Reading 1 - Neh 3
Nehemiah 3 enumerates 44 teams who begin work on the wall. Each team is assigned its own portion to build. Did some complain about the quality of their brethren's work at other stations? Did others grumble because they could not be everywhere and do everything and supervise? Did some sit down and refuse to help? "We just are not sure that we can approve of all the details of this operation." In the divine retrospect on the work of Nehemiah, all such petty hindrances and worries are put to one side. "Let us rise up and build" was the mandate; this call to the men of the city did not admit of any paltry quibbles. The work was too great to let personalities and prejudices and pride stand in the way.
It is the same with us as we strive to fortify God's "city" today. There may be fears without, fightings within; but each brother, each individual ecclesia has pressing responsibilities near to home. Each of us has his portion of the "wall" to build, and no matter what we think of our neighbor's building, or that "shoddy bit of work" way across on the other side, when the True Masterbuilder comes to inspect the work, each of us will be judged on his own portion!
"Every unit of the body must do its part by -- '...speaking the Truth in love... growing up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto edifying of itself in love' (Eph 4:15,16).
This is the only formula of a true ecclesia. What we do for our brethren and sisters, is what we do to God. If what we do is dominated by love, all will be well, but if we are not truly motivated by love and kindness in all we say and do, there will be no edification, and no bodily growth, and we will be brought into condemnation, and will never enter the kingdom of God. For, said Jesus, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Mat 25:40).
Reading 2 - Hos 13:14
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave [Heb Sheol]; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, [Heb Sheol] is your destruction? I will have no compassion" (Hos 13:14).
The LORD asked rhetorically if He should buy the Israelites back out of death's hand. Should He pay a price for their redemption?
And the answer, after reflection, is... No. In the case of Ephraim, compassion would be hidden from His sight; He would have no pity on them.
Later, we know, God DID provide a ransom for His people from the power of the grave, and a price of redemption from death. He did this through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again. God's future redemptive work for His people meant that death would not be the end for Israel -- even though judgment in the near future was inevitable.
Paul quoted this phrase in 1Co 15:55, and applied it to the effect of Christ's redemption on all of God's people. Because God did provide a ransom and redeemed His people, death and the grave are not the final judgment and resting place of the believer. God has a glorious future -- beyond His punishment for sin -- for His own people, both for national Israel (those who believe) and for Christians. God's purpose will not be fulfilled in a regathered 10-tribe (or even 12-tribe) Israel only, but in a calling of faithful believers out of all nations, to inherit the "hope of Israel".
Here in Hosea the promise is that the Israel of that day would indeed suffer death and the grave, not that she would escape it. But Paul turns the passage around, and shows that Jesus Christ's resurrection overcame the judgment and death that are otherwise inevitable for sinners.
Reading 3 - 1Th 2:7,8
"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children" (1Th 2:7).
The word "nurse" describes any woman feeding a baby at her breast; in this case it is the mother herself, since Paul's phrase is "her own children." And the word "caring" ("thalpo") means to keep warm, as a mother bird covering her young with her feathers (Deu 22:6, LXX); it is also used of the love of Christ the husband for the ecclesia his bride (Eph 5:29).
Thus there is presented the lovely picture of a mother suckling her baby at the warmth of her breast.
How fascinating to think that Paul -- the learned Rabbi, the author of Romans and Ephesians, the wise and eloquent teacher of Mars Hill -- could yet have it in him to think of himself and his converts in this way!
Paul continues: " We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us" (v 8).
Still we may follow the imagery of v 7: the mother fondling the baby at her breast, and feeling her own life going out to it in her milk, to nourish it.
This, says Paul, is the only way to convey the gospel message to others: it must be given along with our own hearts and souls. It must be given with passion, with love, with life itself. How else could we attempt to preach the gospel of the God who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Rom 8:32)? How else preach the gospel of Christ, "who gave himself for our sins" (Gal 1:4), who "poured out his soul unto death" (Isa 53:12)?