The Widow and the Orphan

Joseph F. Dumond

Isa 6:9-12 And He said, Go, and tell this people, You hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed. Then I said, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities are wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land laid waste, a desolation, and until Jehovah has moved men far away, and the desolation in the midst of the land is great.
Published: Jan 17, 2013
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

News Letter 5848-047
6th day of the 11th month?5848 years after the creation of Adam
The 11th Month in the Third year of the third Sabbatical Cycle
The Third Sabbatical Cycle of the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Sabbatical Cycle of Earthquakes Famines, and Pestilences
This is also the end of the Forty Third week of this the Third Tithe Year for the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow?Deuteronomy 26:12


January 19, 2013


Shabbat Shalom Brethren,


I would like to start with two editorials this week.

The Twilight of America
Melanie Philips | January 10

Barack Obama has now proposed filling the three positions in the U.S. administration most concerned with the security of the nation and the defense of the free world, those at State, Defense and the CIA, by three men who have all taken up positions which can only strengthen those who threaten the security of America and the survival of the free world.

Obama proposes to install as secretary of defense Chuck Hagel. Six years ago, Senator Hagel refused to sign a letter pressing the European Union to declare the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, which has bombed U.S. targets and killed and kidnapped Americans and other Westerners, a terrorist organization. He repeatedly voted against sanctions against Iran, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which had orchestrated bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. He gave vent to primitive anti-Jewish conspiracy theory by moaning that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here” (in Washington, D.C.). … No matter—not even this most lethal of accusations from his own support base has deflected Obama’s intention to appoint him.

Next, Obama proposes to make John Brennan head of the CIA. Brennan—who unlike the rest of the English-speaking world is said to refer to Jerusalem only by its Arabic name, al-Quds—has consistently downplayed, misunderstood and sought to appease Islamic terrorism and extremism. … Then there is Obama’s pick for secretary of state John Kerry, who came home from Vietnam a decorated war hero and then turned viciously against the military and the exercise of American power. Like Hagel, Kerry has been a supporter of Syria’s President Assad. In 2010, Kerry met Assad and called Syria “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.” Name an enemy of civilized values— Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Castro in Cuba—and you find Kerry urging engagement with them or, as he did with FARC, the Colombian narco-terrorist group, claiming they have “legitimate complaints.” Last year Kerry praised Egypt’s ruler Mohamed Morsi for “protecting fundamental freedoms, including women’s rights, minority rights, the right to free expression and assembly”; shortly afterwards, Morsi assumed dictatorial powers (later modified under pressure) and his forces were beating up opponents in the street.

These three men, Hagel, Brennan and Kerry, are all examples of post-Vietnam demoralization syndrome—the deeply pessimistic belief that America cannot and should not fight to defend its security and values anywhere in the world. …
These are people who are the living embodiment of civilizational exhaustion and decline.

Beyond terrifying. Beyond belief.


And the second one from the Post.


The Meaning of Hagel
Charles Krauthammer, Washington posts | January 10

“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”—Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, March 26, 2012

The puzzle of the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary is that you normally choose someone of the other party for your Cabinet to indicate a move to the center, but, as The Post’s editorial board pointed out, Hagel’s foreign policy views are to the left of Barack Obama’s, let alone the GOP’s. Indeed, they are at the fringe of the entire Senate.

So what’s going on? Message-sending. Obama won reelection. He no longer has to trim, to appear more moderate than his true instincts. He has the “flexibility” to be authentically Obama.

Hence the Hagel choice: Under the guise of centrist bipartisanship, it allows the president to leave the constrained first-term Obama behind and follow his natural Hagel-like foreign policy inclinations. …

Military Spending: Current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in August 2011 that the scheduled automatic $600 billion defense cuts (“sequestration”) would result in “hollowing out the force,” which would be “devastating.” And he strongly hinted that he might resign rather than enact them.

Asked about Panetta’s remarks, Hagel called the Pentagon “bloated” and needing “to be pared down.” Just the man you’d want to carry out a U.S. disarmament that will shrink America to what Obama thinks is its proper size on the world stage; i.e., smaller. The overweening superpower that Obama promiscuously chided in his global we-have- sinned tour is poised for reduction, not only to fund the bulging welfare state—like Europe’s postwar choice of social spending over international relevance—but to recalibrate America’s proper role in the world. … The rest of the world can see coming the Pentagon downsizing—and the inevitable, commensurate decline of U.S. power. Pacific Rim countries will have to rethink reliance on the counterbalance of the U.S. Navy and consider acquiescence to Chinese regional hegemony. Arab countries will understand that the current rapid decline of post-Kissinger U.S. dominance in the region is not cyclical but intended to become permanent.
Hagel is a man of no independent stature. He’s no George Marshall or Henry Kissinger. A fringe senator who left no trace behind, Hagel matters only because of what his nomination says about Obama.

However the Senate votes on confirmation, the signal has already been sent. Before Election Day, Obama could only whisper it to his friend Dmitry. Now, with Hagel, he’s told the world.


Do those of you in the USA see the picture yet? Do you brethren in the rest of the world?

President Obamas term is over in 2016. The cycle of war begins in 2017 and lasts for 7 years or until 2023, which then begins the 7 years of the cycle of captivity. All of this comes from the curses of Lev 26, which we have been telling you in the DVD and The Prophecies of Abraham and in our News Letters and the next two books in two very different ways.

By reducing the USA militarily is causing a vacuum on the world scene. The Chinese have recognized this and been building up their armies and becoming allied with Russia on many things. Europe too is solidifying into the greatest power block ever, and will take over the reigns of the world policeman as the USA shrinks from this position. Trouble is the bible warns us this policeman is going to be very corrupt and very abusive.

These two editorials above show you how the world sees the USA and the things it is doing. Do you brethren in the USA see these things?

Do you realize we have just two months left in this year? At the end of this third tithe year are you going to be able to stand before Yehovah and say the blessing as found in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 26:12 When you have made an end of tithing all the tithes of your increase the third year, the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (that they may eat inside your gates and be filled), 13 then you shall say before Jehovah your God, I have brought away the holy things out of my house, and also have given them to the Levite, and to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me. I have not broken Your commandments, neither have I forgotten. 14 I have not eaten of it in my mourning, neither have I put any of it away for unclean use, nor have I given of it for the dead. I have listened to the voice of Jehovah my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15 Look down from Your holy dwelling, from Heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, as You swore to our fathers, a land that flows with milk and honey. 16 Today Jehovah your God has commanded you to do these statutes and judgments. You therefore shall keep and do them with all your heart and with all your soul.

We have had a reminder each week in the heading of each News Letter. This week is the 43rd week of the 3rd Tithe year. We have just two months left in this year. I once again am reminding you all of the duty as Israelites that we have to one another and even to those who cannot defend themselves.

