Monthly Archives: March 2016

Mark 1.1-15

Title: He is not here! He is Risen, just as he said!

Text: Mk 1.1-15; 15.33-16.8

Introduction: Thank you Christoph for reading our text this morning; Today we begin our study in Mark. Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. I’ve usually run to the other three gospels when I’m looking for stories. Mt 28.18-20; Luke 23 and the thief on the Cross; John and his alternate perspective. When I was in college, Dr. Martin had us translate from Mark’s Gospel. Matthew and John were disciples. Luke had done thorough research. Mark always seemed to me to be thrown together and condensed. However, now that I am much older and have had time to study the beauty of Mark’s story, I see it much clearer. I understand that Mark had a purpose in mind. He didn’t have Mt, Lk and Jn to lean on.

No, as a matter of fact, I see that a great debt of gratitude is owed to Mark. He learned what he recorded here from Peter. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas both and learned from them. His goal and purpose was different than that of Matthew or Luke or even John. He was a trailblazer who saw the need to get this story down in book form for future generations because there wasn’t anything to pass along. He saw the need and rose to the occasion.

Rd Mk 1.1; an incomplete sentence. There is no verb! That tells us that it was probably the Title of this little book. Your title probably reads: Mark or the Gospel according to Mark. That Title was added later. This is probably Mark’s title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now, before we look at this title, let’s look at this person, Mark. It would be fun to outline for you all of the evidence pointing us toward John Mark, the helper to Barnabas and Paul. But, we just don’t have time. You’ll have to trust that for nearly 2,000 years, the church has understood John Mark to be the writer. Here is what we’re confident of:

This Mark is the same John Mark who worked with Barnabas and Paul. And, he also worked with Peter. That’s right, that Simon Peter: the one who denied Christ three times; the one who continually put his foot in his mouth. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that John Mark got his information for this gospel from Peter and his testimony of these things. He wrote this shortly after Peter’s death. Maybe he realized there was a deep need for such a book as he watched one of the eyewitnesses to Christ pass from this earth. Wednesday night, during our Bible Study hour, I plan to look at the evidence for this and other topics we just don’t have time to address. So, consider this your invitation.

As we make our way through Mark I want to point out to you, and this is important, that I want to focus just on what Mark shares. When it was written, there were no others with which to compare it. I want you to get that feeling. Sure, I’ll mention the other gospels and relate what you probably already know, but for the most part – we will stick to Mark’s storyline. I want to sort of pretend we don’t have the ‘extras’ in the other Gospels.

Mark was most likely writing this book for the Christians in Rome – and he’s writing from Rome, where he had been working with Peter before Peter’s death.

So, let’s break his title down:

  • The Beginning: not like John’s gospel – not that far back. Not like Genesis – that’s not his starting point. His starting point is clarified in the next couple of verses. Malachi and Isaiah talked about this Messiah’s coming. That’s his starting point. He points back to the prophets as the starting point.
  • Gospel: εὐαγγέλιον – transliterated is evangelism. εὐ – means well or good. αγγέλοs – is the word for which we get angel – or messenger. αγγέλιον means message. So we have good message or good news. Mark here is the 1st one to use this word this way. His is the 1st gospel.
  • Jesus – the gospel, the message of Jesus can be understood in two ways:
    • as the message about Jesus. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you about him.
    • the message Jesus proclaimed. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you what he preached. Both work here, for they are the same.
  • Christanointed one or Messiah. Your translation could read: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
  • Son of God – I think Mark is up to something here:
    • Jesus, his earthly name, He was human.
    • Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people, and the world. These messianic implications would go all the way back to the Davidic covenant.
    • Son of God – a theological delineation. Yes, fully human, but also – fully God. We’ll see more of that in a moment. We’ll see this is an important element that flows through this book, and is a part of the climax to the story at the end.

Mark affirms for us that this beginning was foretold of by the prophets. He mentions Isaiah here (as it is written in), but he quotes from Malachi and Isaiah. Let’s look at these quotes:

Malachi 3.1 – “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. He clearly tells us of someone who will come proclaiming, announcing, and heralding the coming of the Lord.

