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fall leaves September 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Nehemiah 13; Malachi

Be Faithful, Don't Fall!

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 fall and leave the trees barren. Hopefully, our lives are green with spiritual health, but if any of our attitudes and deeds are turning and our lives are in danger of falling away, leaving our tree barren, this Bible study will help.

Israel was like a tree replanted in her land. After being exiled in Babylon for seventy years, the LORD had worked through King Cyrus to allow His people to return to their land and rebuild their temple. Later, under King Artaxerxes, they were able to rebuild the city walls. Although there were winds of opposition, still God protected this little nation, and for a while the tree grew and flourished; its leaves were green with health as the leaders and people sought the LORD, and He blessed them.

After the prophet Nehemiah returned to King Artaxerxes to give a report and fulfill his duties as cupbearer, however, things deteriorated in Israel; the leaves changed and began falling from the trees—the Jews fell from God's favor. Why? What happened? Where is Ezra the priest? Why doesn't he keep them in line?

Ezra was last mentioned before Nehemiah left (Nehemiah 12) but is absent when he comes back (Nehemiah 13). Perhaps he died or retired, leaving Eliashib the priest in charge. Israel was not held in check, and they were falling from God's favor. If we notice a fellow Christian falling away, we should try to help him return to God for his source of blessing (James 5:19-20).

While Nehemiah is away, Eliashib the priest allows Tobiah, one of the trouble-making neighbors of Israel, to take up residence in the temple. He is a relative and connives to set up an apartment in a large storeroom. From there, he discourages worship in the temple. When Nehemiah returns, he kicks out the tenant, purifies the temple, and then puts things back where they belong. Have we let sin or harmful influences take residence in our lives? To restore our spiritual lives, we must remove them and—with the LORD's— help put things back into their rightful state. (more)

Nehemiah also learns that people were no longer bringing their tithes to support the Levites and singers ministering in the temple. Because of this, the Levites and singers left and went back to their own towns. Nehemiah rebukes the people, and the services and tithes are restored. To restore our spiritual lives, we need to restore our worship. We should be active in a good Bible believing church and support the work. Let's be faithful!

Furthermore, Nehemiah learns that the city of Jerusalem is conducting commerce on the Sabbath day, in violation of the Law of God and their covenant. He takes swift action and sets up policies to prevent further compromises. Today, even though we non-Jewish people have no command to remember a specific Sabbath day, a weekly day of rest (Romans 14:5-6a; Colossians 2:16-17), it honors the LORD when we do (Mark 2:27; Matthew 12:11-12); He wants us to give our bodies and minds rest so they don't wear out so quickly. Rejuvenation and fresh perspectives come from rest.

Last, Nehemiah learns that the people intermarried with those of the surrounding nations. Half of the children born while he was away don't even speak the Jewish language. Nehemiah is angry. He rebukes them, calls down curses on them, beats some of the men, and pulls out their hair. Why does he act so violently? He does this because it was foreigners with their lust and idolatries which led the Israelites away from the LORD, and this caused them to lose their land in previous days. Now, the Jews were violating every part of the covenant they recently made with God. The Apostle Paul tells us we can be angry but don't sin (Ephesians 4:26-27)—it is okay to be angry about the things which make God angry (injustice and other wrongs), 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 wrongs in our personal lives or in our churches.

The prophet Malachi was also concerned about the falling away of Israel—she was irreverent! The LORD had chosen Israel to be a special people and had given her promises of land, numerous descendants, and blessings (Genesis 12:1-7). He recently renewed His covenant, forgiving His people and bringing them back to their land. Israel was initially very grateful. She was attentive to follow the Law of Moses and observe all the feasts.

But now the people have lost their zeal for God and have forgotten their commitments to Him. The priests and people are lethargic and apathetic about honoring God. Have we become slow and uncaring about God’s grace in our life? Let's remember the LORD's grace to us, be grateful, and stay faithful!

Israel's uncaring and deplorable attitude is demonstrated by her offerings. First, the priests offer defiled animal sacrifices on the altar—those which are sick, diseased or deformed—to the LORD! Do we do that? Does God get our best or something less? Such degrading behavior is offensive to Him. The LORD is a Great and Almighty King! Let's give our best to God, not our leftovers or throwaways.

Second, the priests are charged with falsely instructing the people from the Word of God; they conveniently leave out the requirements which don't suit them. The priests are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching all the Word of God to the people so they can follow and obey it, but they aren't men of integrity. “So [the LORD 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). They are hypocrites! Let's teach and live the Bible to honor our LORD and help people. Then we won't suffer disgrace.

Third, the nation of Judah broke faith with the LORD. Under God's law and Nehemiah’s leadership, marriage with non-Jews is forbidden. This restriction is given so the Israelites will not be led to worship false gods instead of the one true LORD. Do we marry or have other partnerships with unbelievers? God wants us to remain dedicated and true to Him (2Corinthians 6:14-18).

The people and priests have not only broken faith with the covenant they made with God but have also broken faith with one another. They no longer consider their marriages as sacred, so they obtain divorces. The LORD hates divorce and considers this an act of violence against the family (which it is). God tells them to guard their spirits (attitudes) and not break their marriage covenants. 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 wants us to watch our attitudes, that they are loving and not divisive. He doesn't want us to break our marriage covenant and injure our testimony as Christians.

Fourth, the people weary the LORD with their words and philosophies. God is good and holy, but the people accept evil behavior as good, and deny God will 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. Someday, they will be judged or disciplined. God will destroy the wicked who do not know Him, and He will judge Christians by burning away all their useless works, keeping only what is valuable. Therefore, we Christians should live for Him (1Corinthians 3:13-15; 2Corinthians 5:10).

Fifth, they rob God of tithes and offerings. These are used to supply the needs of the Levites who care for the temple, and the singers and musicians who offer continual praise to the LORD. Do we short-change God? Do we realize when we do not give His work suffers? He 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 say harsh things about God, saying it is futile to serve Him—there is no profit in it. Is that our attitude? God is disrespected by it, and it causes other people to fall away from the LORD. We need pastors, missionaries, educators, musicians, and other types of ministers. We should pray for them and help supply their needs.

There are some people among the Israelites, however, who do 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 fear the LORD and honor 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 we can know Him and will revere His name.

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...). If we notice a fellow Christian falling away, we should try to help him return to God for his source of blessing
  • Restore our worship of God and His rightful place in our lives. Be active in 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 the LORD 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.

Focus Verse

1Samuel 2:30c (NIV) “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”

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A Look Ahead: After 400 years of war and silence from God, suddenly He provides Hope for his people. Their hope also becomes our hope if we trust in Him for salvation. Join us for our next lesson.

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