they [w]drew lots for them, and the lot fell [x]to Matthias; and he was [y]added to the eleven apostles.

***

It's a simple truth but one that we would do well to dwell on - they gathered. They had all just witnessed Jesus' ascension and were in one mind. It is very clear that they all returned to Jerusalem together, they went up into the upper room together, and they with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (vs. 14). If the opposite was acted upon, what a different world we would be living in today!
Instead of dispersing to their own homes and cities, they gathered together. If nothing else, these verses of unity are the spring-board for the rest of the Book of Acts.

So they gather, and what is the topic of conversation? Wiersbe describes what wasn't there:
'How easy it would have been for someone to bring division into this beautiful assembly of humble people! The members of the Lord’s family might have claimed special recognition, or Peter could have been criticized for his cowardly denial of the Savior. Or perhaps Peter might have blamed John, because it was John who brought him into the high priest’s house (John 18:15–16). John might well have reminded the others that he had faithfully stood at the cross, and had even been chosen by the Savior to care for His mother. But there was none of this. In fact, nobody was even arguing over who among them was the greatest!' (Wiersbe New Testament Commentary)

This is a model for us. We know all too well how easy it is to get off the focus of what we truly should be and become dis-unified. The disciples chose not to stir up dissension and so should we. Yet note what Peter does. As many would say, mentioning the 'elephant in the room' scurries out the animal faster than denying its presence. The 'elephant in the room' is that there are now only 11. They all knew, by the sting in their own hearts, what Judas had done. This memory of this friend brother was still very fresh on their minds - and Peter knew it. So he stands and gives his first sermon as leader of the group and guides them to make a choice to replace Judas.

We read in John 21 how Jesus re-instates Peter and charges him to 'feed His sheep'. You could say that this this the first 'feeding' Peter performs. What is extremely important to me about this first message of Peter is how he makes his point. He draws people to Scripture. He could have very easily drawn his own conclusions and focus on things that were not worthy of focusing on (we have a number of places in Scripture to prove that Peter was susceptible to this; namely Matt. 14:30ff & John 21: 20ff) but he didn't do this. Instead, he drew people to the Word and fed them with it. He was, by these actions, being obedient to Jesus' call on his life.

Please note, too, that this is the last time that the use of 'casting lots' was used by the followers of Jesus. There, unfortunately, are many that believe this practice, because it was done so frequently in Scripture, should still be done today, yet I firmly disagree. Continuing to read in the Book of Acts, the answer points to the Holy Spirit and His work in followers' hearts, as to why the use of lots was no longer necessary. Due the Spirit living within us, we can know the will of the LORD. There is no guess-work required.

And so they gathered. The prayed. They were of one mind. They were continually devoting themselves. We will see many more of these concluding statements that Luke writes in his letter to his first reader, Theophilus. And this one is of great importance - the first followers of Jesus were unified.
 

Acts 1:-11 : They Believed...

The first account I [a]composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had [b]by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To [c]these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. [d]Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for [e]what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized [f]with the Holy Spirit [g]not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into [h]the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into [i]the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

***

It's an interesting thought to think, but imagine opening up your Bible and, after reading the Gospels, you turn the final page of the Gospel of John to see the Book of Romans. How did this book come to be? And how did these Romans come to know the Saviour? The last we read in the Gospels is that Jesus was raised again to life and appeared to many. His message was clear to them:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20).

Did they go? Was the message of Jesus received? Did many come to know the Saviour through their obedience? I hope to answer these questions in full by the end of devotioning through The Book of Acts. Yet the very fact that you and I are Christians today has something to do with the obedience of these first Apostles. If the Book of Acts was not present or the Acts of the Apostles were not acted out, the Church (if we could even call it that) would be a very different thing. But thanks be to God! The Church does exist and the Holy Spirit was received and many, many people came to know the truth of Jesus' resurrection; still to this day. It's a sobering thought that many still have not heard yet my hope, through looking through these chapters of Acts, is that my readers would be convinced that through these acts of the apostles, there can be many more to come to know our Saviour here and now. 

