My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Job 5

Eliphaz tells Job to appeal to God

Eliphaz claims to have seen the destruction of a fool. Everything he does is not safe and fails. If he was in Job's shoes, he'd appeal to God - the God who does great wonders, and brings justice. God might hurt, but he also heals. A man who is on God's side is protected.

Key verse:
18. For he wounds, but he also binds up;

he injures, but his hands also heal.

My thoughts:
It's hard to wrong Eliphaz here, except that there appears to be a false assumption that Job is in some way a fool and needs to turn to God.

I think Eliphaz raises a point we doing like to hear in verse 18. We follow a God who wounds us. Not only does God woo us, but he wounds us. He disciplines us, and we shouldn't be surprised at that or be frustrated by that.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Job 4

Eliphaz replies

Initially hesitant as to whether Job would appreciate his words, Eliphaz shared his thoughts. He suggested that Job should look to his righteousness as his hope. Eliphaz knew that sinners came to ruin. He talked of an experience he had when God told him that no man can be righteous like God.

Key verse:
17. Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?

My thoughts:
This is the beginning of a longer speech by Eliphaz, and so far the point is that sinners get what's coming to them, leading to the fact that Job either is or is not a sinner, and either way action should be taken.

However, one of the interesting thing here is that Job suffering is in the midst of righteousness. Eliphaz is going from his own mind, rather than from God's mind. His spiritual experience appears to be feigned.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Job 3

Job wishes he'd never been born

Job then spoke up. He cursed the day he was born. He wished that he died at birth. He wished he could be rested in death. Even slaves and the wicked enjoy the rest of death. Why does life happen at all? Job had no rest or peace.

Key verse:
23. Why is life given to a man

whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?

My thoughts:
Well this is the first real time that I'll have to deal with poetry, and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do, but I'll have to work it out, because basically the rest of the old testament, including the prophets are in poetic form. It's hard to really summarise. So I might just make more of a deal of my thoughts, because beyond me just writing the general gist in the summaries, you really have the read the text. Preferably in Hebrew. One day I'll be able to do that.

Anyway, the point to remember whilst reading Job is that Job is glorified by God in the end, and his friends are shunned. When we read what they say, you'd often think it'd be the other way around. That is why it is such a fascinating book.

It is a book about depression and frustration with God. It's a book about how things seem to make no sense. There is an overwhelming coginitive dissonance. It's the hebel or futility which is also the focus of Ecclesiastes. Though Job doesn't really use that word, it's talking about a similar lack of comprehension of what the heck is going on. It's the sense of hopelessness that takes over.

As Christian's we like to give answers. One thing you'll notice about Job is that it doesn't really provide answers. All it says is that God is God and we are not, which we knew already.

One thing to take from this chapter is that there is no expectation to contend that things are ok when they're clearly not. There are plenty of holy men, Elijah and Jesus for example, who spend plently of time wanting to be all over. Here Job gets angry with God and makes some extreme despressive statements, and that give us licence to truly express the pain that we sometimes feel inside.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Job 2

Job suffers more

The accuser came before God, and God asked about Job. The accuser suggested that Job only still didn't curse God because he had good health. So God gave the accuser free reign to cause pain and disease to Job, as long as he didn't die.

So he became sick and covered with boils and was in constant pain. His wife suggested that he curse God and die, but he knew that was foolish. Three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to him, and wept because he looked completely different. That sat with him silently for seven days, because they saw how deep his grief was.

Key verse:
10. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

My thoughts:
So far the friends are doing well. Silence is good. It's when they open their mouths that things begin to go wrong.

An important point in these first two chapters is today's key verse. So often we are happy to accept good things from God, but when he sends challenges our way, we become angry, lose faith, and decide that it's not fair. But what right do we have at all to stand before God and claim that we deserve only good from him? God gives, and God takes away. There's a Matt Redman song (Blessed Be Your Name) which has a line from Job in it "You give and take away". Some churches refuse to sing that line, because they don't believe it, but that is foolish. We are God's. He has full right to give or take away. At the end of this book, you'll notice that God doesn't blame the accuser. He doesn't give him that much credit. He takes full responsibility and expresses no regret.