You find that God indicts both ancient and modern Israel in the prophecies of the Bible for their national sins, or for our national sins. Many sins are listed, the major ones being idolatry, Sabbath breaking, crimes against humanity; and yet, there is one category of sin that God repeats over and over in the scriptures, that whenever you see that God gives a list and He begins to talk about some of the sins of Israel, these are mentioned. It’s one reason, as we will see, for a coming national captivity.

I want us to begin today by taking a look at those prophecies to see exactly what God says and what we can learn from it. Let’s turn back to the book of Zechariah in our Bibles, chapter 7, and we will begin in verse 8. It says:

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’…”

So God talks here about the defenseless, the weak, the poor, the elderly, the widow; and He indicts our people. He says, “Do not in any way oppress them.”

In verses 11-14, notice what God says: “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,” says the Lord of hosts. “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”

Brethren Listen up and listen up closely. If you do not know what a whirlwind is then you need to read The Prophecies of Abraham. That same whirlwind is preparing now to spin once again and will in just 7 years. So our captivity is just 10 years away. Heed this warning now.

So God says, “OK, you would not listen to My prophets, My servants, when they clearly articulated to you what the needs were, so when the time of captivity comes, I will turn My ear from listening to you.” That basically summarizes what it says here.

Pro 1:22 How long will you love simplicity, simple ones? And will scorners delight in their scorning? And will fools hate knowledge? 23 Turn at my warning; behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; 25 but you have despised all my advice, and would have none of my warning. 26 I also will laugh at your trouble; I will mock when your fear comes; 27 when your fear comes as a wasting away, and your ruin comes like a tempest when trouble and pain come upon you. 28 Then they shall call upon me, and I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; 29 instead they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of Jehovah. 30 They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my correction, 31 and they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own desires. 32 For the turning away of the simple kills them, and the ease of fools destroys them.33 But whoever listens to me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Let’s go back to Jeremiah, chapter 7, and we’ll begin to read here, pick up the story in verse 3. Because God is always concerned for His people, God is not wanting to take His people into captivity; but He sends His prophets. Whether we recognize it or not, today, brethren, we stand in that position. We have the responsibility of going to the nations, especially the nations of Israel, to proclaim to them what God says and to ask people to change, to repent, to alter their way. Beginning here in verse 3:

– Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.'” We could say today, “Well, we are God’s true church, we’re Yehovah’s true Assembly, we’re God’s good church.” You know, we are the temple of God today. But notice He says, “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.”

So God says, “Look…,” if we are willing to amend our ways, trust in Him, and look after those who are needy, then He will allow us to stay in the land. The problem is, down through the ages you find that the peoples of Israel have very seldom heeded the prophets who came to them.

And if your not doing this now then why would He bring you back into the land today? If your not looking after the widows and the orphans then you will not be back in the Promised Land but can look forward to the coming captivity.

Let’s go back to chapter 1 of the book of Isaiah, beginning in verse 16, and I want you to notice here, God says:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow…”

So, again, you find that God says that we need to look after those who are in a situation where they can’t take care of themselves. God talks about those who have need, who do not have the clout to resist the oppressor or those who have power, those who have authority; and so often we find that they are taken advantage of.

Verses 18-20, God tells our people to repent and He says that though our sins are like scarlet, they can be forgiven.

Now notice in verses 21-23: How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebellious and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes and follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

So you can see where God, over and over, indicts our people for neglecting the widow, neglecting the fatherless.

Chapter 10. We’ll just read one more scripture. There are a number of scriptures that could be read, but so that you get the idea of what we’re talking about…beginning in verse 1, Isaiah, chapter 10, and verse 1. It says:

– “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, who write misfortune, which they have prescribed to rob the needy of justice, and to take what is right from the poor of My people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless. What will you do in the day of punishment, and in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your glory?” God asks.

You know, brethren, it’s very easy to overlook the elderly and the widows and the widower in our society, and quite often it is done. We find today that there are many con artists who take advantage all the time. We read about it in the paper, you know, it just seems like it’s a regular occurrence. You’ll read about some con artist coming along and bilking the elderly out of their life savings, or coming along telling them they need a new roof and they charge an inordinate amount of money. People who are living on fixed incomes who slaved all of their life to be able to have a little when they settle down, and then they’re taken advantage of.

Also, we find in our society today that too many families neglect their elderly parents, neglect their fathers or their mothers and especially when they might become a widow. And too often there seems to almost be a total disrespect among many of the young people for the elderly. These things are not as they ought to be. This is not the way that God wants society to function.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why, over the years, has God called so many elderly? As time progresses, all of us are getting older

Since God has called a number of elderly people and a number of us are getting older, the question might be asked, what can the elderly do? What does God expect of the elderly? What is God’s purpose for them? And, today, also, we want to ask the question, what can we do to help them? We want to see their important function in the body, and what should be our attitude toward the elderly, toward the widow, toward those who are needy, toward those who might be orphans. Now, God makes it very clear in His law what His attitude is; and if God has a certain approach, a certain perspective, I would say we ought to try to emulate it. We ought to try to be like He is.

Let’s go back to the book of Exodus, chapter 22, verse 22. Make it easy for us to remember: 2222. And I want you to notice here, God says:
Ex. 22:22-23 – “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry…”

Now, that’s a fearsome thing to think about. When the widow cries to God, God hears and God will answer. Let me ask the question: Do you want the widows praying FOR you, or against you? I am willing to bet the family farm that if you help out the widows in our assembly they will raise you up in front of Yehovah and ask for more blessings to come to you. I know they do that. But imagine that widow or that orphan who is being hurt by the assembly or its members; if she cries out to Yehovah then your toast. Have you helped those in need of help? An ear, a hand, paid for something they needed. Brought them a meal and listened to them, spend some time with them.

Over the years, I have found it to my advantage to have the widows praying FOR me; and realizing that they have a great deal of clout with God, I’ve realized over the years that if you neglect the widows in your life, you’re in trouble! And so, if you want them praying FOR you, you need to do what you can to help them. God hears their prayers. He hears them when they cry out, and we need to recognize that.

Now, notice in Deuteronomy, chapter 10, and verse 16, again, in the law, God reveals His approach, His attitude. We’ll begin to read here in verse 16 of Deuteronomy 10:

Deut. 10:16-19 – Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. So you find even in the Old Testament God talks about spiritual circumcision. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

So God has special concern for the fatherless and the widows. Now, not all widows are elderly. We have to understand that, too. Sometimes a woman can be a widow at a very early age. Sometimes a man can be a widower at a very early age. But, brethren, let me state a principle that I think is shown throughout the scriptures. God has great love and admiration for those who help the elderly and serve them, for those who see people who are needy and go out of their way to help them. Would it not be nice to have a reputation of “one who loves the elderly”? Would you not like to be known by that? If there were a sign going around over your head…people would see you and they say, “There goes a person who loves the elderly,” or that your family would be noted by that. You know, the family Von Trapp, or whatever your name might be, that that family would be known for loving and being concerned for those who are in need.

Let’s notice also in chapter 24, verse 17, God clearly explains a principle here not to take advantage of them.

Deut. 24:17 – You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge.

