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Mar 14, 2015

90 Day Challenge – Day 73

Sarah Christmyer

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Bible Time Period: Return

You brought the exiles back to Canaan; they rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem and were taught once more from your Law: Rebuild my broken heart and life as I return to you.

Reflection

A corporate confession of sin and a recitation of God’s dealings with Israel begins the chapters you’ll read for today.  They lead to a very important act:  a sworn oath, documented in writing, signed and sealed,  to follow God’s law and observe his commandments.

After this, the newly-walled Jerusalem was populated by volunteers and by people chosen by lot from among the priests and Levites, the gatekeepers, and the descendants of Judah and Benjamin (previous members of the kingdom of Judah).  Most of the people preferred to stay in their home towns.

Key Verse to Remember from the Period of the Return

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:  the Lord, the God of heaven, has … charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Whoever is among you of all his people, … let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord…” (Ezra 1:2-3).

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 9-13

Today’s Question

Notice the final reforms that are made by Nehemiah in the closing chapter.  At the close of the Return:  What kind of a new start has been made?

Join the discussion below!

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  • At the beginning of this reading it seemed as if the Jews had begun a renewal of their faith in God. In fact, they made a new covenant with God. Nehemiah reminded the people of their ancestry and how important it was to them. He recorded names so that the lineage showed to which family the groups he was recording belonged. This only strengthened the bond between God and HIs people.
    However, when Nehemiah departed from the area, things fell back into a sort of laisez-faire attitude of complacency that we all have experienced. When Nehemiah returned, he had to remind the Jews of the laws that God gave them and strongly urged the people to uphold these laws. He realized that the leaders of the town of Jerusalem weren’t the best role models for the people and admonished the leaders for falling short of their duties.
    I think I understand what Nehemiah was attempting to accomplish, that is bringing a nation that has turned its back on God too many times in the past back to being in good graces with the Almighty God. Perhaps he was working with a group that needed direction constantly. Perhaps looking upon these people was as if looking upon small children that needed guidance. In any case, he was the dutiful teacher always and reminded the people of God’s laws.
    We have come a long way, but having a teacher like Nehemiah would be such a gift from heaven!

    • Thank you for your explanation of this, as always clear and helpful.
      I am amazed at how hard it was for these people to stick to the law. But of course we know we are the same! These people had prophets and the law to keep them close to God but we have the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ (God lives in us). We have so much more but of course with this comes much greater demands to live, not by the letter of the law, but by the spirit of the law.

      • Liza, I agree that we are so lucky to have extra assistance in this day and age of ours from Jesus, the Holy Trinity and all the saints. I love your last comment ‘but by the spirit of the law’, as you so aptly stated.

    • As I was reading these readings, I was reminded of the Lenten season that is upon us…how we are to be cleansing and purging ourselves of sin and corruption along the way. This season is in the spirit of this time of purging that the Jewish nation was going through in order to realign themselves with their God. I was also reminded of Jesus’ transfiguration, in which he was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets of the Jews…So for us, we have help through Jesus, and as Liza has said through the Holy Spirit. I also, can understand now, why the Jewish people have a difficult time in turning away from their faith and turning to Jesus. They know this history of turning away from God and know what that will mean for them…so it is understandable that they have such a strong aversion to any thing that would tear them away from following the true God of their ancestors…We as true believers in Jesus, need to remember Jesus’ words on the cross towards this people for He loved them dearly and understood the depth of their fear of reprisal from God: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” They thought they were purging themselves from someone who would turn them away from God, when in fact, we know that they in actuality killed God Himself!! Lord, have mercy on the Jewish nation; Christ, have mercy on the Jewish nation; Lord, have mercy on the Jewish nation. Forgive them for they knew and still do not know what is was that they did. Amen. Let us pray fervently for our Jewish brethren that God will remember their faithfulness to Him and be merciful to them.

      • Beverly, Your perspective is thought provoking and great, as Michael said. I have always been mystified about me, as a Christian reading the Bible and someone of the Jewish faith reading the Bible and coming up with completely different thoughts on the same passages in the Old Testament. I often wonder if they looked upon their ancestors as being very unyielding to God our Father in heaven.
        Your prayer is simple yet beautiful at the end.

      • I love your compassion for the Jewish faithful. But I try to remember also that the Romans bore just as much responsibility. This signals to me that the whole world did and does bear the guilt of the crucifixion. I consider that my sins affect the Body of Christ; as if I am hammering nails into his hands and feet. But then I remember Jesus’ intercessory words and am humbled by his sacrifice for the sins of the world, including mine, and want to try harder to live a holier life. When I am hurt and struggle to forgive, I know that by Christ’s example I can turn it over to the Father to forgive for me.

        • Yes, we all-every person on earth is affected by this one single moment in history. I can sympathize with your struggle to forgive, until I read some words that Corrie Tenboom (not sure of the spelling) a Christian Jew who was in a prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp…she was asked how she could forgive…her answer was something like: I choose to forgive and forget. How simple, but powerful are those words…So I choose to give forgiveness to others, just as Jesus chose to forgive me…It is a freeing act to forgive…we then don’t carry the burden of remembering past hurts. They disappear from our memory and we are happy as a result. Blessings.

