Reading 1 - Neh 7
"Nehemiah not only directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem; he also set out to rebuild the nation and to strengthen its morality. His work does not cease with the building, but he was careful to follow up with regulations that were calculated to help the development of the nation. How important that example!
Nehemiah set out security regulations: vv 1-4.
The population problem considered: vv 5-73.
"Nehemiah undertook his labours on behalf of Yahweh. He recognised the importance of determining who were the true seed of Israel, for it was to this end that careful genealogies were kept. How otherwise would it be established that Jesus was of the lineage of David? So he set out the register of those who had come from Babylon with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah used it as a basis of comparison for the census he plans to undertake. We might spend less time reading such a chapter, or avoid the difficult names, but we should remember that if our name were included, how delighted we would be to have everyone read the chapter!" (GE Mansfield).
Reading 2 - Joel 2:12-14
" 'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing -- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God" (Joel 2:12-14).
"Here... is the only solution to Israel's woes and troubles: Repentance! It is doubtful whether any exhortation to a new life is to be found in the Bible to compare with this sustained and detailed pleading. But for long centuries God's people have been impervious to these appeals of heaven. Yet repentance -- note the piling up of phrases -- is the only thing that can save Israel from the unparalleled disaster which today appears threateningly on the horizon.
"It is an aspect of the teaching of God's Word concerning Israel, which the New Israel just as stubbornly refuses to recognize, that except there be repentance first, even the omnipotence of an Almighty God cannot save the people of His choice. It is not possible to print out in full the entire list of Scriptures about this. Instead, the bald references are given. If any reader doubts the Bible's intensity of emphasis is really as strong as all that, let him work his way patiently through the subjoined catalogue. He will then ask himself, and his fellows, in amazement why such a vital theme has gone so much ignored for so long a time. Is it because earlier teachers left it alone, and if they didn't see it, it can't have been there? Or is it because, even for those who are spiritually streets ahead of natural Israel, repentance is an unpopular topic?
"Zec 6:15; 12:10-14; 13;9; Isa 17:6-8; 19:20; 59:20; Eze 20:42-44; 36:24-28; 37:11,23; Psa 81:13,14; Rom 11:15,26; Jer 3:14-18; 4:1,2; 29:12-14; Deu 4:27-31; 30:1-3; Mat 23:39; Amos 5:15; Lev 26:40ff; 1Ki 8:47-49; Gen 18:19; Zep 2:1-3; Acts 3:19,20.
"In the face of this sustained remonstration, is it possible to believe that the Second Coming of the Lord will/can take place except the people of God demand it by their holy way of life and godliness? (2Pe 3:11,12).
"The character of the repentance called for by the prophet Joel is spelled out very precisely, both as to disposition and the practical godliness summed up in the religious routine appropriate to his own day: 'meal offering and drink offering unto the Lord.' In practice, in this 20th century, what sort of repentance does Jehovah demand from His Israelis? One thing, for certain: an avowal of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Let a Jew of today make that initial big step, and Messiah Jesus will see to the rest in due course. The guarantee for this, says Joel, is the character of the God of Israel which he quotes with gusto from Jehovah's own declaration to Moses: 'gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness' (Exo 34:6). This character of God had been exhibited in His longsuffering extended to brutal grasping Assyrians in the days of Jonah (Jon 3: 5-10; 4:11); and, thanks to the godly zeal of Hezekiah, was exhibited by the chosen people, undeserving, in Joel's own day (see, by all means, 2Ch 30:6-9)...
"Happily, neither Joel nor any other inspired writer goes so far as to assert that Messiah will come to the rescue of his nation only when all Israel is repentant. If Jehovah treasured seven thousand in the days of Elijah, is He not likely to be content with even fewer in the 3 1/2 year ministry of Elijah's great successor (Mal 4:6)?" (Harry Whittaker, "Joel").
Reading 3 - 2Th 1:3
"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing" (2Th 1:3).
It is sobering (and challenging) to consider all those for whom Paul constantly prayed:
Believers in Rome, regarding their mutual faith and Paul's desire to return to them (Rom 1:9-12).
Believers in Corinth, regarding the "grace" (gifts?) given them, and that they may be blameless when Christ returns (1Co 1:4-8).
Believers in Ephesus, regarding their growth in knowledge and wisdom (Eph 1:15-18), and that they might be filled with Christ and his love (3:14-19).
Believers in Philippi, regarding their fellowship in the gospel, and that their love may abound (Phi 1:3-9).
Believers in Colosse, that they might be filled with knowledge and walk worthy of the Lord (Col 1:3-6,9,10). (Epaphras, "who is one of you", likewise prayed -- 4:12.)
Believers in Thessalonica, giving thanks for their faith (1Th 1:3-8), that it was growing (2Th 1:3); that they might glorify Christ (v 11), and that they might be comforted and established (2:16,17).
Timothy, that he might see him and be filled with joy (2Ti 1:3,4).
Philemon, giving thanks for his love and faith (Phm 1:4,5).
And these are merely the prayers that the apostle saw fit to tell about!