And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
We now embark on an interesting adventure through the lands of the Bible. Specifically, we are going to focus on mountain climbing. In these studies, we are going to look at the different mountains of the Bible and try to glean some of the lessons that each mountain offers up to us. I believe it will be an interesting study.
I don't know about you, but I love mountains. They are spectacular, majestic, and beautiful, whether they are the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, or the spectacular red mountains of Sedona, Arizona.
As we open the curtain on these studies, we are going to take a look at the first mountain mentioned in the Bible, Mount Ararat. I have labeled this mountain as the mountain of commencement or "new beginning," not only because it is listed first, but because of the lessons taught by this place.
This area is mentioned in Isaiah 37:38 under a different name. It is referred to as the land of Armenia where it was a place of refuge for the sons of Sennacherib after they murdered their father.
Isaiah 37:38—And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia ... (Also 2 Kings 19:37).
It is also associated with the names Minni and Ashchenaz in Jeremiah 51.
Jeremiah 51:27—Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers.
Genesis 8 informs us that Noah's Ark rested upon one of the mountains of the Ararat mountain range after the waters of the Genesis Flood receded. Ararat was the center of humanity at that time. The ark rested on one of these mountains in this range and from this place, the human race had a new beginning in a much different world than what existed before the Flood. Ararat was the stepping stone between two worlds.
The eight people in the ark, Noah and his family, were alone in the world. The rest of the human race was dead because the waters of the Flood covered even the mountains, including Mount Ararat whose highest point is 16,854 feet in elevation. The highest mountain in the world is Mount Everest in the Himalaya mountain range north of India. It is 29,035 feet high. That means that the waters from the Flood buried the lands of this world in over 51/2 miles of water at sea level.
Mount Ararat is a memorial to mankind of the worldwide flood as it arose from a chaos of mountain peaks which gleam and glitter in the sun-beams that are reflected from their snowy sides. The glare of snow that crowns these peaks is blinding on a sunny day. The top 4000 feet of the mountain is covered by a perpetual snow. The summit forms a small cruciform platform about 200 feet in diameter that is composed of eternal ice unbroken by rock. Immense avalanches of ice are hurled down the mountain like a football player spiking the ball in the end zone. This area is also the scene of volcanic eruptions.
These mountains overlook a sea on one side and a desert on the other. Modern Turkey, Iran, and the old Soviet Armenia occupy parts of this ancient land area. It has seldom been scaled by human feet because of the snakes, wild dogs, bears, loose, porous rocks, and ice and snow. At one time, however, it was blanketed by the waters of the sea, never to be covered again by water.
Before we get into the lessons of this mountain, we want to address the issue of Bible scoffers who have disputed the fact that the ark rested on these mountains. They dispute the truth of the Bible, but there are a number of examples of people who have sited the ark on Ararat. We will note a few examples.
Sightings of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat
The expedition was fortunate in making a discovery that cannot fail to be of interest to the whole civilized world, for among the vastness of one of the glens of Mount Ararat, they came upon a gigantic structure of very dark wood, imbedded at the foot of one of the glaciers, with one end protruding, and which they believe to be none other than the old ark in which Noah and his family navigated the waters of the deluge. The place where the discovery is made is about five days' journey from Trebizond, in Armenia, about four leagues from the Persian frontier."
This report, only a portion of which is cited here, was picked up and commented upon by the New York Herald and World, the Chicago Tribune and the Watchtower.
According to a story in the U.S. armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes in 1943, two pilots saw and photographed something they believed to be the ark. That issue of the Stars and Stripes has not been preserved, but many people claim to have seen it.
Apparently hidden for centuries, it came to light last summer when unusually warm weather melted away an ancient mantle of ice and snow. While various persons from time to time have reported objects resembling a 'house' or 'ship' on the mountain, Turks who have seen this new find profess it to be the only known object which could actually be taken as the remains of a ship."
In the course of these tests he and his co-pilot flew over Ararat and discovered on the edge of a retreating glacier what he later described as a boat comparable in size to many modern battleships. He wrote that "it was grounded on the shore of [a] lake with about one-fourth of the rear end still running out into the water, and its extreme rear was three-fourths under water. It had been partly dismantled on one side near the front, and on the other side there was a great door nearly twenty feet square, but with the door gone."
