Daily Archives: August 12, 2010

Like A Volcano

Last spring marked the 30 year anniversary of the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens, situated between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. The massive eruption reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,365 ft (2,550 m) and replacing it with a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The volcano spewed ash literally around the world. As a teenager, I remember driving by the mountain three months later and seeing three foot piles of ash in every parking lot.

Beneath the smoke, volcanoes simmer deep within, waiting, yearning to be released. Sometimes we resemble that volcano.

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Nehemiah 3:15-5:13
1 Corinthians 7:25-40
Psalm 32:1-11
Proverbs 21:5-7

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Nehemiah 3:15-5:13. Nehemiah and Ezra were contemporaries. Ezra led two groups of Jewish exiles from Persia/Babylon back to the Promised Land while Nehemiah led the third and final group. The subject of this book stands tall as one of the great leaders in Israel’s history. In fact, this book serves as a primer on leadership.

The overarching quality Nehemiah offers us is the importance of prayer. Whenever he encountered a crisis, not only do we read that Nehemiah prayed, but we also read his prayers.

While still in Persia, this great leader was a cupbearer to the king. The Bible Background Commentary explains:

The cupbearer in the ancient Near Eastern court held a very important position. He had direct access to the king and thus had great influence…Sources identify the cupbearer as the wine taster. In addition he was the bearer of the signet ring and was chief financial officer.

Nehemiah wielded his influence to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, which still lay in ruins after the destruction of Jerusalem 70 years earlier. Without a sturdy wall, Jerusalem was exposed to raiding parties and the armies of other surrounding countries.

Because of his influence with the king, it’s no surprised that he was also named governor of Israel.

Once he arrived in Jerusalem, he quickly dispatched different families around the wall. The listing of families may seem boring, but consider Nehemiah’s ability to dispatch them so quickly and with amazing order. Most amazing of all is that these groups were doing all this work without pay.

And when Sanballat and Tobiah, tried to undermine them, what did Nehemiah do? He prayed.

1 Corinthians 7:25-40. This is one of those passages that prompt me to wonder if Paul was divorced. Although Paul writes from the perspective of being single, marriage was a requirement of all Pharisees—and since Paul was a recovering Pharisee, he must have been previously married. Perhaps his wife died, but some of his comments lead me to believe that he was divorced. Perhaps his marriage disintegrated when he became a follower of Jesus. Regardless, his take on marriage seems fairly negative. In fact, he prefaces his words here by saying, “I have no command from the Lord” (verse 25). So should his words in this section be consider “not inspired?” I don’t think so. If anything, people should heed his very realistic perspective: marriage is hard.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Like a volcano, his conscience simmered and gurgled below the surface, yearning for release. The occasion might have been his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah or another transgression. Regardless, as long as David kept silent, his bones wasted away and his strength was sapped….

Until he confessed his sins. After relieving the pressure, he experienced liberation from his guilt. And look at his response to God after his confession:

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).

Many people tend to view God as if he’s hovering over us, waiting to strike us with lightening. We assume that he loves us—because he has to—but he doesn’t like us. So we avoid him. We avoid confessing our sin. We avoid what we believe will be condemnation and punishment.

Which begs the question: when we confess our sins to God—I mean, really own them—do we trust that God will forgive us and accept us or do we assume he’ll shoot us down while we’re vulnerable?

David answers this question with these words: “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him” (Psalm 32:10).

David writes that God surrounds us with “songs of deliverance.” Warren Wiersbe explains what this means:

After David was forgiven and restored, he went to the sanctuary to worship the Lord (2 Samuel 12:15–23), and there with the other worshipers, he was surrounded by “songs [shouts] of deliverance,” that is, praise to God for His mercies. That’s exactly what David needed to hear!

God’s mercy is greater than our sin! God doesn’t knock us down when we finally confess our brokenness. He’s the father in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-27), waiting to be reconciled with his beloved child. Responding at the slightest glimpse of contrition. Longing to be reunited with his wayward son.

God really is that good and that forgiving!

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What lessons in leadership can you glean from today’s reading in Nehemiah?
  3. Does God’s forgiveness seem too good to be true? If so, why?
  4. What might be preventing you from coming clean with him?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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