Getting Ready

Bible:

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:4-6 ESV

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5 ESV

Reflection:

Being a nurse is a challenging and rewarding job, and people who become nurses have to go to school first and learn how to do the work. At school they study books and learn the right way to do things and the reasons why things are done a certain way. After they have studied for awhile, the students practice doing the work. They might practice on dolls as big as people, and they might also practice on each other. When they practice, their teachers watch them and tell them what they are doing wrong and what they need to improve. All of this studying and practicing helps them get ready for the big day when they first start taking care of real people.

The prophet Malachi talked about the people getting ready for the promised Savior. First he talked about the law God had given them through Moses. This law showed them what God was like and how he wanted them to live. Then Malachi told them again about a messenger who would be like Elijah and would come and get people ready to meet the promised Savior. This messenger would call people away from their sins and bring families back together so that fathers could teach their children the ways of God. The Day of the Lord was coming, and if people weren’t ready to meet the promised Savior, they would instead earn God’s judgment.

John the Baptist was the promised messenger, and he called the people to turn away from their sins. They had not followed God’s law, and they deserved his judgment, but if they would repent, the promised Savior would forgive them and bring them back to their Heavenly Father. Jesus was the promised Savior, and this promise is also for us. We’ve sinned against God’s law, but Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. We can come to Jesus every day for forgiveness and help. He sends us his Holy Spirit and helps us to follow God’s ways. Instead of judgment, we have the Lord’s blessing, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to give us forgiveness and blessings from our Heavenly Father. Amen.

The Sun of Righteousness

Bible:

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 4:1-3 ESV

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35-36 ESV

Reflection:

Some people get very sad and depressed when fall and winter come, especially if they live far from the equator and the days get very short. There isn’t much sunshine, and the sun rises later and later and sets earlier and earlier. One thing that doctors do to help people with this problem is to give them some bright lights to sit by every day. This helps, but what can be even more helpful is for them to make sure they get as much sunshine as they can. Even if it is cold, people who get sad during the winter should sit outside, take a long walk every day, and eat lunch in a park if they can. They should open their blinds to let the sunshine into their home and trim back tree branches that block out the sun. The light of the sun brings healing to people who are sad and depressed.

The prophet Malachi spoke words from the Lord that used a lot of pictures. He talked about wicked people who would be burned like the stubble of plants, all the way down to the roots. Then he talked about the rising sun of righteousness with healing on its wings. This gives us the picture of the healing the light of the sun can bring to people who are sad and depressed. Then Malachi talks about God’s people being as happy and joyful as young calves, leaping out of their stalls to eat fresh grass in the spring. Finally, the prophet gives us the picture of the people of God stamping on wicked people. People who continue to rebel against the Lord and hurt his people will not have any power to cause them pain anymore.

The promised Savior came to bring these blessings to everyone who believes in him. Jesus brought healing with him, and he not only healed people who were sick, but he also brought the good news that God’s kingdom had come in him. Jesus brought us into his kingdom when he died on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven. We don’t have to be afraid of God’s judgment because Jesus has paid for our sins. We know that in God’s time we will know full healing from every sickness and sadness, and that a time will come when the evil in this world will no longer hurt us. Jesus defeated sin and all the forces of evil, and at the final judgment he will bring all death and sorrow to an end and let us share in his final victory forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and forgiveness and healing. Amen.

Source:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20021047

Robbing God

Bible:

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:6-12 ESV

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. II Corinthians 8:1-5 ESV

Reflection:

There was once a man and his wife who didn’t like to share anything with anyone. They would invite a guest to their home for dinner, but they never wanted to give the guest any food. So when dinner was served, the man would ask his guest one question after another so that the guest wouldn’t be able to eat, and then his wife would take a turn asking questions. The poor guest would never get a bit of food, because the husband and wife would eat it all while they kept him talking, and then they would say, “Why didn’t you eat? Now, unfortunately, there is nothing left. You shouldn’t talk so much.”

