fall leaves September 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Nehemiah 13; Malachi

Fall from God's Favor

If they have not started already, leaves will soon be falling from the trees in the northern hemisphere. They look pretty as they change colors, but then they fall and leave the tree barren. In the nation of Israel it was sort of like that. Israel was like a tree replanted in her land. After being exiled in Babylon, under the order of King Cyrus of Persia she was allowed to return and build her temple and then later her city walls. Though there were winds of opposition, still God protected this little nation, and for awhile the tree grew and flourished; its leaves were green with health as the leaders and people sought the LORD, and he blessed them. After Nehemiah returned back to King Artaxerxes, however, things deteriorated, the leaves changed and began falling from the trees; i.e., they fell from God's favor. Occasionally, Christians also fall from his favor. How can their relationship with God and others be restored? (more...)

While Nehemiah was away, Eliashib the priest allowed Tobiah, one of the trouble-making neighbors of Israel, to take up residence in the temple. He was a relative and connived to set up an apartment in a large temple storeroom. From there he discouraged worship in the temple. When Nehemiah returned, he kicked out the tenant, purified the temple, and then put things back where they belonged. Have we let sin or harmful influences take residence in our lives? To restore our spiritual lives we must remove them and put things back into their rightful state.

Nehemiah also learned that people were no longer bringing their tithes to support the Levites and singers in the temple. Because of this, the Levites and singers left and went back to their own towns. Nehemiah rebuked the people, and the services and tithes were restored. To restore our spiritual lives we need to restore our worship. We should go to good Bible believing churches and support their works.

Furthermore, Nehemiah learned that the city of Jerusalem was conducting commerce on the Sabbath day in violation of the Law of God and their covenant. He took swift action and set up policies to prevent further compromises. Today, even though as non-Jewish people we have no injunction to remember the Sabbath day, it honors God when we do, and it gives us a day of rest and contemplation. We need to restore God’s rightful place in our lives.

Last, Nehemiah learned that the people intermarried with those of the surrounding nations. Half of the children born while he was away did not even speak the Jewish language. Nehemiah was incensed. He went ballistic; he rebuked them, he called down curses upon them, he beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. Why did he act so violently? He did this because it was foreigners with their lust and idolatries that had led Israel away from the LORD and caused them to lose their land in previous days. The Jews had violated every part of the covenant they had made with God. The Bible says that we are to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26-27). It is okay to be angry about the things that make God angry, but we are to leave vengeance to the LORD (Romans 12:19) - we are not God’s prophet. We may, however, need to deal severely with sin in our lives or in our churches.

The prophet Malachi was also concerned about the falling away of Israel. Israel was irreverent. Although God had chosen Israel to be a special people, gave her promises of land, numerous descendants and blessings (Genesis 12:1-7), delivered her from slavery, provided for and protected her in the desert, won victories over her enemies, and established them in the Promised Land, she rejected him as a prostitute might reject her husband. She acted very wickedly and went after her lovers (a reference to idolatry and foreign alliances). After God finally punished Israel and exiled her, he graciously accepted her back as his wife and brought many of her people back into their land. Under his protective hand and his divine enablement, the Jews rebuilt their temple, rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls and now lived in peace and security, though she was still a vassal nation to Persia. Although Israel was initially very grateful and attentive to follow the Law of Moses, and observed all the festivals, time had passed and the priests and people became lethargic and apathetic about honoring God. Have we become lethargic and apathetic about God’s grace in our life? Let us remember and be grateful and stay active serving him.

Israel's apathy was demonstrated by their offerings. First, the priests offered defiled animal sacrifices on the altar – those that were sick or diseased or deformed - to their God. Do we do that? Does God get our best or something less? Such degrading behavior is offensive to God. God is a Great and Almighty King! We would not dare to offer anything less but the best to our own governing officials, so how can we give less to God?

Second, the priests were charged with falsely instructing the people from the Word of God; they conveniently left out the requirements that did not suit them. Do we do that? When we sin, do we confess it or cover it? If we teach or tell others about how to live, do we water down the Word of God, or conveniently leave out words of judgment? The Levites were entrusted with the responsibility of teaching all the Word of God to the people so that they could follow it and obey it, but they were not men of integrity. “So [God says] I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law,” (Malachi 2:9, NIV). Let us teach and live the Bible to keep in God's good graces.

Third, the nation of Judah broke faith with God. Under Nehemiah’s leadership, marriage with non-Jews was forbidden. This restriction was given so that the Israelites would not be led to worship false gods instead of the one true God. Do we marry or have other partnerships with unbelievers? God wants us to remain holy and true to him (2Corinthians 6:14-18). The people and priests had not only broken faith with the covenant they made with God but broke faith with one another. They no longer considered their marriages as sacred, and so they obtained divorces. God hates divorce and considers this an act of violence. It certainly is an act of violence against family members, leaving many vulnerable and often leading to poverty. God exhorted them to give heed to guarding their spirits (attitudes) and not to break their marriage covenant. In the New Testament of our Bibles we learn that marriage is a picture of the unity we have with Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33). God does not want us to break our marriage covenant and cause us to harm our testimony as Christians.

Fourth, the people wearied God with their words and philosophies. God is good and holy, but the people accepted evil behavior as good, and denied God would judge. Today, many defend disrespectful behavior by saying “we must allow freedom of expression.” They deny that God will judge or that he exists and sees what they are doing. They are wrong. Some day they will be judged or see the refiners’ fire. God will destroy the wicked who do not know him, and God will judge Christians by burning away all our useless works and only keep what is valuable. Therefore, Christians should live for him (1Corinthians 3:13-15; 2Corinthians 5:10).

Fifth, they robbed God of tithes and offerings. These were used to supply the needs of the Levites who cared for the temple and the singers and musicians who offered continual praise to God. Do we short-change God? Do we realize that when we do not give that God’s work suffers? God will hold us accountable. God said to the Israelites that if they would take care of his sanctuary, he would abundantly supply their needs. By principle, we can apply the same promise to us as we give to the church and other Christian organizations (Philippians 4:19).

Sixth, the Jews said harsh things about God, saying it was futile to serve him - there was no profit in it. Is that our attitude? God is disrespected by it, and it causes other people to fall away from the LORD.

There were some people, however, who did live in the fear of the LORD, as there are today. Maybe that is you. You will be remembered for good. You will be included as his treasured possession because you feared the LORD and honored his name.

Is there hope for those who have disrespected and dishonored God? Those who continue in wickedness will be judged, but Jesus came to give forgiveness, peace and spiritual life (more...). He forgives sin and heals us so that we can know him and will revere his name. We will learn all about Jesus in the gospels. That begins in the next lesson.

Lessons to live by: Christians, when we fall away from God’s favor, we need to

  • Confess our sins, get rid of evil influences, and put things right (more...).
  • Restore our worship of God and his rightful place in our lives. Attend a good Bible preaching church and support the ministry.
  • Be careful not to partner with unbelievers.
  • Be zealous for God in an acceptable manner.
  • Show our reverence for God by giving him the best of everything
  • Rightly teach the Word of God in truth
  • Keep faith with God and with each other, especially in the marriage covenant.
  • Not discourage others from serving God.
  • Live in the fear of the LORD.

Today’s Bible memory verse: 1Sa 2:30c “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained,” (NIV)

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