Roskovitsky reported his find to his commanding officer, and an expedition was dispatched to Ararat that, according to the story, subsequently found the ark and photographed it. Accounts were forwarded to the Czar. Unfortunately, a short time after receiving this report, the government of the Czar was overthrown and the photographs and reports perished.
It is interesting to note that eight people came out of Noah's Ark. It so happens that eight in the Bible is the number of "new beginnings or resurrection." When Noah and his family exited the Ark, it was a time of resurrection or new beginning, not only for Noah's family, but for the human race. We are all descendants from Noah's family.
Even the day that the ark rested upon Ararat speaks of resurrection or new beginning. We are told this happened in the seventh month, on 17th day of the month. In Exodus 12:2, the seventh month was changed to the first month of the year. The Passover lamb was slain on the fourteenth day, the day that Christ was slain on the cross. Three days later was the seventeenth, which was the day of resurrection. We have peace and rest because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ark rested on the day of resurrection. The day of new beginning.
Mount Ararat is the place of a new commencement or the place of new beginnings. It was a place where God extended His mercy on mankind after His judgment on the world for its wickedness and unbelief. Thank God it is His mercy that enables us to have a new beginning in our own lives.
Ararat is the Plymouth Rock of humanity. It was the landing stage where the Ark of Noah was moored and our Pilgrim Fathers, Noah's family, embarked into this world because of God's grace and mercy.
There are a number of lessons we want to address about the issue of commencement or new beginnings in your life. The lessons we will note come from the stories found in the Scriptures.
What is the cause for a truly, new beginning in your life? We begin to find an answer in Exodus 12. Let's take a look.
Exodus 12:21-23, 29-31 ... Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
Exodus 12 is the birth chapter of Israel as a NATION. It was the chapter of commencement or "new beginning" for God's people. They entered Egypt as a family and exited the land as a free nation, no longer bound by slavery. Their national existence basically started from this point.
It was the month of Abib (April) which means "green ear month." It is when the corn is in the ear. After the Babylonian captivity, Abib was called Nisan. The month of Tisri (October), which use to be the first month, was changed to the seventh month of the calendar year. All of the other feasts of the Jewish year are based upon the Passover feast in April.
The Passover lamb began the chronology of Israel as a nation. It was the cause of commencement. They had a new beginning, a new start after being delivered by the blood of the Passover lamb that was applied to the door posts.
In the same manner, in the life of any sinner, the commencement of his or her new beginning is linked with the Passover Lamb of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ who was pictured in the Old Testament.
1 Corinthians 5:7—Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Christ affected the calendar just like the Passover lamb. The birth of Christ brought a new beginning to the world's calendar just as the death of the Passover lamb changed the Jewish calendar. Anno Mundi which means "year of the world" was changed to Anno Domini which means "year of the Lord."
How do we have a new beginning because of Jesus Christ? We are delivered and freed from the bondage of sin through the blood of the Lamb of God that was shed on the cross of Calvary for our sins. Christ brings a new commencement, a new beginning into a person's life when He is accepted into one's heart by faith.
1 Peter 1:18-19 ... Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Beloved, when you put your faith in Jesus Christ to take you to Heaven, you have a new beginning. In fact, you are a new person in Christ. The Bible says that you have been born again spiritually, going from spiritual death to spiritual life. You are cleansed by the Lord and forgiven of your sins.
You have a new father ... God. You have a new destiny ... Heaven. You have a new friend who is with you all the time ... the Holy Spirit, who empowers you to overcome temptations that you may face. To have a new start, a new chance to make things right in one's life is the desire of many people who grieve over the sins of their past. Christ will make you a new person and give you a new beginning.
John 5:24—Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
We are new creatures in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17—Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Of the 2. million deaths reported to the Social Security Administration in 2010, approximately 14,000 people's names were incorrectly entered in its online database as dead. That many people, 1 out of 200 entries, were reported as dead when they were very much alive and well. That's 38 life-altering mistakes every day.
One day, Laura Brooks, a 52-year-old mother of two, suddenly stopped receiving disability checks. Then, her loan payments and rent checks bounced. She went to the bank to find out what was the matter, and the representative told her that her accounts had been closed because she was dead. They would only reopen her accounts if she could prove she was alive. No doubt, she found ways to prove her case!
Let me ask, "If you were in a similar situation but were required to prove that you are alive not physically, but spiritually, could you make your case? Are you a new creature in Christ?"
We have examined the cause of commencement. Now we will look at cleansing and commencement.
And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.
