Leaders in Israel

Leaders in Israel

Scripture: Nehemiah 8:12, 1 Kings 12:1-16, Acts 15:7-11
Date: 12/28/2019  Lesson: 13
'It could be said that both Ezra and Nehemiah had a purpose in life. They had a vision of where they wanted the people of God to be, and then they put everything into accomplishing the goal.'

Is Obedience Legalism? - Paper or Digital Download

Is Obedience Legalism? - Paper or Digital Download
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Jean Ross: Good morning, friends. Welcome again to "Sabbath School Study Hour" here at the Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. I'd like to welcome all of you on a somewhat rainy Sabbath. We glad you have braved the cold to be here with us. I'd also like to welcome those who are joining us online, and we have a number of our online members that tune in every week to participate in our Bible study together.

Well, we've come to the final study in our series on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today, we find ourselves on lesson number 13; it's entitled "Leaders in Israel." So we're going to be wrapping up our study on these two very important prophetic Old Testament books.

But before we get to our lesson, I'd like to let our friends know about our free offer today. We have one of our "Amazing Facts" study guides, and we'll be happy to send this to anyone who calls and asks. The study guide is entitled "Is Obedience Legalism?" And this again is our free offer for today. If you'd like to receive this, the number to call is... and you can ask for offer number 706, and we'll be happy to send that to you. Again, ask for the study guide entitled "Is Obedience Legalism?" Or if you'd like, you'd be able to download a digital copy of our study guide, and you'll be able to read it online, on your iPhone, or whatever tablet you might have. If you'd like to receive a digital copy of this study guide, you would need to just text the number that you'll find on your screen, and we'll be happy to send you the link as to how you can download a free copy of the study guide, "In God, We Trust."

Well, before we get to our lesson today, we have a special treat. We have a musical item that will be brought to us, including the harp, the oboe, the violin. And so I think it'll help be a wonderful blessing for our worship today.

♪♪♪

Jean Ross: Amen. Thank you, musicians. Beautiful. Let's bow our heads for prayer. Dear father in Heaven, we thank You that we have this opportunity together in Your house to open up your word, and we ask for Your special blessing as we finish up our study on these two Old Testament books, Ezra and Nehemiah. That You would guide us into a clear understanding of how we can apply these important truths to our lives today. For we ask this in Jesus's name, amen. Our lesson this morning's gonna be brought to us by Pastor Shawn.

Shawn Brummund: Well, good morning to everyone. It's good to be able to see you here on this Sabbath morning as we continue to study and as we look at our last lesson study for this particular quarter of this year, and it's the last year of 2019. Can you believe it? Some of us, the older we get, the less we can believe it because the faster the time goes by, but another year has flown by, we're wrapping things up for 2019, and we're also wrapping up our study for this particular study. And so we're looking at lesson number 13, "Leaders in Israel." And as I already mentioned by Pastor Jean, this is our last weekly study on Ezra and Nehemiah. These are no small individuals in the history of God's plan of Salvation. They are absolutely instrumental. And I hope you pick that up.

We've looked at it in the light of history. We've looked in study this in the light of prophecy, and we've looked at in the light of the plan of salvation that God had and continues to have for this particular world and planet. These were two men that played critical roles in the second great Exodus from slavery, from captivity, and led God's people back into the promised land.

Now, the first exodus was led by Moses. Good, I hear some people responding, and some of us are tuning in and waking up, that's good. And, so the first exodus was led by Moses. That was an easy one, wasn't it? From what country? From Egypt. There's another easy one. The second great Exodus was from the country of? Was from the countryside of Babylon. Now, of course, the Empire was not ruled by Babylon by the time Ezra and Nehemiah came along, but it was ruled by? The Persians and the Medes. Now I'm challenge you a little bit more. Now you have to think a little bit stronger. And yeah. So, when Moses-- Or sorry, when Ezra and Nehemiah came along, they were under the rulership of the Persians, which was more to the east, modern Iran and so on. And so the capital of the Empire was no longer in the city of Babylon. Babylonia in Mesopotamia was no longer the central headquarters of the known world back then, but rather it was in Persia. But nevertheless, Babylon is where the Israelites and the Jews were taken into captivity some 70 years beforehand, and so of course, this is where they reproduced and settle down and continue to serve, first the Babylonians, and then also the Persians and the Medes. And so, yes, the first exodus was led by Moses from Egypt, the second was from the area of Babylon, and just like Moses, both of these men were called to be prophets.

And so, there's a lot of parallels between Ezra and Nehemiah and that of Moses. Moses was called to be a prophet. Was Moses a Bible writer? Mm-kay, some of you are saying yes, some of you're saying no, all right. Now, I'm starting to wake up a little bit more. The answer is? Yes, okay? In fact, he wrote the first five books of the Bible, didn't he? Starting with Genesis and the evidence also seems to indicate that more likely than not, Moses also wrote the book of Job. And so Job, I mean Moses wrote at least five, and probably six of the old Testament books. And he was the first Bible writer to contribute to the Bible. Well, so did Ezra, and so did Nehemiah. So both of them were called to be prophets. Both of them were Bible writers, okay? So these are critical figures, and just like Moses they are instrumental in leading out in God's plan of fulfilling His plan of salvation. And how are they doing that? They were preparing the way for the Messiah.

