Category Archives: Covenant

Romans 8.29-30

Title: The “Those”

Text: Romans 8.29-30

Introduction: Let me begin with an outline of my process this morning:

  • Summary of the passage
  • A couple of thoughts to begin
  • The Work of the Spirit Step by Step in the Spirit-Filled Believer
  • Take-a-ways

Allow me to summarize the text to this point in short fashion: in 8.26-27, those who stand no longer condemned have hope in this life and in the life to come. Their hope extends to points beyond their present suffering. In their suffering, when they don’t even know how to pray or what to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them. In 8.28, we see that God combines their life experiences and causes those experiences (good or bad) to work together for good – no matter the circumstance. This is why I encouraged you last week not to tally up your life’s score at the halfway point. God isn’t through with you yet. Where you’ve failed him, own up and fess up! Then, live up to the calling you’ve received. There is more on this calling in our verses today.

The prayers of the Spirit on behalf of the ‘those’ are that they be conformed to the image of God’s son, Jesus Christ [the Spirit intercedes for ‘those’ the saints according to the will of God (27) and all things work together for those who are called “according to his purpose” (28) and that purpose is that they be conformed to the image of his son (29)]. “Those people”, that is the called, they can be confident that God will bring all of this about because he works all things together for good. They can be confident because he has set his covenantal affection up them:

  • He has predestined them to be like His Son, Jesus (i.e.: according to God’s will, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his son)
  • He has called them to salvation,
  • He has justified them in that salvation,
  • And He has glorified them (aor. tense, as if it is already done).

A couple of Notes about our text before we look at that work of God:

Relationship

I want you to note that Paul is talking about certain people in this text, not everyone. Romans 8.1: There is therefore now no condemnation for… what does it say? … for those in Christ Jesus. There are those who are in Christ Jesus and there are those who are not in Christ Jesus. The people here are those in Christ Jesus.

He repeats it many times in our text today so that you’ll know this is a specific group of people: for those who or for those whom. 6x’s!

This all presupposes a relationship. What does Paul say about those people? They love God. And what does Paul say about God in relation to them? With God, he has called them. Relationship. Note the two ‘those’ phrases:

  • Those who love God. It sounds like they made that choice. And, that is true, they did. This has always been a prerequisite for God’s people – to love him. Have you ever heard of the Shema? Deut. 6.4-6; Love the Lord your God with… Classic Judaism. 2nd
  • Those who have been called. This sounds like God initiated the contact. This is His Action toward us. That’s why Paul says we cannot boast about our faith because God has acted on our behalf. No one saves himself. Eph. 2.8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Mystery

The 2nd item to note is mystery… This dichotomy is a mystery. The free will of man and the sovereignty of God work simultaneously.

Ill.: I love the picture Brother Ken Brown painted for me when I was at Kirby Baptist Church as a young believer. He said something like:

Imagine you are walking along in life and you come to an entryway to somewhere. You see written over the entryway, “Whosoever shall come, may come.” And you do. You say, “Hey, that invitation is for me.” You make the turn and walk through the entryway in the Kingdom. But, as you make your way through the gates and to the other side, you pause and look back at the opening through which you just came. And on the other side, you read above the entryway, “Chosen before the foundation of the World.”

On the one side of this entryway, you and I, as lost people, we heard God’s call. Something inside us communicated God’s love to us and we responded. The Holy Spirit of God was wooing us. We didn’t know that was what it was, but we were being drawn. So, we entered in through the gate into this glorious salvation. And, it is only on the other side of this decision, this entrance and journey into the light, that we even become aware of God’s activity.

So our context today is that this popular verse isn’t just a slogan for hurting people – although it can be that for sure. It isn’t a mantra to be repeated by people who are going through a tough time – although it can be that, too. It isn’t just used by self-help gurus and sages. This is for a specific people: those who love God and those who are loved by God… aka, the called.

This bit of information is pretty overwhelming. There is nothing we’ve done on our part to deserve this ‘call’. God has initiated the call and we’ve simply answered. But you might be struggling with this concept, with this theology. It is truly mind-boggling. But, Paul knows that. Turn with me a couple of pages over to chapter 11.33:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

So, if you are having some trouble already – that’s OK. Paul tells us that you can’t wrap your mind around something so grand, so large, so incredibly complex, so God-sized. That’s OK! No one really can. What you know, even if you don’t understand and comprehend is: God is at work in all of these things causing them to work out for good in the lives of his people.

