Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Israel has reached the Promised Land. They are camped on the other side of the Jordan, about to cross and begin their conquest. Numbers 33 gives us a recap over Israel's journeys up to this point - how they came from Egypt and arrived here 40 years later. The chapter ends with God's instructions for when they cross into the land. They were to drive out the inhabitants. God knew the other nations would influence Israel for evil (v. 55), and continue to be a source of pain. So God instructed them to clear out the nations, destroy any idol and high places they found (v. 52), and then settle and distribute the land (v. 53-54).
A song came to mind as I read through this chapter today - "On the road again...". For 40 years Israel was on the move, constantly on the go. Did you notice all the places they visited? Yet in all their wandering they didn't stay put. They didn't set up houses in the wilderness. They kept on moving. They kept on traveling, following their God who led them. God had a destination for His people. He had a land in store for Israel. Though their sin slowed down the journey, God intended for His people (the next generation) to claim that promised land. Numbers 33 helps us appreciate terms such as, "pilgrim" or "sojourner." Think about that - for 40 years they didn't have a place to call home. They'd arrive at a place, but before too long they'd be on the road again - on the move towards the promised land.
What difference would it make for Christians to see ourselves as "pilgrims"? As sojourners? As a people who are "on the road again?" It would help us realize, as we sing, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." We may not be so consumed with laying up treasures on earth, as we would be laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20). I read a great quote the other day which said, "Let's not be so enamored with the concerns of earth that we fail to focus on the realities of heaven." In other words - this life with all it's joys and pleasures, with all it's pains and heartaches, it's not the promised land. We're on the road. We're seeking a heavenly country. We're pressing on to higher ground. We're headed home.
Don't let where you are, or where you've been distract you from where you're going. Remember - you're a pilgrim. We're headed home. Share that joy with those around you - they need to know about heaven. When your days are dark and you're feeling burdened with the cares and problems of today - remember heaven. There's a place prepared for you. There's a home that's ready for you. There's a Savior waiting for you. Press on pilgrim!
Our amazing God, You are our Leader, our Shepherd, the Light to our path, our Guide through this life. Where You lead, we will follow. You are the source of joy and goodness, we know that our greatest desires find their fulfillment in You. What a hope You've given to us - the forgiveness of our sins, eternal life, a home prepared, to dwell in heaven with You. Oh Father we long for heaven. We dream of heaven. We sing of heaven. We can't wait for the day we see You, and reach that promised land of rest. Thank You for giving Your Son, the source of hope, the One who made this hope possible, the One who prepared the way to You. Help us to remember we are pilgrims. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on You, to set them on things above, not on the things below. On this Lord's Day we worship You as our Savior, Redeemer, our Hope, our Rock. You Father, are our home. We long for the day we worship face to face with You. Living in Your home for all eternity - thank You for that blessed hope!
A successful community or nation depends not only on keeping our word and trust in God for victory, it also depends on the loyalty of people to each other. Patriotism is the word that best describes this attitude.
The time has come for Israel to enter the land (Numbers 32). The children of Gad and Reuben requested to stay on the other side of the Jordan. When they made this request it looked as though they were not going to enter the land and fight with their brethren. They are called a “brood of sinners” (Numbers 32:14). They carefully explained to Moses that they would fulfill their obligation to their brethren to fight alongside of them as they conquered Canaan. Only after that was done would they then settle on the other side of the river.
At first their patriotism was questioned. Perhaps they worded their request poorly. Perhaps other jumped to conclusions. It was important that they fulfill their obligation. It is not an exact parallel but how loyal are we to the people of God with whom we have fellowship? Is there a feeling of patriotism? Is that filial devotion to help each attain the goal important to us?
We live in a world that values independence. Yet, in God’s family the emphasis is on loyalty to God and each other. The metaphor used often is that of the body. The point is, that every member of the body is important and has a part to play. The body depends on the loyalty of other members to fulfill their role. When the members of the body begin to fight against each other there is sickness. In some cases death when the body turns on itself.
Just as Israel needed Reuben and Gad to fight alongside their brothers, so we need each other to help us in our struggle to conquer Satan. We need each other to fight side by side. We need each other to lift up one another when down. When injured we need each other to carry one another.
