Category Archives: Ezra-Nehemiah

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 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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Nehemiah 8

Title: The Word of God at Work in the People of God

Text: Nehemiah 8.1-18

CIT: Ezra reads the Law of Moses and it greatly impacts the lives of God’s people.

CIS: if we believe the Word of God is power and effective, then we’ll demonstrate that truth with our actions by allowing it to dictate our existence.

Introduction: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? Is God’s Word important to you? If so, how important? Do you wake up on Sunday morning with an excitement about gathering together with God’s people to hear his Word and obey? For me, I’ve been blessed. Because of my position in the church, Lisa took it upon herself to get the kids ready and to let me worry about myself. Oh, sure, there were Saturday nights when I would be a part of getting things ready – but that was more rare than regular. I didn’t worry about kids eating or what they’d wear. Mom took care of that. She did everything so that I could focus upon my task as a pastor or staff member. For the most part, we didn’t even travel together. That’s what a 2nd car was for. But that isn’t the way it is with most families.

Tony Payne in his book, How to Walk into Church, writes:

I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, an amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’

After a quick scan of the seating situation – who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on – I chose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us.

I wonder what it is like for most families. Is it like the experience Payne writes about when he and his wife had 5 kids – all under the age of 12: After a week of long days and short sleeps, followed by the chaos of getting everyone out the door on a Sunday morning, and culminating in a circus of noise and infighting in the car, I didn’t really walk into church. It was more of a stagger, followed by a semi-collapse into a seat, followed by lengthy periods of zoning out.

Maybe it isn’t like that at all for you. Maybe you’re more of a strategist. This is what you do. 1, 2, 3, 4 – checked it off my list. Now, to my next task on the agenda. Again, that wasn’t and isn’t me. I’ve been truly blessed. But, I digress. Let’s get back to the question at hand: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? If so, how important? How does it impact your day – your Sunday? Does it touch even the way you walk into church?

Today’s passage is all about a people who wanted to hear and learn of God’s Word. We’re in Nehemiah 8. Thank you, Clay, for reading this passage for us this morning. I would say there are three main sections to this chapter:

  1. Ezra, while being flanked by other leaders, reads the Law of God at the request of the people who’ve gathered in the city. These people give their full attention to its reading. Ezra has the help of certain Levites who give the sense of God’s law so that the people clearly understand this teaching.
  2. The people of God then demonstrate their understanding of the Law of God when they begin to weep at hearing the words of the Law. The leaders then command them to stop their weeping and to rejoice, for this is a day set apart for the Lord. Furthermore, the people of God “went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
  3. This understanding is further demonstrated as they celebrate the Feast of Booths according to the commandment of Moses. Nehemiah even references those Scriptures.

I’ve outlined it into two main points:

  1. The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)
  2. The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)
    1. Obedience – their actions fall into line with what they’ve learned.
    2. Observance – practicing the holy day as it has been designed in Scripture.

 

Transition: let’s begin with the 1st main point in v1-8…

1.      The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)

exp.: rd v 1; this, I find interesting. Let’s look at the actions of these people.

  1. All the people gathered as one man… that’s a picture of the church; synagogue means to gather together with. I love the intentionality of this action. I’ve never seen this in the American church. I think this would describe the churches I’ve experienced overseas. You could argue that these are missionaries I’m talking about. They’re working overseas. They’re holier than most of us – maybe so. But should we expect less of ourselves?
  2. They told Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. The Leaders aren’t organizing this from what we can gather. So, Ezra agrees – this is a good thing. And he reads. Look at v 3;
  3. They are attentive. They’re giving their full attention to what God has to say. Rd v 4a
  4. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. This is important to them. Let’s set this up so we can all hear. Build a platform! Notice, this isn’t in the Temple. You might think that the Temple would be a better place. Not if you understood how the Temple works. The men and the women and the children can’t stand together. It’s just different. They do not want to sacrifice animals here. That happens at the Temple. They just want to hear God’s Word – so, they construct a platform for this occasion. The rest of v. 4 tells us who was on his right and who was on his left. Look at what the people do next. Rd v 5;
  5. All the people stood as the book is opened. I love that. You’ve experienced it before I’m sure. Ezra steps up onto the platform. The people are murmuring, but it dies down. He opens the book, a scroll, I’m sure. The people are standing. Wow… rd v 6;
  6. All the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. What an incredible moment for these people!