The question for us this morning is “How?” How is he at work? Look at what Paul lists as God’s work in “those” people:

  1. He foreknew them
  2. He predestined them
  3. He called them
  4. He justified them
  5. He glorified them

Let’s begin with #1…

I.     God Foreknew

Exp.: v. 29… for those whom God foreknew… now, stop right there. I think this verse gets hammered, particularly this word. Some people think that ‘foreknew’ means that God knew beforehand who would get saved. While that statement would be true (that God knew beforehand who would get saved, because he did and he does), it means that God foreordained those people to be saved.

Two reasons we have it translated this way:

  1. That is the lit.: pro – before; Gnosis – knowledge. My guess is that this is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’ from…
  2. That is what the word has always been translated. The problem is that this word doesn’t mean the same thing in its original context as what “knowing beforehand” means today.

To be quite honest, that’s a given that God knows. God is omniscient. So, yeah, he already knew. But this word has a deeper meaning in its original use than what 21st Century Christians water it down to.

The best way I can think to communicate this the idea of foreknowledge is by using the phrase in Genesis 4.1: Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore him a son. You read that and you know it means more than just he saw her and said, oh, hey, I know her! BTW: you see that again in Genesis 4.25… Adam knowing Eve in this context infers relationship – a deep, intimate relationship. What I’m getting at is that ‘know’ means something different in a different time and language. Know doesn’t mean that God conceptualized in his mind. Knowledge is something deeper.

Amos uses this same wording about God and his people (Amos 3.2): You only have I known of all the families on the earth. Is God saying that he didn’t know anyone else on earth except the Jews? No, he created every single person on earth. He knows them all, but he has a special relationship with His people.

Write that one down: God has a special relationship with his people.

That is what foreknowledge means: Foreordained. #2…

II.    God Predestined

Exp.: Let’s keep reading; Rd 29; Keywords here: image, Son, brothers. God has chosen to put together a people that he will call his own. A family of sorts. He is the Father. He has a Son. The Son has many brothers and sisters who are being conformed to His Image. Knowing the Old Testament and the way he chose Israel – the way he put together a people that he would call his own, does this surprise you? God has blessed us with stories and actions that demonstrate for us his work. One example is that He gave us ‘types’ of Christ so that we would recognize him when he came (David; Jonah; Moses; Zerubabbel). This is similar to that.

I like Ephesians 1 as a parallel passage to Romans 8. Turn there. If you’re using your pew Bible, it’s pg ?? beginning in v 3; Rd v 3-13; [Compare and Contrast these two passages]

While we’re here at predestined, let’s add called.

III.   God Called

Exp.: to be fair, this is a hard doctrine. I’m thinking that those who are believers don’t necessarily have a tough time with the understanding that you were once lost, God called you from your lost state…wherever and whatever that was. You knew, somehow, that God was calling and you responded. You knew because God used someone or something to clearly communicate to you. You knew who you were and you didn’t want to be that way anymore. You sought Christ’s forgiveness and you’ve run to him time and again as you found yourself in need.

Ill.: this hits home for me from an earthly standpoint. Lisa and I were friends before we dated. As a friend, I loved and cared for her – as a friend. Yes, she was the prettiest girl in school. I mean that. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife now. I would dare say that most of the guys in our school would agree with me. But, she was only my friend.

But Lisa didn’t feel that way toward me. She ‘fell in love’ with me way before I knew she felt that way. Now, for her to say to me, ‘Fred, I loved you before you ever knew me…’ doesn’t make me mad.

App.: Now, that is a weak illustration, I know. Here’s where I’m going:

  1. The Doctrine of election and calling is tough when you try to limit it to human understanding. But even then, does it upset you that God loved you before you even knew about him – before you drew your first breath? That’s absurd?
  2. This idea of election and calling is here in the Bible, so we don’t just skip it. We do our best to understand it. But the truth is, we just can’t totally grasp it with our small minds.

Let me offer you some guidance here. Paul’s purpose here is an encouragement to the one suffering. So, keep that in mind. Because Paul is simply trying to encourage those who are suffering, here in Romans, let me offer you some encouragement, too. The Father’s higher ways are not shared with us to make us feel elitist. So, do not use this doctrine as a battering ram. Do use this doctrine as a roadblock for fellowship or evangelism. Let this doctrine be a strong tower where you can run to and feel safe.

Caution: Some have said that if God truly predestined “the called,” then we need not evangelize. I would say, ‘You haven’t been reading your Bible.’ They would add that God is going to save those who he is going to save, so we don’t have to do anything. But, I would say, the same God who told you that you were saved from the foundation of the World has also said to you, ‘Go and make disciples…’

There is a phrase, I believe it comes from Spurgeon, that is so helpful to me: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. God, who foreordains and predestines and calls, he has determined that the Gospel is the tool that will be used by the believer to convince a lost world to come to Christ. So we go because we’ve been commanded. That is the tool that God uses to call others. And then, they too, find that Christ loved them from before the mountains were formed or even the earth was brought forth.