Patriotism for our Lord and for one another is so very important. How patriotic am I?
Our context today describes the slaughter of the Midianites. They were destroyed by Israel as punishment for their role in Israel’s sin with Baal (Numbers 25). At the end of that story, God had told the Israelites to “Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them” (25:17). The command needed to be carried out before they crossed over into the promised land.
At God’s command 12,000 men destroyed the Midianites. But some of the soldiers brought home Midianite women and boys. Moses became angry, and ordered that these captors should also be killed, only the young females were allowed to live. The virgin girls could become servants, daughters, and wives to the Israelites and become Israelites themselves (see Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
The scene is bleak – as are war scenes. Such chapters remind us of the wretchedness of sin. This whole battle came out of a response of what Midian had done to Israel, leading them into sin and away from God. 24,000 Israelites had died for their sin with Midianite women (25:9). But this vengeance was not merely from Israel – it was from God (v. 3). Israel belonged to God – thus to oppose Israel was to oppose God.
While this may cause us to think about the justice of God and His righteous judgment, here’s a thought I took away from today – don’t be like Midian. They didn’t attack Israel, they influenced Israel. They didn’t steal their gold, they stole their hearts. They led the people away from God into sin.
Listen to what Jesus would say about this: “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). To personally sin is bad, but to lead another into sin is very bad. So bad, that drowning is preferable to causing another to stumble. I have the ability to influence others for good or evil. I need to ensure that I don’t cause another to stumble – whether through a bad influence (like Midian), or through causing someone to violate their conscience (see Rom. 14:15). These little ones believe in Jesus (v. 6). Don’t weaken their faith. Don’t cause them to question or doubt their faith. Don’t burden them with your personal opinions and judgments. Don’t push them away from Christ.
Build them. Strengthen them. Be patient with them. Thank God for new Christians – both young in faith and young in age. Be a source of encouragement and help for them. Mentor them. Help train them. Notice if they get discouraged or confused and help ease their minds. Be a source for good. Who knows – they may be the mature Christian teaching a new generation of babes in Christ – all because you helped them mature and grow along the way.
Holy Father, we know from our reading today that You take sin seriously. Help us to see sin as You see sin – to see temptation as You see temptation – and to be devoted to living the holy, pure lives You’ve called us to live. Forgive us if we’ve caused another to stumble through our words or attitudes. Help us to pay attention to our influence, and to resolve to be a source of strength to others, especially for the young in faith. Thank You Father for the babes in Christ – what a blessing they are. Thank You for their decision, their commitment, their curiosity for truth. Help us to help them – to be patient with them as others were with us. Help us to strengthen these young in faith, that they one day may be the mature – leading and teaching a new generation of babes in Christ. And all the good that may be done, and continue to be done, is for Your glory – our gracious Lord, the Giver of all that is good!
Keeping What We Vow
The vow between a man, woman and God should be taken seriously. In Numbers 30 Moses addresses the importance of vows given by men and women. These vows were not arbitrary.
For forty years Israel has been wondering. Now that they are about ready to enter the Promised Land they had to accept and apply basic principles Moses gives them. This chapter is really simple; if one makes a vow one must keep it. And, if one hears the vow but remains silent, silent means consent.
The home is the most basic unit of society. When the home is harmonious and fruitful the nation will be as well. If we look at our world today we see the home is shattered and in many cases non-existence. It is any wonder that the world is in chaos? Lessons learned in the home prepare one for life.
For example, the lesson of self-discipline is learned in the home. Self- discipline is opposite self- indulgence. When a vow is taken the man and woman must exercise self-discipline. Self-discipline keeps the marriage pure. Self-discipline also applies to how we keep ourselves. If we just let ourselves go it may be harder to say, “No” when “No” should be said. It may be harder to say “Yes” when ”Yes” needs to be said. Closely connected to self-discipline is self-control. Both speak to the heart of an individual. The one who can control self is greater than one who can control a nation (Prov. 16:32). How about controlling our anger? Our tongue? Our eyes? We want to say the right things, see the proper things and have the right disposition. Those do not come by accident.