Mark, then quotes from Isaiah to clarify for us this: 40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries:  “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

John is this ‘voice crying in the wilderness’; we meet him in v. 4; Jesus is the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God mentioned here; we meet him in v 9; let’s do that; rd v 4-8; rd v 9-11;

At this stage of the introduction, I think it would be interesting to note the different witnesses proclaiming this gospel – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I think that is more of Mark’s focus than telling us the whole story – like we see in other gospels. Note:

  1. Isaiah tells us in v 3.
  2. Malachi tells us in v 2.
  3. Mark tells us in his Title, v 1.
  4. John tells us in v 4-8. This Messiah is mightier than I, his sandals I’m not worthy to even stoop down and tie! John is pointing us to Jesus. And then…
  5. The Trinity appears to validate this for us in v 9-11.
    • The Son comes to be baptized
    • The Spirit the heavens are torn open (the clouds don’t just part) and the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a witness
    • The Father himself testifies: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

This might appear to be the end of the introduction – v 1 – the son of God; v 11 – the Father proclaims him to be his son. But I think there is more here; I think that Satan and the angels also declare who he is by their actions:

  1. There is Satan’s validation of who he is as he tries to test him – trying to trip him up; rd v 12-13
  2. He is with the wild beasts – this is unusual; Wild beast don’t usually act this way;
  3. The angels were ministering to him, giving their validation of who He is.

Listen, while no single testimony stands alone as valid in some eyes, the weight of these combined all scream at us: Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

1.14-15 tell us that Jesus begins his ministry, even before he picks his disciples (1.16-20); rd v 14a; we won’t hear of John again in Mark, (we hear of John’s disciples in 2.18) but we won’t hear from the Baptizer again until we learn of his death in chapter 6. As John records in his gospel – this is something John the Baptist knew was coming – He must increase, but I must decrease.

And the increase of Christ’s popularity is what we see as he begins his ministry. Let’s continue – 1.14b-15; we see this word gospel again – a nice bookend to this section. Maybe this is the end of the Introduction.

This is common for Mark: bookends to sections where he is focusing on something important. Some scholars call this the top and the tail. They bring the story back to the beginning – in a way. I’ll do my best to point them out along the way.

Turn to 15.33-37; Mark is making reference to the O.T. again. Here it is a reference to Psalm 22.1-18; And at his death something happens: rd 15.3838 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This is the 2nd time we’ve seen this word torn in Mark. Do you know it doesn’t appear at any other time in this book than the two we’ve seen? Mark uses this word torn only twice: Once when the heaven’s were being torn open and the Spirit descends upon the Messiah and here, when the curtain that separated the people from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom.

No man can make either one of those tears. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think Mark’s goal here is to communicate to the reader that a way into the presence of God has been made. He came from heaven to earth and lived the perfect and sinless life, that he might make the payment of death on our behalf. His death opened a way into the holy of holies – the most holy place, that you and I might have access to God.

And if you’ve missed it somehow, look at v 39; Do you know in Mark, only one human makes this remark? The Centurion. God said it back in 1.15; Angels and Demons will declare it. But it isn’t until this moment that a person says it. The message of Mark is clear: Jesus, is the Christ, the promised messiah, Son of God.

From here, Mark seems to end his gospel very abruptly, especially when we consider Matthew, Luke and John. But let me reiterate: Mark’s purpose isn’t to tell stories for our entertainment, but rather to tell this one story. Jesus, the Christ, was crucified, dead and buried. And, when the women came to the tomb three days later, they find that he has risen, just as he has promised.

In v40-41, the women are watching and observing and v 47 informs the reader that they are there with him until he is laid in the tomb.

When the Sabbath has ended, they come. The Sabbath ends at sun down on Saturday, but they can’t see at night. So, rd v 2-4; The synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) all use the same word here for roll away. But John uses a different word. You remember he was an eyewitness with Peter. He says the stone was rolled up and away. Rd v 5-6

He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. And this is Mark’s story as passed down from Peter. As he told us in his title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Conclusion: Have you noticed how the world has captured the Christmas holiday and commercialized it – even to the point removing Christ from Christmas, but keeping many of the traditions and adding others? And yet, for the most part, the world has left Easter alone? Listen Dr. R. Albert Mohler: The secular world has done its best to make a mess of Christmas, but it has largely ignored our celebration of the Resurrection. Where commercialism intrudes, it comes in the form of eggs and chicks and rabbits–none of which claim any connection with the Resurrection. The fact is, the secular world will attempt to domesticate, commercialize, and tame the babe in the manger–but it will run at breakneck speed from the cross and the empty tomb.

That cross stands as condemnation on all human attempts at self-righteousness, and the fallen world will do all within its power to hide the cross from sight. The empty tomb is the seal and confirmation of the cross, and the world will shield its eyes.

The Truth is, people do not want to be confronted about their sin. And the cross does just that! The empty tomb does just that.

But for Christians, we have a far greater understanding of this message. And this is our application – our take-aways:

Application:

  1. The Worst that can happen to us has already happened for us in Christ Jesus. I’m talking about for the person who has committed his life to Christ and found the forgiveness of sins. Paul says: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. Christ paid that horrible punishment on our behalf. As believers, the worst thing that could happen to us has already happened in Christ. The wages of our sin is death and Christ paid that penalty on our behalf!
  2. The Best thing that can happen for us has already happened, too.
    • His resurrection means so much more for us. In this life, we have been raised with Christ, and seated with him in the heavenlies. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2.4-7 Paul also said: 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    • His resurrection gives us hope of our future resurrection.