Can I take a moment to ask you if you’ve been praying for someone who is lost? Who is your one? ? UR 1

If you’re not focused in on someone, would you? Set aside one minute every day at one o’clock to pray for your someone.

Paul says the purpose in this is that we be conformed to the image of his Son. There are pictures here of the Garden. We were created in his image. The Fall has marred that image. Christ is the perfect image of the Father – the radiance of his glory. God has purposed in all of this to conform you to the image of Christ. That is what he does through the doctrine of Justification… and that’s #4

IV.    God Justifies

Exp.: 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified… I love that Paul calls all of this a mystery. God foreordains all that is. God predestines believers to salvation, to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to believe through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. And, when we believe, he justifies us by declaring us no longer guilty. Christ has paid our punishment in full and the Wrath of God has been satisfied. We are now in a right standing of God.

Finally…

V.     God Glorifies

exp.: and those whom he justified he also glorified. Aorist tense or past tense; He says it as if it has already happened. It was the first verse we read in Ephesians 1: who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Paul is saying what will be as if it has already happened. Don’t that just push your mind to the point of collapse? Its as if God has already seen it all and knows it will happen. And, by the way, he has and he does.

Closing Thoughts:

  1. There is no such person who wants to get saved but can’t because he isn’t predestined to be saved. That’s ludicrous. The very notion that a person desires to be saved is evidence of God’s call upon that person’s life.
  2. And, There is no such person who hates Christ and his church, who detests God and wants nothing to do with him, but will be forced into salvation because God will make him because he has been predestined. And he will continue in that vein, hating Christ, hating the church, but go to heaven. That, too, is ludicrous.
  3. Sovereignty vs. Free Will – I like to explain it this way: we know that there are times in Scripture when we find two truths which appear to be contradictory. But, we know both to be true. But there have been those in history who have established one to be a doctrine over the other. The deity of Christ. Was Christ God? Yes. And, some have said that because he was fully God he could not be fully man. Because he was not fully man he did not live in the flesh here on earth. Because he was not fully man, he could not fully die for our sins. But, you and I know that Christ was fully man. That he lived on earth and suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary. He got thirsty. He got tired. He got hungry. He was just as we are in human form, yet was without sin. He as 100% God and 100% man. Two truths which appear to be contradictory to Humans. But it isn’t to God. And neither is the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
  4. The Doctrine of Election should set you free to evangelize with greater fervor – really, for two reasons.
    1. You now know that someone else’s reception of the Gospel isn’t up to you.
    2. You now know that someone else’s rejection of the Gospel isn’t because of you. If you are rejected, it isn’t you or your presentation. Your job is obedience to the Great Commission and you leave the results up to God.

Ill.: I tell my CWT class of the time I botched a presentation of the Gospel. I thought there is no way on earth this person is going to accept Christ. No way. My presentation isn’t even understandable to me. And when I offered an invitation, that person got saved. I was like, are you sure?

  1. Who is your one? ?UR1

 

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Covenant, Ephesians, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon

The Perfection of Creation

Title: The Perfection of Creation in The Garden of Eden

Text: Genesis 1-3

Introduction: James Dobson as told by Chuck Swindoll in The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart

A Few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with teenagers designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test. Subsequently each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. 

Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the next-to-the-longest line. 

The desire of the psychologists was to determine how one person reacted when completely surrounded by a large number of people who obviously stood against what was true. 

The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised. Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group. This remarkable conformity occurred in about seventy-five percent of the cases, and was true of small children and high-school students as well. 

This story makes me think of the so many people who just adopt evolution – even Christians – who do so because everyone else does. They see the so many teachers and professors and people they respect as smart who stand for evolution – and so they follow the crowd – raising their hands because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing.

Today, I’m not out to try my best to get you to believe in Creation. I’m assuming you do, but even if you don’t, I do – and so I’m going to be preaching it that way. Furthermore, I believe God did his work of creating in 6 days. He rested on the 7th day. I don’t believe they were periods or eras. They were Days!

I don’t believe we came from monkeys or apes. I know there are those who think Evolution and Creation work side by side and are the same event. I don’t. I don’t, because God created man before he did the animals. Now, it appears this is a contradiction from chapter one, but I don’t think so at all. Chapter two is simply the detailing of the story as presented in Chapter one. And I’m not out to prove one or the other.

