Hunger for God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:1-3

When God’s Word Is More Important Than Food Or Drink

1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Community Call

After God sovereignly helped Nehemiah and the returned exiles rebuild the wall in fifty-two days (amidst threats of physical harm from their enemies, threats of false reports sent to the government, and spies leaking intelligence of their progress to everyone who would try to stop the work of God), the people wanted to hear the word of God.  They told Ezra that they wanted to hear from the God who had helped them.  Should not our first response to assistance from Almighty God be to seek our benefactor out to hear what He has to say?

Everyone Enjoined

The group gathered wasn’t just a few who wanted to hear; this was the entire community: men, women, and everyone who was of the age and with the capacity of understanding God’s holy word.  The people didn’t have to be coerced into going, or enticed with anything apart from the desire to hear from their God.  If only all the people who call themselves “Christians” had this same mentality – to eagerly desire and hunger for the word of God and its understanding…

Daybreak Determined

Ezra didn’t wait until after everyone had the opportunity to get plenty of sleep, and leisurely get ready to be present at the reading of the word of God.  Ezra began to read at daybreak, when it was light enough to read in public without the assistance of light from man.  Not only did he start reading the moment that he could, EVERYONE was gathered and was ready for him to read the law of God the moment that he could.

First Fruit

They gave up the first fruit of their day – the first half of their day – to hear the law of God.  There was nothing more important to them than hearing and knowing God’s law at that time.  In our modern fast pace of life in the Western World, how many people would willingly gather from daybreak until noon to hear the word of God, let alone be attentive to it for the first half of the day?

Conscientiously Concentrate

The Bible records that the people listened attentively to the law of God as it was read.  How do we fare with that?  When we read the word of the living God, do we listen attentively to what it is saying?  Do we just skim over it and fill ourselves with the good feelings that we have accomplished our reading (daily or otherwise), and move on with our day?  Do we take in and comprehend the deeper truths of scripture?  Do we apply what we have learned?  What level of comprehension, let alone implementation, do we allocate and achieve for this most important task?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I so hunger after God’s word that I would stand outside for the first half of the day just to hear it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I say in my heart that I love You, and that Your word is more important to me than anything else.  Help me to truly mean it my following through with my actions.  Give me the desire, ability, and follow-through to spend more time in Your word and with You each and every day.  May I more greatly desire the bread of life and living water than my own portion of food and drink each day.  Help me to have such a longing in my innermost parts that I cannot wait to open Your word and dive deep into it.  Like David, help me to pant like a deer for water for time with You.  Help me to put everything in perspective, so that I can honor You in this way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Omniscience of God – Psalm 139:1-6

God Knows Everything That Transpires Throughout His Creation

1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Scrupulous Search

David, the Psalmist, regales his understanding of God’s omniscient character.  He first acknowledges that God searches us out to know everything about us.  In another Psalm, he acknowledges that God tests us by day and even by night:

Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.

God, being perfect, is completely thorough as he searches us out.  David lists several aspects of this search, and the resulting knowledge from the search, that God learns and knows about us.

Perfect Perception

God, being omnipresent, is a witness to everything that transpires in His creation – the universe.  Nothing escapes His attention.  God is completely aware of our every action, and is interested even in the minutest details of what goes on in our lives.  His love is so encompassing, that He wants to know every detail of our activity.  He even pays attention to when we get up and sit down.  His vastness of love ensures that He is aware of even those things that we consider trivial.  He perceives all things, and especially pays attention to all of our ways.  Just as human parents watch their young children, waiting for the “magic moments” when they achieve the next big “mile stone”, such as crawling, so does  our Heavenly Father, with great delight, watch over all that we do as well.

Transparent Thoughts

And it is not just what we do that interests our Heavenly Father, but also what we think.  God has given us amazing minds to perceive and create.  We are truly image-bearers of God, displaying to the world and the angelic realm the glory and the creativity of our Creator.  God especially pays attention to our thoughts (something that no other created being can do):

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

But don’t be deceived.  The enemy of our souls has been carefully watching mankind for at least the last six thousand years.  As as the writer of Ecclesiastes states, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Our enemy has us “pegged” because they have been relentlessly watching us and probing us as well.  And just as Ivan Pavlov examined and conditioned his subjects, so does our enemy know our strengths and weaknesses.  You can learn a lot by observing someone, and even accurately predict what they will do given certain situations and circumstances.  But you don’t actually know what they are thinking; you are just able to make an educated guess.

God, on the other hand, already knows what our thoughts will be before we even have them.  So careful and involved is He in His creation, He leaves nothing to “chance” but knows all things.

Heavenly Hedge

The Psalmist, David, recognizes the sovereign hand of God upon his life.  He sees how God plays an active role in his protection.  God also hems David in to both protect David from others, as well as to guide David to where he should be going.  Paul experienced something similar to this as well:

6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Unattainable Understanding

As David reviews his thoughts on the knowledge and character of God, he openly admits that such knowledge is too wonderful for him to even being to comprehend.  Since such knowledge is so vast and incomprehensible, David does not even try to attain it.  He merely acknowledges that God is just that good, that full of love, and that wonderful.  And He praises God for in song, and even this song (for the Psalms are songs).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we still amazed at the character and vastness of God through observation of Him and His creation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, knowledge of You is too wonderful for me.  You reveal Yourself to me through Your Spirit, and it overwhelms me when I think about how vast and great You are.  Help me to always see You in this light so that I would not take You for granted.  Help me to ponder Your goodness and grace, seeking out nuance after nuance, that I might participate in Your character, and know You better.  Give me the ability and the strength to walk in the ways You have already revealed to me about You, so that I would better represent You as Your image-bearer.  Show me wonderful things in Your word, and help me to treasure them in my heart.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Note: This blog has been edited to reflect the proper Psalm # in the title.