They were preparing the way for the arrival of the Christ that would take away the sins of both Israel and the world. And so, these are no small figures that we've been studying. Just like Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah did not hesitate to stand for the right. As we have studied their lives, just like Moses, even when their decisions and stand was unpopular, not only with those outside of Israel--you know, the surrounding nations and leaders and governors of the area--but also, sometimes within the people of Israel as well. And so both Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah had that parallel.

They were very strong men of God, and they were willing to take a strong stand, no matter the heavens fall, and these were the type of men that God had called just for that reason. And so what was the secret of their success? What made Ezra and Nehemiah so successful in their leadership? And how can we tap into it for our own success in regards to faith and in regards to the role that we play in God's plan of salvation? Because God's plan is still playing out, isn't it?

Now, we've been studying, you know, about 500 years before Christ. We've been parked about 2,500 years ago, for the last three months, as we've studied these two individuals and books. But of course, we're still extending the God's plan of Salvation. And if you are a believer today, and you are studying here as a worshiper of God today, there is a plan and a part that God has for you. Now, what may not be in the position, as instrumental as Ezra and Nehemiah, but each of us has a small but very important part and never forget that. Never forget that. You will say, "Well, my part is so small. I just help out with the hospitality." Or, "I just help out, you know, with janitorial." Whatever it is, friend. Whatever your part is, it is absolutely instrumental. It is critical. It is important.

Now, it may be a small part compared to Ezra, Nehemiah, or Doug Bachelor and so on, but friends, it's still critical, because when you put all of the members of the body together, we are fulfilling and extending the plan and the kingdom of God and preparing the way for the second coming of Jesus. Ezra and Nehemiah prepared God's people to be able to be ready for the first coming of Christ, and we are involved in preparing God's people and the world for the second coming of Christ.

Well, that being said, let's open our quarterlies to page 104. We're going to page 104 here this morning. And, you know, I rarely, rarely do this. This is for those of you who have listened in on my "Sabbath Schools" before, where I'll just read the whole page, but you know the introduction is so well done here on the opening page, I'm just gonna go ahead and read that as we introduce ourselves to this lesson study, "Israel's Leaders." And it says, "Both Ezra and Nehemiah are examples of great leaders who were dedicated to God and to fulfilling the task that the Lord had called them to do. Their love for God inspired in them a desire to be faithful servants."

What was it that inspired them? Their love. Their love for God. And we didn't wanna brush over that. In fact, their faithfulness was a central part of our study. This week we're gonna look at examples of leadership that is found in the Bible. So not just Ezra and Nehemiah, but other leaders as well, including the examples of Ezra and Nehemiah. These are not exhaustive lessons for sure, as there are many that can be discussed. Of course, we don't have near the time, nor the pages. However, their lessons that we are chosen--we have chosen, are essential for any leader. And so we're gonna look at the essentials that are universal for the success of all leaders.

You may not consider yourself a leader at this specific time in your life, but we all have influence with some people, and therefore, the lessons are applicable to everyone. And so you say, "Well, I don't have a leadership position, and I'm not sure if I ever going to have a leadership." Well, we all have some kind of leadership capacity, okay? We may be the leader of our house. We may be the leader of our family or a group or a committee or an organization or whatever it is. God always puts us in some form of leadership and influence, and so the principles are universal.

Central to the story of these leaders is the word of God. Now, I like that, don't you? Okay, so central to the story of these leaders is the word of God. This was instrumental to both Ezra and Nehemiah. Now, the word transformed their thinking and life and resulted in the whole program for revival and reformation. They were totally indebted to God's word and His instructions that are found in it. And in the same way, no matter who we are and whatever our role is, we must keep the word of God central to how we live as Seventh Day Adventist Christians. And I'm glad to hear a couple of amen's out there, because I'd say a hearty amen to that as well, and I know that the Lord Himself is saying amen, because Jesus has called us. He says, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Thy word is truth."

As Jesus was praying to His father concerning His first disciples. And then later on in that same prayer, he said, "I pray not only for these but for those in the future, for those who are to come." And so that prayer is for us as well. So, Ezra and Nehemiah understood the great power and importance and centrality of the word of God in regard to their personal lives and in regards to the success that God had called them to in that of a position of leadership. And too often, as leaders, even within the church, we can find ourselves setting this aside just a little bit more than we should. And so I believe that this lesson, this last lesson that we're looking at here today, in our time here today, is speaking to all of us as leaders. Pastors, conference leaders, union leaders, GC leaders, and so on. All the different levels of leadership that God has given to this organization. We have to remember that this needs to remain central to our personal lives, our thinking, our decision-making, our sanctification, as well as, of course, all church leaders within the church at whatever capacity that is in our church leadership. So that’s instrumental for you and me.