It was time for a new beginning for the nation of Israel. They were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for four decades. Joshua commanded the people, "Sanctify yourselves!" This involved bathing and changing their clothes. This was not done often because water was a luxury.
The call to sanctify in Scripture pictured a new beginning, a "starting-over" time. In the same manner, if you have wandered away from the Lord because of disobedience and sin in your life, then get your life right with the Lord and begin serving Him afresh and anew. Commence a new beginning in your life. God promises to cleanse us if we seek His forgiveness. If you have never put your faith in Christ, He will spiritually cleanse you if you ask Him and put your trust in Him.
1 John 1:9—If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The principle of cleansing and commencement is seen in the Feast of Trumpets. On the first day of the year, Israel celebrated the Feast of Trumpets with a solemn assembly and ceasing from labor. The trumpet sounded when the new moon was sighted. This announced the beginning of a new year. The name for this New Year's Day is called Rosh Ha'shana which means "the beginning of a new year."
On the first day of the seventh month, trumpets were blown throughout Israel to call the nation to prepare for the coming Day of Atonement, which was the national day of cleansing. The Day of Atonement was on the tenth of the month.
This first day of the seventh month was known as the Day of the Blowing Trumpets. It was also the Jewish New Year's Day. It should be remembered that the Jews had a two-sided calendar year. They had a sacred calendar and a civil calendar.
The sacred year for the Jewish people began in the month of Abib or Nisan (April). Abib was the first month of the Jewish year. The civil year of the Jews began in their seventh month with the Day of the Blowing Trumpets. This was the official ending of the old year and the beginning of their new year. It was a commencement that began with cleansing.
The principle of cleansing and a new beginning is seen in David's life, too. David devastated not only his life, but the lives of Bathsheba and Uriah by his wickedness. Uriah was dead and Bathsheba was pregnant from her adulterous affair with King David. David sought God's forgiveness for what he had done. He wanted a new beginning in his life and realized that cleansing was an important factor in starting over again. Notice Psalm 51.
Psalm 51:2—Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:7—Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:10—Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
On January 16, 2013 André Cassagnes died in Paris at the age of eighty-six. The French-born inventor was in his early thirties when he created a plastic device with a glass screen on which children could draw by turning little knobs. Since the inside surface of the screen was coated with aluminum powder, moving the knobs resulted in drawing images on the screen as an unseen movable stylus scraped away the powder. By turning the device upside down and shaking it, the little black images would magically disappear. Cassagnes called his little invention "L'Ecran Magique," or "the magic screen."
The Ohio Art Company renamed Cassagnes's toy Etch A Sketch and began distributing it in the United States beginning in 1960. Since that time more than 100 million of the little laptop drawing machines have been sold allowing it to be named one of the top 100 toys of the 20th century. The Etch A Sketch has made its mark among other classics as the Duncan yo-yo, the Barbie doll, Silly Putty, and Mr. Potato Head.
It's unlikely that André Cassagnes had any idea the toy he created in his basement half a century ago would become so popular. It's also unlikely that he imagined his hand-held creation would provide Christians with such a powerful illustration of grace.
Like an Etch A Sketch, sin makes it mark on the screen of our lives. The evidence of our disobedience is indisputable. It's not a pretty picture, but when we trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the blotches of sin on the screen of our lives are erased and we are made like new.
We have examined the cause of commencement, cleansing and commencement, and now we will look at conquering the past and commencement.
And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.
Another important factor in a new beginning in your life is dealing with your past. Many folks can't seem to move forward because they are burdened down by their past mistakes. They are weighed down spiritually, emotionally, and mentally because of their blunders, failures, and sins. Guilt and grief are like huge boulders that crush them. Thank God, the Lord enables us to move ahead in our lives with His help, comfort, cleansing, and care. This is what Ruth did when she met Boaz.
Boaz could not see very well that night and asked, "Who are you?" Ruth replied, "I am Ruth thine handmaid." Notice she did not say she was Ruth the Moabitess. Her answer revealed a new beginning in her life. Ruth had put her past behind her.
Paul was a tremendous man that overcame his past. In Philippians 3:13-14, he said,
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
That is good advice for us. Repent of your sin, confess it to God, and go FORWARD for Christ by living your life for Him!!!! Ruth's answer also revealed her humility, "I am your handmaid, your servant." We are to have a servant's attitude, too. It will do wonders for you if you are trying to commence a new beginning in your life. Live for others!