Invitation: Listen, if you don’t have that hope…

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Filed under Authenticity, Easter, Mark, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon, Uncategorized

Nehemiah 13

Title: The Need for Reform

Text: Nehemiah 12.44-13.31

Introduction: Context: 1-6; 7, 8, 9, 10; The three major areas of commitment:

  1. We won’t give our daughters in marriage to foreigners; v30; this isn’t racism, this is about idolatry;
  2. The Sabbath; v31; We won’t buy or sell, even when foreigners come in to do so, on the Sabbath; we’ll give the ground rest every 7 years and cancel every debt;
  3. We will take care of God’s House and the people who care for it; v32-39.

This gives us context for our passage. Remember these three major commitments.

So now we pick up in 12.44-13.3; I think this is a review of what has happened; 12.44 – on that day…The priests and the Levites are given their responsibilities. Every matter of the Temple is taken care of and the people are committed to taking care of the priests. 2nd, beginning in 13.1 – also, on that day…the people have separated themselves from the foreigners, in order that they might protect themselves against idolatrous ways.

Here’s what happens in this last section. Verse 4 gives us a time frame & I think the HCSB translates this best and easiest for us to understand: Now before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. Translation is hard. In the original language, there are no periods, no punctuation to help us. For the most part, this is easy – but at times like this it can be rather difficult. Added to the difficulty is when literal translations use a word-to-word format. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am most in favor of the literal translations: NASB, ESV, HCSB; however, literal is hard to understand when in the context of foreign idioms and colloquialism. That’s why I love what the HCSB has done for us. Now before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. This establishes for us our timeline.

  • The Wall is finished
  • The Wall is dedicated
  • The people are committed through covenant
  • The Priests and Levites and Temple workers are established and set.

Now, v 6 tells us that

  • Nehemiah goes back to Babylon – to serve King Artaxerxes. The work in Jerusalem is done and Nehemiah returns to the service of Artaxerxes. Rd v 6a: While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king.

Then, for some reason, he returns to Jerusalem. Why? Dunno: Maybe he had heard what they were doing; Maybe he was curious and longing for his homeland; dunno! However, he returns and what does he find?

rd 6b & 7a: And after some time I asked leave of the king and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered … So, what we’re going to look at this morning is what Nehemiah found after he returned to Artaxerxes, spent some time in his service and then took leave of the King once again – to return to Jerusalem;

What Nehemiah discovers or finds when he returns is what he has told us in the preceding verses and in the following verses. Each infraction is outlined in the following manner:

  1. What he finds or discovers. The Sin is identified.
  2. What he then does in response to the infraction: A Demonstration of Repentance
  3. What he commands be done in light of this response: A Solution to be Installed.

We will follow these three steps through each discovery. Let me list them for you:

  1. Foreigners in the Temple
  2. The Tithe
  3. The Sabbath
  4. Intermarriage

Transition: So now we’ll look at each infraction and the three steps Nehemiah takes each time.

I.   Foreigners (4-9)

exp.: rd v 4-5; rd v 8;

  • The Sin is identified: Eliahshib has brought Foreigners brought into the Temple of God; rd v 8;
  • Repentance is demonstrated: get him out of there! Removal of all his belongings; that’s a pretty simple definition of repentance. Stop doing the wrong thing! Get what’s being done wrong out of there. rd v 9;
  • A Solution is put into place: Cleansing takes place by the priests – mainly in order that these chambers might be used as God intended.

Ill.: Can I make a suggestion here? If there is sin in your life – stop moping about it and do something! Make the necessary changes. Maybe it is as simple as getting your priorities straight. For these Jews, they’re not being obedient to their covenant because of this one action, which in turn, gets everything else out of alignment.

App.: if your problem is a person who is leading you astray. Get a new friend, sit somewhere else, find another ride. If your problem is something you have at home – say your computer, say your tv, whatever it is – get rid of it. Take it outside and take a baseball bat to it! Men, have your wife put a passcode on your tv, computer, whatever. Take action.

Transition: this infraction alone, messes up everything else that follows. 2nd infraction:

II.   Tithe (1-14)

exp.: rd v 10

  • The sin is identified: The Portions were no longer brought to the Levites and the Temple workers; how could they? The rooms were turned into office space for this enemy – Tobiah. Therefore, the Levites and Temple workers had to go back to their villages to work their fields and get their food. They had to take matters into their hands and provide for their families. Work isn’t being done in the House of God because the workers have left. Well, this must be great for Tobiah – he has more office space now! Rd v 11;
  • The demonstration of repentance: He confronted the leadership and set them in their stations; He put them back to work – doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Rd v 12-13
  • A solution is installed: He then gathered the tithe into the storehouse;

ill.: Can I take a moment to express the importance of obedience to this matter. You may think that we don’t need your little gift. But, let me tell you that we are never more than just a few months away from closing our doors. We were short $10,000 last month in giving. It wasn’t a big expenditure or something like that. It’s just that giving was waaaayyy down.

