Tag: Nehemiah8:10

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Word Study: I Am Weak

WORD STUDY – I AM WEAK
Ezra 4:4: “Then the people of the land weakened the hands of Judah and troubled them in building.”

As I was growing up I would listen to my father sing his favorite to himself and to God. It was the old Country Gospel Song, Just a Closer Walk with Thee. The words of that song are so embedded in me that as I go through a real difficult the words come ringing back to me: “I am weak but thou art strong, granted it Jesus is my plea, daily walking close to thee. Let it be dear Lord let it be.”

After a life time of walking with Jesus, still when I face that giant, I tremble and feel so helpless and weak. Sometimes I feel as if the enemy has a war of attrition against me. A war of attrition is when an enemy knows their enemy is so strong that he cannot win but he hopes to gain a victory by just wearing his enemy down with a sort of guerrilla warfare. Satan knows he cannot defeat God but he also know he can carry on a war of attrition to bring me to the point where I just want to give up.

When Nehemiah returned with God’s people to the land of Israel after their captivity by Babylon he found the land was occupied by colonist who were sent to occupy the land many years earlier by the Assyrian empire which was now defunct. These colonist who were from the land of the Amorites, Moabites and other nations were not too thrilled with the returning Jews and in fact feared them because of their support by the Persian Empire which was now the most powerful nation in the world. These colonist knew they could not defeat the Persian Empire but they knew they could wage a war of attrition against God’s people. Thus, they were determined to harass God’s people to the point where they would just give up trying to colonize the land and return to Persia. That war of attrition still goes on today.

To accomplish this the colonist incorporated the use of something still in practice in the Middle East, terrorism. In time King Araxerxes was so burdened with domestic problems and the threat of other nations seeking war against the Persians that he turned the responsibility of the Jewish nation over to his son Susa. Susa had no respect for his grandmother Esther and was, for want of a better word, anti-Semitic. Thus, Judah’s support of Persia started to fade away.

But his was ok with Nehemiah and Ezra as they were of the mind that if God wanted Jerusalem rebuilt He would do it without the help of Persia. Sort of the attitude the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu has today. Indeed God did help, but from a practical standpoint Persia’s waning support did embolden their enemies to increase their harassment. Nehemiah and Ezra knew God would keep His end of the bargain but what they did not consider was that the people would not hold up their end which was to simply trust in God.

According to Ezra 4:4 this war of attrition was working. The people of Judah’s hands were weakened and they were troubled by their enemies in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The expression their hands were weakened expresses the idea of becoming discouraged and fearful. The word weakened in Hebrew is meraphim which comes from the root word rapah which means to sink down or to loosen one’s grip. The word is found in a Piel (intensive) form so it really has the idea of just letting go. In other words, just giving up. Do you ever feel that way in your service to God? People just come at you from every end, criticize, condemn, and accuse you of things that you never did or intended. Eventually, you just become bitter and discouraged and you meraphim or give up. Or maybe you are trying to build a ministry but you are getting no response, no one seems to support you and you face one obstacle after another. That poor camel’s back is just completely shattered from all the last straws. Yet, even then the enemy is not satisfied, he keeps piling on the straw on that poor old camel’s shattered back. All with the intent purpose to get us to merephim, give up. He is just relentless

The people of Judah just became weary of the constant harassment by their enemies. Although their enemies initially could not outright harm them physically, they would mock them, make fun of them, rob their homes while they were working on the building project or destroy their crops while they were rebuilding the walls. Nehemiah had returned to Persia for a period of time and when he returned to Jerusalem, he found a people who were in spiritual funk, they had given up working on the walls to protect their own interests and they had fallen into spiritual paganism and idolatry. They had merephim weakened and given up.

Yes, there is a good sermon for the old preacher and his building program in Ezra 4:4, but if you look deep enough you will also find an even better sermon for those of us who are wanting to merephim give up. You can read the book of Ezra and find out how he encouraged the people, but I want to jump ahead a few hundred years to the Apostle Paul who also gives us a solution in Ephesians 15:19: “Speak to one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” A quote from Nehemiah is also appropriate here in Nehemiah 8:10: “The Joy of the Lord is our strength.” We will not fulfill God’s work for us if we fall prey to the work of the enemy, to his war of attrition and his terrorist attacks against us like Judah did and allow negative thinking and words to control us. Instead we need to fill our hearts with the Word of God like Ezra did, find a fellowship of like minded believers where you can encourage each other with songs of praise and joy and then to enter into the Joy of the Lord. When you encourage others with songs and testimonies of praise and joy and they encourage you with songs of testimonies and praise and joy together you will stop the enemy cold in his tracks. For where you were merephim weak the joy of the Lord will make you strong.

HEBREW WORD STUDY – THE JOY OF THE LORD

Psalms 105:19: “Until the time that his word came, the word of the Lord tried him.”