When we follow God, we are not signed a contract that binds God into doing only good things, we are simply ceasing being slaves of sin and darkness, and we become slaves of God and light. The Bible in English likes to use the word 'servant', but there's the same concept and word in Greek and Hebrew.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Job 1

Job loses everything

Job was a God-fearing man who was very wealthy. He made daily sacrifices for his many children in case they had sinned.

When the angels were coming to God, the accuser came to him. He had been going through the earth. God pointed to Job as a good example, but the accuser said that Job only followed God because his life was sweet.

God told the accuser that he could destroy all of Job's wealth, as long as Job himself was not touched himself.

Just then Job received three simultaneous reports that he had lost everything. All his land. All his livestock. All his children.

Job tore his clothes and shaved his head, and fell before God, saying that he came into this world with nothing, and he may leave with nothing. He did not curse God.

Key verse:
21. Naked I came from my mother's womb,

and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.

My thoughts:
Job is a very interesting book for many reasons.

Many scholars consider it to be the earliest book written in the Bible, and they contend that if Job existed he may have existed as far back as 1200BC, before Israel really existed. He was probably not a Jew, but just a God-fearing wealthy man.

Another interesting point is that all the references to cursing God use the Hebrew word barak for cursing. Now, the interesting thing about this is that barak means bless. So if you translated it exactly, then it would say (in Chapter 2) "Bless God and die.". What probably happened was that the scribes who transmitted the book would not have dared written the Hebrew word for curse in the context of God, so they used 'bless' though 'curse' was understood. Weird ay? There's lots of little strange literary tricks that the Hebrews did.

Now, who is this accuser? The NIV actually calls him Satan, which is perhaps a permature statement. It took a while for a agreed theology on Satan existed, and the earliest books have no solid indication of Satan. So his existence here is interesting. Notice how he come in with the other angels. If you dismiss any foreknowledge of Satan, then the most logical way to read this is that he is simply another angel who's job it is to search throughout the earth looking for way in which God can proove his glory, such as afflicted Job, but having Job continue to praise him.

However, much tradition contends him to be Satan - one who is trying to show God that people will curse him. In this case, it is interesting that Satan is in God's court, seemingly invited, and God pays respect to his wishes. God allows Satan to afflict Job (see my notes on 2 Samuel 24) supposedly to win the argument with him.

You actually have quite an advanced view of the spiritual realm here. It's almost Greek in nature, with a court, where the spiritual beings argue. It's very separate to the physical realm - an idea that did not really exist in early Judaism. This leads me to believe that the early parts of the Torah were written before this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Esther 10

Mordecai second-in-command

King Xerxes was powerful, and received tribute from his Empire, and Mordecai was his No. 2. Mordecai became great and fought for the Jews.

Key verse:
3. he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.

My thoughts:
I think this is the shortest chapter so far - 3 verses.

Well, we have reached the most significant milestone in the Bible so far. We have finished the history books of the Old Testament, leaving us about halfway through the old testament, and a third of the way through the Bible. We now move onto the poetry, which will be quite cool, and will take a while, 243 days in fact, so I should finish the poetry later this year. 150 of those days will be Psalms.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Esther 9

The Jews strike back!

So the Jews had their right to fight back, and they did, and Mordecai became more powerful. They killed their enemies, but did not touch their plunder. Esther asked the king if Haman's ten sons could be hanged, which he agreed to.

They killed thousands.

All the Jews celebrated on the 14th and 15th days of the month Adar, and it later became a festival called Purim, when the Jews were saved from Haman. Mordecai informed everyone about Purim.

Key verse:
5. The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.

My thoughts:
It's the unfortunate reality that in this case, the Jews decided to exact revenge on their afflictors. It's kinda hard to justify in light of Christ's teaching. But having said that, most people consider killing a bunch of Nazi's was the best way to save the Jews in World War II.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Esther 8

A new law in place

And Esther got all of Haman's estate, and Mordecai was honoured and was put in charge of the estate.

Esther then again begged the king to reverse Haman's laws, and the king gave Esther the opportunity to write an edict from the king which couldn't be reversed. So they scripted an edict which allowed the Jews to fight against anyway who came against them and reversed Haman's laws.

The Jews rejoiced, and many people became Jews.

Key verse:
17. In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

My thoughts:
Though there has been brief mentions of converts to Judaism previously in the Bible, it now seems clear that such converts were becoming more common, and to be Jewish was a matter of faith rather than ethnicity.