If we had 4 more months like that last month in this year, we would deplete our general fund. And, be into our emergency funds – what we have in savings. We have about ¾ or 75% of a month’s needs in our savings. No money means cutting ministry workers;

app.: Now, I don’t expect that to happen, but you can see how a people who begin to neglect the House of God for a few months can send their workers packing and looking for other ways to feed their family. Are you beginning to see the snowball effect here: Eliashib gives office space in the Temple to his Father-in-law, taking away valuable chamber space for the grain, the wine, the oil, etc. And it goes downhill from there! People stop bringing their tithes into the storehouses and those who used to work that area head out to their towns and villages to find work to feed their families.

t.s.: But it doesn’t stop there: now, they’ll start trading on the Sabbath and neglecting that commitment.

III.   The Sabbath (15-22)

exp.: rd v 15-16;

  1. The Sin is identified: neglecting to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. They have to, because they need to do the work – at least that is the way they see it. They’re not taking the rest required of God, but instead buying, selling, and trading. Do you remember their covenant back in ch. 10?

The three major areas of commitment:

  • We won’t give our daughters in marriage to foreigners
  • The Sabbath
  • We will take care of God’s House and the people who care for it

App.: They’ve broken their covenant with God. Step by step, one move at a time, they’re back to where they were in exile. Oh, and what’s worse, is that it won’t take long before they’ll be chasing after foreign gods, idols. So, what does Nehemiah do? How does he demonstrate repentance? rd 17-19;

  1. A Demonstration of Repentance: shut the gates! Don’t let the merchants in! Do more than that: set guards over the entrances! But that won’t stop them. rd v 20; they’re loitering around outside, just trying to get in! rd v21 – when he says lay hands on you, he’s not saying lightly and pray for them! He’s saying he’s going to punch their lights out! He’s angry! He is taking drastic steps to make matters right.

When was the last time you got angry about sin? No, Christians are supposed to be like that! Can I tell you about what Jesus did in the Temple when he saw how the people had turned the House of God into a supermarket? He made a whip of cords and drove the money changers out of the Temple. He turned the tables over and set the animals free.

App.: Brothers and Sisters, get serious about your sin. Get angry over it and make a change! Rd v 22 –

  1. A Solution to be installed: Purify yourselves and set a guard!
    1. Identify the sin
    2. Make the change
    3. Clean yourself up and set a guard in place.

t.s.: No foreigners were to be in the Temple and it was to be used as promised: They’d made a covenant to care for the Temple and its workers. Now, because Nehemiah has made these changes – the things of God were important, the day of rest as commanded by God was re-instituted, but Nehemiah finds another problem:

IV.    Inter-marriage (23-28)

exp.: rd v 23-24; This is the same problem as the 1st,

  1. The Sin is identified: they have married the daughters of foreigners, bringing in idolatry among the Jews. This, again, is something they promised they wouldn’t do! So, what does Nehemiah do about it? he goes all “Jesus in the Temple” on them; rd 25
  2. A Demonstration of Repentance: man! He beat them! and Cursed them! most pastors wouldn’t make it very far if they did that! He made them take an oath & he uses Solomon as an example of where this sin leads. Look at what he does to the High Priest! Rd v 28; Man, Nehemiah gets serious about reforms.
  3. A Solution to be installed: rd v 30; Purification – we’ve seen that a lot in this passage; cleansed; established, provided;

Conclusion: So what can we conclude from all of this?

I think the point Nehemiah is getting to, after all of this, is that we cannot live out our commitments perfectly – it is impossible; therefore, we need to revisit and evaluate our condition consistently. And get Angry over the sin in our lives! Don’t let it reign over us!

So, how do you do that? How do you measure this?

  1. Am I letting foreigners into the Temple? Am I keeping the priorities of my faith in tact?
  2. Am I bringing the whole Tithe into the Storehouse? Or, am I using the money that is to be set aside for ministry on things of the world?
  3. Am I keeping the Sabbath Day holy to the Lord? Am I resting as I should or am I making money? Am I basking in the glory of my Savior or feeding my selfish desires. The Sabbath is really about focus. Is it on you or God?
  4. Am I keeping my relationship pure? Or that of my descendants?