Now, the interesting thing about Ezra the priest is that he was not the only priest to lead and reestablishing Israel in the promised land. Now, we have to think way back to the very beginning of this quarter, and at the very beginning of the book of Ezra, and we find there that Ezra is not found in the first exodus, in the first phase of the second great exodus of Israel's history. It's the largest group. There's about 50,000 that went originally but it was led under Zerubbabel, who was the governor, but then the high priest and the instrumentals figure that's listed right after the governor is? Is Jeshua. Now Jeshua were not quite as familiar with that form of the name, but that form of the name it turns out, scholars have discovered, and Zechariah also uses the form Joshua. So Joshua or Yeshua, and so we have Jeshua. And so we have a number of different forms of the same name.

So Jeshua was the high priest, and he was with the first phase of the exodus, the largest group that first initially went back. And so he was the initial key priest that led that first group of Jews back to Israel. And he was also living when Ezra arrived. So, when Ezra arrived several years later, we find that Jeshua continued to parallel his leadership and his role as high priest in this new budding, reestablishing nation that God had led them back for. And yet we find the interesting thing is that Ezra very quickly rose to prominence. It almost seems like the moment that Ezra arrived, God kind of put him in front.

Now, Jeshua continued to lead in his role as the high priest, but he was no longer the instrumental priest, very parallel, again, to that of Moses. Because when we find Moses and Aaron, we find that Moses was not the high priest, Aaron was the high priest. Now Moses was a levite. He was part of the tribe of Levi and of Holy work within the sanctuary and temple and so on, but he was called to a more prominent position than even that of his brother Aaron in his position. So, interesting that Ezra rose to prominence so quickly, almost immediately after he arrived in Israel.

Now, speaking of Moses, have you ever wondered why God had chosen Moses instead of his older brother Aaron? Why had God chosen Moses instead of his older brother Aaron? Now, we could have a whole-- spend the rest of our time looking at that, examining the life of Moses and the background that Moses had, the experiences that God had given to Moses. But why had God chosen Moses? He could have chose a different plan. I mean, it makes more sense and biblically, there's a principle there.

Even today, you know, when I think of my experience with my younger brother, I was the preeminent one. Now, doesn't make me more important, but you know, when you're the older brother, you're the older brother. And so, then you have your kid brother. Why was it that God chose Moses's kid--I mean, Aaron's kid brother to be the most prominent leader in the first exodus and establishing the initial nation of Israel? Well, history tells us that Moses had proven to be more faithful than Aaron. Now, if we look at the history and the record of Aaron as we look at his life and actions and decisions, can you imagine how history would've been rewritten for the worse if God had chosen Aaron to be the preeminent and the most prominent leader in the first exodus? They would have been in trouble, wouldn't they?

Some of us remember some of the different foibles of the older brother of Moses. So Moses had proven to be more faithful, and therefore he was, as a result, he was stronger than Aaron. Now that doesn't mean he could necessarily win him in a arm wrestle, but what that means is that he was stronger morally, spiritually, and that's what God needed. That's what God needed, that's what Israel needed at that time. And so therefore, Moses was more qualified, and he was more capable to withstand the tremendous pressures and the temptations that Israel would give to him.

And many of us that have read through the writings and the experience of Moses saw that he went through a lot of tremendous pressure. Not from those outside of Israel, but within the ranks themselves. That's where his greatest source of grief was on a continual basis. And so, because of that, God knew that Moses, the younger brother, was the one that was to be chosen to be preeminent. Of course, as we look at Aaron, and again this is not a slight against Aaron. Aaron was still a sincere man of God. God had demonstrated that through his continual support of Aaron. But Aaron, you know, when Moses took a long meeting, committee time with the Lord Himself at the top of Mount Sinai, you know, the Israelites got restless, their minds started to go back to their religious ways in Egypt, mingling through the truth of the religion they'd inherited from Abraham with that of the Egyptians. And they said to themselves, "We want to know and worship the God that has called us out of here in the way that we're accustomed. Make us a golden calf!"

Now, Aaron was second-in-charge, and so he was the one that was in charge while Moses was vacant. And of course we find that Aaron didn't take a stand, and instead we find that he ended up capitulating and he had helped facilitate the making of this golden calf, and of course the golden calf is just a small part. All the religious activities that surrounded that and the deep immorality that surrounded that religious system also emerged during that time. Now, when Moses came back, did he say, "Oh well, it's too late. You know, the horse is out of the corral. Cat's out of the bag. Nothing we can do now to get it back in."? No, not at all. Moses came back and he was a much different man, wasn't he? Much stronger than his older brother Aaron.

Now, again, this is not to say that Aaron's faith was not saving and sincere. God still chose him to be-- to take the role as high priest, the first high priest. We find here that God is still merciful and graceful to Aaron, but Aaron was not the man for the job as far as position goes.

And so when we come back to Ezra, we find that Ezra proved himself to be more of a Moses, and we find that the evidence is that Jeshua proved himself to be more of an Aaron. And so both sincere men of God, but Ezra certainly was more faithful, he was more stronger, as a result, he was more capable, and therefore more qualified. Let me demonstrate that.

