September 4

Nehemiah 5:8-10 (NIV) 8and said: "As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!" They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 9So I continued, "What you are doing is not right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!

During the time they were building the wall, some of the people came to Nehemiah and told him of their financial hardships. There had been a famine, and they had borrowed grain from their brothers. Those who loaned the grain were charging 1% interest, and in some cases, buying the sons and daughters of those in hardship as slaves. The people were giving up their fields to those to whom they owed the money, and that meant they could never repay and would only get deeper in debt.

When Nehemiah heard this he was angry. This is the anger of righteous indignation. They had bought back their people who were slaves to Gentiles to try and restore the nation, and now they were enslaving each other. Nehemiah asked them if what they have done was done in the fear of a just and righteous God. If not, then their Gentile neighbors could reproach them for their double standard. They were already being mocked for doing good. Why would they give them a chance to mock them for acts of hypocrisy? Nehemiah told them, "Lend freely, but don't charge interest, and restore what you have taken from them!" The people agreed to do what was right.

This a message that needs to be declared today. The church should be known for its generosity to those in need. We need to set a standard for the world. Instead we often hear of the greedy Christian businessman who was a poor testimony. The unbelieving world reproaches us for having not acted in the fear of God. If you are claiming to be a Christian and being unjust in your dealings with other Christians, you should restore what was taken unjustly. If your brother wrongs you, follow Matthew 18, but do not take your story to the world.

Consider: If we do not walk in the fear of God, how will others ever see the need to do so?

September 4

1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (NIV) 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

Many in the early church began to worry about those believers who had died. (Sleep is a metaphor for death as in John 11.) They expected Christ to return before they died, just as many believers today have the same expectation. Paul reassured them that when Christ returned, the dead would rise first and be given resurrection bodies. This was going to take place at the last trumpet. Some relate this to the last trumpet in Revelation, others to the last trumpet that called the Israelites to break camp and move during the wilderness wanderings.

We will be changed in a flash. Our mortal bodies will be transformed into immortal ones that can stand before the presence of our glorious God. Our soul and spirit will receive an uncorrupted body similar to our Lord's resurrected body. As we age and decay, we long for our new heavenly body. It helps us break our ties with this earth and long for heaven.

Then death will be defeated experientially. The victory Christ won for us will be evident in everything. We are journeying through this world with the victory Christ won not fully manifested. One day it will be manifested in our new bodies as well as our transformed souls. We physically ache with health conditions and spiritually ache over sin. The victory of Christ will swallow up death and pain. All the fruits of sin will be swallowed up by this victory. Do you see how glorious that Day will be?

Meditation: No wonder we are to long for it and pray, "Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!"