You've got to wonder about the wisdom of giving someone free reign to make an irreversible law.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Esther 7

Haman's downfall

At the banquet, the king again asked Esther for her real request. She told him that a man was trying to kill Esther's entire race. The king asked who it was, and Esther said it was Haman.

The king became enraged at Haman, and after some fleeing, Haman got back to where Esther was begged for his life from Esther. Just then, the king, seeking Haman, walked in, and thought Haman was trying to molest Esther. They got Haman, and hung him on the massive gallows he had made for Mordecai.

Key verse:
3. If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.

My thoughts:
Again with the perfect timing.

Here we see Haman's downfall from a man of honour to a man who is humiliated in the streets, and who has to run for his life, and beg for it too. To me he seems like a coward, who knows that what he's doing is wrong, and has no excuse when things go wrong, and simply has to run.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Esther 6

God's sweet ironic timing

One night the king could not sleep, and so he had the Empire's history book read to him, and the part where Mordecai stopped a conspiracy was read out to him. The king asked what honour he received for this, and he was told that Mordecai was not honoured. The king asked who was in the king's courtroom.

Now, at that moment Haman had come in to ask for Mordecai to be killed. The king summoned him and asked him how a man should be honoured properly. Haman thought that he was about to be honoured, so he described a glorious triumph through the city for that person.

So the king asked Haman to organise that triumph for Mordecai. Oh the irony.

So Haman had no choice. He had to do it. He was gutted, and talked to his friends, but he had to go off to Esther's banquet.

Key verse:
13. Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!

My thoughts:
Ah, I love this. The timing is amazing. I reckon God loves a good story too.

I'm also not surprised that the king used a history book to send him to sleep.

Looking at the key verse, it seems like it would be so easy just to pop a phrase in there mentioning God, but the author chooses not to. I don't know why. Perhaps what is unsaid adds to the narrative.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Esther 5

Haman makes some gallows

Esther went into the king's court, and luckily he held out his scepter to her, and asked her what she wanted. She requested that they have a banquet and Haman be invited.

At the banquet, the king asked what Esther really wanted, but she only asked for another banquet.

Coming home from the banquet, Haman walked past Mordecai and got all snooty. When talking with his friends, it was suggested that he build a massive gallows and in the morning to ask the king that Mordecai be hung on it. He thought it was a good idea.

Key verse:
12-13. I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate.

My thoughts:
I think the book of Esther could make quite a cool movie set in a more modern era, like 1930s Germany or something.

Anywho. Esther's an interesting book as far as the Septuagint and things go. The Septuagint version is significantly different, and it's one of the most contested book in the Old Testament Canon. In general it just seems to be written later and in greek much more than other texts. However, it is in our Canon, and we accept it in faith. Despite not mentioning God, it is a true tale of his faithfulness.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Esther 4

Esther takes up her cross

Mordecai found out about the Jew-killing plan and ripped off his clothes and wept. He came to the king's gate, and Esther sent clothes out to him so he could enter, but he refused. Through her servant, Hathach, Esther found out about the new law, and Mordecai told her to go in front of the king and ask for the law to be reversed.

Esther reminded Mordecai that it had been a month since she had been summoned to the king, and if someone turned up unannounced, then they were killed, unless the king pointed at them with his scepter immediately. Mordecai replied saying that her options were not numerous, and if she did nothing, then someone else would save Israel but she'd die. Esther then asked Mordecai to get the Jews together and fast.

Key verse:
16. if I perish, I perish.

My thoughts:
What a powerful thing to say. "if I die, I die". I told a bunch of young people about a Mark Twain quote in the weekend, it was "If you haven't found anything worth dying for, then you aren't really living". It's so true.

If you are willing to lose it all for what you believe in, then you will always be in the position of power. The worst any person can do to you is kill you, and if that doesn't concern you, then you are pretty much untouchable.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Esther 3

Haman sets up his genocide plans

The king then made a man, Haman, have a highly honoured position. Everyone bowed to him, but Mordecai refused. Haman wasn't content on just killing Mordecai, he thought that killing the entire Jewish race would be a fairer judgement.

He told the king about this race who disobeyed the king's commands, and offered 10,000 talents of silver to have them killed.

So a law was made for all the Jews (yip... all of them) to be killed at a local level on the 13th of December.

Key verse:
15. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

My thoughts:
The key verse is a bit random. I put it there because it confuses me.