In ancient Israel, if you owed a debt, you could come in and take something and hold it as a pledge. If the only thing a person had was the garment on his back, God said you could take that garment, but you had to return it to him at night, so he would have something to sleep in, to cover himself up and keep warm. But here it says you’re not to take a widow’s garment as a pledge. God says don’t do that. Don’t take advantage of her.

In Psalm 146 and verse 9, let’s notice here. I think it’s good to go back and review these scriptures. I’m not going to cover anything today that you don’t know or that I don’t know, that we haven’t read many times; but sometimes, brethren, we need to be exhorted and encouraged to do what God says, and sometimes, “out of sight, out of mind.” We forget.

– Here you find, The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down.

When it says God relieves the fatherless and the widows, this means that God comes to their aid. God comes to assist them. That’s what the word means, “to aid,” or “to assist.” And this is God’s approach. Is it our attitude? Do we, when we see, especially those who are of the household of God, the family of God, we look around us and among us, do we look at others and see, well, here’s somebody, and help them in their hour of need?

Brethren this past two months I have had conversations with some that are poor and single moms and orphans and some that are widows and widowers. They are so depressed that they all have said that if death should come they would welcome it. These are those in the faith. They have been so hurt by brethren demanding they say the name this way or that, or you must keep these days and these ones too. And they have no help and no hope of getting any. They just want to lie down and die and have it over with.

Now, you know, this begs a question, and that is, do we know the elderly and the needy among us? How can you help them if you don’t know them? They’re not going to come up to you. Most of our widows or our elderly, they’re not going to walk up to you and say, “I don’t know you, but I have great needs, and let me tell you what my needs are. Can you help me?” How many of you have ever had a widow come up and tell you that? No, they’re not going to approach you in that way; but, if they know you and you know them and you have this constant rapport and this contact going back and forth and you see them from week to week, you can pick up on an attitude or approach that there’s something wrong, so you begin to talk to them. Then you might be able to help them.

Back up to chapter 68. Again, we’re looking at what God says, His approach; and we’ll begin to read verse 3. It says:

But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.

So you can have an orphan who doesn’t have a father, and God says, “I become their Father,” and, in a sense, like a husband to the wife, to look after them, to take care of them. The law reveals God’s attitude toward the widow and the elderly in general. You and I should have the same attitude; the same approach, and make sure we think as God thinks.

Why has God, as I asked the question earlier, called so many elderly over the years? You might reason humanly, you know, a human approach, “Well, they’re less healthy, can serve less, have less earning power, require more attention. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to call the young, those who are at their height of earning money so that they could support the work? Wouldn’t that be the logical thing to do?” Obviously, God has other things in mind, doesn’t He? God has other things that He is thinking about.

Many elderly people ask the question, “Why did God wait so long to call me? Why didn’t He call me when I was younger?” I don’t know if you’ve ever had that question asked you. But the conclusion is, that God knows when it’s best to call every one of us. God is going to call each one of us and give us an opportunity for His Kingdom, and He knows when it’s best to call us. He knows exactly. And God is the one who is in, we could call, the “calling business.” He’s the one extending the invitations, and He’s the one…well, let’s go back and read it. I Corinthians 12:18. You and I sometimes might try to second-guess God, wonder why He might do things in a certain way; but God over the decades has called many people in their sixties, seventies, and even up into their eighties. In verse 18, notice:

I Cor. 12:18 – But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

So, we look at that and we think, “OK, God has set each one in the body as He pleases,” and we think of that from the point of view of giving position, responsibilities, and duties; but also let’s realize if God sets us in the body as it pleases Him, then, if He calls us when we’re seventy, it pleases Him for us to be there in the body. If He calls us at age fifteen, it pleases Him for us to be a part of the body at that age. God has a purpose for every last one of us. When God calls us to be a part of His body, there is a purpose that He is working out in our lives so that we can be in His Kingdom. As I said, He knows when it’s best, or the best time to offer salvation to a person. God would not have a person or call a person if He did not know that that individual could make it into His Kingdom. He calls us because He knows we can make it. We all, no matter what our age, have been called for two major reasons, and this is something that we have talked about over the years. One is to help proclaim the gospel and, secondarily, we are being prepared for rulership in the milleninium. Now, there are many other things that you can think of; but those are two major categories.

How do the elderly help preach the gospel? In what way do many of the elderly…what I’m explaining here today is going to apply to a lot of us here shortly. It will apply to me, so I’m preaching to myself here, eight, ten years down the road. You know, you can think, “Well, I won’t be doing what I’m doing presently; and so, therefore, what will I be doing?” Well, let’s go over to Mark, chapter 12, and we’ll begin here in verse 41.

– Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury…” I’m sure that dumbfounded His disciples. You know, how could this be? “For they all put in out of their abundance…,” so out of their abundance. If you’re a millionaire, and you give a hundred thousand, you still have millions in the bank; but if all you’ve got is 50 cents to your name, and you throw your 50 cents in, you’ve given everything; and that’s the illustration that He’s putting forth. “For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

A principle: God doesn’t look at the amount. He looks at the heart. He looks at the attitude. All of us have an opportunity to support the work through our tithes and our offerings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nickel, a dime, 50 cents, a dollar, a hundred, a thousand, a million, whatever. God looks on the heart. He simply wants to know, is our heart in His work? You see, what He’s preparing us for are positions of responsibility, duties of service; and if He sees that we truly are supportive of Him and what He’s doing, He knows that in the Kingdom that we will be also. We all wish that we could give more. There’s not a one of us sitting here who on a holy day doesn’t wish, “Well, boy, I wish I could double this or quadruple it or really bring the average up to a hundred dollars a head,” and we realize that we don’t have that type of money. I’ve known widows over the years who, proportionately to their income, on the holy day, have given huge offerings that…you take someone on a fixed income who doesn’t have very much and, you know, they contribute a sizeable offering. It may not be as much as somebody else, but in proportion to their income, they’re giving a huge amount. God sees that. God understands that. So all of us have an opportunity. It {the amount} doesn’t have to be great. So through our tithes and our offerings, we can help in proclaiming in the gospel.??Another way that the elderly have a unique opportunity is found back in Luke, the second chapter, beginning in verse 36. Let’s notice this in verse 36. It says:

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age…OK, anybody here of great age? Well, she was of great age. She had lived with a husband seven years…OK, she was married. Apparently had been married seven years and became a widow…from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years…OK, eighty-four, tack seven onto that, that’s 91. How old was she when she got married? This woman’s well over a hundred, so it says, this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

She served God with prayers night and day. One of the unique opportunities sometimes that the elderly have is to have a little more time to pray and to beseech God for the needs of the work. Notice as verse 37 says here, that she did this night and day. Do we realize that our prayers are part of our spiritual service to God? When an individual is praying, God hears that, and that’s just as important as how much money we give. If an individual fervently prays to God and asks God to bless His work, asks God to provide co-workers and donors, asks that God would continue to provide members, God hears that prayer. God could call one or two members who might be able to give a tremendous amount, as a direct result of the prayers of that individual. Our prayers are part of our spiritual service to God.