Malachi spoke to God’s people for doing something similar. They didn’t want to give anything to God, and instead they wanted to keep all the blessings God gave them for themselves. Even though everything they had came from the Lord, and he had given them the law that they were to remember him by giving a tenth of their income as well as special gifts, they weren’t giving the Lord the gifts they should have. These gifts were meant to keep the worship in the temple going, and they were a reminder to the people that they and everything they had really belonged to the Lord, and that they should put God first in their lives. Because they weren’t doing that, God was withholding his blessing of rain and sending pests to destroy their crops, but he promised to pour down his blessings on them if they would return to him.

God doesn’t really need our money or the other gifts we give, but he does want our hearts and our lives. When we give God ourselves, we make it priority to give money to support the things of God and to help others. The Apostle Paul talked about some Christians in Macedonia who were very poor, but they gave themselves to God, and when they had done that they were able to give very generously to help the poor, even though they didn’t have much for themselves. God came to us in Jesus and gave himself up for us on the cross. Jesus gave us his life so that we could be God’s people forever, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us give our hearts and our lives back to him, and to cheerfully give money to the things of God and to help other people.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself for us. Help us to give you our hearts and our lives. Amen.

Source:

http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/the-stingy-host/2015/01/23/

The Refiner’s Fire

Bible:

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Malachi 3:1-4 ESV

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

[John said:] “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-2, 5-6, 11-12 ESV

Reflection:

In the ancient world, the way to refine gold or silver was to use fire. The ancients would use a blast furnace, built of clay or stone or rocks, and build a very hot fire in it. Besides a blast furnace, they needed a crucible, which was a container of clay or cast iron. The rocks that people wanted to refine were put into the crucible, and then heated in the blast furnace. The silver or gold would melt and then be separated from the impurities in the rocks, and in that way the precious metals would be made pure and ready to use for coins or jewelry or other purposes.

The prophet Malachi talked about a messenger who was coming to prepare the way for the Lord, and then soon after the messenger came, the Lord himself would come to his people. It was a day God’s people were looking forward to, but Malachi warned them that the coming of the Lord would be very difficult. The promised Savior would be like a refiner of silver or gold, and would purify his people of their sins. He would speak words of judgment to the people that would burn them like a fire.

The messenger God promised was John the Baptist, and Jesus is the promised Savior. Both of them spoke words of judgment to the people against their sins. We also are sinful people and deserving of the judgment they proclaimed. But Jesus took all the judgment of God on himself when he died on the cross for us. Because of what Jesus did, our sins are forgiven. Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit to purify our lives, and he helps us to offer ourselves to God and to live lives that are pleasing to him.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking on God’s judgment for our sakes. Please purify us from sin and help us give our lives to you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.coinandbullionpages.com/silver-gold-history/gold-refining-equipment-of-the-ancient-world.html

A Foolish Trade

Bible:

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” Malachi 2:10-11, 13-16 ESV

And Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:3-6 ESV

Reflection:

Hans had worked hard for seven years, and now it was time for him to be paid and to go home. He had been a very good worker, and his master gave him a lump of gold as big as his head. It was heavy and hard to carry, and when Hans saw a man ride by on a horse, he asked if he could trade the gold for the horse. This was a very foolish trade, but Hans didn’t stop to think about how much his gold was worth or what he could do with the gold after he got home. All he could think about was how heavy it was getting, and how fast the horse would carry him. But the horse’s owner wasn’t so foolish, and he quickly made the trade.

God’s people were making the same kind of foolish trade. The men were divorcing the women they had married when they were young, and some of them were marrying foreign women who worshiped false gods and goddesses. They were giving up on the marriages that God wanted to bless. The Lord would have given these marriages his Holy Spirit so that they could worship and serve God together and have children they could raise to love the Lord, but instead the men were marrying women who would turn their hearts away from God and teach them to worship false gods. The prophet Malachi told them that it was as terrible as violence when they broke their promises to their first wives.

God hates the broken promises of divorce and the way children are hurt by it. He also wants his people to marry other Christians so that they can worship the Lord together and raise their children to know him. When divorce happens, it can feel like being hit hard in the stomach. People sometimes sin against God and let others down, but even if that happens, we can be sure that the Lord will never let us down. The Bible sometimes pictures Jesus as a loving husband who cares for his people the way a good husband loves his wife. Jesus came to give his life for his church, and his death on the cross gives us his forgiveness and love always. Jesus will never leave us or stop loving us, no matter what.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and dying for us so that we could be your people always. Amen.