Application:

  1. We must revisit our relationship with God everyday. – to ensure that nothing is a higher priority. The problem isn’t that God is going anywhere – the problem is you! I am the problem! If we think we don’t have a problem, we’re fooling ourselves. Maybe I should say ‘fellowship’
  2. We need accountability. It shouldn’t be our spouse. Accountability means to ‘open our books’ to someone else and let them do an audit of our lives.
  3. When you are confronted with your sin and brought to a place of repentance (deeds in keeping w/ repentance), you are experiencing the mercy of God.

Won’t you respond to his mercy today!

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Filed under Covenant, Ezra-Nehemiah, Scripture, Sermon

Nehemiah 11-12

Title: The Joy of the Lord is your Strength

Text: Nehemiah 11-12

CIT: God has fulfilled his promise to restore worship to Jerusalem through the efforts of ordinary, regular people.

CIS: God is accomplishing his will through regular, ordinary obedient people. This is how the church is built and the Gospel is spread.

Introduction: As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, God has been faithful to his people – to bring them back from exile to this place. And here in Jerusalem, their Temple has been rebuilt, the walls have been rebuilt and houses have been constructed. In Nehemiah, the 1st six chapters describe for us the rebuilding of the Wall around the city of Jerusalem. 7.1 informs us that it is finished.

In this 2nd phase of the book, the identity of the people is re-established in chapter 7, with the re-reading of the Torah in Chapter 8, which leads to the observance of the Festival of Booths. Chapter nine moves to a time of open confession of their sin and a recommitment to keeping the covenant in chapter 10. Now, in Ch. 11, Nehemiah comes back to the beginning of Ch. 7 – like he’s picking up where he left off.

What he does in these two chapters then is to explain to us how the city is repopulated, the glorious celebration of dedicating the Wall and he closes with the appointment of those who will serve in the Temple.

  1. Repopulating Jerusalem w/ the people of God
  2. Dedicating the Wall in a glorious ceremony
  3. Appointing Men to their service in the Temple

Turn to ch 7 in Nehemiah and let me show you how this all fits together as we look at this 1st section:

I.     Repopulating Jerusalem with the people of God (11.1-12.26)

exp.: 7.1-4 is our introduction to today’s lesson in Chapters 11&12. Nehemiah gives us a overview, a thesis statement for the rest of his book. Rd 7.1&4; 7.1 aligns w/ the end of 12(44-47); 7.4 concludes where 11.1 continues; that is where we are when we get to Ch. 11. Rd 11.1a; this then, is an overview of this chapter –

  • The Leaders live in Jerusalem and they are outlined for us in detail in v3-24
  • The People live in other towns surrounding Jerusalem; we read about them in v25-36

So we see the problem in 7.1-4 (that is there is this big wall surround a large, wide city with few people in it) and we find the Solution in 11.1b; select 10% of the people to move into the towns to populate it. rd v 2;

That’s nice, the people bless them – willing to move from the country side villages to the city. But I think there is more here. Look at the outline:

  • Judah (v4-6) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Judah
  • Benjamin (7-9) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Benjamin
  • Levites (10-14; 15-18; 19) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Levi – the Levites, the priests, the gatekeepers;

V 20 – then restates that the rest of the people (Israel, i.e.: Judah & Benjamin/ the Levites/priests) lived out in the surround countryside, villages and towns.

V 22-24 deal the overseers for the Levites. Indeed, we see the overseer for each group (except Judah) in each section. V 9 has the overseer and 2nd to him for the Tribe of Benjamin; v 14 has the overseer for the Priests; and you just saw the overseer for the Levites in v 22;

But there is something else very interesting about these men – Nehemiah tells us they are Valiant Men; rd v: 6, 8, 14; Why? Dr. James Hamilton in his commentary on Nehemiah lets us in on this quandary: What is valiant and valorous about these people is their willingness to risk their necks for the kingdom of God. They courageously chose to dwell in Jerusalem for the sake of God’s name. That’s valorous. That’s valiant. Furthermore, if an attack were to occur, this is the first place the attack would take place. These men have chosen to live for God. They’re willing to make the changes necessary to see God’s Kingdom be established.

app.: What are you willing to risk for God’s Kingdom? Where are you willing to go? Chapter 12 picks up with the list of those who were the first returnees with Zerubabbel. We read about them in Ezra 2. They, too, stepped up and were willing to sacrifice what was established in their lives and return to establish the Kingdom of God, as they understood it. Where would you go? (or) What would you do to establish the Kingdom of God?

exp.: I love verse one of Chapter 12, because it mentions Zerubabbel, son of Shealtiel. He is a type of Christ. He is governor, because his forefathers were Kings from the house and line of David through Solomon. He is also from the priestly line, because he is of the house and lineage of David, through Nathan. You can read about his genealogy in Luke 3 and Matthew 1. I’ll leave that for you to study. However, let me re-iterate: He is pointing us to Christ. Zechariah prophesies about this in his book chapter 3 and in chapter 6. If I recall correctly, The prophecy of the Branch is in reference to Zerubabbel and to Christ.

now, the outline of those returnees is pretty simple: v 7-8 identifies those of the time of Jeshua and his lineage; that continues down to v 11; at v12 we see a 2nd generation; and in v 22 the 3rd generation. Rd v 26;

t.s.: Nehemiah has repopulated Jerusalem with Jews who can prove their lineage. V27 then turns to the dedication of the wall.