What is it with people wanting to kill the Jews? There are a lot of people who actually just want the Jews to not exist. Take Iran for example.

For such a insignificant people, the Jews manage to inhabit the centre of human history and current events.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Esther 2

Queen Esther

So the King set up a beauty contest across the empire to find a new Queen. There was a Benjamite Jew, Mordecai, who had taken in his second cousin, Hadassah, as his own daughter. Hadassah was also called Esther. She was hot.

She went into the beauty contest, and impressed everyone with her curves. She hid the fact that she was Jewish. After a year of beauty treatment, she got to go spend a night with the King, and if the king liked her and remembered her name, then she could go again. To cut a long story short. She won. What a surprise. She became the new Queen.

Mordecai later told her about a murderous conspiracy against the King, and she told the King, crediting Mordecai. The conspirers were killed.

Key verse:
10. Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.

My thoughts:
Sometimes people get asked who they'd like to meet if they could meet one person in all history. People often say names like Shakepeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, or Alexander the Great. If they're religious they might say Elijah, Paul or Jesus. I would say Esther. Not for her brain or personality. All I'm saying is that if she turned up to my door asking to play scrabble (in Hebrew), then I'd probably make time for a game of scrabble. Even if I was playing Xbox at the time. Apparently she looks like this. I'm sure that's a horrible misuse of

I particularly like the highly informative section on dinosaurs - "Satan corrupted some of the reptiles God originally created into the bizarre creatures we call dinosaurs."

Anyway, it's interesting that Esther deliberately doesn't say she's a Jew. Is it deception? Is it acceptable? Any thoughts?

My Bit:
Look at the date on your computer. Then look at the date of this post. Are they the same? Well that must mean I'm up to date with my posts! w00t! Anyway. I'm now about to go on a kids camp for 5 days, so I'll probably get behind again. Oh well. Might teach them the true cause of dinosaurs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Esther 1

Queen Vashti gets taught her place

King Xerxes of Persia wanted to show how awesome he was, so he had a massive 180 day show-off of the Empire's wealth, and then had a seven day banquet. Everyone got as much to drink as they wanted.

Meanwhile, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women. The King summoned her to his banquet after seven days, but she refused. The nobles thought that if people heard that the Queen had refused her husband, then all women would refuse their husbands. So they kicked her out, and sought a new queen, and they set out a law saying that men should rule their houses.

Key verse:
18. This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen's conduct will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.

My thoughts:
I'm just happy that this is a gentile law and command, so I don't have to pretend that it's somehow justifiable whilst maintaining gender equality.

Esther's quite a cool story. It's famous for not mentioning God at all, but God's is obviously working in favour of Esther, Mordecai and the Jews in the story. It's like the new Switchfoot album. It's got a JPM of zero, but it's still about Jesus.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah goes a'cleansin'

They read in the law that foreigners were not allowed to participate in temple worship, so they followed that. But whilst Nehemiah was away with the king, a mna, Eliashib used the temple's wealth to benefit his friend. When Nehemiah returned he was angry, and got rid of the benefits, and made sure the Levites got their fair portions.

He also noticed that the Sabbath rest was largely being ignored, so he rebuked the nobles for that, and made sure that the gates of Jerusalem were shut for the Sabbath, so no traders came.

He rebuked people for foreign wives and got rid of them.

Key verse:
31. Remember me with favor, O my God.

My thoughts:
Nehemiah's entire focus is on pleasing God, and people will see him as arrogant because of it. The purpose of him writing the story of his life and Jerusalem was to show God how he had fought His battles, and here in the last chapter, he asks God to remember his deeds, and the deeds of his enemies.

We need to think to ourselves. How much are we trying to please God, and how much are we trying to please others?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Nehemiah 12

The wall is dedicated

A bunch of Levites and priests came to Jerusalem.

When Jerusalem's wall was dedicated, all the Levites came and they had a great celebration. The followed around on top of the wall with Judah's leaders as they sang and played music. Half of the choir went one way, and half the other way around the wall. Then they came to the temple and offered sacrifices. In those days, all of Israel contributed to the temple workers.

Key verse:
43. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

My thoughts:
Why don't we have these big celebrations anymore? I remember doing march for Jesus as a kid, and in a way it's really cheesy, but it's also for a community to come together and worship God together.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nehemiah 11

The settlers to Jerusalem

One-tenth of the villagers of Judah were chosen to live in Jerusalem.