If you have achieved great success in your life, don't let your victories cripple you in the present by "living in the past." Some folks become content because of their accomplishments and cease to do any more for the Lord. That attitude is just as damaging as being hindered by guilt. Make your life count for Christ today. Yesterday is gone. Give your past to the Lord and follow Him. He will help you to do what He is leading you to do. Go ahead and follow Him.
Philippians 4:13—I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Luke 9:23—And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Jonah 3:1-5 ... And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Anew beginning requires compliance or obedience to the Lord and His Word. Many times our lives get messed up because we have rebelled against God's command. If you will go ahead and make the decision to obey the Lord, you will find that God will bless and direct your life in a way that you never imagined. He will use you in ways that will bring honor and glory to Him.
This is what Jonah had to learn in his own life. His rebellion toward God led to three days in the "Whale Motel." When Jonah finally surrendered to the Lord and did what God commanded him to do, God used him in a powerful way. In fact, the greatest revival in history was a result of Jonah's preaching. He was able to start over again after his terrible ordeal because he submitted to the Lord. He had a new beginning in the place where he got out of the will of God. The Word of the Lord came to him a second time and God told him the same thing as He did the first time.
Beloved, the way of revival is always the way of holiness of life and humbleness of mind. Many times, it usually involves obedience in the place or issue where we rebelled against God. It may be in the area of greed, giving, lust, anger, jealousy, pride, bad habits, submission, forgiveness, or revenge. Whatever the area, God wants our surrender.
Charles G. Finney said, "Revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God, deep repentance, breaking down of heart, getting down into the dust before God with deep humility, and forsaking sin. There can be no revival when Mr. Amen and Mr. Wet-Eyes are not found in the audience."
Let me ask, "Are there areas in your life right now where you have not been obeying God? Have you been resisting Him?" If so, let me urge you to yield that area of your life to the Lord and let Him have His way. If God's Word has told you to stop doing something that is wrong, then stop. If God's Word has told you to start doing something He wants you to do, then start. Commencement requires compliance.
You will find that as you commence to go forward for the Lord, not everyone will get on the band wagon with you. Some will not follow God. When this happens, keep your eyes on the Lord and trust Him by faith. Do what He says and He will bless your faithfulness in His time and in His own way. This is what He did for Joshua and Caleb. They were allowed to enter the Promised Land because they were obedient to the Lord while the rest of the men died off in the wilderness at a rate of one death almost every twenty minutes.
Numbers 14:24—But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Our compliance to God brings His blessings and protection from the consequences of sinful living.
Exodus 15:26—And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.
1 Samuel 1:24-28 ... And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. 25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli, 26 And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord, 27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28 Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord, And he worshipped the Lord there.
Many times, when there is a new beginning, there are changes that are attached to it. There may need to be changes in attitudes, actions, habits, friends, your attire, the places you go, and possibly locations. In Samuel's case, he had a new home. His mother lent little Samuel to the Lord to be used by God. Let me ask, "Is there anything that needs to change in your life for you to go forward for Christ?"
Picture a scene from the Old West, sometime in the 1870s. Weary cowboys in dusty Levi's gather around a blazing campfire after a day on the open range. The lonely howl of a coyote counterpoints the notes of a guitar as the moon floats serenely overhead. Suddenly a bellow of pain shatters the night, as a cowboy leaps away from the fire, dancing in agony. Hot-Rivet Syndrome has claimed another victim.
In those days, Levi's were made with copper rivets at stress points to provide extra strength. They did not have a zipper, they had rivets to button up the pants. When cowboys crouched too long beside the campfire, those rivets heated up and would burn the skin. They were the cowboy version of "hot pants."
For years the brave men of the West suffered this curious occupational hazard. Then, in 1933, Walter Haas, Sr., president of Levi Strauss, went camping in his Levi 501's. He was crouched by a crackling campfire in the High Sierras, drinking in the pure mountain air, when he fell prey to Hot-Rivet Syndrome. He consulted with professional wranglers in his party. Had they suffered the same mishap? An impassioned "YES" was the reply.
Mr. Haas realized that a change had to be made to the jeans and vowed that the offending rivets must go. At their next meeting the board of directors voted it into extinction.
Sometimes beloved, to move forward and make improvements in your life, some changes have to be made and some things have to go. Someone put it this way, "Some people will change when they see the light. Others change only when they feel the heat." May we not have to feel the heat. May we respond to God's light and direction.