The Cover-Up Of The Messiah – Matthew 2:1-3

Who Forgot To Tell Herod?

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Baby Born

When the Magi from the east strolled into town, they immediately sought out Herod to learn about the new baby who was born King of the Jews.  They wanted to worship the new king.  While little is known about these Magi, or learned ones, Matthew goes out of his way to tell us they were from the East.  Philo, a Jewish philosopher and historian, whose writings have survived to this day, praised a school of Magi in the east.  He didn’t praise all of the Magi (Simon the Sorcerer was a prime example of the other Magi), but he did praise this school.  They had intimate knowledge of the natural order, and could explain this order to others.  There is a possibility that this school of Magi may have been the descendants and progeny of Daniel and his friends.  They were also seeking out a Jewish king.  Who would want to worship a Jewish king?  Perhaps someone of Jewish ancestry?

Fred A. Larson*** has placed the birth of the Messiah on June 17, 2 C.E., based on the astronomical conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as the announcement of the birth of Jesus.  If the Magi were from Babylon (about 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq, home to Daniel and his friends), it would have been a long journey indeed to come to Jerusalem that would have taken months.  The Greek word for child in Matthew 2:9 is paidion, which means toddler, meaning that they arrived not when Jesus was a newborn, but rather some time after that.

Location, Location, Location…

The Magi asked Herod where the child was.  Herod then consulted with the chief priests and teachers in the law, who told him that Bethlehem would be where the child was born, based on the prophet Micah.  This was what was prophesied by the prophet Micah:

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

There are several notable things about this prophesy:

  • The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem
  • The Messiah would be (The Son of) God (“…whose origins are from old, from ancient times”)
  • Israel would be abandoned (there was no prophet in the land from Malachi until Jesus was born, about five hundred years)
  • The rest of the brothers would return to join the Israelites (the only reason that Mary was in Bethlehem, nine months pregnant, was due to the Roman census, which drew ALL of the Israelites back to their hometowns)

Devastating Destruction

Additionally, people remembered that when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. When the people had learned that Herod heard a that new boy king had been born, and he believed it, they feared for their own children’s lives. Herod, not knowing who the baby was, ordered all of the male children the age of two years and under to be murdered in order to try to secure his throne.

Talk of the Town

Back in that day, news traveled.  People talked about everything that happened.  And something spectacular happened when Jesus was born.  Shepherds watching their flocks at night were told about the Messiah by an angel – where to find him and how.  Once they found Jesus lying in a manger, they told everyone that they could, and the Bible records that the people were amazed.  The shepherds were faithful witnesses to what they had seen.

The Magi arrived in Bethlehem on December 25, 2 B.C.E., when the Star of Bethlehem stopped in the sky over Bethlehem, as reported in the Bible.  Since Jesus was now a paidion, there had been approximately six months from the announcement of his birth by the shepherds until now.  News of this should have spread far and wide, and have been the talk of the town.  Visitors to Bethlehem, especially during the Roman census, would have probably gone to the temple to worship God, and would have told others there what had transpired the night that Jesus was born.  But the news never got to Herod, the king, just five miles up the road in Jerusalem, because the Bible records that he had to ask about it.  Did the people of Bethlehem not believe the shepherds?  Or, did they cover up the news?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will I do when I have great news to tell others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word, for it is truth.  Show me new things in Your word that I may grow in You.  Help me to dig deeper, investigate, and substantiate Your word, so that I would be prepared to give an answer to anyone that asks.  Help me to be like the Bereans, that I would greatly desire to verify all things in Your word.  Give me a hunger for You, and help me to satisfy my hunger in prayer and in Your word.  Strengthen me this day for all that You have planned.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for date accuracy.  The originally reported date for the arrival of the Magi was December 25, 2 C.E.  The correct year was 2 B.C.E.

***Special thanks to Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.net, and his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem”, for much of the research that went into this.

Knowledge of God – Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul wrote several times indicating that he desired that we would have greater knowledge of God.  But the knowledge that Paul desired for us was experiential, not just insight.  We experience God when we walk in the same footsteps as Him.  And as we do, God reveals his very nature and character to us:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7

It is the experiential understanding of God that Paul desires of us.  When we get head knowledge, we can become puffed up, and pride can enter into our lives.  When we live what we know, we become humbled as we realize just how far short of the glory of God we truly are.  Humility is the key to understanding:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10

It is when we experience God’s character ourselves that we begin to change drastically.  We are better able to walk in His ways as we practice living His character.  When we merely come to an intellectual ascent to God’s word, we may agree in principal but not in practical application with what we have learned.  It is only through the practical application of knowledge that true progress in any field of endeavor is made.

A person can study tennis for years by watching matches, reading books, news articles, and listening to radio shows on the subject.  However, after years of study, without practically applying what has been learned, for most people, they would be unable to return a volley from a seasoned tennis player.  What a tragedy it is to see people comb through the scriptures but never to experience God’s character!  The Jews did the same thing.  They searched the scripture seeking eternal life.  The law only points us to the fact that we cannot keep the law, and therefore we seek salvation from God Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, let’s ask a question:  How has God revealed Himself to you as you have personally experienced His character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are wonderful and beautiful to behold.  You reveal Yourself to us through Your word, and experientially as we walk in Your character.  Reveal Yourself to me today in a greater and deeper way as I walk in Your footsteps.  Show Yourself to me, Lord God, for I greatly desire to see You, and be in Your presence.  Give me such hunger for You that my soul would pant for you like a thirsty deer for water.  And like David, I can say with gladness that a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Strengthen me this day as I strive to experientially know You better.  Help me to walk in Your ways, and to have better heart-knowledge of Your Word as You reveal Yourself to me.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?