Let's open our bibles to Ezra chapter 7. Let's go back to the book of Ezra. Now, of course, at the end of this particular time, we find that-- In our study, we find that we've read through pretty well, if not every verse in both Ezra and Nehemiah. They're not long books, and so that's one of the advantages when we study these two small books over three months is that we can make our way carefully through all the verses. So we're going through Ezra chapter 7, and we're going to read verse 10. Now, this is not a small verse. In Ezra chapter 7, verse 10. This is Ezra recording his initial experience and calling by God as God is about to have him head up the second phase and group of Israelites to exodus, or exit, that of Babylonia and go back to Israel, the land of Israel. Verse 10, it says, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to?" To do it, okay?

We find James in the New Testament says be not only hearers of the word, but be doers also, alright? So here we have that Ezra has fulfilled that. He says, "For Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." And so here we have Ezra, from his heart, he's preparing his heart, and he had determined as God had very clearly called him to seek the Law of the Lord.

Now, we may have to remember the law here is capital L, and this is not in the context of just the 10 Commandments, although that is to be sure to be included. But the Law of the Lord in this particular context, as it is many times in the Old Testament, is referring to all the writings of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. The old covenant and all the details that God had given them to follow and to obey. And not only would he do it personally, but then he was also determined as God had called them to be a teacher of those statutes and ordinances in Israel. And so, because Ezra was so solid and so daily committed to that calling and that foundation that we read in verse 10, which of course needs to apply to us if we're going to be successful as Christians, especially as a Christian leaders.

Then, of course, that qualified Ezra for a preeminent position. Now, last week we learned that shortly after Ezra arrived in Israel, he had learned from some of the Jewish leaders that many of the Jewish young men, or older men perhaps as well, had taken for themselves wives, but they didn't choose those wives from within God's people. They had chosen them from the surrounding nations and peoples, unconverted pagan wives.

Now, if they had done Bible studies with them, and there may be some watching, or some here today in Granite Bay church that, you know, I have a good friend of mine back in Canada, and he's a pastor, and he used to be a colporter, a Bible worker. And one of his Bible studies ended up being a young woman that he ended up marrying. Now when he first started Bible studies with her, she wasn't on the same page, she didn't understand the truths and so on, but as she understood and accepted those truths, was baptized, then she became qualified to be his wife. And they're still happily married today.

But in this case, we're talking about marrying wives before they're converted. And so these are pagan wives, and we studied that in extent last week as Pastor Lucas had done such a good job for us. And so we don't want to spend too much time on that, but we're looking at in the light of Ezra and why he was preeminent even after he came after Jeshua.

Now, what was Ezra's immediate response when he heard the bad news? Tore his robe, he began to tear at his hair, and then we find that he immediately started to go into a phase of fasting. So he put aside you know, the regular luxuries and creams and lotions and things and as well as food and such, and so he began to put all these things that we have distract us and consume so much of our day, and he just poured his heart out before the Lord. And after a phase of fasting, we find then that he's on record of falling on his knees, and he lifts up his arms before the Lord, and he begins to pray. And he lifts up his arms, but he doesn't lift up his head. In fact, it says that he bows his head and says, "Lord, I am shamed." I'm ashamed, not because of his own decisions, but the shame-- he was ashamed of the choices of his people. And he had been out of town for a while, by the way.

The context is he was back at the King's business in Persia, and now he had returned and found-- And sorry, no, that's not true, that's Nehemiah. Don't want to get the two confused. And so here Ezra is arriving. He hears the bad news, he falls on his knees, and in shame he confesses the sins of his people. And it says that he was weeping, he was crying over the sins and the sinful position, the very vulnerable position that the decisions of the Israelites had put them in. And as he's praying, we find here that God had answered.

He's praying and not only confessing, but praying for repentance. And repentance came, didn't it? And before his prayers were even open, we have them come in and they're crying as well, some of the key Israelites. "And they're saying, We've really blown it. We need to be able to fix this." And by God's grace they did. Now, again, this is not a slight against Jeshua in regards to his faith, because Jeshua and the evidence, just as Aaron was, was that even though he wasn't as strong as Aaron, he still had a sincere faith, the evidence is there.

But Jeshua was the only one on record of permitting one or more of his sons to marry one of those unconverted pagan wives. And so the response, in the position of both these men of God, these priests, is much different, isn't it? So Jeshua was sincere, just as Aaron was, but he was not as strong. Ezra chapter 10 and verse 18, by the way, is where you can find that record. So Jeshua was on record of permitting one or more of his sons to marry one of those unconverted pagan wives, and so Joshua had committed, even under his own household, had allowed this predicament to take place in his particular house.

Now, to be sure, also Jeshua and his son, or more again, it's not clear in that verse if it was one or more, but certainly both Jeshua and his son or sons, had repented with the rest and had separated themselves from the unconverted pagan wives that they had brought into the camp. And so that's just something interesting and a parallel there between Moses and that of Ezra, as well as that of the older brother of Moses, Aaron.

Well, as we continue on in Sunday, we look at the influence of leaders. And as we look at the influence of leaders, we find that Sunday is pointing out that there are some good influences found in the leadership of Israel throughout its history and some bad leadership examples as well. And so it gives us a number of those for us to be able to look at. And of course, when we're in a position of leadership, our influence is greater.