Hebrews, chapter 13, shows this. Hebrews 13, verse 15. Beginning in verse 15, it says:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. You and I, when we pray to God, when we give thanks, we honor God, we extol God. God hears those prayers, and they are sacrifices that go up before Him. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. So our doing good and sharing and praying and acknowledging and extolling God are sacrifices.

The elderly will generally have more time to pray. Sometimes they may not even be able to get down on their knees. I know many who have knee problems. I remember specifically one widow who had some health problems, and she could not get down on her knees. I’ve sat in her home; and with tears coming down her face and crying, she would say, “I would like to get down on my knees and pray to God.” How much she bemoaned that she couldn’t. But we explained to her that whether you are on your knees, hanging from your foot in a well by a rope or whatever position you find yourself in, God hears your prayers. God knows. He knows the heart. And the principle is, if you could, you would; but if you are not able to, God understands that.

We have a lot of widows and elderly, and I think that they are an amazing example to everyone around them, because you can go to their homes and you will find there’s hardly a time you walk in that they’ve not got a Bible and literature out. They’re studying, and I know that they spend a great deal of time praying. When there was something that needed to have God’s help, they’re the ones we’d go talk to, and say, “Would you pray for such and such,” knowing, again, that they have that clout with God. What is more important: praying more or giving a few more dollars? Both are important. I’m not going to try to quantify one or another; but what God does is that He calls, He chooses those who can fulfill both roles. See, God calls those who are able to give. God calls those who are able to pray more. Both are fulfilling a need, a necessity, and a role within God’s church. Romans 12 clearly articulates this. Romans, chapter 12 and verse 3. Romans 12 is a parallel chapter to I Corinthians 12 that talks about gifts. In both cases, they talk about different gifts, but let’s notice here, beginning in verse 3:

– For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function…so all the members of the body do not have the same function. What that implies is, maybe God has called some to be able to support the work financially, others maybe not having much are able to support the work on their knees or through their prayers in beseeching God. As it goes on to say here, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…and then it goes on to explain what some of these gifts are. So what you find, we all don’t have the same function. We have different gifts, different opportunities to serve, different ways of serving; and so, we need to take advantage of those opportunities.

All of us have opportunities to serve in different ways, and I have found over the years that as I move laterally in different positions, different opportunities, that you are given different ways of serving and helping. And you move from some, you move to some, and you’re able to serve in a different capacity. So it is as maybe we get older, we won’t serve in the exact same way. You just simply are not capable of doing the same things, so you shift and you do and you serve in the way that you can.

I Timothy 5:5 ties in with this, talking about widows, and it says:

– Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.

You see, a widow who’s at home when you’re out working 8 or 10 hours a day and you’re caught in that traffic jam and you’re sort of losing your cool because you can’t get home, she’s able to pray. And she has more time during night and day. The elderly many times also have more time to read and study. That’s another opportunity that they have, to read and study. You know, these are not opportunities that many of us have; but, even though you might have an affliction that way, you can turn it into something that is helpful or can be helpful.

Well, going back to I Corinthians 12 and verse 18, we read in verse 18 that it’s God who calls and puts us in the body. Read it again:
I Cor. 12:18 – But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased, as He wants. And then verse 21, And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” The twenty-year-old can’t say to the eighty-year-old, “I have no need of you.” The thirty-year-old cannot say to the seventy-year-old, “You’re not needed.” Or vice versa, the eighty-year-old to the twenty.

Verses 22-23 – No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. All are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty…

Let me ask you, which part of the body is not necessary? Are your feet not necessary? I think they are. What about your hands? Are they not necessary? Your eyes, tongue, ears, hair, kneecaps, you know, whatever you can think of? All parts of the body are necessary. We understand that in the human body. So it is in the spiritual body. Every part is necessary. Every part performs a function. The hands have a function. The feet have a function. The nose has a function. The ears, hair, and so on. Every part of the body serves a function; and when we all perform that function, then the body is able to work together very well.

Notice in verse 23, it says, again, And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor…verses 24-25, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.

Now, notice why God has placed all of the members in the body—so that we can learn to care for one another, we can learn to love one another, we can learn to appreciate one another. You know, families need to train their children to have love and to care for the elderly. It is not natural. Young people do not grow up naturally learning to love those who are older. We need to teach them to have the right motives, the right attitude, the right emotional responses. These things just don’t happen. They have to be learned. How do you teach a child to learn to love the elderly? Well, it starts when they are very young. What about taking your children, occasionally, to a rest home? If you ever go to a rest home to visit someone who is elderly, take your children. Let them see them. Talk to them about what the elderly go through. Invite them {the elderly} over to your house. Do projects as a family for a widow or an elderly person, such as, “Well, we’ve got Widow Jones over here. We’re going to bake cookies for her,” and have your child involved, where they may take the sack and they go up to the door and they give it to them. Teach them to respect those who are in authority.

What about, as a family, you pray together for somebody who’s, you know, widower Jones has a certain problem, maybe a health problem, so all of you get down as a family and you pray for that person. And in these ways you begin to help them to focus. They’re not going to learn these things naturally unless someone begins to show them the right way, begins to teach them.

As James 1:27 says—we’re all familiar with this particular scripture:
James 1:27

– Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I think there is a great neglect in amongst the brethren, and that is that we do not visit the widows, the orphans, those who are needy in these positions. We need to visit them. Do we all take it upon ourselves as a responsibility to visit or to call or to write somebody? You know, if we did it once a week, pick the phone up and call somebody whom we know is living alone who might be lonely, and just talk to them or write them a note or invite them over for dinner or to visit, especially, who might live in our area. If we all did this, I’ll guarantee you that our older people would be much encouraged.

Many elderly are lonely, they’re neglected, they feel useless, they don’t feel like they can contribute much to society, but they are an important part of the body, and they are future rulers in the Kingdom of God, just like you, just like me, like all of us. They may need occasional help with their home or yard or shopping or a ride to a doctor. How can we know that, again, unless we become acquainted with them, unless we get to know them.

I want you to notice a wonderful statement back here in the book of Job, Job 29, verses 12-13. Job is, in a sense, defending himself here. He’s talking about all his good deeds and what he has done. He says:

– Because I delivered the poor who cried out, the fatherless and the one who had no helper. Now verse 13: The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

What a statement to make, that you helped someone so much that they sang for joy over what you were able to do. One of the great commandments deals indirectly with widows and widowers. In Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments are given, and it says to honor your father and mother. But this is something that we should do to the elderly—do to all men, but especially those—365 days a year. All of our mothers are potential widows. All of us have that potential. Your wife is a potential widow. Statistically, fellows, you and I are going to go first. It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the way it happens in most cases; and you will leave a widow. How would you want her to be treated when you’re dead? Ask yourself, how do you want your wife to be treated? How do you want your mom to be treated when you are no longer here to look after her? Would you not want somebody to show them concern and love and help them?

