In the midst of what was going on in the book of Ezra, another story was unfolding during the reign of King Xerxes: the story of Esther. Esther (in Hebrew “Hadassah”) was an orphaned Hebrew girl, being raised by her cousin Mordecai, from a Jewish family living far away from Jerusalem. This orphaned Hebrew girl became Queen Esther “for such a time as this” just before a horrible plot to exterminate the Jewish people through mass genocide unfolded. Esther’s story was taking place after the Temple in Jerusalem had been completed, but Ezra had not yet arrived to teach in Jerusalem. Before moving into the book of Nehemiah, we will pause but only for a moment, in the book of Esther. One reason to pause is to recognize God’s providence in the midst of one man’s ravenous scorn toward the people of God. Another is to recognize God’s leading in our lives during times when He seems silent.
July 4, 2021 • Becca Gamboa • Esther
August 8, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 8—10
In Nehemiah Chapters 8-10, we are given a glimpse into the spiritual rebuilding that Governor Nehemiah desired for his fellow Jews. As mentioned before, the rebuilding and the repairing of Jerusalem’s walls and gates is a metaphor for the spiritual rebuilding of the Jews as God’s chosen people; a light to the rest of the human race illuminating the One True God. Nehemiah believed that the true strength of the Jewish people was not realized in the fortifications of the Holy City, but in the faithfulness of their God as the people responded in faithful obedience. So, as the completion of the building project draws to a close, the priest, Ezra, takes to the stage and God’s word (given through Moses) is read for the people. They, just like us, must confront their own sin, embrace the gift of God’s grace and mercy, experience the joy of redemption, and finally covenant with God to live in faithful obedience.
Restoration begins with Repentance
August 1, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 5
Nehemiah was called by God and sent by the King of Persia to rebuild and repair the walls and gates of Jerusalem during the post-exile period from 444 to 432 BCE. The wall, though important, is in many ways a metaphor for the internal boundaries God's people needed to incorporate in order for future generations to live as God’s chosen among all the other nations of the world. The foundations of the Jewish faith being laid during this period would become the religious climate in which Jesus would minister 400 years later. Last week we learned how Nehemiah inspired the Jews to take action and face opposition in carrying out their task. Their enemies were strong and well organized, but easily identified. However, the biggest threat to Nehemiah and the remnant community was actually hiding in plain sight and would prove to be one of Nehemiah’s greatest challenges as a leader. This Sunday we will look at Nehemiah chapter 5 and explore how power and privilege intersect with responsibility and repentance, and how Nehemiah provides today’s church with a compelling call to action.