II.    Dedicating the Wall in a glorious ceremony (12.27-43)

exp.: rd v 27; in 1 Chronicles 24, David created 24 divisions of priests and Levites for service. They lived in the towns of Israel and served there, but for 2 weeks out of the year, they would come to Jerusalem to serve in the Temple. We also read about this in Luke 1 and 2 when Zechariah was charged with serving in the Temple. He and others with him left their homes and traveled to Jerusalem to serve. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, was then selected among those men to be the one who went into the holy of holies. That is where he saw the angel of the Lord and was stricken mute until his son was born. You know that story. Well, here we see the Jews have organized themselves according to the Law and were actually serving as commanded. All of these men are summoned to Jerusalem for the Dedication of the Temple. Look at v 30; so they’re ready now; rd v 31; Two choirs are formed and brought up onto the wall. One went south and the 2nd (v38) will head north. Rd v 38; v 40 tells us they ended up in the Temple. This must have been truly amazing to watch. All of those people up on the wall.

ill.: I’m reminded of Nehemiah 4.3 – Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”

Well, Nehemiah showed them. I can just picture Nehemiah walking on the wall, the groups are singing. There is Tobiah on the outside of the city, looking up at the wall and all of the men singing and parading around to the North side. Nehemiah spots Tobiah – and winks! Nah, I just made that up. That’s the evil side of my heart, ya’ll pray for me! Nehemiah wasn’t that way.

app.: But this goes to show you the strength of the wall – and the goodness of God in blessing them with this work. No wonder they praise him and dedicate this wall to him. rd v 40; they gave thanks, look at v 43;

t.s.: What a glorious day it must have been. Well, Chapter 12 closes out with the appointing…

III. Appointing Men to their service in the Temple (12.44-47)

exp.: rd v 44-46; The prescription for these servants is found in 1 Chronicles 24-26; rd v 47; they kept the requirements as prescribed by the law.

Conclusion: Now, if I asked you to close your Bible and begin listing for me the names of those who served as gate keepers, singers – who were the song directors and who were the leaders of praise – could you tell me? My guess is no. I couldn’t tell you either. But just because their names are not known, doesn’t mean that they are insignificant. Their rolls are important.

God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong. He uses the silly things of the world to confound the wise.

  • God chose Abraham – a childless, old man to become the father of a nation.
  • He chose his descendants – slaves in Egypt, to become his people. Who would pick a nation of slaves to be their people – God!
  • He chose Moses – a shepherd for 40 years in the wilderness – so afraid to speak in front of people that he made God mad because he didn’t want to do what God was calling him to do – lead those slaves out of Egypt into a land that would become their own.
  • God chose David to be his King. A kid so insignificant, that when Jesse’s sons were summoned, Jesse didn’t even call him in from shepherding the sheep. He evidently didn’t think he would be the one.
  • God chose to bring his son into the world in the most unusual way. To be born to a lowly couple, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough.
  • He chose to let him die on a cross – a stumbling block for Jews and folly to Gentiles;
  • He chooses still today…to use people who seem insignificant by worldly standards.

Let’s close with some “take-a-ways”

Application:

  1. Jerusalem is more than stonewalls and a Temple; the Church is more than mortar and brick. I know this is nothing new for you – the church isn’t a building, so much as it is the people of God.
  2. God’s call still requires sacrifice and service on the part of those who would follow. That is how God chooses to make this Body of Believers function right. It takes money. It takes time. It takes teachers. It takes leaders. It takes singers. It takes servants. It takes gatekeepers. It takes people who organize. It takes people who aren’t afraid to stand up in front of others and others who are – who like working behind the scenes. It takes people who work on projects alone and people who work in groups. It takes people who are willing to sacrifice and serve.
  3. God still calls normal people – just regular, ordinary people. Is he calling you today?

 

I was telling someone earlier this week how blessed I’ve been. I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to South America, I’ve been to Mexico, and I’ve been to Asia. I’ve seen many different parts of this world – seen the grandeur of the land from Mountain Tops. I’ve swam in the ocean and walked along the most beautiful of beaches. I’ve fed fish – I mean, had them eating out of my hands. I’ve stood at the edge of Volcanoes. And watch a lava flow catch a spontaneously combust from the heat, before it’s flow reached the tree itself. I’ve felt the earth rumble beneath my feet as the thunderous waves the size of buildings fell to the beach and have felt the earth tremble at an earthquake. I’ve experienced tornadoes and felt the wind as it roared in a blizzard.