What strikes me the most through reading through these first few verses of The Book of Acts is the tension. These men and women have gathered together to witness Jesus' final ascension. They have heard words similiar to what we have already looked at in Matthew 28 from Jesus, but what do they do? They continue to gaze into the clouds. And we can't fault them for it. 

The truth is, I would hazard a guess that if we were there, we would most likely do the same. The truth is, Jesus was not clear when He would return, so why not wait with hopeful expectation that He meant right then and there? But He clearly didn't mean He would return then. One of Jesus' disciples put it this way:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

This has been the tension of Jesus followers ever since. The LORD's patience. Why wait all this time? Why not come now - right now?! The answer is simple - the LORD does not want any to perish. I am often caught up, gazing into the sky, hoping that this would be the day of His return. But by the end of the day, when the sun is setting, I grieve that today wasn't the day. But there is another perspective. Just as these 'men in white' appeared and, for all intents, knocked them out of their gaze, we need to do the same. The truth is, rather than waiting, with ineffectiveness, we should wait with much effectiveness because we do not know the hour of Christ's returning. But I know you know and I know that there is still much to be done. 
 
These Apostles believed the message of Jesus and the entire world was changed because of their hope in the Risen Saviour. 

What does your and my world look like today? Are people being changed because of our hope in Jesus or are we being caught up into the sky, gazing, waiting for His return? 

Will we be found busy doing the work of the LORD when He returns?

Acts of the Apostles : Introduction

The Descent of the Spirit by Gustave Dore
I have to confess upfront that the Acts of the Apostles, as a book, has always intrigued me. The style of writing is quite similar to each of the Gospel writings (Luke, the same author of the Gospel, had written Acts as well; see Acts 1:1ff) with one very noticeable difference - Jesus is not present.

Jesus, at the very beginning of the Book of Acts, has given them very specific instructions to wait for the Holy Spirit and then ascends back into heaven. As the disciples gazed into the sky, they reflected on Jesus' words and rejoiced on his promise - yet it is almost comical. It almost appears that the disciples thought the Spirit's descending on them would have been instantaneous and so they were perfectly content to gaze into the sky and wait for this mysterious Spirit's descending. But they were knocked out of their gaze by two men in white who basically said, 'Jesus will return...so what are you doing still standing here? So, as they say, the rest is history - thus the Book of Acts.

Perhaps the disciples (now apostles) do not have any idea who (or what) this Holy Spirit is, but it is clear that they need to wait - but when they do, the ministry of building the church and spreading the Gospel begins - but to a surprising group of people. As we read through this book, it occurred to me that we begin to uncover a greater and more appropriate definition for what it means to wait. We often think that waiting is inactivity - and it can be sometimes - but it is clear that the Apostles are being asked to actively-wait. And I believe we are being asked to do the same.

As a basic outline of the Book of Acts, it begins by following the Apostle Peter (previously known as Simon). But after twelve chapters, Luke (the author of the book) shifts his focus to Paul (previously known as Saul) and for the remaining chapters, we follow his missionary journeys.

There is no doubt in my mind that the common theme of peoples' lives being transformed is going to be a major theme in this book. From the transformations of the Apostle Peter's journey (from fisherman to shepherd - see John 21) and the Apostle Paul's journey (originally a persecutor of the Church - see Acts 9:1ff), we see an outflow of incredible miracles and many lives changed due to the obedience of the disciples to take seriously the command of Jesus to 'Go...' (see Matt. 28:18-20).

So follow along with me, will you, as we discover together how lives can be transformed when we wait for the Holy Spirit.

Nehemiah 13:23-31 : Promises Broken (Part Five)

In those days I also saw that the Jews had [q]married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but [r]the language of his own people. 25 So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin. 27 [s]Do we then hear about you that you have committed all this great evil by acting unfaithfully against our God by [t]marrying foreign women?” 28 Even one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite, so I drove him away from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, [u]because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 Thus I purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties for the priests and the Levites, each in his task, 31 and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

***
And so we come to the last section of this wonderful book. We have walked through many different roads with Nehemiah - but his purpose has remained the same. This man desired to honour the LORD and cultivate in others that same desire. This final section graphically illustrates how serious Nehemiah was about reminding the people of their duty of faithful service to the LORD.

