These Bible lessons were taught during chapel time at Lakeside Advent Christian Campground, Belgrade Maine, July, 2021.
Session 1 – 20210726
During our chapel sessions this year, I am going to be reflecting on some Old Testament verses that explain how our God demonstrates his love to us.
My overall theme is simple: God loves us. If you believe that, you will be cheering on these messages. But if your faith in the biblical God as a loving God has been challenged, I hope you will be encouraged by these studies.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 CSB — All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
If we are looking for encouragement in believing that God loves us, we can look anywhere in the Bible. I decided to focus on these Old Testament verses in our chapel studies in hope that these studies will add some foundational support for what our evangelist will be sharing.
Today’s text is Nehemiah 9:15 CSB
15a You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; you brought them water from the rock for their thirst.
God showed his love to the Israelites by providing for their basic needs, even in extraordinary times.
When you go for a walk in the wilderness, you learn really quickly what things are essential and what things should be left behind. My wife and I just spent nine days hiking the 100 mile wilderness, a section of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Mount Katahdin to Monson. It is called a wilderness because there is no means of self resupply. You have to carry all your food with you. We actually hired someone to drop a resupply package for us at the 40 mile mark. That enabled us to finish the trail. Water was not a problem because the same God who supplied water for the Israelites in their wilderness journey put streams and springs and rivers every few miles in this wilderness.
We made two mistakes on this trip. First, we forgot to pack our fuel. That was not too great a hardship. It just meant making a fire every night to heat our food, and drinking our coffee cold every morning. This we did until the 40 mile food drop, where we were reunited with our fuel.
Our second mistake was choosing the wrong charging cable for our cellphones. The one we brought decided to stop working. Fortunately we met up with several other hikers who generously loaned us their cables at times so we always had access to our phones and their apps to guide us on our trip, and communicate with the outside world.
We learned, however, that neither fuel nor communication was really a basic need. As long as we had food and water we could make the trip.
God knew what the Israelites really needed for their wilderness journey. He miraculously provided it for them. He was trying to tell them something really important for them to learn. He was trying to tell them the same thing our parents were telling us by feeding us and making sure we had the basics, long before we could ever say “thank you.” With every drop of water, poured from the rock, God was saying “I love you.” With every flake of that mysterious manna, he was telling them “I care about to you.”
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he told them to ask their Father in heaven for their daily bread. It’s not like God is going to withhold food and water from us, but it really helps for us to pray like that. One of the reasons is that it helps us to recognize the miraculous that is happening in the ordinary. What we call ordinary is just the miraculous that happens all the time – because God loves us.
For the Israelites, they had a front row seat, because for them the miraculous became the ordinary. Imagine an Israelite Dad talking to his son: Here Son, have some manna. No, son, I didn’t make it. Our loving God provides this for us regularly. Why? Because he loves us of course. Here, son, enjoy this cup of refreshing water. No son, I haven’t been digging a well. It came from that rock over there. Our loving God provides this for us regularly. Why? Because he loves us of course.
15b You told them to go in and possess the land you had sworn to give them.
This prayer will add on a lot of details later, including going into detail about possessing the land. So, why mention possessing the land at this point? I think it was important for the Israelites to link the two realities. The first reality was God’s provision of daily necessities. The second reality was God’s commission for them – to go to the promised land and take possession of it. The Israelites in Nehemiah’s time saw their commission to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls as comparable to that of possessing the land to begin with.
Jesus’ prayer instruction mentions both realities for us. There is…
• “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and…
• ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
What God is already doing for us is enough to empower us to do what he calls us to do for him. We do not have to wait for a second or third or fourth anointing. He has already shown us that he loves us, and that is enough.
There was a temptation for the believers in Nehemiah’s time to get to a point in their faith lives where they stopped and waited because it seemed like God was not doing enough. They thought God was doing just enough to get them by, so they thought they were being spiritual by just sitting and waiting on him to take the next step. But the lesson Nehemiah learned was that God was waiting on them to take the next step!
A mother can only do so much toward making her little baby walk. She can provide nutrition, a safe place to practice, and encouragement. But then she has let the baby try, fail, try, fail and try again. For Nehemiah to take his baby steps, he had to pray to God, and appear to the king for permission, and lead the delegation back to Jerusalem, and begin rebuilding the walls.
We believers in the 21st century have to learn that lesson as well. We have to take encouragement from the fact that our God has supplied our basic needs, and then trust him to supply what we need to follow his commission. His commission for us is not to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls but to make disciples for Jesus Christ in all the nations of the planet.
But we are so good at coming up with excuses for not doing that. One of our favorite excuses is that we do not have the resources. We think that all we are doing is just getting by, so the disciple-making should be left to the well-to-do Christians in the large churches with the large budgets.
But the Great Commission was given to all eleven apostles and intended to be passed on by them to all believers until the end of the age. That’s why Jesus promised them that he would be with them “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The apostles would live temporary lives. They wouldn’t be around at the end of the age. So they had to pass on that commission to the believers who followed.
There are some similarities between the two commissions: the commission of Nehemiah and his friends and the Great Commission given to the eleven.
First, Nehemiah and his crew were not perfect specimens of faith in God. They had grown up in the faith school of hard knocks. But the eleven were not perfect specimens of faith either. Matthew 28:17 says “When (the eleven) saw (Jesus), they worshiped, but some doubted.” Imagine doubting even while staring at the risen Savior!
Second, Nehemiah got his permission from the king, but he got his authority from someone higher than the king. The commission came from God himself. Likewise, Jesus made it clear to the eleven that “All authority has been given to (him) in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
Third, Nehemiah had to get up off his position to obey God. He could not just stay in his comfortable job as cup-bearer to the king. He had to get up and go. He was here, and the problem was there. Those walls were not going to come to him. Likewise, Jesus tells the eleven “go therefore.” In fact, the exact translation of that Greek aorist participle πορευθέντες is more like “after you go.” He was telling them that if they are obedient in going, then the rest of the job would become evident as they obeyed the “go” part.
Fourth, Nehemiah had to enlist others in his obedience. His was not a private commission. The job was too great for simple individual devotion to handle. Likewise, Jesus told the eleven to baptize and teach others to follow the same Great Commission. Our commission will last longer that a few years – even longer that our lifetimes. It will last for the entire age until our master returns. The only way for us to finish the course is to bring others onto the team.
I want to come back to one message for us to meditate on today. That message is God loves us. His provision for our basic needs is one way that he demonstrates that love. There are many other ways. But once you know that somebody loves you, you don’t have to keep looking for proof.
Loving Father, thank you for demonstrating your love to us by providing for our basic needs. Encourage us today to respond to your love by taking the next step in obedience to your call.