The reason I’m not out to prove any of this is quite simply, I don’t think that discussion or argument should be the focus. I think it is something that sidetracks us. The focus that we should have is the perfection that we’re supposed to see in every aspect of Creation. Everything was perfect, because God planned it that way. And that’s the point! … that’s where the focus should lie. And that is where I want to stay today: The perfection of creation. That’s what the Garden of Eden is and everything about the story reminds us of this perfection.

The Premise to my series is quite simply that the Bible is really one Big Story: His Story. And, although there are hundreds, yeah, thousands of stories in the Bible, there is this thread that weaves its way through all of Scripture. This morning, I’ve outline four facets to this perfection of creation, and I’ve outlined them as follows…

  1. The Pleasure of the Garden: God was pleased… he said it was ‘good’
  2. The People of the Garden: The people were perfect
  3. The Problem of the Garden: The was the potential for disaster
  4. The Promise of the Garden: When it looked like failure had won, God made a promise…

Transition: So, let’s begin with this 1st facet of creation.

I.     The Pleasure of the Garden (4-14)

exp.: As we gaze upon this perfection, we see how pleasing it was to God; it begins in v 5-6; v 5 sounds to me like this is before sin has entered the picture, before man has to work the ground; The story is rounded out in 3.23; v 7 is back in time;

  • A Spring: v6;
  • A Man is formed; v 7
  • A Garden is planted; v8; Now here is where we find God’s pleasure in the garden;
  • The Pleasure of the Garden: good for food and pleasant to the sight; v 9; ‘good; pleasing’; same as the end of each day in creation; There is this sense of pleasure to the senses; rd 9b; Plants, Trees, Rivers
  • A River: rd v 10ff; divides into more rivers; this is unusual; I found no place in existence; Do you know, I’d love to hear from you if you have.

app.: Everything at this stage is perfection; everything; It’s perfect. I love this word pleasing; I think that is life’s design: pleasure. Oh, sure, it’s not a good word now because sin has marred what God has designed. But let’s not get a head of ourselves. Let’s see this place as God designed: pleasing. It was pleasing to him – just like him, good in every way.

t.s.: Now, the text turns to more information on this man and this woman. So, the 2nd facet to this perfection that I want you to see is…

II.    The People of the Garden (5-7; 18-25)

exp.: we met Adam up in chapter one and again in v 7; He’s perfect because he’s made in the image of God. 1.26; likeness; same word used in 2 Kings 16.10; King Ahaz likes this altar he sees in Damascus and orders something like what we would call blueprints to be made of it. It is a graphic representation for building a construction. Think about looking at the blueprints for this facility. It’s one thing to look at it on paper, but even more impressive to walk from room to room.

ill.: Print of facilities…

Adam is just an image, a likeness of God, but nothing near as impressive. Still, made in his image means he’s perfect at that point. We meet Eve, in v22; We don’t have time to explore all of this beautiful scene, but if we did, we’d delve into the beauty of this moment when God brings her to Adam.

In this moment there is a certain beauty to the relationships: God the Father in relationship with his creation, man; the relationship with this man and this woman. No one else has ever experienced this – at least not on this level; Adam didn’t have a ring, but did he have a scar? It was before sin entered into the world, so I just don’t know. But, did Adam have a mark on his body where God took the rib and made the woman. Did he see that mark, that scar as something wonderful… you know, he got that mark when he got that woman…

There are two very important lessons we learn from these two People that I want you to recognize while the Creation is still perfect. If I could sum it up in a phrase, it would be: Responsibility is born out of his relationship to God.

  1. Responsibility: His relationship with the garden. God gives them a garden and tells them to:
    • Work it, rd 2.15
    • Keep it, in 4.9: Am I my brother’s keeper; 17.9 keeping the covenant; it means to observe or guard – like keeping God’s commandments. Maybe even a sense of guarding it.
    • Enjoy it! (15-16) Eat of its plenty!

Application: Maybe this is something they forgot? And, maybe this is something you’ve forgotten? The Garden is still God’s Garden! These two are given this beautiful place to live and exist. They do so in His garden. I wonder if we sometimes forget this garden called the church isn’t ours! It’s God’s! This relationship and this begets responsibility.

  1. Responsibility: Relationship: with God

ill.: Rudyard Kipling wrote:

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees

That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees.

app.: And so it begins… perfection. A garden, a gardener, utopia.

t.s.: All things are perfect, but God creates the potential for disaster… that’s the 3rd facet to our story this morning.

III.    The Problems of the Garden (17-18; 1.26-29)

exp.: Problems: “problems? wasn’t it perfect?” I say problems because there is potential for disaster; the 1st concern isn’t as noticeable. However, I think it’s very apparent once sin enters the picture.