As a kid I walked through castles in Europe and wondered what it would have been like to grow up there when the king ruled. I feel like James Taylor to say: I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I am a blessed man. But can I say, of all the wonders of the world that I’ve been privileged to experience – Nothing compares to the church of God. How he takes everyday ordinary people and calls them out from their ho-hum lives to a life of inexpressible joy.

Nehemiah 12.43 – 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

Do you know that joy? They could feel this way because Nehemiah had told them in 8.10 – for the joy of the Lord is your strength…

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Nehemiah 9-10

Title: The Need for a New Covenant

Text: Nehemiah 9-10

Introduction: We’re in the last half of Nehemiah, specifically chapters 9-10. Two chapters, means: there is a lot of Scripture here before us this morning. I’d like to walk you through it, making some points as we make our way through it. Obviously there is no way to cover every verse; however, I’ll summarize various sections and trust you to read on your own.

The basic storyline flows:

  1. On the day after the Feast of Booths, the Israelites gathered to mourn and confess their sins. They stood as Scripture was read for three hours and then confessed their sins for another three hours. (9.1-4)
  2. At this point, the writer reviews Israel’s covenant history and their continued rebellion and inability to keep their covenants with God. (9.5-35)
  3. Chapter nine closes with the writer ‘up to date’ – i.e.: the current situation in Israel and the desire to re-establish their covenant with God. (9.36-39)
  4. Chapter 10 has the leadership listed on the seals of this covenant agreement (10.1-27) and their obligation to obey and follow God (10.28-39).

Let me give you a basic outline:

  1. The Opening Section: Distress (9.1-4) The Israelites recognize their failure to keep any Covenant with God.
  2. The Historical Section: (9.5-35) This is an Historical Review of their failures. There is a vicious cycle of failures on the part of Israel to ever keep her commitment with her God. At this point, Israel should concede defeat and fall on the mercy of God for help.
  3. The Current State: we’re in this mess because of our past failure to live by God’s Covenant.
  4. Covenant Section: An Heroic Attempt to make a firm covenant with God: (9.36-10.39)
    1. Acknowledging their need
    2. Following their leadership
    3. Writing out their commitment

Transition: Let’s begin with the introduction to these chapters – the section of Distress.

I.     The Opening Section: Distress (9.1-4)

exp.: rd v 1a; the timing; Day 15 (8 days) – 23rd day; The 24th day – the day after the Feast of Booths has been completed. They’re doing this – there very best to follow God’s commands. Rd 1b-3;

  • Sackcloth and Ashes
  • Separated from foreigners
  • Confessing their sins
  • Standing & Worshipping
  • The Levites are leading

exp.: basically, they make a day of this: ¼ of the day in reading; ¼ of the day in confession. That’s 6 hours. What these leaders say in v 5 is absolutely beautiful…a call to worship that is simply beautiful.

app.: What happens over the rest of this chapter is outlining for us a clear understanding of covenant – that God has established these covenants and has kept them perfectly. On the other hand, the people of Israel have failed miserably, unable to keep even one of these covenants.

Transition:So let’s look at part two: a history of the covenants.

II.     The Historical Section: Failure (9.5-35)

exp.: What we understand about redemption – the plan of redemption – is that even before time began, God had a plan. Some folks think that God created the perfect world and put Adam and Eve in it. Then, they messed it up, and God was forced into implementing plan b.

Nothing could be further from the Truth. As we understand Salvation History, it teaches us that God had a plan before the foundation of the world. Before the 1st second ticked in the creation of time, God had a plan for redemption. We see this worked out throughout the Scriptures, and today, Nehemiah is going to take us on this journey – a journey of covenants.

  1. The Adamic Covenant (5-6) – Some people call this the Creation Covenant. Three parts: the sky, the ground, the seas; the beasts of the field, the birds in the heavens and all that passes through the sea. And in this perfect garden he placed Adam and Eve to care for it. But you know the story: Broken by Adam and Eve; banished from the garden, we watch as people grow wicked and even more evil, culminating in the flood; The Covenant is renewed w/ Noah. Slight changes are made – we can eat meat. In Genesis 6.8 we read of this covenant w/ Noah.
  2. The Abrahamic Covenant (is found in 7-8) – Gen 15; God is going to create a people for himself – the Israelites. God does so and liberates them from captivity in Egypt. He takes them to Mount Sinai and establishes a 3rd
  3. The Mosaic Covenant (9-31) – Like Adam, Israel was now God’s son. But again, they failed to keep the covenant as outlined by Moses. Here you see the cycle of sin:
    1. Blessing (25)
    2. Rebellion (26)
    3. Suffering (27a)
    4. Repentance (27b)
    5. Deliverance (27c)
    6. Blessing again (28a)
    7. Rinse. Repeat.
  4. The Davidic Covenant (9.29-35) – this covenant isn’t as plain and clear in the text as the others. The David Covenant was established in 2 Samuel 7. David had wanted to build a Temple for God, but God said no. Instead, God promised to build a house for David – a promise to keep a descendant of his as King of Israel always. You see this covenant represented in v32 (upon our kings), v 34, Our kings, v 35 our Kingdom;

app.: v 33 is the summation of this section: 33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.