The decisions that we make have a bigger impact on other people, both, not only believers, but also unbelievers as well. And so as a pastor, sometimes, you know, I have to remember, I have to keep reminding myself, you know, that my neighbors are watching. You know, they found out very quickly that they have a new neighbor and that neighbor is a pastor. He's not only a Christian, but he's a Christian pastor. And so because of that, you know, I have to be-- I'm sincere anyway, but you know, I have to be careful, you know, and I have to make sure that I understand that my influence and the decisions that I'm making is impacting not only church members, but also non-church members as well.

And sometimes, you know, because God is working on all of us, there's been times when I say something or do something it is not--the Lord has spoken to me on it. But He not always speaks to me on it in concern to my error, but then it was in earshot or in eyesight of a neighbor, and I realize oh, Lord, please forgive me, and may You help to undo that influence for the worse, rather than the good. By God's grace, you know, that's the exception to the rule in my life as he works through me, but it's a good principle for us to be able to keep in mind. It's crucial that we reflect the principles and teachings of scripture.

So we're going to just look at a couple of them as they give a number of examples. Rehoboam. Now, Rehoboam is the son of? Solomon, somebody says. Okay, this is where I know if you've studied your lesson or not. Or you know the Bible really, really well. Because, not too many people, if you haven't studied this book or lesson beforehand, would remember who Rehoboam is. But Rehoboam is the eldest son of King Solomon.

King Solomon dies, and so, of course, Rehoboam is the one that is rightly put on the throne. And but the problem is that Rehoboam is not, well, Solomon wasn't all that wise in his last years either, unfortunately, and he wasn't so close to the Lord Himself. And so because of that, some of the fruits, and by the way the influence of the leadership of Solomon didn't end at his grave, did it? You know, the influence of Solomon rubbed off on-- and his bad decisions rubbed on--his bad leadership rubbed off on his son as well. And so here we have Rehoboam, I think the scripture says he was like 41 years old. So he's not old man, he's not a young man, but he's been around and such. And we find that you know, Jeroboam one of the Jews from the tribe of Efraim. He is also a prominent leader, he was a servant of Solomon, he was in hiding in Egypt because Solomon was after him because God had prophesied that he would rule most of the tribes of Israel after Solomon's death. And Solomon tried to interfere with God's plan, and so he tried to have him killed. And so he's in hiding, he comes out.

And so during the inauguration of Rehoboam, we find that Jeroboam is the spokesperson for the majority of the tribes of Israel. And he comes up and he speaks publicly, and he addresses Rehoboam. And he says, "Rehoboam, you know your father, your dad, Solomon, you know he was hard on us. He brought on us unreasonable burdens, upon the people, and if there's one request that we have at the beginning of your reign, if you could please lighten those burdens to something at a more reasonable rate and a more reasonable level." Jeroboam said, "I'll get back to you in three days." He addressed the elders who had been around for many years, had the experience, had stood beside, at the side of the throne of Solomon for many years, and he said, "What do you think?" And they said, "Well, O King, live forever, but Rehoboam, we are suggesting a devices that you do lighten the load. You listen to the people, and if you encourage them and show them that you sincerely care for them and you give them good words and you count yourselves as their servant, then they we'll serve you forever."

Now, does that sound like good advice? Sure it is! Okay, this advice came from the Lord without doubt. Well, Rehoboam, it says, sadly, he didn't like that advice at all. And so he said, "You know what? That doesn't hold water with me." And so, he went and he got his second group of advisers. Now, the second group of advisers are his buddies. These are the ones he went to high school with, he grew up with, and such. And so he goes to them and he says, "What do you think?" And they said, "Well, Rehoboam, no, don't listen to those old guys. They don't know what they're talking about. You need to go out and you need to tell them you thought it was tough with Solomon, it's going to be twice as tough with me now." And so we increased the burden to show how tough he was and how strong and powerful he was as a king. And so, his head kind of swelled two sizes bigger probably that day.

Did it work out? How did that go? How did that work out for him, as we say today? Okay, he lost 10 of the tribes of the 12 tribes of Israel. And so his reign and his kingdom shrunk to about, well, less than 20% of what it was before he had made that bad decision. So there's an example of bad leadership in concern to one of the ancient kings and leaders of God's Nation. Now, in 1 Kings chapter 14, 1 Kings chapter 14 and verse 21, 1 King--sorry, 1 Kings chapter 14 and verse 21, as well as verse 31, you will find there that God had inspired the prophet or prophets that wrote the book of 1 Kings, that they point out something interesting that normally is not pointed out. But I believe it was pointed out twice because God wanted us to pick up on this.

And this brings us back to Ezra, Nehemiah's day, when you have intermarrying with unbelievers in the surrounding peoples. And that is that Rehoboam's mother was not an Israelite, she was an Ammonitess. An Ammonitess, okay? It sounds like a disease today, doesn't it? Okay, but it's not, and it actually means that she was a citizen of the people and country of Ammon, okay? And so, was she a believer? No, was she converted? No, see, one of the things on the record of Solomon is that he had made the mistake of marrying dozens, even hundreds of unbelieving wives. And it was to his detriment and to the detriment of the nation. And so here we have another result of the bad decisions that Solomon had made during his reign and that he had chosen to marry an Ammonitess, a woman of Ammon who also had a different religion, different language, different values, different principles, and because of that, she was the number one influence, of course on Rehoboam. And it didn't turn out well, did it? No, not at all.