          • I got this quote from a text message of our spiritual assistant. Thought I should share it.

            “We never know how God will answer prayers, but we can expect He will get us involved in His plan for an answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.” – Corrie ten Boom

            Fr. JunJun, OCD: Without sacrificial love, there is no authentic intercession.

          • I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for this post…I needed to hear this message at this particular time.

          • Wow. Sometimes I feel so inadequate. I’m not aiding the poor in a third world country. I’m not building houses for Habitat. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not… Well, I do what I can to serve God in less standout ways. And I won’t attempt to boast; “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

            One thing the world needs more of is intercessory prayer. And as indicated in the quotes in your post, Nona Po, this is no simple task. As with any mission we take on in the name of our Lord, we bear a responsibility to those in need.

            “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16)

            We have an obligation to feed body and soul. If someone is lost, I can’t just pray that they will reach their destination safely. If I pray for the salvation of another person’s soul, I have a duty to show them the way.

          • Very well said, Marianne! Intercessory prayer is something each and every one of us can and should do. Our parish has an intercessory prayer group that prays for the needs of our parish and our priest. The book, “Pray Lifting up Holy Hands – The Prayer of Intercession,” by Cyril John is a wealth of information on the topic for those who undertake it. Beyond meeting others’ needs, intercessory prayer is one of the very best things we can do for our fellow man.

          • I’m glad you are able to forgive, Beverly. It is very liberating to one’s own soul to be able to do so. It eliminates the poison of the enemy who wants to ruin the soul. It was hard, but I found that forgiveness gives you the power to receive the Holy Spirit, to change, to grow, and to flourish in your relationship to the Lord.
            Yes, there is a ripple effect throughout history. The same thing happens till today. The effects on children by the parents. That’s why being a “hands on” parent is so important, being interested and involved in your children’s lives. Taking them to church with you. Dinner as a family. Praying together. And most important of all, BEING A LIVING EXAMPLE. Your kids are watching you, and they emulate you (good or bad)… Children either reap the “rewards” sown by their parents, or they suffer… And so it goes on, unto the next generation…

          • That is just what my Spiritual Director has said….(reaping the rewards or suffering…and going on to the next generation…

          • To forgive is the ‘key’ for inner healing. It doesn’t mean that once you forgive you immediately ‘feel’ the forgiveness in your heart. That comes gradually with time..and prayer. The important step to take is the ‘choosing’ to forgive. It lifts the heavy burden off of one’s heart and allows the inner healing to begin…allowing the Holy Spirit to enter.
            I agree with you, Marianne, that there is a ripple effect throughout history, and the effects on children by the parents. God has blessed me with seven children (all adults now) and 11 grandchildren…and I must say, no matter what the ages of your children or grandchildren are, they are always watching you!!!
            One thing I find very helpful is to always include generational prayers of forgiveness during my prayer time….binding my sins and those of generations past, present and future….laying them at the foot of the Cross for Jesus to deal with. Then I ask the Holy Spirit to enter, filling the void with His forgiveness and love.

          • Rosi, I love and am intrigued by what you have to say about generational sins, praying for forgiveness…past, present and future…laying them at the foot of the Cross…then asking the Holy Spirit to enter and fill the void with forgiveness and love. Especially that last part about the Spirit filling the void. I’m just beginning to learn about generational sin. I still don’t fully understand it, but your words pull at me and leave me yet again with a desire to learn more about it. Maybe after my lenten obligations are fulfilled once Easter arrives, I’ll be able to delve more deeply into this topic. Thanks for sharing about this!

          • Thanks for the reading suggestions, Kevin! I’ll certainly look into them. Blessings on your day.

          • Thank-you Janet, for your kind words. A couple of years ago I went on a weekend seminar entitled “The Healing of Families”, given by Fr Yozefu (Joseph) B. Ssemakula. It was very interesting. He showed how the sins of past generations affect us here and now, how we have a tendency to repeat them, how our sins keep us from receiving the grace God has desired for us….and how to work at breaking those bondages. Of course, a sincere and heartfelt Confession is always an important and necessary step, but it goes deeper into identifying, binding/casting out and repenting for the sins of our forefathers..and forward to future sins that may be committed. A priest once told me to always cast them to the foot of the Cross for Jesus to deal with. And then, of course, to call upon the Holy Spirit to fill the void where the sins had been with His forgiveness and love (grace), to prevent the evil one from re-entering.
            As a result of Fr Joseph’s seminar, our priest has had several evening-mini seminars based on the format of Fr Joseph’s book. We have seen wonderful things result concerning this type of prayer. This type of prayer is biblically based. It is wonderful!

          • Rosi, this sounds like a wonderful seminar!

            The sins of previous generations (parents and randparents), although forgiven after repentance, can still have far-reaching impact and consequences on the families. Thus the need for healing.