One of the best ways we can help a wife, of course, is to provide for her before she becomes a widow, to have insurance, wise financial planning, be out of debt, any number of things we might do to help her when she becomes a widow. The trauma of widowhood—there’s the loss of a companion; all the bills, debts, financial planning now fall on her shoulders; loneliness; an emotional trauma that people go through. Many times children are grown or away from home; or, if it’s a younger widow, she has all the responsibility of rearing the children, taking care of everything now. Two great needs of widows and elderly in general: number one is financial; number two I would call human needs—to be loved, to feel useful, to have friends, to have dignity—and all of these areas are so very important. Brethren, you and I can help in both ways. We can help by providing the emotional support, doing what we can. You know, we have an assistance fund. The Bible talks about a third tithe. It talks about helping the needy all through the scriptures, a number of scriptures that we could go to to discuss these things. But God shows that there is a responsibility, there is a duty that we all have toward one another in assisting and in helping in these ways, and there should not be a neglect in the body of those who are needy and those who are the widows. That is the responsibility that we as a body share, and you as a family…you know, the Bible in I Timothy 5 says that if you have a widow in your family, then it is your responsibility first of all to take care of that individual to the best of your ability, and then whatever is lacking the assembly will step in and help. And especially to help those who are widows indeed. But none of us should shirk our responsibility.

So, brethren, we are one family as a body; and as a family, we’re the family of God. One of the things that God is teaching us is to learn to have love and concern for every member of that family. It doesn’t matter what their age, what their color, what their nationality, who they are—we are to show that love and that concern. We need to teach our children as they grow up to respect the elderly, to love them and to serve them. We need to do our part in visiting, serving, and helping. Remember this: even though we need to make sure that they are looked after financially, money cannot substitute for human contact, for human love and concern. The elderly are a vital part of the body. They perform a function within the body. As I said earlier, we want them praying FOR us, not AGAINST us; so let’s make sure that, when it comes to all of our widows, the elderly, we can say what Job said, “We made the widow’s heart sing with joy.”


Triennial Torah Cycle

We continue this weekend with our regular Triennial Torah reading

Deut 1      Neh 5-7       2 Cor 6-7


Introduction to Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 1)

By the time Moses addresses the messages contained in the book of Deuteronomy to the new generation of Israelites, he is 120 years old. The Hebrew name for the book, Haddebharim, means “The Words,” derived from the first verse, which reads, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel….” The Jews have also referred to this book as Mishneh Hattorah, “The Repetition of the Law,” taken from Deuteronomy 17:18, which uses a phrase that the New King James Version translates as “a copy of this law.” The Greek Septuagint translation rendered this as To Deuteronomion Touto, that is, “This Second Law,” from which we have the English title, Deuteronomy.

The book does not, however, set forth a “second” law, but merely repeats and expands on the law that had been given in a codified form more than 40 years earlier in the book of Exodus. In fact, much of God’s law predated even the book of Exodus, as the Ten Commandments, for instance, were already in force since the creation of Adam and Eve (compare Romans 5:12-13). And Abraham, we are told, observed God’s commandments, statutes and laws (Genesis 26:5) long before Moses was born. Therefore, some Bibles, such as most Protestant German Bibles, identify this last book written by Moses simply as “The Fifth Book of Moses.” It should be noted, however, that its last chapter, Moses’ obituary, was probably written by someone else, Joshua being the most likely candidate—especially when we see other obvious additions by others in Moses’ books (e.g., Numbers 12:3). While God could have inspired Moses to write this last chapter before his death, that seems unlikely.

The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary on Deuteronomy states: “Deuteronomy is one of the greatest books of the Old Testament. Its influence on the domestic and personal religion of all ages has not been surpassed by any other book in the Bible. It is quoted over eighty times in the New Testament and thus it belongs to a small group of four Old Testament books to which the early Christians made reference.” The other three books are Genesis, Psalms and Isaiah. Tyndale adds, “The book comes even to the modern reader in much the same way as a challenging sermon, for it is directed towards moving the minds and wills of the hearers to decision: choose life, that you and your descendants may live (30:19).”


Israel’s Original Refusal to Enter the Land (Deuteronomy 1)

In verse 2 we see the mention of Horeb, which is another name for Mount Sinai. With the exception of 33:2, Deuteronomy uses Horeb rather than Sinai. The word Horeb literally means “desolation,” “desert” or “drought.”

At the outset, it is emphasized that Moses is, throughout the book, “explaining” the law (verse 5). This explanation is not based on his own will and ideas, but on “all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them” (verse 3)—reminding us of Jesus Christ, who only spoke what the Father told Him to speak (John 8:26; 15:15). Yet before actually reiterating the law, Moses reviews Israel’s prior opportunity to enter the Promised Land, their refusal and the resulting penalty, and, to bolster their faith, the recent victories that God had given them.

First, Moses reminds his audience how he established an organized administrative legal structure within the nation (Deuteronomy 1:9-18) before Israel was asked to possess the Promised Land (verses 8, 19-21). This shows that an organization, in order to be successful in its dealings with the world, must first be properly set up and smoothly functioning internally. The selection of “heads” (verse 13) or tribal leaders involved a process similar to the selection of the first deacons of the Church in Acts 6. The people were told to give Moses the names of worthy candidates and Moses made the formal appointments (Deuteronomy 1:9-15). In Acts, the apostles appointed men as deacons after asking for congregational input.

Before entering the land of the Amorites, the people requested that spies first be sent into the land (Deuteronomy 1:22). Moses was pleased with this idea (verse 23), and God told him to go ahead with it (compare Numbers 13:1-2). Except for Joshua and Caleb, however, the returning spies discouraged the nation from trying to conquer the land (Deuteronomy 1:28). Although they confirmed God’s word that the land was good (verse 25), they exaggerated physical obstacles as insurmountable and proclaimed that God must have hated them and didn’t really want to give the land to them (verse 27). As a consequence, because of their unbelief (verse 32), in spite of all the visible proofs that God was with them (verses 25, 33), they rebelled against Him (verse 26) and refused to enter the land. The New Testament book of Hebrews explains that the Israelites were not allowed to enter the rest of the Promised Land—symbolic of our future rest in the Kingdom of God—because, although they had heard God’s Word and had seen His mighty wonders, they hardened their heart in rebellion and refused to believe and obey Him (3:7-19). Thus, God pronounced His sentence. Later, even Moses was included in the sentence (verses 25-26; 4:21), as he did not follow God’s explicit instructions when he struck the rock at Kadesh (Numbers 20:7-13). As Israel’s human leader and teacher, Moses was under a stricter judgment from God (compare James 3:1) in order to serve as an example to the people (Deuteronomy 1:37).

After they realized their sin and the penalty it had earned them, a contingent of the people decided to go ahead and enter the land in an attempt to conquer it according to God’s original instructions—but it was now too late. For us, too, there will come a time when it will be too late to enter the “Promised Land” of God’s Kingdom (compare Matthew 25:1-13). Moses told the Israelites not to invade Canaan, as God would not be with them this time. But again, they did not believe and rebelled against God’s Word (Deuteronomy 1:42-43)—and suffered the consequence of bitter defeat (verses 44-45). Then they returned and wept before God (verse 45; compare Matthew 25:30), but He would not hear them.

