Taking Action in Light of God's Word

2014 The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference

In this 48-minute session from the 2014 TGC Women’s Conference, Kathy Keller walks women through Nehemiah 1-2 to describe how reading the Bible as a redemptive story influences our interpretation of circumstances and callings.

Kathy serves as Assistant Director of Communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She is the author of Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry and co-author with her husband of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. 

Kathy expounded on three points:

  1. Nehemiah understood God’s Word as a narrative of redemption.
  2. Nehemiah’s actions were based in confidence of God’s Word.
  3. Jesus is the greater Nehemiah.  

Of the Bible, Kathy said “The overarching narrative is about the true Adam, the Redeemer of the world, coming to redeem His people and usher in the new heavens and new earth…if we read the Scripture story disconnected from the primary narrative arch of redemption, we will find it confusing and hard to apply properly to life today.” 

Have you ever considered the Bible as one redemptive narrative about Jesus, or have you always interpreted the two testaments distinctly different? What clarity or questions come to you with this interpretation?
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Kathy said, “Many of us are a bit fuzzy on how to read our Bibles and find direction for our actions in light of the whole Word of God. This is because we have been existing on a diet of artificial inspiration and devotions rather than taking the time to sort out Scripture as a whole.”   

How would you characterize your time in the Word—challenging, self-absorbed, convicting, overwhelming, devotional-heavy? What could you change about your study of Scripture to ensure it is focused on knowing God and applied in light of His story?
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Nehemiah 1:5-11 (ESV)

5And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.8Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples,9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Now I was cupbearer to the king.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In his prayer, Nehemiah:

  1. Recognized the glory and majesty of God
  2. Confessed individual and corporate sins
  3. Appealed to God based on His Word
Kathy said, “His prayer was grounded in the Word, in the history of salvation, and in a conviction that God would fulfill His promises and continue His work of redemption…Similarly, our prayers should always be in light of the Word.” 

How did you learn to pray? How could you be more intentional about praying Scripture? What perspective do adoration and confession in give believers?
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Kathy explained how God paved the way behind the scenes for Nehemiah to request leave and support from the king. Reflecting on the events of your life, in what ways have you seen God providentially lead and protect you? How has that increased your trust and worship of Him?
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Kathy said, Nehemiah was God’s instrument in a critical moment of redemptive history, but his story is submerged in the greater story. Jesus is the greater Nehemiah, the One who left the heavenly palace, the right hand of the King, safety, glory, to come into a world. He joined the blue collar labor force as a carpenter, builder…He came not just at the risk of death, but with the certainty of it. But if Jesus had not done it, our salvation would not have been accomplished.”  

How do you think this interpretation of Scripture will affect how you approach and study the Word in the future, specifically the Old Testament?
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Kathy concluded with encouragement: “God’s people do not need to be powerful culturally, or in power politically, to be obedient to Him and accomplish His purposes in the world. All they need to glorify him and join the great sweep of redemptive history is to be faithful to God.” 

To learn more about The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference and how you can attend the next event, click here.