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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Old Testament bible study on Nehemiah 1:11b-2:10 (May 2, 2024)

May 1, 2024:  Thursday Bible Study on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah 1:11b-2:10

God's blessings and peace be with you on this desert spring day.

I want to thank our prayer chain at American, and any of the rest of you who were aware of my health issue with my blood pressure yesterday. I have battled high blood pressure for 18 years, sometimes with it at dangerously critical levels. Yesterday was one of those days. Ultimately, after having little success in bringing my pressure down with my regular rescue medication, I ended up in the emergency room for 5 hours.  My pressure lowered without any added medication, but it is still higher than it should be. I will be headed to a cardiologist in the next several weeks to get assessed for any cardiac issues that may have developed recently. I am working from home today again due to my need to try to catch up on the exhaustion of having a full day of really high blood pressure. Please continue to pray for me that my pressure goes down to its more normal lower level, and that this feeling of begin wiped out stops.

collage of bible and pics of Nehemiah
Nehemiah bible study

Today we continue in Nehemiah 1:11b (this means the second half of verse 11) thru 2:10. It is almost ironic that I spent all of my emergency room time praying to God with thanksgiving for every one of you who are so faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here in this passage of Nehemiah we know that after Nehemiah heard some devastating news about his homeland of Judah and the condition of the wall and gates of the settlement being destroyed and burned, he turns to the "the God of the Heavens", the God who you and I worship and accept as the only One True God of all things,  and in his distress for the people, he prays to God to be a part of the solution for the problems in Judah.  Having worked for 18 years as Artaxerxes' faithful butler, during which time it was his responsibility to keep the king safe through his oversight of the wine and food being served. In this passage we see Nehemiah as one who has been faithful in his service to the king, and whose work on the king's behalf has been appreciated. Though Nehemiah has prayed for God to use him, he understands how difficult it will be for him to come to the king with this ask, but with uncertainty about how Artaxerxes will respond, Nehemiah approaches the king with a face that is apparently feeling pretty certain about the danger and trouble he may be in as he approaches the king.  Obviously from the text, we discover that Artaxerxes truly cares for this long-time servant butler. The king wants to be certain that his trusted butler will return after this journey to help fix Jerusalem. IN this circumstance between king and servant, there is a miracle of reversal. Now Nehemiah is doing the asking for privilege that should belong only to the king in this relationship. I think that our relationship with God is exactly like this. We know that God's call rests on every one of us, and yet, on a day like yesterday, we sought God's service at our request, and when God chooses to respond to us, we really need to count every one of these actions from God as a certain miracle.  But how about this different approach from faithful exiled Nehemiah? He asks God to be the solution to a problem. Usually in our prayers, we are asking God to act, but here, the ask is to become the solution that God may use to complete His desired action. How long has it been since you have offered that prayer to God? I think that we all know that God uses us to be His solution to needs of the world, but how often do we actually ask to be the tools of God's successful work in our world?  Like Nehemiah we may have some fear about what we may face if God chooses to answer out prayer. Perhaps that makes us more unlikely to be a knowing instrument of God's work when we have asked God to use us.  The surprising thing here is that in His answer to Nehemiah God also works in the life of Artaxerxes to cause him to respond positively to this unusual request. 33 years ago I prayed to God to make me an instrument of His Gospel here in Tucson,  I can tell you that I received God's blessing and answer to serve at American Lutheran Church through both really great times, and in times of questions, thru joys and sorrows, and in times of celebration or despair.  And at that call meeting on the weekend of October 1990, Tucson Meet Yourself, God moved the people of American just like He did Artaxerxes. If we learn anything from Nehemiah's encounter with the king, it should be that The God of all things answers prayers that work His Will in the world in which we live. As we read to the end of this passage we learn that the king does more than send Nehemiah, he sends a large contingent of support, which is a good thing, because there are always those who oppose God's action just as they did when Nehemiah arrived to begin his work, and for another time,  just as some did at American.

May the Lord grant you joy in His Easter. With Love in Christ, Pastor Kim

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