The throng of people who eventually did enter the Promised Land (who were all age 59 or younger) first had to endure the “great and terrible wilderness” (verse 19). We might consider this a physical type of the trying experiences that Christians sometimes endure in this life prior to entering the Kingdom of God (see Acts 14:22).

Relief From Domestic Exploitation (Nehemiah 5)

No sooner is the external threat of attack staved off, at least temporarily, that another development threatens the progress of the Jews in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall and their well being in general—this time from within. It seems likely that the problems described in this passage had been brewing for a long time—well before Nehemiah ever arrived. And now, with the current prolonged period of hard work, constant alert, inevitable fatigue and diminished regular income due to time spent on rebuilding the wall, things at last came to a head.

Verse 3 mentions a famine. Perhaps it was not severe, but even a minor one would have produced food shortages, making available food more expensive. Exacerbating the situation was the outside enemy threat, which likely kept the people of Jerusalem pent up behind their new defenses—away from access to the produce of the countryside. Some now come seeking relief because they have large families, compounding their need for grain (verse 2). Even many landowners had mortgaged their lands and homes (verse 3), so the produce of even accessible lands probably went to other people as repayment. These other people were not foreign authorities but fellow Jews. The outcry of the people in verse 1 is “against their Jewish brethren.” The rich were getting richer, and the poor were getting poorer.

Verses 4-5 describe some who borrowed money and even sold their children into slavery to pay property taxes to the king. This was not an unusual circumstance in the Persian Empire, which taxed excessively, removing vast sums of money from circulation and thereby running up inflation. “Documents from Babylonia show that many inhabitants of this satrapy too had to mortgage their fields and orchards to get silver for the payment of taxes to the king. In many cases they were unable to redeem their property, and became landless hired labourers; sometimes they were compelled to give away their children into slavery. According to some Egyptian data, the taxation was so heavy that the peasants fled to the cities, but were arrested by the nomarchs [regional governors] and brought back by force” (M. Dandamayev, “Achaemenid Babylonia,” Ancient Mesopotamia, I.M. Diakonoff, ed., 1969, p. 308, quoted in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on verse 4). “The acquisition of land by the Persians and its alienation from production helped produce a 50 percent rise in prices” (note on verse 4).

Again, though, it is not the high taxes, inflation or famine that the people are complaining about. They are complaining about each other. More specifically, the poorer people are complaining about the rich nobles and rulers (see verse 7) in the matters of borrowing money and selling children into slavery with no means to redeem them. The problem in the first matter, as Nehemiah identifies it (verse 7), is the exacting of usury—interest. The law forbade the charging of interest to poor Israelites in need. “The O[ld] T[estament] passages (Exod 22:25-27; Lev 25:35-37; Deut 23:19-20; 24:10-13) prohibiting the giving of loans at interest were not intended to prohibit commercial loans but rather the charging of interest to the impoverished so as to make a profit from the helplessness of one’s neighbors” (note on Nehemiah 5:7). Yet the latter is exactly what was happening. And this led to the second problem—Israelites having to hire themselves and their children out as servants to pay off debt. While this was permissible, it would not have been necessary if the people were not sinking further and further into debt because of the usury. Furthermore, the nobles and rulers were going beyond what was allowed with regard to Israelite servants. They were selling them as slaves (verses 5, 8), which the law expressly prohibited (see Leviticus 25:35-40).

Beyond these specifics, Scripture roundly condemned greedily profiteering at the expense of others (see Psalm 119:36; Isaiah 56:9-12; 57:17; Jeremiah 6:13; 8:10; 22:13-19; Ezekiel 22:12-14; 33:31). The people were to be looking out for one another’s welfare—not exploiting each other. And those more able to help had the responsibility to do so. Yet things were far from that ideal. “The ironic tragedy of the situation for the exiles was that at least in Mesopotamia their families were together. Now because of dire economic necessities, their children were being sold into slavery” (note on verse 5).

Nehemiah is outraged over this terrible, sinful situation (verse 6). It is clear that he knew nothing about it until this point, having only recently arrived.

After he rebukes the nobles, having given a lot of thought to the matter, Nehemiah convenes a “great assembly” against them. Often called the “Great Synagogue,” Jewish tradition reckons this as the beginnings of a continuing authority to watch over Jewish religious affairs that persisted until Seleucid Greek times. Historian Alfred Edersheim writes: “It is impossible with certainty to determine, either who composed this assembly, or of how many members it consisted. {The Talmudic notices are often inconsistent. The number as given in them amounts to about 120….} Probably it comprised the leading men in Church and State, the chief priests, elders, and ‘judges,’ the latter two classes including ‘the Scribes,’ if, indeed, that order was already separately organised. {Ezra 10:14; Neh. 5:7.} Probably also the term ‘Great Assembly’ [beyond its introduction in Nehemiah 5:7] refers rather to a succession of men than to one Synod” (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chap. 8). It is this body that is understood to have approved Ezra’s canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Regarding the matter at hand, so obvious is the nobles’ guilt that they have nothing to say by way of excuse or rebuttal (verse 8). Nehemiah points out two issues that should have been of concern to them in what they have done—showing a lack of appropriate fear of God in disobeying His laws and bringing the Jews and the God they worshiped into disrepute among the surrounding gentile nations (verse 9). Nehemiah classes himself, his relatives and his officials as among those who have been lending money (verse 10)—though he does not state that he himself has been charging interest. He calls for an end to the usury and a restoration of property, money and food with interest.

The nobles agree to Nehemiah’s directive, taking an oath regarding the matter, as he requires—and then, encouragingly, they follow through on what they have promised (verses 12-13).

In verse 14, we see that Nehemiah served 12 years in his first term as governor of Judea (444-432 B.C.). At the end of this period he would be recalled to the Persian court (13:6), after which he would return for a second term. It is surprising to see that during his administration, Nehemiah and his family did not eat the governor’s provisions or tax the people though he had that authority. In verse 15, he mentions previous governors who had abused their authority in this regard. He is surely not referring to Ezra or Zerubbabel. Archaeology has revealed that there were at least three governors of Judea between Zerubbabel and Ezra: Elnathan in the late 6th century B.C. (as revealed on a bulla and seal); Yeho’ezer in the early 5th century (as revealed on a jar impression); and Ahzai in the early 5th century (also revealed on a jar impression) (see Expositor’s Bible Commentary, footnote on verse 15). And it may have been that the Samaritan governor Sanballat and the Ammonite governor Tobiah were acting as de facto governors over parts of Judea prior to Nehemiah’s arrival.

As for his own administration, Nehemiah made sure that it was upright and beneficent. Verse 16 shows that “Nehemiah had not acquired mortgages on land. As governor, he could easily have acquired real estate and sold it at great profit. But instead of making money for themselves, Nehemiah and his servants worked on the wall of Jerusalem for the protection of the people and the glory of God” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 16).

