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READING: Nehemiah 9-10 – National Confession of Sin


Following the celebration of the Feast of Booths and the solemn assembly, the next day the people of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads, prompted by Ezra’s daily reading of the law of Moses given to him by the LORD. 

They stood and read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for three hours; then they made confession and worshiped the LORD for another three hours. 

A national confession of sin for our nation is in order, but how? This confession by the people of Israel came after reading Scripture, for twelve hours on the first day of the seventh month, followed by a daily reading by Ezra during the Feast of Booths plus the solemn assembly. The Scripture reading set the stage for the assembly. We don’t know what happened in that assembly, but we know the next day they came with sackcloth, torn clothes, and dirt on their heads. They listened to Scripture reading, standing for three hours before they began three hours of National Confession of Sins. 

Ezra then prayed about Israel’s sinfulness. God alone had made the heavens and earth. The LORD chose Abraham and made a covenant to give his descendants the land of Canaan. He fulfilled that promise when He saw the distress of Israel as slaves in Egypt. God divided the Sea, so they walked through on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to follow, the LORD “threw their pursuers into the depths, like a stone.”  

In this, God made a name for himself among all nations. At Mount Sinai, God gave His law to Moses. God led them through deserts with the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He fed them with manna and provided water for them as they went through arid deserts. But the people refused to listen to God.  

After forty years, the LORD brought them into the promised land. The land was fruitful, but the people rebelled against the LORD. From the time of the judges through the kings of Israel and Judah, they were in rebellion against Him. God chastised them by bringing enemies against them, but He also listened when they cried out to Him. He gave them Saviors, but they went back into sin. God sent prophets whom they killed.  

Ezra acknowledged Israel’s iniquities and God’s just judgments. He said, “We are slaves in the land you gave us” and are in sore distress. Then they agreed to a covenant before God. A summary is in chapter 10.

They agreed: 

To adhere to the law of God and swore to walk in God’s law.

Not to intermarry with foreigners. 

Each one pays a 1/3 shekel for service in the Temple. 

To bring wood into the Temple for burnt offerings. 

To bring first fruits of the land and tithes of their possessions to the Temple. 

They really didn’t agree to much. All these things should have been “givens.” 

Are we much different? 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

PRAY FOR YOURSELF 

My Father in Heaven, I pray that I may bring my brokenness to Jesus at the cross and let Him heal me of my evil desires and tendencies. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus, Your Son, AMEN! 

MY PRAYER FOR YOU (and for myself) 

Holy Father my prayer for all who read this and for myself, is that we consider carefully see how Ezra combined Scripture reading and prayer to confess Israel’s sin. We need to acknowledge the sins of our ancestors, not make excuses for them, for too often our excuses for them are nothing but a coverup for our own sinfulness.  I offer this prayer for myself, and for all who read this, in the name of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah, AMEN! 

QUESTION: What was the Light on the 1st Day?


I received the following question from a good friend via the Question Box on my congregation’s web page.
Genesis 1:3-5 speaks of the separation of light and darkness with God calling them day and night. Then in Genesis v:14-16, God creates the sun and moon (to separate light and darkness; day and night).  Verses 11 & 12 mention the creation of vegetation before the creation of the sun.  What light is He speaking of in the first passage if the sun and moon have not yet been created?
This is a question that has puzzled many people. Some point to this to say how Continue reading

QUESTION: Is It Right for Women to Speak in Church?


Note: The following question came to me from The Question Box on my congregation’s web site.

Is it right for women to speak in church?

This question has about as many different answers as there are people answering the question. There are three passages of Scripture usually used in discussing this question, here given in the order of their appearance in Scripture:

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. – 1 Timothy 2:11-15

As a casual reading of all three shows, Paul seems to be inconsistent. Continue reading

QUESTION: What Is Kingdom Building?


The following question came to me recently via “The Question Box” at our congregation’s web site where I have answered hundreds of questions over the past four years.

Question: What is kingdom building ?

Put in its simplest form, kingdom building is anything that contributes to the purposes of God on this earth.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following: Continue reading

QUESTION: Which Is the 1st Religion? Catholic or Orthodox?


The following question came to me via The Question Box at my congregation’s web page. From other correspondence, I have reason to believe the person who asks is from a third-world country, possibly Ethiopia.

Which one is the first religion Catholic or Orthodox? If one came first, how, when, and where did the second emerge?

This is a very interesting question – for each of these Churches claim to be original. In fact, each of them traces its origin back to the church in the New Testament. What has happened over the many generations and centuries, is that little changes and differences have multiplied until there were great differences – at least they are great in the eyes of those who hold the different ideas and practices.

To find truth, we must go back to the purity of the gospel as we see it in the New Testament. It is like a stream that begins high in the mountains. As it flows down the mountain, it picks up dirt and other impurities. The closer we can get to the source of the stream, the purer the water will be. The purest gospel water is that which we find in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

Both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches claim that their bishops are direct successors of the apostles. Yet, in teaching and practice, they have developed their own differing traditions. Now traditions of men may be harmless – but they can also become like the traditions of the Jews in the time when Jesus was on earth. Sometimes traditions of men set aside the commandments of God. See how Jesus dealt with this in Matthew 15:1-9.