t.s.: Every single time, God has been faithful. Every single time, the Israelites have failed. So, what must be done about it?

III.    Their Current State and Desire to make a covenant (9.36-38)

exp.: they recognize their utter failure and the failure of every one of their descendants from them back to Abraham. Furthermore, they recognize their current state is due to those failures. Rd v 36-37; So, what are we gonna do about it? rd v 38; I know, we’ll make a covenant with you this time that is firm. And, we’ll sign it! You see their signatures there in 10.1-27.

t.s.: Isn’t it funny how human these people are. I suppose I’d be right there with them. I have before. My guess is that you have, too. We promise God his or that and break the covenant. Well, let’s look at this covenant that they want to make firm …

IV.    Obligations of the Covenant (10.28-39)

exp.: I’ve listed 8 specific obligations the Israelites are fixing upon themselves to enter into a curse and an oath to walk Law – the law given to them by God through Moses.

  1. 30: They will not marry non-believers. Deals w/ idols – the gods of the foreigners in the land. Exodus 34.12-16
  2. 31: Sabbath1
    1. Observance of the Sabbath – Exodus 34.21
    2. Sabbath year’s rest for the land – Exodus 23.10ff
  3. 32-33: Temple Tax to care for the Temple – Exodus 30.13
  4. 34: Perpetual Fire – Leviticus 6.12
  5. 35: Firstfruits – Exodus 34.26
  6. 36: Firstborn – Exodus 13 (Passover)
  7. 37: Tithes – Leviticus 23.17; Numbers 15.20-21; 18.12; Deuteronomy 18.4

exp.: Here’s what they’re saying: As in Exodus 34 when the covenant was renewed and in Deuteronomy, when the law was given again for a new generation inheriting the land that their forefathers didn’t want through rebellion and disbelief, these Israelites are making the same commitment. They’re going to live by the law.

app.: Can I let you in on a little secret? This is nice and all. I mean, you’ve got to admire their desire and determination. However, we won’t make it out of this book before they fail to keep this covenant. One by one, this commitment to observe and keep these obligations, will fail.

t.s.: So what can we make of all of this? And even more, what does this mean for us?

Conclusion: I think they’re making the right decision for where they are? However, I think what Nehemiah is telling us in his book is that we can never perfectly follow a set of rules and regulations. One infraction makes the covenant null and void. The penalty then is death.

There is a term, maybe you’re familiar with it: cutting a covenant. There are dozens and dozens of covenants we see. David and Jonathan, Joshua with the Gibeonites. The list goes on. A covenant was a binding agreement between two parties. They would take an animal, say a bull, and cut it in half. Then each party would walk between the two parts and declare that if they broke the covenant or failed to keep their word on their part, then may they become as that animal. Dead.

There is a man standing here with these folks. He’s participating in all of these events. We see his name in Ezra 6.14; and in Nehemiah 8.4. This man will prophesy and write in his book, the book of Zechariah, about a coming king. This coming king will establish a new covenant – a covenant of blood. You can read about it in Zechariah 9. This covenant is mentioned in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, too. This covenant is called the Eternal Covenant, the Covenant of Peace and the New Covenant.

This covenant was needed because of exactly what Nehemiah is telling us. We could never, ever keep our end of the bargain. We’re sinners and prone to sin. We need this new covenant of blood.

You see the same penalty remains on you and me, today. As it was with Adam – if you eat of the fruit you shall surely die. And with Moses: death was the penalty, but sacrifices could be made to atone for that sin. And today, with this new covenant, Christ has made the sacrifice for you.

Application:

  1. Acknowledge you’re a sinner – we see this in the opening section. We are unable to obey God perfectly. Romans 3.23 – for all have sinned.
  2. Believe that Christ died for your sin. Romans 5.8 God demonstrates his love toward us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
  3. Confess your sin and need for Christ.
    1. Romans 6.23 says that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

I offer you this gift today. If you’ve never accepted this free gift, won’t you?

Romans 10.9-10 says, that if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved.

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Filed under Covenant, Ezra-Nehemiah, Scripture, Sermon