Nehemiah’s refusal of the governor’s provision so as not to further burden the people is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he regularly provided for so many at his table (verses 17-18). Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary states: “We have a remarkable proof both of the opulence and the disinterestedness [in it] of Nehemiah. As he declined, on conscientious grounds, to accept the lawful emoluments attached to his government, and yet maintained a style of princely hospitality for twelve years out of his own resources, it is evident that his office of cupbearer at the court of Shushan must have been very lucrative” (note on verse 14).

Indeed, Nehemiah was very wealthy—and yet very generous with his wealth. In verse 19, he prays that God will remember him for good—rewarding him for all that he has done for God’s people—a prayer he repeats at the end of the book (13:31). This shows what truly motivated Nehemiah. It was not to be revered by other people but to please God, who is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). That should be our motivation too—in whatever we do.


Finishing the Wall (Nehemiah 6:1-7:3)

When the enemies of the Jews learned that Jerusalem’s wall was nearly rebuilt, they decided on a new tactic. Through the pretense of a peace conference in the plain of Ono—modern Kafr ‘Ana, about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem and 10 miles east of Joppa—they would lure Nehemiah out of the city. Their plan was probably to either kidnap or assassinate him. But Nehemiah wasn’t fooled and wouldn’t take the bait (verses 1-4).

Sanballat then sent a letter to Nehemiah accusing him of planning to rebel against Artaxerxes and set himself up as king—and that he was using lying prophets in his cause. The Samaritan governor implicitly threatens to report this matter to the emperor if Nehemiah will not come out for the meeting (verses 5-7). Yet Nehemiah still refuses to take the bait. He knew that Sanballat would not dare to make such accusations against him to Artaxerxes, as Nehemiah was a trusted adviser. If anything, this would only have further jeopardized Sanballat’s own precarious position. Sanballat’s real motive, as Nehemiah realized, was not only a last-ditch effort to scare him into committing to meet, but also that news of his threat would spread so that the Jews, fearing Persian retaliation, would falter in their work on the wall (verses 8-9).

But that was not the end of the intrigue. In verse 10, Nehemiah meets with a certain Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, probably because he was called to his house. The phrase “who was a secret informer” in the NKJV is rendered by most versions in its literal sense: “who was shut up.” What exactly this means here is unclear. Some see it as a reference to a state of prophetic ecstasy. Others view it as a temporary quarantine due to ritual impurity. Others see it as a feigned hiding out at home—to make it look like he was in danger. As such, it would have been simply a manipulative attempt to compromise Nehemiah.

The message Shemaiah conveys to Nehemiah is that the governor’s life is in danger and that they should go into the temple to hide. Some suggest that Shemaiah, having access to the temple, was a priest. He was evidently laying claim here to also being a prophet—that his message was a prophecy from God (compare verse 12).

Nehemiah rejects Shemaiah’s counsel for two reasons. First, to run and hide would be cowardly. He was the governor and, as a leader among God’s people, was supposed to set a brave and faithful example among them. Second, this would have been a sin, as Nehemiah was not a priest. While it would have been legitimate to propose taking refuge in the temple area at the altar, the Mosaic Law forbade non-priests from going into the temple building itself on threat of death (see Numbers 18:1-7). God had punished the Jewish king Uzziah with leprosy for presuming to enter the sanctuary in an attempt to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

In considering Shemaiah’s words, Nehemiah realized that he was a false prophet since he had spoken against the law of God (see Isaiah 8:20). The governor further realized that this must have been part of the enemies’ scheming. Sanballat’s letter had accused Nehemiah of using false prophets. But in reality it was the other side that was now employing such methods in an effort to discredit him. Despite the prominence of Sanballat’s letter, however, Tobiah is mentioned first in verse 12—probably because he was evidently friendly with a number of the priests and so had likely achieved this particular inroad with Shemaiah (compare verses 18-19; 13:7-9). In verses 18-19 of chapter 6, we also learn that Tobiah had written his own share of letters in an attempt to scare Nehemiah.

In verse 14, Nehemiah also mentioned a certain prophetess, Noadiah, and other unnamed prophets who were part of the enemy conspiracy. Exactly what role they played is unstated. Perhaps they are the ones who had directed him to meet with Shemaiah.

The exchange of numerous letters, threats of public embarrassment and conspiracy remind of modern political intrigue that employs legal maneuvers and the press to try to force a political outcome. Then, as now, human nature and politics worked hand-in-hand.

The wall was at last completed—52 days (a week shy of two months) after the reconstruction under Nehemiah commenced (verse 15). And thus the wall was built again “even in troublesome times,” just as had been foretold in Daniel 9:25. It was now the 25th day of Elul, only five days prior to the Feast of Trumpets. When the Jews’ enemies heard of the astounding achievement, and realized that all of their plotting had come to nothing, they were completely demoralized, seeing this as the work of Judah’s God (verse 16).

“Once the city was secure, Nehemiah set about the even more important task of reorganizing the government and effecting a sorely needed spiritual and moral reformation. He first appointed doorkeepers, singers, and other Levitical personnel and designated his brother Hanani as mayor of the city [7:1-2]” (Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 511). This was the same Hanani who reported to Nehemiah regarding Jerusalem’s plight in 1:1-3. “‘Hanani’ is the shortened form of ‘Hananiah’ (‘Yahweh is gracious’)…. The Elephantine papyri mention a Hananiah who was the head of Jewish affairs in Jerusalem. Many scholars believe that this Hananiah can be identified with Nehemiah’s brother and assume that he succeeded Nehemiah (c. 427)” (Expositor’s, note on 1:2). The Hananiah of these documents could conceivably be the Hananiah that Nehemiah placed over the Jerusalem citadel (7:2) if Nehemiah’s brother had died. But Nehemiah’s brother seems the likelier person referred to.

We will see more of Nehemiah’s reformation in the next few chapters. This would be the crucial part of his work. For while walls were needed, they were not an end in themselves. Their whole purpose was to safeguard a vital interest—the people with whom God was working and the worship system He gave them. God’s plan does not center on walls and buildings. It is ever and always about people.

Idea for a New Census; List of the First Return (Nehemiah 7:4-73)
Despite its spacious size, Jerusalem was still sparsely populated (verse 4). As it had been almost a century since the first return of exiles under Zerubbabel, it would seem that there should have been more people there. Yet the trouble that the city faced over the decades could have driven many families out into the countryside.

Nehemiah’s unstated but implicit concern here is the repopulation and development of Jerusalem. We will later see in chapter 11 that his solution is to direct a portion of those in various parts of the province of Judea to resettle in the capital. Here in 7:5, “Nehemiah attributed to the Lord the idea of a census that would show the distribution of the population. If he knew the population pattern in the capital and the countryside, he could then determine which districts could best afford to lose a portion of their inhabitants to Jerusalem” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 5).

