Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

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Satan Loses

Friday, February 09, 2018

Satan Loses- Revelation 9

We must be reminded that as John shares these signs and symbols of a vison, God shows him that he has not been dealing with literal hail, fire, burning mountain, sea of blood, etc. or now with real locusts, scorpions, and horsemen. The signs and symbols are used to convey ideas and reveal messages from God to man.  Neither should we become enamored with looking back in history for some terrible event. We need to see spiritual forces at work in the world of wicked men, forces which are symbolized by these monsters of the infernal realm. 

Chapter 9 is the ultimate expression that Satan and those who follow him will not be victorious. “As a man sows so shall he reap” (Gal. 6:7-8). If man turns from God and follows Satan he will live in misery (vs. 6). The burdens in the flesh produced by a life of sin are weighty.  There are many who live in misery as a consequence of sin. Disease, hunger and sorrow make life under the sun difficult. So miserable is a life of sin, man might rather die to find relief from his suffering, but even death eludes them. Sin produces its pleasure but it is only temporary (Heb. 11:25).  When the pleasure passes and turns into misery hurtful consequences follow because of the seeds sown. Life is lived in misery. Why would anyone bring on themselves such misery that produces bitterness and hurt?  The answer lies in the fact they were deceived by the things that at first seemed to be advantages. Fooled by fools gold. The promise of earthly pleasure, victory but ultimately, like sin, bring only calamity.

What is worse is there was no repentance (vs. 20-21).  This is the effect of sin. During war, it is said that when in great danger the most immoral men pray with all their heart. But once out of the foxholes and in safety, they return to their sinful ways.

We can see every day what sin does to others, and even ourselves: drug addiction, alcoholism, broken homes, shattered lives, imprisonment.  Yet cling tightly to hug this deadly serpent, receiving into their hearts and minds a constant flow of its poisonous venom. Both nature and revelation teach us that we must reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the exception. How can the devil so blind the eyes of rational beings?  Because we are not always rational. Why will they not see that God has inalterably decreed that all must repent or perish (Lk.13: 3, 5). That they must turn to God or suffer the torment. We cannot live a life of sin and die the death of the righteous. And before we can stand righteous before God we must have the cancer of sin removed from our soul by the blood of the Lamb. And before that can be done we must repent (or turn) from our sinful ways and crucify ourselves, by absolute submission to the Lord's divine plan leaning upon the grace and mercy of God who made us.

The Trumpets

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Trumpets - Revelation 8

With the breaking of the 7th seal, there are 7 angels, and 7 trumpets were given to them (one each). There’s something about Revelation and the number 7! 

Trumpets were used in various ways back in the OT. They were used to warn, to summon armies, to call an assembly, etc. (Joel 2:15; Ezek. 33:3). What’s interesting with these trumpets are their similarities to the plagues of Egypt. 


In chapter 7 the first four trumpets are blown, and with them come judgment upon the earth. We see the calamities on the earth – on the land, sea, waters, and even universe. The chapter ends with an eagle preparing the way for the final 3 trumpet blasts. They are called the 3 “woes” from the words of the eagle. 

To me, what’s most noticeable in this chapter is not the judgment of the trumpets, but what takes place before them. Before the sounding of these trumpets there is silence in heaven (8:1), and the prayers of the saints (pictured as the smoke of incense) are heard by God (8:3-4). There’s something to be said about a time of silent reflection, a time of meditation in prayer, before one acts or speaks. 

There’s also an interesting relationship between the prayers and the trumpets/judgments of the Lord (v. 3-5). One writer said, “[Prayer is the Christian’s] one form of direct participation in the rule of God” (D.T. Niles). Or, as Homer Hailey put it, “[In the battle with evil] the Christian’s secret weapon [is] the divine response to the prayer of faith.” This chapter reminds us of the strong confidence we can have that when God’s people pray, heaven listens, and heaven responds. 

Why pray for the sick? Why pray for the hurting? Why pray for our rulers, kings, and those in authority? Why pray about the harsh conditions we face in our life? Because God hears, God cares, and God answers (1 Pet. 5:7; Ps. 55:16-17). Don’t stop praying. 