There were 468 descendants of Perez (Judah's son) who settled Jerusalem, 928 Benjamites, 822+242+128=1192 priests, 284 Levites, and 172 gatekeepers.

There were chiefs over each people group.

Key verse:
2. The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

My thoughts:
It's a bit weird that people were asked to live in Jerusalem instead of their towns, and this is obviously a service that they are doing and they are honoured for doing so. The fact that this is done shows the siginificance of Jerusalem. It is really Judah's only city.

My Bit:
I have to day, though it is unrelated, that this is quite possibly the best blonde joke ever!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nehemiah 10

The agreement of the people

About fifty officials signed the agreement, and all the people of Judah agreed to it.

They would not have foreign wives, they would follow the Sabbath day and the Sabbath year, they would make their payments to the temple, and keep up giving the tithes and firstfruits and doing the temple service.

Key verse:
39. We will not neglect the house of our God.

My thoughts:
This agreement is very Pharisaical. It is very centred on keeping the law personally, and exactly. It is focussed on the temple, and how Judah is centred around it, and how they will not neglect it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Nehemiah 9

The people recognise their sin and God's mercy

About that time, all people of Judah came and got rid of the foreigners and confessed their sins. They read the law, and praised and worshipped. They praised him for making everything, and for choosing them through Abram, for leading them out of Egypt, for the law and the manna in the desert. They confessed that their forefathers had sinned, and made an idol of a calf, and they praised God for forgiving them, and for leading them into their land. They recognised that whenever they sinned, they were oppressed, but that God was always there to take them back. They knew that their current hardship was just payment for their sin, and so they planned an agreement.

Key verse:
31. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

My thoughts:
This is quite a good brief summary of Israel's history from Abraham. The focus is on God's justice and mercy, compared to Israel's sin. It is important that Israel has recognised their shortcomings and their consequences, and ultimately that it persuading them to change.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nehemiah 8

Ezra teaches the law

When they had come, Ezra taught them from the law. He read it to them as they stood up to hear, and they praised God. Then Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites told the people to celebrate the day. They all lived in booths for the feast, as was prescribed in the law. The festival lasted seven days.

Key verse:
10. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

My thoughts:
So obviously Nehemiah and Ezra coexisted and knew each other. Though it may not have been completely clear before, it is not very clear that Israel has a book which they follow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah finds the records

Nehemiah set up his brother, Hanani, and commander, Hananiah, over Jerusalem, and told them to keep guard of it.

In trying to fill up the empty city, he found the records of those who had first come from Babylon. About 50,000 people from all towns and families, including the temple workers had come.

In the seventh month...

Key verse:
2. I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.

My thoughts:
This chapter ends mid-sentence, so that's why my summary ends mid-sentence.

I believe that the next bit of Nehemiah actually comes chronologically before what we've just read, as it is Nehemiah reading old records.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nehemiah 6

Nehemiah holds up

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem sent Nehemiah invites to meet, but Nehemiah denied them four times, knowing that they intended harm. The fifth time, they sent a message claiming that Nehemiah planned to revolt and become king of Judah. He denied this and prayed.

A man tried to make him hideout in the temple, but he wasn't from God, so Nehemiah didn't.

And the wall was completed

Key verse:
14. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done

My thoughts:
The temple is mentioned here. I guess that the temple was built first, as narrated in the book of Ezra, and the construction of the wall followed. That's new information to me at least.

Anyway, the wall is complete, Nehemiah has suceeded against strong opposition.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Nehemiah 5

The poor

The Jews started complaining that they had no money, and were all in debt. Nehemiah got angry with the official who had allowed this to happen. He made everyone make a promise to return debts and give back land.

Later, Nehemiah was appointed to be governor over Judah for twelve years. He didn't eat the governors food, but shared it with the poor and continued to work on the wall.

Key verse:
15. But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.

My thoughts:
Nehemiah must be in high repute to get such a government position. He is a good man who is devoted to restoring God's people, and he is not corrupted by wealth or power. It's good that the Persian government recognises this.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Nehemiah 4

More opposition

Tobiah and Sanballat mocked them, saying that their wall would not last. But the Jews kept working, prayed, and set up a constant guard. The Jews started being scared and tired, but Nehemiah beefed up the guards, and told them to trust God. So the Jews became very careful, and half of them worked, while the other half guarded.