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Is there anything wrong with washing your hands before you eat? Not at all! In fact, it is a good practice for good health. The Pharisees, though, had an elaborate ritual of washing to purify themselves before God, lest they sit down to eat while they were “unclean” from casual contact with Gentiles. The procedures for this purification were spelled out for them, first in their oral tradition handed down through the generations and later (after the time of Jesus) written down in the Talmud. The Law as found in the Old Testament Scriptures said nothing about washing your hands before you eat.

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

Jesus ignored the issue of washing hands before eating. Instead, He talked about the fact they had judged His disciples by the tradition of the elders instead of by the commandments of God. They, by tradition, sometimes canceled God’s Word. This is what was dangerous. In fact, Jesus said that this made their worship vain, or empty. Why? Because while they worshiped God, they ignored what God had actually said for their tradition handed down by the elders.

When a Church makes its tradition equal to or greater than what God has actually said, they corrupt the purity of the gospel for their tradition. Most of the differences, not only between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches but among all of the Protestant churches as well, are based on traditions about the teaching and practices they hold. They seldom differ on what the Bible actually says, though sometimes there are different understandings about what the Bible means by what it says. The differences are mostly over what the Bible does not say.

Something may come up that the Bible does not talk about. Then men decide that they need to make a decision about what to do. And this is true. Next, however, they also decide that everyone must do what they decide. When that happens, men over-reach and begin to become lawgivers instead of simply obeying God.

Over hundreds of years in different parts of the world, different traditions developed in understanding and practice. Eventually, these differences became so great that the Catholic and Orthodox churches separated about 1,000 years ago. The Catholic tradition involved having a Pope over that entire church; so it maintained (supposedly) a common faith and practice. The Orthodox has bishops or Patriarchs over each country or region. Thus, they may have more differences from country to country than do the Catholics.

The Bible says nothing about popes or patriarchs. Instead, each local congregation of Christians was led by its own elders that were also known as bishops or pastors.

You can see this in Acts 20. In verse 17, we read that Paul sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus. As he spoke to them, in verse 28 he said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

The word “overseer” in this translation is often translated bishop. The word for “be shepherds” is a verb form of the word for pastor. You can see a similar combination of words in Titus 1:6-8 where Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in every city, but as he described the men to appoint he explained that an elder must be this way because the overseer (or bishop) is entrusted with God’s work.

What is the solution for us to live by? Take the Word of God and follow it. Where there are differences, don’t insist on our own way when it is a “disputable matter,” or something God has not clearly taught. In Romans 14:1 – 15:7 Paul instructs us how to live peaceably with each other in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit. When we will follow this teaching, the disputes between different churches or people within a single congregation who all claim to be servants of Jesus will disappear.

QUESTION: Where Is the Ark of the Covenant?


I received the following questions in a single post via The Question Box at our church’s website, www.Plymouth-church.com. I have answered questions there for the past four years.

1. Where is the Ark of the Covenant? 2. Has God ordered us to make a similar Ark? 3. Is it according to the New Testament that some churches, like the Orthodox, use this or a similar Ark? Are they Biblically (especially New Testament) supported? Continue reading

QUESTION: Why Did God Wait?


I received the following question via The Question Box on our church webpage, where I have answered questions for the past four years. This is a question that could easily be sloughed off with a quick answer – but I believe it comes from an honest heart seeking to understand.

Why did God wait 25 years before giving Abraham a son?

The only honest answer I can give you is that I just do not know why God waited to bless Abraham and Sarah with the birth of Isaac. I do not know because God has not revealed it – at least not to my knowledge.

I can think of some plausible reasons why He waited, but I warn you going in that Continue reading

QUESTION: What Does It Mean To Stay In Your Own Tribe?


I received the following question via The Question Box on our church website, www.plymouth-church.com, where I have answered questions for about four years.

What does it mean to stay with your own tribe? Also where in the bible does it say this?

The only thing in the Bible that is even remotely related to your question occurred during the time Moses was leading the Israelites in the wilderness. Continue reading

QUESTION: Why Is Hebrews 1:5 Written As Questions?


Thank you for your question:

The following question came to me via our church web-site. It is an “easier” question than most that I post here, but it is not a question that should be taken lightly. It is a real question from a real person who really wants to know. We should always treat questions like this with respect for the person who asks them. If you can see anything patronizing in the way I handled this question, please let me know. I always want to treat all of my questioners with respect. Thank you.

Why is Hebrews 1:5 written in question marks? Was it that the writer did not know the answers or was the Holy Spirit revealing to him to write that way? Thanks very much. Continue reading

QUESTION: How Can I Overcome Masturbation?


[This question came to me via The Question Box on our church website where I answer questions.]

What is the biblical solution for masturbation for the teen who is not going to marry at present? Could you please tell me the solution for masturbation.

This is a question that concerns many young (and not so young) men. Continue reading

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