All right, so let's look at a good example, we don't want to focus on the negative for too long. In 2 Kings chapter 23, in verses 1-10, if you read in debt your homework beforehand, you're able to read that. We don't have time to read all 10 verses, but then we have Josiah. And Josiah was one of the line. In fact, he was the last faithful king during the reign of Israel before they were taken into exile and captivity to Babylon. Excuse me, so Josiah was at the last, at the very tail end of the string of kings that had ruled in Israel up until the Babylonian exile. And was he faithful to God? Praise God, he was. Wasn't he? He was the exception. Sadly, we have to say that he was the exception because sadly, most were not quite as faithful as they should have been. But Josiah was one of those ones that was very faithful to God, just like Ezra and Nehemiah.

And so we find that there's an interesting, very intriguing scene there, they were Josiah and his previous kings, his ancestors had strayed so far from the Lord that not only were they not reading and following and teaching the Bible, they didn't even know where the Bible was. So, you know, if Ezra would arrive at that time and they said, "Well, show me the book of the law. I need a copy of the book of Deuteronomy." And they said, "Deuter-what?" They said, "We'd never even heard of Deuteronomy. What is that" "Well, so what do you mean? Of course, that's the fifth book of the book of the law of Moses." And they said, "Well, we haven't had a bible around for years!" And so they literally didn't even know where the Bible was. And so here we have Hilkiah and Shaphan the scribe. Hilkiah the high priest and they're doing some other orders and renovations of the house of God and the temple of God as Josiah had righteously had commissioned. And we find there that they're going through one of the back rooms, and they come across this mysterious book and it says Deuteronomy and Exodus, and it talks about Aaron and so on, and so Shaphan, you know the scribe, brings it to the king and starts to read it to the King.

And the King is hearing the word of God for the very first time, okay? He took the throne, I think he was eight years old. Just a young boy. Can you imagine taking the throne at eight and still being faithful to God? Now there's a faithful young man, faithful boy and then young man. And so he was about 26 I think, when this happened and he hears the word of God after being king for several years in Israel. And here's the word of God for the very first time. And as he hears the words, and the words of the covenants, and he hears the blessings and the curses at the end of the last speech of Moses in Deuteronomy, and he realizes that everything that is happening in Israel, under the leadership of his ancestors, for decades now, is demanding God's curse upon Israel.

And so how does he respond? He tears his robe, just like Ezra did. Didn't he? He tears his robe and he puts on sackcloth and ashes, and he begins to mourn and to weep and to cry over the condition that he realizes more than. Now, he probably had a pretty good feeling and a pretty good idea because he had the spirit of the Lord that Israel wasn't where it's supposed to be, but now this confirmed crystal clear, in living color, that they had strayed so far from the Lord Himself and from His covenant and from His words. And so we find that he's very much on the same page as Ezra and the same page of Nehemiah. And so not only does he weep over it, but then he leads out a very powerful reformation and revival.

He begins to tear down things, you know and crush and break to pieces all these idols, some of them in the very temple of God itself. Now, friend, sometimes we brush over this and we don't think about the personal experience that Josiah must have gone through, but can you imagine the pushback that he experienced when that took place? Now, when he gave all these commissions, and I'm sure he over-looked it, and was physically there most of the time when these instrumental idols were being destroyed and so on. Because you know that the pushback and the resistance would've been tremendous, because the devil had such inroads and had established routes that were so deep for so long that inevitably he would have experienced all kinds of pushback and resistance. And so it wasn't a popular thing for him to do that.

For us, we read it, and would say, "Go Josiah!" You know? But for him, he's not sleeping very well a lot of those nights because there's bound to be tremendous pushback from very powerful and instrumental figures within Israel. But just like Ezra and Nehemiah, regardless of how popular it was, he wanted to please the Lord first.

You know, it's like the Apostle Paul says, "If I were a pleaser of men, I would not be a pleaser of God." You can't please man and God at the same time. So sometimes the stands that we make don't always make friends, but friends, sometimes even though we may lose friends at times, it's amazing how many times God can bring us around, you know round circle, and we can come back and be friends in the future as god brings us both to that same page. So that's important for us to understand.

Let's continue on. It was, you go to Monday. Evil in the sight of the Lord. We have a few more examples of a bad leadership, very much like on Sunday, and then it goes on and tells us that spiritual leaders influence others, either toward God, if they themselves see God, or toward evil if they do not. The fact that Ezra and Nehemiah had a strong relationship with God is undeniable.

