Nehemiah 7: 1-3
In 2012, a think-tank held a search for 1,000 people of integrity in their country. From that group they identified 20 who they felt could become key governmental leaders. This was in reaction to the widespread dismay over the fact that one-third of the country’s regents and mayors were under investigation for graft. In a country of hundreds of millions, there was no shortage of leader applicants, but the think-tank believed it was imperative that they help elect leaders who possessed integrity.
Integrity was an important issue in Nehemiah’s day as well. With the walls completed and gates restored, the city of Jerusalem was secure once again (Nehemiah 7:1-3). But Nehemiah had two more tasks to do. First, he appointed “the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites” (Nehemiah 7:1). Why gatekeepers? Weren’t they simply security guards who were ignored by most people? No, their contribution should have been highly valued. For what good were impregnable walls if the one controlling the gates wasn’t trustworthy? The Great Wall of China was breached many times, simply because the gatekeepers were bribed to let in the invaders. Walls and gates are only as good as the people guarding them (Nehemiah 7:3).
Second, Nehemiah appointed leaders who were people of integrity (Nehemiah 7:2). Today, there is no shortage of talented people in our churches. And often these gifted ones are appointed as leaders because they’re deemed to be successful in their professional fields. But are they people of integrity, people who fear God? They should certainly be individuals who “fear God more than most” (v.2).
In appointing people to key positions, Nehemiah looked for people of integrity who feared God more than most. May we do the same in our churches.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
I wonder how many of us got tired of hearing our moms tell us, “Eat this, it’s good for you!” And you can bet that if it required a lot of coaxing, it wasn’t the most appetizing dish on the table!
Thankfully, there are a few items on the good-for-you menu that go down a little easier than eggplant or brussels sprouts. Like honey, for example. Who doesn’t love a glob of honey slathered thickly on buttered toast? And not only does it taste good, but scientific studies show that honey has great medicinal value. For one thing, it helps reduce cholesterol. It’s loaded with antioxidants that help fight cancer. And a bit of honey and lemon mixed with hot water has a sure soothing effect on a sore throat. In food world, there’s nothing else quite like honey. No wonder the psalmist David used it to describe God’s Word when he exclaimed, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
If we’re honest, our attitude doesn’t usually match up to David’s. Can we really say that God’s Word is “sweet” or, for that matter, “sweeter than honey”? Usually it’s more like, “Oh, I guess it’s good for me, so I have to read it.” When we engage the Bible with that attitude, it’s no wonder that it seems like a bland, flavorless experience.
So let’s start reading the Word expecting to have a meaningful, personal encounter with God. For me, it cannot be just an exercise in reading through the Bible in a year or making sure I read a chapter a day, or any other system that allows me to put a tic mark on my spiritual checklist next to the “Bible reading” obligation. Each encounter with Scripture has to be a search for something that is relevant to my life. I need to read until I hear Him speak in a way that reaches to the core of me. If it comes quickly, I may not need to read further. But if it takes more time than I had planned, I need to keep reading until my soul, heart, and mind have been revitalized.
When I read about the fact that God is sovereign and fully in control of everything that is happening in my life (Jeremiah 10:23) and ultimately manages the whole universe (Colossians 1:16-17), how sweet is that? When I read that He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and that He works everything to a good conclusion (Romans 8:28), it settles my spirit with a sweet taste. When I read that this world is not my home (1 Peter 2:11) and that my home is heaven, a place where God will wipe away every tear (John 14:3; Revelation 21:4), there could be nothing sweeter!
The more we read the words and promises that fill our hungry hearts and provide healing antidotes to our wounded souls, the more we will understand the psalmist’s enthusiasm for God’s Word. I’m telling you right now, when your life goes south, when you are confused and don’t know what to do, your next best meal is not going to help you at all. But the words of God will be just what you need. So, go ahead—eat it—not only is it good for you, it’s sweet!
Whatever your approach, reading the Bible should be a dynamic experience that is alive with flavor and excitement. As you continue to connect with God through His Word, relish every morsel. After all, His words are sweeter than honey!