Key verse:
14. Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.

My thoughts:
I remember hearing a talk on Nehemiah. The preacher said that Nehemiah trusted God, and knew that God was his saviour, but that that didn't stop him setting up guards. Whilst we do trust God, that doesn't mean we neglect to do the practical things.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Nehemiah 3

Everyone pitches in

Many different people restored different parts of the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

Key verse:
28. the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.

My thoughts:
This chapter would be more powerful if I knew the geography of Jerusalem better. The point is that many help, and much of Jerusalem's famous spots are rebuilt.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem

Nehemiah brought wine to the king, and the king asked him what was wrong, because he didn't normally look sad. Nehemiah said that his father's city was in ruins, and after praying, he asked to return there to rebuild it. The king agreed and gave him safe passage. Sanballat and Tobiah in Palestine were not pleased.

When Nehemiah reached Jerusalem, he secretly inspected the ruins, and then told the Jews to start rebuilding. At this point Sanballat and Tobiah and another enemy Geshem mocked them.

Key verse:
4. The king said to me, "What is it you want?"
Then I prayed to the God of heaven,

My thoughts:
Ah, arrow prayers. So useful. They are went you send a quick prayer up just when you need God's help. That's what Nehemiah needed here, and God helped him.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah's heart breaks for Israel

Nehemiah was in Babylon, and he heard from his brother than those back at Jerusalem were in trouble, and that the city was still in ruin. Nehemiah wept and prayed for Israel, confessing her sins, quoting scripture to God, quoting his promise to restore Israel is she turns back to him. He praying for success before the king. Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer.

Key verse:
6. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you.

My thoughts:
I love this. Nehemiah weeps for his nation, and he know what needs to be done. Repentance is needed. The Exile is a time of repentance, and Nehemiah realises this. The story of the universe is a fall-redemption story. That's how it goes.

This must be one of the first times the Bible quotes itself. The Torah must've been around as scripture when Nehemiah was written.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ezra 10

Israel repents

While Ezra was praying, the people of Israel came around him, felt guilty, and offered a solution. The foreign women would be sent away with their children. So they took an oath to do so.

So they called together all Jewish people at Jerusalem and got them to confess their sins, and get rid of their foreign wives. They agreed, but it was raining and impractical to do it there, so they set up a system for each town to get rid of its foreign wives. There was about 150 who had foreign wives with children.

Key verse:
3. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.

My thoughts:
I find it strange that of this whole book, the only thing Ezra really does it get rid of the foreign wives. The rest is letters and edicts.

Anyway, God's people has repented, and God has forgiven them. It always goes like that.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ezra 9


When Ezra got to Jerusalem, he heard that the Jews were mixing and intermarrying with the surrounding nations. He was gutted, and couldn't do anything but sit for ages. When he did get up, he prayed to God.

He prayed saying that he was ashamed, because God had given them this chance, and they were still continuing in the sins of their fathers. He praised God for still allowing the remnant to survive, despite their sin.

Key verse:
15. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.

My thoughts:
At least the people are aware that they cannot stand confidently before God.

Here we have an interesting issue. Why shouldn't the Jews marry foreigners? Isn't that pretty racist?

God's concern is this. Every nation has it's religion and gods. Israel has Yahweh, the one true God. If there is any union between nations, which is caused by marriage or treaty, then the lines between religions will always thin, and faiths will align. This ultimately means the faith of Israel's father's losing ground. God is a jealous God, and he is a pantheon of one, and no-one else is invited.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ezra 8

Ezra's journey

About 1500 men from many families came with Ezra to Jerusalem.

Ezra noticed he had a shortage of Levites with him, so he sent out for more. Before they left they fasted and prayed for safety. He put the gold and silver in the hands of the priests and Levites for keeping until they got to Jerusalem.

When they safely got to Jerusalem, they rested for three days before they worked, and they made a great offering to God.

Key verse:
22. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him."

My thoughts:
You almost feel that Ezra regrets saying that God will protect them. It's that often the case. We rely on God in what we say, but when it comes down to actually acting on that, we suddenly begin to doubt our faith. Ezra has full right to be afraid. They journey is dangerous, but ultimately he trusted God, and God got him there safely.