  1. The Covenant of Dominion: 1.28;
    • Dominion: Rebellion is death – because it is ultimately committing suicide. Consider this: Even a hermit exercises dominion; he plants, hunts, does whatever he can to eat; Even vegetarians eat from living organisms; Dominion as outlined in 1.26-28 involves two parts:
      • People: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.
      • Land: care and concern for the land that perpetuates the necessities he needs for survival.
        • Adam
        • Noah
        • Abraham

Ill.: this weekend Elizabeth asked what the purpose in bees is. Interesting, no? Bees spread pollen. Bees serve a function. They provide honey! If you really put your mind to it, you’ll find purpose in every little part of creation. Your and my responsibility is keeping that going in perpetuity: care and concern for the land that perpetuates the necessities we need for survival.

  • Exceptions:
    • A Command to Follow: enjoy it all; however, you shall not; the exceptions are still a part of the responsibility.
    • A Consequence for Failure: death; some have assumed that Adam would have lived forever if he hadn’t sinned. I don’t think so; I think he would have been translated over somehow – like Enoch. The consequence for failure would bring death. Which, of course you know by now, did.
    • This covenant of Dominion is re-confirmed with Noah, but changed slightly (meat eaters)
  1. Aloneness (v18)
    1. God doesn’t tell us why being alone is bad. He only tells us it is. Sure, Adam had a relationship with God. As Bonhoeffer says: Adam “speaks and walks with God as if they belong to one another,” and they do; however, God’s talking about a spiritual and a physical relationship.
    2. It is truly a shame when one considers how much has been made of this relationship. I have to say myself that I’ve never liked the term helpmeet, because we don’t fully understand that word as it was used by those of 16th Century England and how they would have understood it. I like the word compliment because it implies that she made him better, something more. V 18 says she was ‘fit’ for him. I’d say, a perfect fit!

app.: the potential for these problems of course is what led to their failure…

t.s.: Well, you know the rest of the story already: they failed to obey. But before they were banished from the Garden, God made a promise to them. That’s the 4th facet to our story.

IV.    The Promise of the Garden (3.15)

exp.: And we see this promise in the next chapter; chapter 3 is the story of the Fall and we find the explanation as to why there is sin in the world. Adam and Eve were deceived by the devil; they disobeyed God and took the fruit of one of the two trees that were forbidden to them. 2.9 tells us these 2 trees were The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Immediately, perfection was no longer; their understanding of what had happened was evident. Their understanding was manifested in their work to cover their nakedness. 2.25 tells us they were naked, but unashamed; 3.7 says Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Inadequate as it was, they tried to cover their shame, but failed.

Conclusion: I’ve wondered what that would have been like. I’ve imagined it in my mind. In an instant, their eyes were opened and in my mind I’ve watched perfection flee as they reach out to it. I can see the juice of the fruit still on their chins. If snakes can smile, I’m sure that one was smiling…

Imagine with me, years later, Adam hoeing in his field. He stops and pulls another weed – and his mind goes back to that time when he knew perfection. In this moment he remembers what perfection was like: his body, the spring, the animals, the garden.

Enoch comes running out into the field and old Noah, 876 years old turns to see what all the fuss is about. Enoch tells his Great-great-great-great grandfather that another child has been born!

“What’s his name?” Adam asks.

“Methuselah” Enoch replies.

And Adam wonders to himself: is this the promised one? Adam would watch Methuselah playing. Maybe he played in Adam’s lap or napped beside his great-great-great-great-great grandfather.

I wonder if in all that time – the 930 years he lived – I wonder if he wished he could go back to the garden. If he did, I’m sure he would have stopped himself and told himself that it wasn’t going to happen. At least not like he wanted.

I wonder if he then thought of the promise. “The Promise,” you ask? Yes, before Adam and Eve left the garden, they heard the pronounced curse from God upon them and upon the serpent. Specifically, there is the mention of her offspring and that this promised one – this descendant of hers would crush the head of the serpent. 15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Different translations say ‘crush, or strike’ Here’s what Adam dreamed about…The promised one – one of his descendants would crush the head of the snake! What was made wrong, would then be made right. Adam’s curse would be reversed. Eden would be restored

I wonder if in his remembering and wondering there in the field, I wonder if he watched his sons and grandsons at work and wondered if this promised one might be one of his sons or grandsons – even this new born baby boy, Methuselah. … maybe its him…

app.: Well, you know the answer to that. Methuselah wasn’t the promised one. Adam didn’t live to see the promised one. It would be thousands of years of waiting, but he would eventually come. And, He would come in a most unexpected way. This story, it’s his story. It’s all about him. And, His name is Jesus.

 

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Filed under Covenant, Creation, Genesis, Sermon

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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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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