Now, friends, this is just as important as their faithfulness to the word of God. If we are only faithful to studying the word of God, but we're not faithful and committed to have any personal, saving, day-by-day relationship with the Lord, then we're still in a bad place, aren't we? Okay, and so Ezra and Nehemiah found their qualifications, not only because of their dedication to the word of God, but because of the dedication to the God of the word. And so they also found themselves on their knees on a daily basis, talking to the Lord, saying, "Lord, guide me, help me to be a faithful servant again today. Help me to know what Your plan is. Give me Your Holy Spirit, that I may have strength that is far bigger than myself. Help me to have wisdom that is far greater than my mind. Help me to make good decisions, because you're walking with me and through me and in me." And the same thing of course applies to us, doesn't it? And so they had both. We need to have both. And we need to be able to understand that's the only way that we can resist evil. The word of God, plus a personal relationship with the Lord Himself. And then we can make a powerful, powerful difference.

Now, it's also pointed out on Monday that not everyone that Ezra and Nehemiah influenced brought them to the throne of grace, okay? Not everybody that Nehemiah and Ezra influenced were brought into the kingdom of God. Some of them still said, "You know what? I see the Lord. I see the powerful workings. There's an undeniable evidence that the Lord is working through you and through your ministry, in rebuilding the wall and rebuilding the temple, and rebuilding and establishing Israel and Jerusalem as the Holy City. But you know what? I still want to go my own way."

Okay, there are still several people that find themselves in that camp. Does that mean that Ezra and Nehemiah failed? Does that mean that we as spiritual leaders in the church fail? No, of course, we just have to go back to the Master Himself, to Jesus. Now, Jesus walked for 3 1/2 years, He ate, He talked, He walked, and He lived with 12-plus faithful disciples. Now the 12, the most prominent, where the inner circle of the 12 Apostles. Now, one of those 12 was by the name of Judas Iscariot, okay? Now, did Jesus neglect Judas? Did He say, "Oh, listen, you're a write off, like, you know, I'm not gonna spend my--" No, He--in fact, He probably invested more in Judas than He did in some of the other Apostles. Did Judas still find himself in the kingdom of God? No. All the evidence shows that he hung himself, and he became a man that was lost for all of eternity. And so even Jesus, the greatest, most influential figure in all of time, that had the attention of Judas Iscariot for 3 1/2 complete years still lost Judas. And so, if He can't win them all, we won't be able to influence them all into the kingdom as well.

The bottom line is that all of us need to answer before the Lord alone. We all as individuals have to answer and say, "Am I going to respond to the faithful influence of this pastor or my Christian friend or my Seventh Day Adventist neighbor, or am I not going to respond?" And some say yes, some say no. And that's just a sad reality of life.

But let's continue on to Tuesday. On Tuesday, we also have a very important facet or trait of every successful spiritual leader, and that is courage. Courage is neat. Now, we've already touched on that, we looked at Moses, we looked at Ezra, we looked at Nehemiah. These were men of great courage because of their faithfulness and their submission to God in such a regular, deep, and real way. In Nehemiah chapter 4, verses 7-23, the passage there that the study points us to is in regards to rebuilding the wall.

Now, as they started to rebuild the wall, and as the surrounding enemies and non-Israelite people saw their success that was budding, they started to try to stymie that. In fact, they even conspired that we're going to attack them when they don't know we're coming. Well, the word got out, and the Lord gave them a heads up on that. And so, Nehemiah made it clear to them, to the enemies, that they were prepared, and he also prepared them, didn't they? And that points out something very important in regards to courage and working with God.

Now, Nehemiah could have said, "All right God, You do it all. You know, I'm just going to put it in Your hands, we're going to go out there just with our tools that are needed to be able to build the wall, and that's all we're gonna bring with us. And the rest we're going to put in Your hands." No, we find that he works in partnership with what he has at his hand, and as it turns out, they had available spears and bows and swords and so on. And so he took half of his resources and people and he put them in charge of protecting the other half, and even the ones that were at the wall were taking turns.

They would take watch by night, and they would build a wall during the day when it was daylight. And it says that the during the last days of that 51 powerful period in which they rebuilt the wall, they didn't even change the clothes. They didn't even go home and go to bed. They would just sleep on the wall, as they were taking turns watching through the night. And it says the only time they change their clothes was when they had to wash their clothes, but otherwise they didn't even take off the clothes to go to sleep at night. No one really saw their bed for several weeks. And so here we find a very powerful, courageous partnership that Nehemiah had with the Lord Himself.

There's a really powerful sentence in the middle of Tuesday's lesson. It says, "Nehemiah encouraged the people, believed in them, worked with them, and gave them responsibility to act." And this is important, "He empowered them to do the work as he delegated and assigned responsibilities." And so Nehemiah also didn't make the mistake of thinking that he could do it all himself. He says, "Wow, I'm powerful. I'm close to the Lord. God has given me a preeminent position. I'm just going to do it all. You guys just stay back and just watch the show." No, he said, "Listen, we're in this together. There's no way I can do it alone. We need to work together." And so he encouraged them. He worked with them. He believed in them.

Have you ever noticed that when you're working out as a leader within a committee in the church or in ministry, and they believe in you and encourage you and they empower you, that you just feel a whole lot more encouraged, and you just feel a lot more effective in your ministry? And so this is powerful, valuable stuff for us as leaders in whatever capacity we are within the church.

