Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Neh 2:18
Many lessons of a very practical nature might be gleaned from
the inspired diary of "the king's cupbearer" (Neh 1:11). For the present
purposes, however, we shall concentrate on the qualities of character that
constituted Nehemiah "a wise masterbuilder" (1Co 3:10) and give us guidelines to
Having learned from his brother Hanani (Neh 1:2) that the wall
of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates burned (v 3), Nehemiah pleaded with
Artaxerxes for permission to travel to the land of his fathers to promote a
reconstruction program (Neh 2:1-8). After a long and rigorous journey he finally
arrived at Jerusalem; within only three days, ever the tireless worker, he was
up and about on an inspection tour of the city and its fortifications. Nehemiah
found many adversaries ready to hinder the work (v 10), while very few were
willing to help in the building.
After viewing the desolations, he called the nobles and the
priests together and explained his purpose, and how the king had supported him.
They were so impressed that their response was immediate, concerted, and sincere
-- "Let us rise up and build" (Neh 2:18). The work was well-organized by
Nehemiah, and construction began without delay.
But it did not go perfectly; the characters of Nehemiah and
his brethren, like ours, must be tempered by adversity and hardship. There was
opposition from the neighboring Samaritans and Gentiles, who used both guile and
physical threats in an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah and impede his work. Most
troublesome yet, there were internal dissensions: the Tekoite nobles would not
"put their necks to the work" (Neh 3:5), and the men of Judah were prophets of
pessimism (Neh 4:10). But Nehemiah did not despair, or lose hope; he maintained
his impressive example and cheerful disposition at all times. It was
characteristic of this man (and typical of Christ!) that he prayed for the
forgiveness of the sins of the people as though they were his sins too! "We have
sinned", said he, and he was willing to share in the guilt of his nation, his
"ecclesia" (Neh 1:6,7). The knowledge of the sins of his brethren did not
discourage him, nor impel him to disassociate himself from the work, but only to
redouble his efforts to bring the nation to repentance and finish their task.
His enthusiasm was infectious, and the great work of repairing the wall was
completed in only 52 days (Neh 6:15), "for the people had a mind to work" (Neh
Reading 2 - Hos 12:3,4
"In the womb he [Jacob] grasped his brother's heel; as a man
he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and
begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there" (Hos
Jacob received his name ("Supplanter", or "the one who grabs
by the heel") when he grasped his brother's heel while he was still in the womb
of his mother Rebekah (Gen 25:26). This was a preview of the grasping character
that marked him all his life (Gen 27:35,36).
In later life -- "as a man" -- Jacob also continued to
struggle or wrestle with God. In fact, Jacob was contending with God when he
wrestled with the angel at Peniel. Yet there he prevailed over God's angel --
not by strength of arm -- but by weeping and pleading with him to bless him (Gen
This event was a turning point in Jacob's life because he
finally realized that he could not succeed simply by manipulation and trickery.
He recognized His need for God's help and turned to Him in desperation. This was
the occasion of Jacob's repentance.
Another significant event in Jacob's life was when he returned
to Bethel, where God had appeared to him in a dream years earlier (Gen
28:10-22). This return to Bethel and the act of worship Jacob performed there
were in obedience to God's word to him to go there and fulfill his former vow
This too was an act of submissive obedience and resulted in
God changing Jacob's name to Israel (which signifies "prince with God"),
blessing him, and renewing the Abrahamic covenant with him.
It is ironic that the place where Jacob put himself right with
God was Bethel, since Bethel was the place where the Israelites went wrong by
worshipping idols. Jacob's return to God at Bethel provided a good example for
Israel: they might still set themselves right with God at the same place as
their ancestor had!
Whereas the NIV has "and talked with HIM there", the AV reads
"and there he spake with US." Several translations follow the LXX and Syriac:
"there he spoke with HIM" (RSV, NEB, NIV) -- while others follow the Masoretic
Text: "there he spoke with US" (KJV, NASB).
The "us" reading very reasonably suggests that the prophet
Hosea was keen to apply the lesson to himself and all Israelites. So often in
the Bible, when God speaks to an individual, we should realize that -- through
the inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures and His providence -- He is
speaking with... every one of us! (In this connection, notice how the very last
verse of Hosea emphasizes this point -- that the whole of the book is given to
ALL OF US, that is, to ANY who will listen!)
Reading 3 - Col 4:5
"Make the most of every opportunity" (Col 4:5).
"Redeem the time" (KJV). The Greek "exagorazo" means,
literally, to buy out of the marketplace. What is being "bought"? If we are
prudent, we are using the minutes and hours and days we have been given to "buy
up the opportunities" in daily life to serve and glorify our Heavenly Father.
"Love, thankfulness, and knowledge of God: we never have
enough. We never begin to have enough. The amount God will judge us by is the
amount we could have developed in the time, opportunity, and ability He has
given each one. Are we, as commanded, 'redeeming the time' -- every moment? Or
are we wasting it in folly and self-pleasing? What a tragedy to appear at the
judgment seat of Christ in our cute little play-suit, full of jokes and games,
but with our lamps and minds dark and empty! Who dares contemplate the shame and
the hopeless remorse?" (GV Growcott).
If we had to buy time, would there be any difference in how we
would spend it? Would the days of our lives be used more wisely? What if we had
to pay in advance $100 an hour for the time allotted to us? Would we waste it?
Of course, we can't put a price tag on the minutes and hours
we possess. They are given to us freely. But that doesn't excuse us from using
them conscientiously, carefully, and wisely. The giver of time is God Himself,
and that places a far greater value upon it than any monetary figure could
suggest. We must therefore use our time intelligently, taking advantage of
opportunities it provides for us to serve the Lord and to do His will.