My Word is My Bond

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 10:28-29
28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

Reflection: My Word is My Bond
By Erin Newton

The turn of each year brings a sense of hope. Many of us look to the future, hopeful of a better set of circumstances. Many of us envision a year of accomplishments. Each year is an opportunity for renewing our commitments.

Nehemiah describes a time of renewal. Ezra read the law of Moses to the people, bringing them to confess their sins. In response, the community came together to bind themselves to God. It was more than lip-service. The people of God vowed to be held accountable.

One of the inevitable downfalls of our New Year resolutions is the lack of follow-through. Gym memberships soar in January as everyone commits to “really getting into shape this time,” but all regular gym members know the crowds will dissipate by March. The lofty goal of reading the Bible in a year is usually stalled by the end of February or whenever you get a few chapters into Leviticus. (It’s ok, I study the Old Testament and sometimes find it boring, ha!)

Usually, the cost of membership keeps some of us trudging to the gym every few weeks, so as not to waste our money. Reading the Bible? Well, that’s free and can be difficult to trudge through without motivation.

So what did it mean for God’s people to bind themselves by oath and curse?

Deuteronomy also ended with a renewed commitment to follow God, alongside a promise of blessings for obedience and curses for negligence. The Israelites, recently returned from exile, were keenly aware of the consequences for neglecting God’s word. Despite the reality of taking such an oath, their hearts responded to conviction.

Renewal is the story of God’s people. When we reflect upon the story of Jesus born in the manger, we must respond to why this birth is more important than any other. As we move closer to Easter, we must respond to why this death is more important than any other. When we accept Jesus as Lord, our hearts are renewed. New purpose, new focus, new life.

Our stories are never quite so simple. We mess up. We fall short. In many ways, our resolution to follow God is thwarted. I once saw a motivational poster near a gym that read, “If it means enough, you’ll find a way. If it doesn’t, you’ll find excuses.”

May we use this new year to bind ourselves to God once again.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Remember, Lord, how short life is, how frail you have made all flesh. — Psalm 89.47

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 10 (Listen 4:41
Revelation 19 (Listen 3:47)

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A Recurring Nightmare

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 10.39
We will not neglect the house of our God.

Acts 20.20-21
You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 

From John:

Again this year, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, we look back to a sermon from Dr. King

Like Dr. King, Paul was interested in actions which spring from the full implications of the gospel. Though racism and slavery took centuries to fall, it was Paul’s theology that struck the killing blow in the 1st century. Dr. King drew from Paul’s teaching, which demolished the cultural and theological foundations of racism and made actions of racial bias and inequity indefensible. (Though some will still try to defend them…)

The gospel is the only theology or philosophy which poisons racism at its root.

When we speak of spreading the gospel, may it be with the purpose of eradicating the scourge of racism, rather than apathetically denying its existence or mitigating our responsibility to oppose it.

Reflection: A Recurring Nightmare

By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C. and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had—and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.

I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty.

I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil.

Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.…

I still have a dream today that one day every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low, the rough places will be made smooth and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. I still have a dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and good will toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.

*Abridged from A Christmas Sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — audio on YouTube (29:52)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord when he comes, when he comes to judge the earth. — Psalm 96.12

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 10 (Listen -4:41)
Acts 20 (Listen -5:22)