We have examined five areas about the commencement of new beginnings.
The commencement of a new beginning in your life involves the cognizance or the recognition of several important matters. First of all, there needs to be recognition of what God expects of you. David taught us this by stressing the importance of truth and a broken, contrite heart. A new beginning requires these things.
Psalm 51:6—Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:16-17 ... For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
A new beginning requires the recognition of God's authority and power. If you do not acknowledge His authority, you won't obey Him for sure. God disciplined King Nebuchadnezzar for seven years because of his defiance and arrogance toward God. He lost his mind and lived in the wild, like a beast. When God restored his mind again and gave him a new beginning, the king acknowledged who was the boss. He acknowledged God's power and authority.
Daniel 4:34-35 ... And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch), he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" "Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person." "But I'm starved," the governor said. "Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state." "Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister." In the same manner, we need to recognize that God is in charge and move along!
Two more important elements of "new beginnings" are constructiveness and having a purpose. When you have new goals, you have something to shoot for and focal points to place your eyes. It's when a person wanders and is aimless, he tends to get into trouble.
When David repented and desired a new beginning in his walk with God, he had a purpose to reach sinners for the Lord. He wanted to help others.
Psalm 51:13—Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
We find the principle of constructiveness in commencement in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 2:4-7 ... Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. 6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. 7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
Nehemiah was burdened about the city of Jerusalem. The king saw the distress on his face and inquired. Nehemiah told him what was on his heart. The response of the king was he was pleased to send Nehemiah on his way to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This was a miracle and also a tribute to the wisdom that the Lord gave to Nehemiah. This was an important day in Jewish history. It was a new beginning for Nehemiah, for the city of Jerusalem, and for the nation of Israel.
Construction was a key element of this commencement. When Noah embarked from the ark after the Flood, God commanded him to be fruitful and productive.
Genesis 8:16-17 ... Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.
In the same manner, beloved, God wants us all to be constructive or fruitful. He does not want us to waste the opportunities that are presented to us day after day. Paul was a great Christian because he was constructive. He had spiritual goals.
Philippians 3:14—I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus' command to us was to be fruitful and to do something with our lives.
John 15:16—Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Beloved, even in those times when we suffer setbacks, we can find joy and be fruitful by building up the lives of others and investing in them. Such was the case of a young lady named Katie.
When Katie Hosking decided to break up with her fiancé, it was only 12 days before the wedding. Along with her parents, Katie had reserved a country club for the reception. With 150 invited guests, the cost was $6,200. Club policy required 60 days notice for any cancellation, meaning the Hoskings were required to pay the full amount.
The family decided to have a party anyway and go forward in spite of the setback. In place of wedding guests, Katie and her parents invited the residents of the Interfaith Family Shelter to a country club banquet. More than 50 close family friends joined 40 homeless people, and together they feasted on baron of beef, salmon, shrimp cocktail, fettuccine, and fruit. Strawberry shortcake replaced wedding cake. Afterwards they packed up the leftover food and sent it back to the shelter. It was enough to feed the homeless for several more days. When it was over, the almost-bride, Katie, said, "We had so much fun!" Beloved, let me tell you that it is truly a blast to help other people and give to those in need.
Daniel 4:34a ... And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever
Daniel 4:37—Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
When Nebuchadnezzar got his mind back and learned his lessons from the Lord, his new beginning was characterized with joy and praise for the Lord. Thank God for His mercy and grace and the joy we experience when we are forgiven and given another chance to start over after we have made mistakes.
David expressed the same sentiment for celebration and praise for the Lord in his new beginning after his sin.
Psalm 51:15—O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
When the Philippian jailer trusted Christ as his Savior, he had a new beginning which was blessed with great joy.
Acts 16:34—And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
When Israel crossed the Red Sea and enjoyed the commencement of their newfound freedom, they praised the Lord for what He had done.
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. 4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
Let me ask, "Do you have joy in your life because of what God has done for you or are you still grieving over sins that have left you with guilt and sorrow?" Beloved, every day should be a day of celebration because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. It can be if that is what you want to do. Don't forget that the joy of the Lord will give you strength to go forward.