Source:

http://germanstories.vcu.edu/grimm/hans_eng.html

Insulting Sacrifices

Bible:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” Malachi 1:6-14 ESV

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. I Peter 1:14-19 ESV

Reflection:

Shakespeare told the story that Henry V of England believed he had a rightful claim to the throne of France. He was making plans to set out for France to make war and to take the throne there. The son of the king of France, called the dauphin, sent Henry a birthday present of tennis balls. This gift was meant to be an insult. The tennis balls said that Henry was young and immature and only cared about playing games. The dauphin of France didn’t respect Henry or his claims, and he showed that by his gift.

The people of God were offering gifts to him that were also very insulting, and the Lord spoke to the people through the prophet Malachi. He said that it was insulting for people to offer sacrifices of blind or lame or sick animals. They were keeping the good animals for themselves and offering God the worthless animals. In doing this they showed that they didn’t respect the Lord at all. The prophet asked them if they would offer that kind of gift to their governor and expect him to be pleased. God was so displeased that he wished they would just close the doors to the temple rather than offer these disrespectful sacrifices. He was their king, and he reminded them that his name would someday be praised not only by the Jewish people, but by people all around the world. The Jews had the privilege of coming to his temple and offering sacrifices, but they were acting as if they were tired of the whole thing.

We’ve all showed a deep disrespect for God by our sins, but God gave us his very best when he gave us Jesus, his Son. Jesus offered himself as a perfect sacrifice, without any kind of blemish at all. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross, all our sins are forgiven. We can offer our lives to God as our gift to him. Even the best we have to offer the Lord will fall short of his holiness and perfection, but God accepts our lives for Jesus’ sake. He helps us to live new lives that are worthy of him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your best and for forgiving our sins. Help us to offer you our best. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Shakespeare, William Henry V

Keeping the Sabbath

Bible:

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”

As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love. Nehemiah 13:15-22 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Reflection:

Jack Benny was a famous comedian many years ago, and in his comedy routines he was very stingy about money. One time he did a comedy routine where a man came up to him and said that it was a stickup. Jack Benny was afraid, and said, “Put down that gun!” The man said, “Your money or your life!” but Jack didn’t answer right away. The other man got impatient. “Look, Bud! I said, ‘Your money or your life!'” Jack replied, “I’m thinking it over!” Jack Benny’s priorities were very silly. He wasn’t sure what was most important to him, to have his money or to be alive.

At the time of Nehemiah, God’s people’s priorities were getting mixed up, too. The Lord had once again given them rest in their own land, but they weren’t keeping the Sabbath. They were loading their donkeys with all kind of grain, grapes, figs, and other things to sell and bringing them into Jerusalem to set up a market. God meant the Sabbath day to be a day of rest when they could worship him and not have to work and also give their servants and animals a rest. God’s Sabbath was a wonderful gift to them, but instead of enjoying this gift all they seemed to care about was making more money. Nehemiah put an end to the practice. He scolded the people and made sure the gates of Jerusalem stayed closed on the Sabbath. If people came to wait outside the gates he warned them that they would be arrested if they did that again.

God has also given us the wonderful gift of rest. He wants us to take time to worship him and to take a break from work. This shows that we trust in him to provide for our needs and that we care about him more than we care about money. The greatest need we have is to have our sins forgiven, and God provided that for us in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and he promises rest for everyone who comes to him. Knowing the love and forgiveness of God in Jesus is the best rest of all.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us rest and peace through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

Weeping and Celebration

Bible:

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 ESV

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Reflection:

Mr. and Mrs. Bixby were having their thirtieth wedding anniversary, and one of the things they did was to renew their wedding vows. After they did that, Mrs. Bixby started to cry. Their marriage hadn’t always been a happy one. They had had some bad fights, and they had been separated for awhile. Mrs. Bixby had even spent some time with other men. When she thought of how the promises she had made when they got married had been broken and about all their hard times, it made her sad. But her husband comforted her and told her it wasn’t a time for crying. It was a day to be happy. They were married and happy to be together, and they had made their promises to each other new again. That was something to celebrate.

