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January 19, 2011 – Nehemiah 9

Cliffs Notes Alert

Periodically throughout the Bible, there are sumup chapters or passages that present a brief history of Israel. In the Old Testament, they show up as prayers (Solomon’s dedication of the temple, for instance) and in the New Testament they are typically part of sermons or speeches (like Stephen’s crowdpleaser in Acts). They’re great for catching up for those of you that don’t want to read the whole Old Testament. Nehemiah 9 is one such chapter, and we’ll be sure to highlight others as we come to them. Why? No idea. Just seems like the thing to do.

Fun with Translations

In the course of this sumup, verse 25 remarks that the people entered a “fertile” land and were “well-nourished.” (NIV) This isn’t quite the right translation. The CEV says “they ate until they were satisfied.” Not quite right either. Actually, the KJV gets it a little closer, it says they entered a “fat” land, and became fat themselves. Getting closer.

The actual words for “well nourished” here actually mean “greasy” or “gross” or “grossly fat.” The Bible is not saying that the people were content to bask in God’s goodness, but rather that they took advantage of their blessings to become morbidly obese, unpleasantly plumpa licious, and ridiculously rotund.

The second implication here is that they were so focused on stuffing their Fritos-holes that they neglected the spiritual side of life. In other places in the Bible, this phrasing is typically used to express self-centered luxury; the pursuit of deliciousness and comfort to the cost of all else.

A Well Balanced Breakfast

This raises the question for us: is it possible to enjoy the bounty of God’s blessings and not become spiritually lax? It’s hard to argue with the stark reality than many of our leading pastors and evangelists shop at the big and tall store. Does this necessarily mean that they don’t have wisdom? Of course not. So what are we to do with this verse?

The Bible seems to present an answer (go figure). The practice of fasting is illustrated often throughout the Word, including none other than Jesus himself fasting before His temptation. There are some indications that fasting increases the effectiveness of our prayer life (depending on the version you read), but more importantly it shows that our submission to God is stronger than our desire for Oreos.

If you don’t regularly fast, this might be a good week to try. Start with one meal, and instead of just not eating, use that time to pray or read the Word. The point is not to go without food, but to submit the whole of our being to God, including our basest desires.

See if you are not more satisfied than after that double mocha.

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