Genesis 15, Nehemiah 4, Psalm 14

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 15, Nehemiah 4, and Psalm 14. This devotional is about Nehemiah 4.

Nehemiah lived and led Jerusalem as a civic leader at the same time that Ezra was leading the people spiritually. As we read the book of Ezra, we saw how the temple was rebuilt, worship was reinstated, and God’s word was instructed and applied by Ezra the priest.

There were more problems in Jerusalem than the ones Ezra was called to address. The city was virtually defenseless because the wall that had surrounded it was demolished and gates were burned beyond usefulness. God had placed Nehemiah in a position of influence over king of Persia and then God burdened Nehemiah’s heart with a desire to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. That’s a summary of what we’ve been reading the past few days in Nehemiah 1-3.

Here in chapter 4, some of Israel’s enemies engaged in psychological warfare, scorning the people of Jerusalem in hopes of discouraging them so that they would quit (vv. 1-3). In response to their taunts, Nehemiah prayed (vv. 4-5) and asked God to treat them justly for how they had abused his people.

Progress was made on the walls (v. 6), so things got worse–not better–in spite of Nehemiah’s prayers. The enemies of God conspired together to attack Jerusalem physically (vv. 7-8). What did Nehemiah do this time? Verse 9 says, “we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”

There are times in life when trusting human solutions presents a bad testimony. Ezra felt this in Ezra 8:22-23: “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”

But most of the time in scripture, the human leaders God appointed see no tension between trusting God and asking him for protection and taking human measures to defend themselves. Nehemiah prayed and posted a guard. Later, Nehemiah took some men off the project and had them stand guard (v. 16) and he even armed the men who were working in case of an attack.

You and I can learn from this in our own walk with God. Don’t put all your confidence in human measures. God is not honored when we ignore him and are too proud to ask for his help and favor. But asking for God’s help is usually not the opposite of using human means. God created us to make tools–including weapons–so that we can defend ourselves. He works, through divine providence, within human means. In fact, most of the time God’s work is done through providence, not through miraculous works. So there is nothing wrong with praying about your health concern AND seeing a doctor for treatment. There is nothing unspiritual about trusting God for your daily needs AND saving money and preparing for retirement. Be wise in the way that you live your life even while you ask God to help you and protect you daily. That’s a godly way to live and lead, just as Nehemiah did.

Genesis 14, Nehemiah 3, and Psalm 13

Today, read Genesis 14, Nehemiah 3, and Psalm 13.

This devotional is about Genesis 14.

I wrote yesterday about the close relationship that Abram and Lot had. Although the wealth of each man, and the conflicts that wealth created, led to them to live separately (Gen 13), Abram still cared about Lot and his safety. It was Abram’s commitment to Lot that caused Abram to chase down Kedorlaomer and company when they won their war with Sodom and her allies. Verse 12 told us that Lot was already living in Sodom when this happened and that Lot was “carried off” by Kedorlaomer after they won the battle. Verse 14 said that Abram decided to pursue the victors when he “heard that his relative had been taken captive.” Abram was not interested in showing his military might or in plundering the victors. He wanted to save his nephew, giving Lot back his freedom.

In verse 21, the king of Sodom was in no position to negotiate. So, he asked Abram to let him and his citizens have their freedom. In the rules of their culture, Abram could easily have enslaved all of the people and kept their valuables as well. When the king of Sodom requested his freedom, he was actually asking for quite a bit.

Abram, however, refused to keep anything of value for himself. He took an oath (v. 22) before entering the battle that he would keep nothing for himself. Why? Verse 23 says, “so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”

If Abram had plundered the people of Sodom and their allies, eventually those people would have resented Abram. After their gratitude for being alive and free subsided, they would have considered how much they lost in that battle and would have blamed Abram for their economic depression. By not taking advantage of them–even though he had every right to gain handsomely for the risks he took–Abram demonstrated that he trusted in God. He was willing to let his wealth grow organically as God prospered him rather than artificially by plundering others. He considered it unrighteous to gain from the trauma and bad fortune of others.

Have you ever been in a position to profit from someone else’s pain? I can’t think of a situation where I have been in that position but, if I ever am in that position, I hope Abram’s example will guide my decisions. Abram took enough to cover his expenses (v. 24a) and to thank God for his blessing (vv. 18-20) but he would not impoverish his nephew and Lot’s neighbors in order to enrich himself. You know and I know that there are people in this world who will take advantage of you when you are desperate. A person like that shows what they value wealth over faith in God and service to others. If you love the Lord, it should translate into compassion for others and cause you to be merciful and help others when they have a need.