As he pondered the situation, he came across a list of those in the first return under Zerubbabel. It is basically the same as the list recorded earlier in Ezra 2. We covered Nehemiah 7:5-73 in conjunction with that prior passage for sake of comparison. We are reviewing it here because this is where it actually fits in the story. You may wish to look back over the Bible Reading Program comments on the earlier passage for an explanation of some of the variations in names and numbers.

Ezra Reads the Law During the Fall Feasts (Nehemiah 7:73-8:18)

Following the arrangement of the book of Nehemiah, the seventh month appears to come just five days after the completion of the city wall (compare 5:15). However, the year is a matter of dispute, as there are some chronological questions here and throughout the remainder of the book. It could be that the events of chapters 8-10 describe events that occurred much later—following some of Nehemiah’s reforms described in chapter 13. Since the matter is uncertain, we are sticking with the scriptural arrangement in our reading of this section of the book.
The first day of the seventh month is one of God’s annual Holy Days—the Feast of Trumpets (see Leviticus 23:23-25). The name of the feast does not occur in Nehemiah 8, but the fact that the first day of the seventh month is a Holy Day is explicitly stated (verses 10-11). This day marked the first day of the civil year and the Jews still refer to it as Rosh Hashanah, “Head of the Year” (the Jewish New Year).

Jews from all over Judea have come to Jerusalem. They gather in the open square between the southeastern part of the temple and the eastern wall (verse 1).

Here, for the first time in the story of Nehemiah, we see the appearance of Ezra. A number of critics maintain that this passage should follow Ezra 10, putting the events it describes long before Nehemiah’s arrival (or placing Ezra’s arrival long after that of Nehemiah). Nehemiah 8:9, however, shows that Nehemiah was the governor during this episode. The aforementioned critics view his name here as an erroneous editorial gloss. But there is no real warrant for such a conclusion. It is not at all unreasonable to believe the scriptural attestation that Ezra would have still been around 13 or more years after his arrival—that despite Samaritan actions against Jerusalem and the events surrounding the satrap Megabyzus’ rebellion probably having swept him from office as governor, he would still have been a respected spiritual leader among the Jews (see also 12:26, 31, 36). The widespread idea that Ezra returned long after Nehemiah (during the reign of Artaxerxes II instead of Artaxerxes I) is an untenable one, as it requires the scriptural mentions of the two interacting together to be spurious additions to the text.

2 Corinthians 6

The apostle, with others, proved themselves faithful ministers of Yeshua, by their unblamable life and behaviour. (1-10) By affection for them, And by earnest concern, that they might have no fellowship with unbelievers and idolaters. (11-18)

Verses 1-10 The gospel is a word of grace sounding in our ears. The gospel day is a day of salvation, the means of grace the means of salvation, the offers of the gospel the offers of salvation, and the present time the proper time to accept these offers. The morrow is none of ours: we know not what will be on the morrow, nor where we shall be. We now enjoy a day of grace; then let all be careful not to neglect it. Ministers of the gospel should look upon themselves as Elohim’s servants, and act in every thing suitably to that character. The apostle did so, by much patience in afflictions, by acting from good principles, and by due temper and behaviour. Believers, in this world, need the grace of YHWH, to arm them against temptations, so as to bear the good report of men without pride; and so as to bear their reproaches with patience. They have nothing in themselves, but possess all things in Him. Of such differences is a believer’s life made up, and through such a variety of conditions and reports, is our way to heaven; and we should be careful in all things to approve ourselves to YHWH. The gospel, when faithfully preached, and fully received, betters the condition even of the poorest. They save what before they riotously spent, and diligently employ their time to useful purposes. They save and gain by religion, and thus are made rich, both for the world to come and for this, when compared with their sinful, profligate state, before they received the gospel.

Verses 11-18 It is wrong for believers to join with the wicked and profane. The word unbeliever applies to all destitute of true faith. True pastors will caution their beloved children in the gospel, not to be unequally yoked. The fatal effects of neglecting Scripture precepts as to marriages clearly appear. Instead of a help meet, the union brings a snare. Those whose cross it is to be unequally united, without their wilful fault, may expect consolation under it; but when believers enter into such unions, against the express warnings of His word, they must expect must distress. The caution also extends to common conversation. We should not join in friendship and acquaintance with wicked men and unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing and hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for friends. We must not defile ourselves by converse with those who defile themselves with sin. Come out from the workers of iniquity, and separate from their vain and sinful pleasures and pursuits; from all conformity to the corruptions of this present evil world. If it be an envied privilege to be the son or daughter of an earthly prince, who can express the dignity and happiness of being sons and daughters of the Almighty?


2 Corinthians 7

An exhortation to holiness, and the whole church entreated to bear affection to the apostle. (1-4) He rejoiced in their sorrowing to repentance. (5-11) And in the comfort they and Titus had together. (12-16)

Verses 1-4 The promises of Elohim are strong reasons for us to follow after holiness; we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. If we hope in YHWH as our Father, we must seek to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven. His grace, by the influences of his Spirit, alone can purify, but holiness should be the object of our constant prayers. If the ministers of the gospel are thought contemptible, there is danger lest the gospel itself be despised also; and though ministers must flatter none, yet they must be gentle towards all. Ministers may look for esteem and favour, when they can safely appeal to the people, that they have corrupted no man by false doctrines or flattering speeches; that they have defrauded no man; nor sought to promote their own interests so as to hurt any. It was affection to them made the apostle speak so freely to them, and caused him to glory of them, in all places, and upon all occasions.

Verses 5-11 There were fightings without, or continual contentions with, and opposition from Jews and Gentiles; and there were fears within, and great concern for such as had embraced the faith. But Elohim comforts those who are cast down. We should look above and beyond all means and instruments, to YHWH, as the author of all the consolation and good we enjoy. Sorrow according to the will of YHWH, tending to the glory of YHWH, and wrought by the Spirit of YHWH, renders the heart humble, contrite, submissive, disposed to mortify every sin, and to walk in newness of life. And this repentance is connected with saving faith in Yeshua, and an interest in his atonement. There is a great difference between this sorrow of a godly sort, and the sorrow of the world. The happy fruits of true repentance are mentioned. Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed. It wrought indignation at sin, at themselves, at the tempter and his instruments. It wrought a fear of watchfulness, and a cautious fear of sin. It wrought desire to be reconciled with Elohim. It wrought zeal for duty, and against sin. It wrought revenge against sin and their own folly, by endeavours to make satisfaction for injuries done thereby. Deep humility before YHWH, hatred of all sin, with faith in Messiah, a new heart and a new life, make repentance unto salvation. May the Lord bestow it on every one of us.

Verses 12-16 The apostle was not disappointed concerning them, which he signified to Titus; and he could with joy declare the confidence he had in them for the time to come. Here see the duties of a pastor and of his flock; the latter must lighten the troubles of the pastoral office, by respect and obedience; the former make a due return by his care of them, and cherish the flock by testimonies of satisfaction, joy, and tenderness.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.