“Gracious Father, it is an honor and privilege to speak to You, and to know You listen. There’s great comfort and strength knowing You care for Me, and will listen to my hearts cry to You, and that You will respond what is best – letting Your will be done. I long for the day we will speak face to face. Until then, draw me back to Your courts. Fill my heart with longing for Your presence. Like a deer who thirsts for water, let me thirst for You. Whether in news of great joy, or of sorrow and loss, let my first response be to come to You – to seek You – to pour my heart out to You. Thank You for prayer. Thank You for listening to someone like me. Help me today to listen to You – to hear Your words, to appreciate Your silence. Thank You for sharing this moment with me today, my Lord and my God.” 



Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Hope - Revelation 7

The purpose of Revelation 7 was to fill the faithful with courage to endure the sufferings which were about to strike the earth.  In the previous chapter the believers, who were already martyred for their faith, cried out to God asking, “How long until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10). God answers that question by the opening of the six seals which lock tight the revelation of God’s plan for the earth.  The first four seals show God positioning His instruments in place to execute His judgment on the wicked.  Then in the sixth seal the fearful judgment of God is pictured.  All of creation turns against the wicked— both great and small.  

Chapter 6 ends with a desperate question from the wicked, “The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (6:17). They can’t envision anyone surviving in the face of God’s judgment.

Chapter 7 answers that question, “Who is able to stand?” with the confident answer, “God’s people will!”

Up until this point the story of Revelation has been running at a fever pitch.  The story line has been one of war, famine, poverty, death, and destruction.  The faithful believer reading this Revelation might wonder, “How will I survive?”  So, the story of Revelation pauses to put a hand on the shoulder of the godly reader to say, “You will be alright, so stay faithful!”  

The scene opens with a picture of four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the wind.  These angels represent the four horsemen of the first four seals (The four horsemen imagery is taken from Zechariah 1 and 6 where they are also called, “the four winds of heaven” (Zech 6:5).  God has sent out His instruments of judgment.  They are positioned such that no one will be able to withstand them (“four corners” = surrounded; “the wind” = unstoppable).  All things are ready for the pouring out of God’s wrath.

Yet, God restrains His angels from acting.  They are pictured as “holding the four winds…so that the wind should not blow.”  Another angel arises to tell the four angels of God’s wrath to “not harm the earth … until” (7:3). It is clear that God’s plan for judgment is in place, but it is being restrained for now.  

Note: “The earth” is mostly used in Revelation to describe the wicked.  “The sea” describes the tumultuous nature of nations.  “The trees” may describe the mighty men among the wicked.  In other words, all of the wicked structure on earth from top to bottom would be affected by God’s coming judgment.  

“A multitude cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 10). The stabilizing anchor of the soul is hope (Heb. 6:19). When men have no hope of life after death, they are left to flounder in this world without purpose and they face death without peace. Every living person ought to conduct himself so that he can join the heavenly chorus. It is spiritually fatal to turn away from the salvation God has provided.

Harry Boer drew from this vision a significant meaning for today when he wrote:

In all the concern for security that surrounds us, there is a form of security that one hears little about. It is the security of our relationship to God. Yet it is the greatest of all securities, for it alone is a security that will continue, and what it guards is the best and deepest thing in life. Jesus said, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?" Again and again the Bible warns us to seek the things of primary worth and make them our greatest interest. Therefore we must first seek the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these other things will find their proper place.

The Breaking of the 1st 6 Seals

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

In chapter 5 we read of the Lamb taking the sealed scroll from the One on the throne (5:7). Chapter 6 opens with the Lamb breaking the seals. When the first four seals are broken we see 4 horses carrying riders (6:1-8). The images of horses takes us back to the prophecy of Zechariah (Zech. 1:8-10; 6:1-7). However there are some differences between the horses of Zechariah’s prophecy, and the horses read of here in Revelation. Zechariahs’ pulled chariots; Revelation’s had riders. Zechariah’s brought a report; Revelation’s brought destruction. There’s also a difference in colors described. The colors of the horses in Revelation seem to correspond to the destruction they bring. 