The other thing that we find is that Nehemiah not only did he delegate and empower and encourage and such, but it tells us that he worked alongside with them as the work needed to be done, and so he didn't just delegate, encourage only, and then just say, "Listen, you know, I'll be at home if you need me." No, he said, "Listen, we're in this together. We're in this together." So Wednesday's lesson is on purpose and passion.

Every good spiritual leader will have purpose and they will have passion within their ministry. What is purpose? What was the purpose of Ezra and Nehemiah? To see God's will done in the lives of His people. To establish the Holy Temple, to establish the Holy City, so that it would be prepared to receive the Messiah of the Lord. To reestablish the great symbolism that was found in the ceremonial sacrificial system of the temple that was all declaring in 3D, God's plan of Salvation in which Christ was going to come and fulfill in His literal ministry. And so there was a lot of purpose, and therefore the passion follows that purpose as they went forward to fulfill that purpose God had in their life.

Ezra did this through studying the scriptures, teaching the people the word of God on a faithful and regular basis. Nehemiah encouraged the people to do what was right and stand up boldly for God. And so they fulfilled their purpose in a powerful way with God-given passion. And then finally on Thursday we have humility. And Nehemiah chapter 4 and verse 23 is where we're going to close today. So if you want to turn with me to Nehemiah and chapter 4 and verse 23. Nehemiah chapter 4, the last verse, verse 23. It says, "So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing." And that's why I was just talking about before.

And so what I want to point out here is that we find that is in the exclusive sense, isn't it? Here Nehemiah is writing. He says, "Neither I, my brethren, or my servants, or the men of the guard who followed me, took off our clothes." So Nehemiah didn't say, "Listen, you guys just stay overnight. You guys, you know, you're not going to see your beds for a couple weeks. But I'll be at home sleeping soundly." No, he said, "Listen, I'm going to be sleeping on that wall just with you. I'm going to be in the same predicament as you are. We're in this together." He rolled up his sleeves and that shows a humble leader, doesn't it? And so, the last verse on Thursday, it says, "He sat," this is Jesus, "and He sat down, called the 12, and said to them, 'If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.'" We found that in Mark chapter 9, and verse 35. Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." And so we need to remember that God calls us to be successful leaders. And humility, being humble and counting ourselves as a servant to the people that were leading, is instrumental to that success.

Well, it's nice to be able to have you join us here on the "Sabbath School Study Hour." We're just so thrilled to be able to study with you week by week, as we have made our way through Ezra and Nehemiah. Next week, we're going to pick it up with a new study and that quarterly is one of my favorite books. It's the prophetic book of Daniel. Now, if Daniel is a foreign name to you, or you thought, "Boy, I've never really studied the Old Testament of Daniel." Don't miss this quarterly because this is powerful stuff. It is the sister book of Revelation, whether you knew that or not, you'll find out as we go through it. And we look forward to seeing you next week, God bless.

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Announcer: "Amazing Facts: Changed Lives."

Female: It wasn't my choice to be a Catholic. It was my parents' choice. My mom, she's very, very religious. My father, he was made the presidential trouble-shooter during the martial law. I guess, having seven kids would not be able to make my mother to be, you know, be there for each and every one of us, but what was really very hard for me was I was always told to be the ugliest, to be the darkest. You know, here in the Philippines, you're beautiful if you're white, but if you're brown or a little bit darker, which I was, you're ugly. All of us had about seven maids, one for each child. The maids would say, "My baby," or the one she's taking care of, "Is a lot better than yours," referring to me.

I believed because I was ugly, I believed I was stupid. I believed I was good for nothing, so I attracted all the bad things in my life. I had to believe that God is fair, so I said maybe that's because I was bad in my previous lives. So I believe in, of course, reincarnation, and when I was young, my mom told me that I could really see ghosts. I went into a lot of seance. And there was even a time when we did a ouija board, and then in front of me--really, it really happened, the four of us--the glass, which is a wine glass, it just went up.

So because this is my life, I do believe that I was attracted to the wrong man. There's anything that really happened very good was to have my two adorable children, but I was really abused in all areas: physically, emotionally, of course spiritually. You will think, "Where is God?"

I began to search, and unfortunately, my church doesn't have a Bible study. So I was able to go to a Baptist Bible study, and there I had a classmate. Her name is Lu. She gave me the DVDs, and that is where I learned about Pastor Doug and "Amazing Facts." That Baptist church saw my eagerness, so when I started asking for Sabbath worship on Saturday, they took me out. They even got a meeting, and they said that I was a stumbling block, me and Lu, and that is how we left. Our friends are all from the Baptist and we love them dearly, but the truth cannot be compromised.

So that is when we started having a Bible study, every four o'clock at Club Filipino, and I invite all my friends. It pains me to think that I was really lost. Why is it I could find teaching through a foreigner, from Pastor Doug? What if nobody gave me the message, because my growth happened because the DVDs that I watch every night, every morning. And even my friends, who happened to have Master degree, they say, "Why are you so much better? Maybe your teachers are good."

Yes, my teachers are from the "Amazing Facts." I owe my salvation, really, to all the teachings that I've learned from your DVDs and from your books.

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