Nehemiah 8:10, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”

We assume that our strength comes for the joy God gives to us.  Ever stop to ask where that joy comes from?  Joseph learned to be joyful in every situation because the joy of the Lord was his strength.  The word joy that is used in Nehemiah is the word chadoth which is really the word for pleasure.  The pleasure of God is our strength. What does that mean. Psalms 105:19 gives us a clue.

Psalms 105:19 is a very curious reference to Joseph.  Most commentators agree that this reference means that until the time came for Joseph to fulfill his purpose or mission in life which was to become a prime minister of Egypt and thus bring his family into safety from a famine, he first had to go through various trials to be tested by God.

 

This verse confirms two things that Christians believe, that we are all created for a specific purpose in life and that God puts us through testing’s or a spiritual boot camp, so to speak, to bring us to that point where we can fulfill our life’s mission or calling.

 

That thought alone make this verse a very important verse for us.  It gives us a Biblical basis to say that we are not put on this earth haphazardly, but that God has placed us on this planet to fulfill a specific role.  It also gives us a plausible reason as to why we go through the trials of life, and that is to provide a training ground which will help prepare us to fulfill the role God has chosen for us.

 

The word trial in the Hebrew is tsarp and is a very interesting word in the Hebrew to use in this passage.  It is the word that is used for refining gold.  In its Semitic root you find it is based upon the idea of making something pure.  We see in this verse that it is the word of the Lord that purified Joseph.   You would expect the writer to use devar which are words spoken from the heart in this context, yet he uses the word amar which is simply a spoken word, a saying.  Just the general sayings of the Lord purified Joseph’s motives until the time of the word came.  Here is where we find the Hebrew word devar or the word that is spoken from the heart of God. Devar represents a word of power.  It could also be a word of prophecy or inspiration.  Devar is spelled with a Daleth which is a doorway to the Beth or the heart of the Resh or Spirit of God.  Devar is a doorway to the heart of God.  ‘Amar is spelled Aleph which represents God

Revealing the  Mem or the revealed knowledge of God through the Resh or the Spirit of God.  Thus, ‘amar refers to God revealing himself through the Holy Spirit.

 

So the message I get from this verse is that Joseph at an early age received a devar insight into the heart of God.  He received knowledge of God’s intended purpose in his life. He knows God took pleasure chadoth in him. As Joseph was purged of all his impurities, or selfish and self-center motives he could still feel that devar that pleasure God took in Him.  God put him through deep trials, stripping him all his trust in himself so that when the time came to enter into his purpose or role in life his trust would be in God alone.   Yet, God was using ‘amar, just as a simple revelation to remind him of God’s devar, God’s approval of him.

 

Joseph was astute enough to know that every trial, every difficulty that he encountered on his long journey to deliver his people from a famine was actually God speaking or ‘amar (ing) to him.   When he was thrown into the pit, he looked to understand what God was saying  or ‘amar, when he was sold into slavery, he looked for ‘amar, God reminding him He had a purpose. When he was falsely accused of rape, he looked for ‘amar, to remind him that God took pleasure in him.  When he was thrown into prison he looked he received the ‘amar from God that he was being taught and trained for that ultimate devar in fulfilling God’s purpose and bringing joy to the heart of God.  Every trial he encountered was God simply speaking ‘amar to him, showing him how to strip himself of all impurities so that he could be refined into pure gold before God and bring joy to the heart of God.

 

So how did Joseph manager to endure all these trials or tsarps that God sent his way?  Was it the knowledge that it would all eventual culminates into a grand plan of God.  That Talmud teaches that everything Joseph said or did the name of Jehovah was upon his lips.  He did everything as unto God.  In everything he gave thanks unto God.  When he did this, even when serving in slavery and eventually in prison the joy of the Lord the pleasure god felt in him was his strength. In other words as he performed each task he could feel God’s pleasure. Just to feel God’s pleasure, to know you are in the center of God’s will makes it all worthwhile.  Lately, it is coming to light in the news media of how Christians are suffering horrible atrocities  in lands where radical religious elements are causing these Christians to live in constant fear. We are hearing of Christians being tortured and put to death for their faith in Jesus.  What is it that gives them their strength?  It is the ‘amar words of God which remind them of the devar, the words from the heart of God.  When they hear these ‘amar’s they  see the devar, the heart of God and they see God’s pleasure in them, God’s pride in them, God’s love for them and the joy they bring to God’s heart in their faith and faithfulness.

 

You see the joy of the Lord is your strength.  It is not the joy you feel, but the joy God feels in you and reveals it to you through devar that gives you strength. God felt great joy in Joseph during his time of tsarps, trial. That sense of pride and joy that the Lord felt gave Joseph the strength to endure all his tsarps trails.  Joseph may not have been felt very joyful when falsely accused of rape or thrown into prison, but he knew God took pride in Him and felt joy in his faithfulness and that gave him his strength to endure.

 

Every trial that comes our way if we go through it with the name of God on our lips, if we endure it recognizing that it is the ‘amar of God that has brought us into it, it will lead us to the devar of God, the heart of God and when we enter His heart we find it is filled with joy over us and our faithfulness.  When we see the joy of the Lord that becomes our strength to overcome.