The four horses could represent 1 of 2 thoughts. Some see these four as representing the struggle of God’s people on earth. As the gospel went forth (perhaps pictured by the 1st horse and rider) it brought pain and suffering upon God’s people. This view summarizes the visions this way: 

§  1 – Triumph – The victorious gospel going forth into the world  

§  2 – Turmoil – as typified in war with the slaughter of many innocents (especially Christians) 

§  3 – Trial – such as economic hardship on those not slaughtered (especially Christians) 

§  4 – Tribulation – experienced throughout the world, climaxed by death from many unnatural causes (for both Christians and non-Christians) 

The other way of interpreting these four are God’s judgment upon the wicked who persecute His people (specifically at this time – Rome). Each horse and rider represent a different tool God will wield in judgment upon the earth. 

Things take an interesting shift when the 5th seal is broken. Saints who have been martyred are crying for God’s action – for His vengeance upon the enemy (v. 9-10). They’re crying for justice. They’re looking for God’s response to the suffering they’ve experienced. His answer: it won’t be very long (v. 11). 

Indeed it wasn’t. The 6th seal is broken and we read of a great scene of judgment on the earth – earthquake, sun darkened, falling of stars, the sky splitting apart. God heard, and God answered. Notice the question asked in v. 17, “who is able to stand?” Who can withstand the judgment of God? Who can hide from His hand? The answer is obvious – none. 

Chapter 6 is a helpful reminder for Christians then and today – God knows our suffering. God hears our prayers. And God will answer in His time. Will God judge the wicked? Will God deliver the righteous? Will God answer the cries of His people? Yes – in His time. We sing the words, “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” Don’t give up on God. Place your trust in the King on the throne, and trust that His answer, and His timing is best. 

“Wonderful God, what a blessing and privilege to call on Your name. You hear our prayers. You see our tears. You know what’s happening in our lives – nothing escapes your notice. Thank you for this powerful reminder today of your justice and compassion. I trust Your judgment. I trust in Your words. And I trust in Your timing. I look to You as my Rock, my Fortress, my Strong-tower, my Strength and my Shield. Help me to wait on You. Help me to realize that Your will, Your answer, and Your timetable is always best – oh King of my life.”   

The Throne

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Throne - Revelation 4-5

The book of Revelation begins with the words, “The Revelation Of Jesus Christ.”  The book was given to allow God’s people to look behind the scenes.  They were going through terrible persecution for their faith.  Did God know?  Was He planning to do something about it?  

John responds, “Yes, God knows, and He is going to do something about your situation soon.”  That news gave theseChristians great comfort. And, it gives us great comfort to know that our God knows about our needs and is working to bring about His will. 

In chapter one, the introduction, we see a glorified picture of Jesus in heaven.  Then Jesus writes to the seven church words of warning and comfort in which He urges them to be faithful in the midst of their trials—that was chapter 2-3.  

Now in chapters four and five, God calls us to consider the situation in heaven.  We have a glorious picture of God the Father, and Jesus, the Lamb of God in Heaven.  There is a great contrast between chapters one through three and chapters four through five.  In chapter one, John is on the desolate island of Patmos, suffering.  In chapters four through five, heaven is filled with glory.  In chapters two through three, there is great confusion on earth, both within and outside the church.  In chapters four through five, there is order and purity in heaven.

Chapters four through five describe the throne scene in heaven, but they emphasize different truths about it.  Chapter four emphasizes that God is on the throne and reigning over His creation. Chapter five emphasizes that Jesus is the Lamb of God who has redeemed His people.  Put together, God cares about what is going on because we are His creation and we are His redeemed people.  He made us and redeemed us.

This emphasis is seen in the hymns in each section.  Revelation 4:11 says God ought to be praised because He, “created all things.”  Then the hymn of chapter five says Jesus ought to be praised because He “redeemed us to God” (Rev. 5:9-10).  Chapter four shows God’s control over the old creation, our physical life.  Chapter five shows Jesus in control over the new creation, our spiritual life.  

Chapter four is about God the Father.  Chapter five is about God the Son.  Both chapters are written to increase our faith in Them.  

The main message and overall purpose of chapters four through five is to show us that God is in control. He is not withdrawn from the world, nor unaware of His people’s plight.  He knows, He is working, and He will work all things out according to His righteous purpose—because He is in control.

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