Nehemiah 8:10b ... for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Acts 16:33-34 ... And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
A crucial element of a new beginning is making the "wrongs" of the past right with others. If you need to make matters right with people you have wronged in the past, you need to do it or else it will be a weight that you will drag through your life. If money needs to be repaid, then repay it. If you need to seek forgiveness for your offensiveness, then do it and get on with your life. We see this principle taught through the life of the Philippian jailer. Not only did he have new joy in his life, he tried to make matters right with Paul and Silas.
When David repented, he cleared his conscience with God and confessed his wickedness.
Psalm 51:3-4 ... For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Clearing your conscience with God or with other people you have wronged is a vital step in growing in Christ and moving forward in your walk with God. Paul stressed this truth.
Acts 24:16—And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
In the fall of 2012, Bismark Mensah, a recent immigrant to the U.S. from Ghana, was working part-time job as a "courtesy associate" at a Wal-Mart near Seattle, Washington. As he collected shopping carts, Bismark often found personal items that customers had left behind—keys, credit cards, wallets. But on an October afternoon he spotted an item that really grabbed his attention. It was a white envelope with a clear window in the middle that was bulging with cash. Lots of cash—like $20,000 in cash!
Mr. Mensah could have used some of that cash. He came to the U.S. to study business administration so he could return to Ghana and help his mom expand her five small seamstress shops. Making $9.05 per hour at Wal-Mart, it would take him a long time to fulfill that dream.
Mensah said he never considered keeping the money. "My conscience wouldn't allow it," he said. "I couldn't even drive home if I did that." So, instead, he ran after the husband and wife who had left the cash. As it turned out, they were going to use the money for a down payment on a house. Mensah said, "She was like, 'Wow!' She was crying. She took some money and tried to reward me. I said, 'No, no. I'm all right.'"
God blessed Mensah. He received Wal-Mart's "Integrity in Action Award" and a promotion. Now he works full time for $9.19 an hour—with benefits, but for Mr. Mensah, the real rewards are more internal. His conscience was clear because he did what was right. He had this to say about his job: "In the parking lot, people chat, tell you their problems, and you see that a person is not happy. I tell them, 'God is in control. Everything is OK.'"
Beloved, He is right. Solomon put it this way,
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The commencement of a new beginning offers wonderful opportunities for joy, service, and the blessings of God, but that new start can come to a screeching halt. Disobedience, rebellion, sinful attitudes, and bad activities can hinder you from going forward for the Lord. Notice Numbers 14. The nation of Israel had a new beginning, but their fearfulness, rebellion, and desire to return to bondage was like a wet blanket on a flame.
Numbers 14:1-4 ... And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? 4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
God's people were pardoned by the Lord for their rebellion, but their sin did have consequences. Just because you are forgiven does not mean you will avoid the consequences of sin. The men that rebelled against the Lord found this out.
Numbers 14:19-23 ... Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
There are consequences to disobedience.
Numbers 14:29-33 ... Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
Let me add here that God can deal with our complications as we endeavor to move forward in our lives and pursue a new beginning. He can help us overcome our obstacles, whatever they may be. This He did for Israel after they crossed the Red Sea.
Exodus 15:4-6 ... Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
As the Israelites continued on their path, they faced the obstacle of having no water. God knew their need and miraculously provided for them to enable them to keep moving forward. He will do the same for you.
Exodus 15:22-25a. ... So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet. ...
Stephen Baldwin is one of the famous Baldwin brothers, a family of Hollywood actors. Referring to his newfound faith in Christ, Stephen said, "I've never been as excited or happy about where I am in my life. There's no one I know in Hollywood who can say that." Stephen's wife came to Christ in 2000 and announced to Stephen, "I'm going to be serving Jesus now." Baffled at her conversion, Stephen thought, "Who does this Jesus dude think he is coming around here?"
The events of September 11 were pivotal in his change of mind as he realized that the impossible was possible. As Stephen describes it, "It made me say the Bible is true, and Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow."
How has his life changed? He has commenced on a new beginning, but not without its complications. Stephen's work as an actor "has largely dried up." He won't work in a film that includes adultery, violence, or profanity. Good for him! He's traded his Porsche for a Chevy Malibu. Stephen spends his available time preaching the gospel. He directs and hosts a DVD project aimed at reaching young people through extreme sports. As for his marriage, Stephen and his wife are now "as one." Stephen truly is a new creation in Christ.
May we as Christians commence each day with the purpose of living for Christ and making each day count for Him. May we make wise use of the time that God has given to us and put into practice lessons of commencement.
Psalm 90:12—So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.