Day 291 October 18
These are the words of Nehemiah, Hacaliah’s son. In the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in the fortress city of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came with some other men from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
3 They told me, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!”
4 When I heard this news, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 I said: “Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you are the one who keeps covenant and is truly faithful to those who love you and keep your commandments. 6 Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant, which I now pray before you night and day for your servants, the people of Israel.
“I confess the sins of the people of Israel, which we have committed against you. Both I and my family have sinned. 7 We have wronged you greatly. We haven’t kept the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the word that you gave to your servant Moses when you said, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. 9 But if you return to me and keep my commandments by really doing them, then, even though your outcasts live[c] under distant skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ 10 They are your servants and your people. They are the ones whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand.
11 “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in honoring your name. Please give success to your servant today and grant him favor in the presence of this man!”
At that time, I was a cupbearer to the king.
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, 2 instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And we will do this, if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. 7 Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
9 Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, 12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Comment: a word about the “impossibility” of restoration after “falling away” from God. First, an ancient argument needs to be heard in its entirety, not sentence by sentence as in a modern law court: “but you said it is impossible to restore to repentance . . .” As the argument ends the point is an encouragement to those who may lose heart during adversity to hold on for dear life to their faith and God’s faith, their true inheritance. Second, Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 …. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus. Third, Hebrews speaks to maturing faith, faith that grows and develops vs. faith that disappears. Fourth, read on in Hebrews!
Prayer: blessed are the feet of those who bring God’s good news. Bless my feet! Amen.