We find in 10:30 that the people promised that they would not give their daughters as wives to the 'people of the land' nor take their daughters for their sons, but this is exactly what they did. 
They did not keep covenant with the LORD. So Nehemiah stepped in. Again. Yet this time, this most definitely is the most strongest example of how serious he actually was. As we reflect on the leadership style of Ezra, he pulled out his own hair in effort to convict the people (Ezra 9:3) but in contrast, Nehemiah attacks the root of the problem - literally - by pulling out the roots of the peoples' hair.

What are we to do with this? Too strong a confrontation? Not exactly the type of thing you would hear take place in a church study with pastor and church member in conversation. What is very, very clear here is that Nehemiah is not messing around when it comes to the Law of the LORD. He sees disobedience and clearly communicates, by his actions, what is required to follow the LORD's instructions.Over and over again, this one-directional focus of Nehemiah rises to the surface in all that he does; his motivation is to honor the LORD and guide others to do the same.

Note, too, this text has two 'quick prayers', not unlike what we have seen previous to this section throughout the entire book. It is clear this man desires to walk with the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis. By these final few sentences, we see very clearly what Nehemiah strove to do from the very beginning:

Thus I purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties for the priests and the Levites, each in his task, and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good (vss. 30, 31).

Nehemiah is an example of a leader who takes the time to address the large and the small (i.e. purification of a people to arranging wood collection) all for one reason. He desires to be remembered by the LORD. In all that he does, he desires to honour Him.

What remains for us is one simple question: What are we willing to do for the LORD today? The efforts of Nehemiah clearly were difficult, taxing, and incredibly draining, but each and every one of these things were done in order for the line of the Israelites to remain intact. If these efforts were not meticulously set out to be accomplished, who knows where we would be? But thank the LORD that we have people like Nehemiah who were willing to sacrifice much for the sake of the LORD's fame.

May we be willing to do the same, for the same reason, for the same cause, for the same LORD.

Nehemiah 13:15-22 : Promises Broken (Part Four)

In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. 16 Also men of Tyre were living [k]there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 Then I [l]reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing you are doing, [m]by profaning the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.” 19 It came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut [n]and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates so that no load would enter on the sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 Then I [o]warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will [p]use force against you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness.

***

In this last section of Nehemiah, we're focusing our attention on the remaining 'broken promises' we find in the last chapter. Here we see promise number four broken - profaning the Sabbath.

We can look back when the covenant was signed that the Israelites had promised not to do business on the Sabbath (see 10:31), yet here we clearly see a broken promise, in more than one place. They were working on wine presses, putting sacks on donkeys, and they were accepting all kinds of imports. It is clear that these actions all were against the promise they had made. And so, being the leader that he is, Nehemiah not only reminds them of their covenant, but makes sure that the promise they had made would be kept. Yet I'd like to point something out to us...

Note what Nehemiah says: What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble (17, 18). We aren't comfortable with this line of thinking...because of what we do, God brings on trouble. It messes with our philosophy of a God who only gives good and is consistently gracious to us. I sincerely hope you see that God's reaction to His children's waywardness is just as gracious as He always is (see Hebrews 12). 

The fact of the matter is, God does not mess with sin - He actually abhors it. So when it exists in His children, He brings on us trouble. To harm us? No. To teach us a lesson; to remind us of our covenant we made, not with His people, but with Himself.

In the promises we have made, are we as ready to be reprimanded and disciplined? Nehemiah is a no-nonsense leader. He acts as one who will not sway in reminding His people of their promises. As we have already looked at, he seeks to please the LORD in his actions, and expects the same of others.

If you and I have promises that we have broken, we need to do our very best to purify ourselves. I believe this concept of purifying ourselves is not 'Old Testament theology', meaning something that has been abolished by the New Covenant, but a command that we would do very well to act on today.