          • It was an eye-opener…very informative. And the consequences of sin can pass down to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 20 and Deut. 5) But the blessings for those who love God and follow His Commandment extend to the thousandth generation. This in itself shows us the love that Our Lord has for us and His great Mercy! I imagine Our Lord’s Heart melts as He hears us pray in reparation for not only our sins, but for all that have been committed throughout past generations. He overwhelmingly wants to shower His Mercy and Love over us, in us and through us that we might be His instruments of mercy and love to others. And how important to also pray prayers in reparation for sins of the present and the generations to come..that they will be powerfully filled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and be given the strength to avoid falling into sin. We are so blessed to have our Faith and to have Our Lord to place our trust in!

          • I just finished telling Janet about Fr Joseph’s book…along with a seminar he gave at out parish. It is an awesome book!

        • Yes it was the Jews that condemned Jesus and the Romans (Gentiles) carried out that condemnation thus the “blood of Jesus” is on all our hands.

      • BEVERLY–I AGREE WITH WHAT YOU SAID BUT REMEMBER THAT WE TOO WERE JUST AS GUILTY IN THE CRUCIFICTION OF JESUS RAY

  • Thanks to all of you who have been so faithful with your comments during this study. Each day I look forward to reading the passages, but much more often than not, I don’t make a comment to share. But I admire those of you who do this regularly, because I also look forward to reading these comments. I can assure you that your thoughts have enriched my understanding. Occasionally I agree to disagree, but that’s okay, too. God bless us all as we share His Word each day.

  • Happy Friday everyone! I just love the name Nehemiah. In Hebrew, I believe it means comfort of the Lord or Comforted by God. I wish all of you find comfort in our Lord and God now and always and like Ann said, love being part of this community of faith.

  • As I finished reading this section, I personally felt more at peace, as the sabbath day was into practice. It was a beautiful way to emphasize that God should always be the focus and that on the sabbath day even more so. If my husband and I don’t continue to practice truly the sabbath day then we will only send that impression to our two grown children who already have regressed for the Christianity upbringing.

    My two kids were born and raised Catholics, received their baptismal and confirmation penance.. I taught Sunday school when they were young and were attending, my son was an alter server. For many years I assisted in mass (readings). I continue praying for them and my grandsons that they get themselves more involved within the church. My kids are good people and work towards serving God, but I want them to be a part of his walk in life. I guess as I have matured I want them to feel, see and know that it is through God that we exist. Therefore, Gods house, is where we should be most especially on the day of Sabbath.

    Back then is similar today, we are constantly reflecting and repenting. God is so forgiving and ready to get us back on track. Nehemiah did a wonderful job assuring to keep them in line with the covenant made to God.

  • Nehemiah experienced what happened when the people were reminded of the law, seemingly accepted it but were unable or unwilling to live according to God’s will. Nehemiah could have given up but instead out of love, he set about moving them back towards God and interceded on their behalf. Today, our priests guide us back into our relationship with God. We are so blessed with our priests.

  • The new start appears to me to be pretty much like the covenant at Sinai. They are getting off to a very jerky start. I love the prayer in Chapter 11 It seems very appropriate for Lent. Recounting the many sins and forgiveness of Israel gives me. Hope for the many times I have sined and been forgiven.

  • The eagerness that the returned Israelites sign their renewed covenant with the Lord is most encouraging; reading that they have all come to hear the writings of Moses and the story of the Exodus and to be reminded of the long journey of their forefathers is also encouraging We see the Israelites truly absorbed by the writings of the Lord and Moses; they have come full circle back to the Lord. However, as soon as Nehemiah leaves Jerusalem the new armor shows cracks and fallings from the Lord’s teachings.

    Cracks aside, the Israelites. in general, are setting themselves up as God’s people and working to dedicate their live to Him.

    • Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have been there, listening to Ezra reading and explaining the Law of Moses….and joining in on all the celebration. Their hearts must have been so joy-filled…both individually, as a family and as a Nation. God’s love must have been ‘felt’ throughout Jerusalem and their homes. I think of our country. Can you imagine how wonderful and joy-filled it would be if all the people repented of their sins and returned to living under God’s Laws? God would shower His Blessings upon us!

  • The pattern of obeying the covenant and then when it is not convenient, to make our own rules, is what society still does today. How far we as a nation have come from the laws of God with moral relativism is unbelievable. Pope Benedict calls it the eclipse of logic. The Israelites are no different than people today.

  • The symbolism of “communion” came to my mind as I read about this process of a renewed proclamation of loyalty to God. As I walk down the church aisle in a procession with all the congregation to receive the Holy Eucharist, I feel so blessed and peaceful as I renew my self-proclaimed covenant with my God. I can almost imagine how the people felt as they returned to their Jerusalem knowing they are at the mercy of God’s love. This is a new start for the people who have turned away from God’s commandments. How pleased God must have been for them to accept their faults with the effort to commit to their new life. How pleased God must be as he looks upon those in every church in a procession to receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

  • Oh what a cyclical cycle of what happens today, two huge steps forward and one step back. As Nehemiah gets the people into the spirit of cleansing ones soul and keeping the temple of God alive and living things are in the direction of God there in Jerusalem, “Holy Land”.

    Just as things are good here comes sin creeping in,” And returned to where I discovered the evil thing that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in setting aside for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. Help us keep our light on the goodness of God and not allow evil to get any opportunity,

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