Jerusalem is a sacred city to both Jews and Christians, and Muslims claim it as their third most important city. Jerusalem is mentioned in almost two-thirds of the books of the Old and New Testaments. Jerusalem means “city of peace” or “cornerstone of peace” but it lay in ruins for half a century following war with the Babylonians when the first waves of returning exiles came home. How do you get back to what you once had when everything seems to be in ruins?
Questions for the Week 1. Ezra had devoted himself to studying the Law of Moses and following what it teaches (The Story, pp. 291-292). How did Ezra’s commitment to God’s Word shape his life and his ministry?
2. Why is it so important that we contemplate and grasp the richness of meaning in the Bible for our lives rather than just read the stories?
3. God worked through King Artaxerxes to send the exiles back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and reestablish worship (The Story, 293-294). How have you seen God use surprising people and circumstances to accomplish his will in this world?
4. Nehemiah not only prayed hard but he worked hard. How do you see this balance in Nehemiah’s life? What is the danger of praying hard but not working hard? What are some possible consequences of working hard but forgetting to pray?
5. When the people of God heard the Word of God read and had it explained to them, they moved into action. Tell of a time you read the Bible and were quickly moved to action because of what God taught you.
Prayer Time- As you take time to pray, here are some ideas to get you started: · Thank God that the Bible is available and accessible today and pray that you will learn to love it and make time to study it regularly.
· Ask God to let your prayer time feel like natural conversations as you walk through the challenges of daily life.
· Ask God to help you strike a healthy balance of praying for his help and working hard to do your part.
For Personal Reflection--The prophet Malachi rebuked the people for giving sick animals as their offering to God and pointed out that their political leaders would never put up with such halfhearted gifts. Reflect on your own giving patterns. Ask yourself:
Am I giving God my first and best?
Are there ways I throw God my leftovers?
How could I learn to give with greater joy and commitment?
Is there any way I am robbing God by keeping for myself what is rightly God’s?
Personal Action—Nehemiah reminded the people of Israel of the importance of celebrating and feasting together. As you schedule holiday meals and parties with your Christian friends, plan a devotion to share or ask a special blessing remembering and rejoicing in God’s goodness.
Looking ahead- We have completed our study of the Old Testament and will spend the seasons of Advent and Christmas in the New Testament “hovering” over Chapter 22, The Birth of the King. Next week is Christ the King Sunday. Clark Chilton will be preaching at all three services as a requirement for the Board of Ordained Ministry. We invite everyone to be on hand to support Clark as he completes this step toward ordination as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church.