Another lesson learned in the home is respect. Respect for those in authority. The lesson is learned when each one in the family recognizes his or her place or role. When children see Mother respect Daddy and Daddy respect Mother they will see respect for others is important. When parents respect children and children respect parents, children learn to respect authority and how to give dignity to others. It is not unusual to hear someone say, “Those kids….” I wonder if there a kid problem or respect problem. Are parents teaching respect and living respectfully in the home? I heard a young boy on the news after the recent election answer when asked, “Why did you start that fire in the street?” He said, “Because I wanted to.” He was surrounded by anarchist. He was learning the lesson well. I wondered where were his parents?
Vows begin with man, woman and God. They keep the home glued together. They produce lives and hearts in people who keep their word. Not simply to each other but more importantly
Our chapter today continues the regulations over the different offerings. This chapter focuses on the offerings at the feasts which occurred during the seventh moth of the year: the first day, for the feast of Trumpets (v. 1-6; Lev. 23:23-25), on the tenth day, for the Day of Atonement (v. 7-11; Lev. 23:26-32); and the fifteenth day for the following 8 days, for the Feast of Booths (v. 12-38; Lev. 23:34-36).
Here are some thoughts from this context today:
God intended for worship and sacrifice to be a central part to the life of His people. Every day, every week, every month, several times each year – God’s people would be reminded of what He had done for them and of how devoted they should be to Him. This ought to describe us – a people devoted to worship – not just on Sunday’s and Wednesdays – but every day! We offer our words of thanks and praise in song and prayer to God. We lift Him up and give Him glory every day – remember His goodness, reflect upon the sacrifice of His Son, every day!
These different offerings/feasts required Israel to worship God collectively. Certainly there were personal sacrifices required for the forgiveness of their sins. But God’s people were to offer sacrifices regularly, as a nation, a community, a family. There’s something special about being together – worshipping together – collectively honoring God. Our times together are special. They make such a difference on the heart. The Hebrew writer knew this (Heb. 10:24-25). We can stir one another up to love and good works by our time together in worship. Are you feeling low, discouraged, needing a reminder of who you ought to be, an encouragement to keep on doing what’s right? Worship with the Saints. Gather with the Saints. Spend time with God’s people.
Gathering with God’s people can be a time of refreshing, reminding, returning to God and renewal of our commitment to Him. We remember we’re not alone – we’re not alone in our struggles, not alone in our faith. Brother Wilson Adams put it this way:
They are parents burdened because of their prodigal children…
They are grandparents raising grandchildren because if they don't…
They are caregivers wondering if anyone understands…
They are single parents facing double duty…
They are brethren struggling with secret sins and failing again…
They are smiling faces hoping to hide their depression…
They are a childless couple facing disappointment (again)…
They are folks facing both cancer and fears…
They are parents who have had to do the unthinkable: bury a child…
They are parents struggling to raise a special needs child…
They are brothers and sisters who have done everything they know to keep their marriage going, but failed…
They are widows who sit down as one at a table for two…
They are sisters who harbor the secret of being a battered wife…
They are stepparents who seem to be on the outside looking in…
They are the lonely, the scared, the hurting…
But they come. They come to the Table to share their grief with the One who gave His all. They come to lift up their voice in song while brushing away a tear. They come to pray and connect with their only hope. They come to encourage someone else while hoping someone will encourage them. They come to hear the Good News and hope to take something away that will heal their hurt.
These are the people in the pew. Funny, they look a lot like you…and me. At least we come.
When the Saints are gathered to worship – come. Come as you are. Come be with the family. Come bring your offering. Come in strength, or in weakness. Come with joy or with tears. Come. We need you. I need you – just as you need me. Come.
Our Heavenly Father, You are worthy of all honor, glory, and praise. We live to glorify You – to make Your greatness known. Thank You for times of worship – what a joy, what a privilege, what a blessing – to be refreshed and renewed, encouraged and uplifted, prepared and equipped, comforted by You and our family in Christ. Help us to make worship part of our daily life – to spend time in Your words, to speak words of praise in song and prayer. And help us to long for our worship together as a family at Campbell Road. You are the One who is great and awesome. United or apart we share the same thought – Blessed be the Lord – our wonderful, glorious God!