The same thing happened when Ezra had finished reading God’s law to the people. They started to weep when they thought of all the ways they had been unfaithful to the covenant the Lord had made with them, and of the way they had lived away from the promised land in exile. They had worshiped false gods and goddesses and broken God’s law many times. But now they had come together to hear the law again and to remember once again that they were God’s people. Ezra and Nehemiah told the people that it was a holy day, and that instead of crying they should be happy and celebrate. So they went home and had festive meals and made sure no one was without good food to celebrate with.

We also are sad when we think of the ways we sin against God and disobey his law. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day and calls us his people. Our sins might make us sad, but God’s forgiveness is a reason to celebrate!

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the forgiveness you give us every day in Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Hearing and Learning the Law

Bible:

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6 ESV

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:9-13 ESV

Reflection:

One Fourth of July Pa Ingalls took his daughters Laura and Carrie into town to see the festivities and join in the celebration. It was the American Independence Day, and there were horse races and firecrackers and lemonade. Before the horse races started, a man stood by a flagpole where the American flag was flying and read the Declaration of Independence, while everyone listened and the men and boys took off their hats in respect. It was a reminder of what they were celebrating, and of who they were as American people. Listening to the reading made everyone feel very solemn. When it was finished, they all sang, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” together.

When the walls and the gates of Jerusalem were finished, the people of Judah came together. Do you remember Ezra, who had come a little earlier from Babylon to teach people the law of God? He stood by a gate this day and read the law to the people. It was a reminder to them of who they were and of God’s covenant with them. The people all stood in respect for the words of God’s law, and then they bowed and worshiped. It was a very important time for the people to come together and remember that they were God’s people, and that they needed to learn again to walk in the ways of the Lord.

God has made us his people through Jesus, who died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could return to our Heavenly Father. We need to remember who we are and to learn to walk with God every day, but he doesn’t leave us on our own to do that. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us and to walk with us, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us through God’s word, the Bible. God’s word reminds us of who we are and teaches us God’s ways, and every day we can come to the Lord for forgiveness and help and strength. Our Heavenly Father will keep us as his people always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us and to make us your people. Please keep us close to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Wilder, Laura Ingalls Little Town on the Prairie New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941.

Death Threats

Bible:

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid. Nehemiah 6:10-14 ESV

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African American pastor who spoke and worked hard for civil rights for black people in the United States. Many people didn’t like what he was doing, and once a bomb was tossed outside of his living room, putting him and his family in danger. He often received death threats in the mail, and for awhile he considered carrying a gun to protect himself and his family. But he decided not to do that. One of his main messages was the idea of non-violence. That meant that no matter what people did to him or to the people who supported him, they would never respond by being violent back. They would always try to stay calm and peaceful. Dr. King knew that if he carried a gun, it wouldn’t be consistent with the message of peace he was trying to preach.

Nehemiah also received death threats over and over again. A false prophetess named Noadiah and some other false prophets even predicted that he would die soon. Nehemiah’s enemies were trying to scare him, and they were also trying to make him do something that would have been shameful for him. They wanted him to go into the temple and hide there, but that wouldn’t have been right. Nehemiah wasn’t a priest or a Levite, and God’s law didn’t allow him to go into the holy places of the temple. If he had done that, his enemies could have pointed out this sin and made fun of him and given him a bad name. Nehemiah kept on putting his trust in God and didn’t listen to the terrible messages his enemies were giving him.

Sometime when we are afraid we are tempted to do things that are against God’s law. We might also think of doing something wrong, like stealing or cursing, because people are laughing at us or bullying us for being Christians. But if we give in and break God’s law because we are scared or embarrassed, it will bring shame to us and to our Heavenly Father. Jesus came to die on the cross to take all our shame away, and he is always ready to forgive us when we are weak and act in a shameful way. The Lord sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us strong and to help us stay true to God, no matter what other people might try to do to us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive us for the times we are weak and turn away from you, and help us to be strong and to trust you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/may/24/martin-luther-king-racial-segregation