ill.: I’m sure they’ve dreamed of this day for their entire lives. And, as God has answered their prayers and kept His promises, they are eyewitness to this moment. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring all at the same moment.

app.: the people are active in this whole process.

t.s.: And it doesn’t change once they hear what God has instructed them to do… which brings us to the 2nd part of this passage;

2.     The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)

exp.: rd v 8-9; here we see a 7th action from the people;

  1. All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law; I’m sure the weeping is varied. Thousands of people are there and each one encountering the Words of God for the 1st There is shame; there is conviction; there is awe; this is an incredible moment – a moment which has culminated over decades of separation. A torn down, burnt up city and Temple – now restored. A wall, and gates and doors in place. But the leadership is telling them not to weep and mourn. This isn’t that time! No, this is a holy day to the Lord. Eat, drink and be merry! Rd v 12
  2. And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. They’re being obedient to what they’ve heard.
  • They Obey the Word of the Lord: there are some famous verses in this chapter; v 8; v 10; but v 12 moves me; They hear; They understand; They obey.

Now, that must have been a joyous day and even into the evening. I picture God’s pleasure at his people in celebration. That’s what our time of worship should be. That is what our times of fellowship should be – something that brings our Father pleasure. But the day ends and the heads of the households want to know more; so they come together to learn from God’s Word in v 13-14, and they find that this timing is perfect for a time set apart for celebration: The Festival of Booths. The passage is referenced in v 15; rd v 15b; “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” They get this from Leviticus 23 & Deuteronomy 16.

This is how I picture this happening. You see Neh 8.2: on the first day of the seventh month. It is now day two and they’re learning about what God requires of them to be and do. In their studies they read about the three yearly requirements and come across Lev. 23.39ff: 39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Someone notes that this is the 2nd day of the 7th month (v13) and says: Hey, that’s only two weeks away. Can we pull this off? Ah, yeah! Let’s do this! They see the requirement. They note the day and realize that they can do this.

V 16-18 tells us they did just that…

  • They Observe the Festival of Booths as prescribed in the Law.

Conclusion: So, what can we learn from this?

Q.: Is this passage a prescription for us or a description for us? Should we require all people to stand when the Word of God is read? In short, no. It would be nice. We could begin the practice. But not because it is prescribe in Scripture this way. This isn’t a commandment for us. But it would be nice. I do believe that there is a principle here: The author wants his readers to identify the Word of God as the authority by which we must live our lives.

In light of this truth and in light of our comprehension of this truth (God’s Word is the authority for our lives) then what must we do about this?

Application:

  1. If God’s word is to accomplish its primary purpose in our lives,
    1. A sense of expectancy should mark our approach to reading and studying it, and
    2. A positive response to apply it to our daily lives must be required.

Let’s expound on these two truths. If these two statements are indeed true, then how should it affect the way you walk into these facilities on Sunday morning?

  1. How to enter the church facilities on Sunday morning: Re-phrase: how do YOU enter?
    1. Pray about where to sit. That’s right. Some of you might think there is assigned seating. That’s a joke. May I press you on this?
      1. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to Him, then you must believe He has a message for you. Where is the absolute best place for you to sit and be free from distractions and be able to hear? Is sitting next to your friends really the best place or the most comfortable? What about taking notes?
      2. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to him, then you must believe that he has brought others here for that same reason. If that is true, might God want you to sit near someone who needs encouragement? A guest who needs to be shown the ropes (where are the restrooms, where is the nursery, to share your Bible if they don’t have one, maybe you bring two Bibles – your big one and a tiny one in your purse or pocket); A mother who needs help with her child(ren); She’s here to hear and do God’s Word – so are her children. What is God doing there in her little family?
      3. If God is the one and only true God, then you must believe there is nothing more important in this week than gathering together with others who believe the same thing – who’ve come to hear a Word from Him. You’re an encouragement to them when you’re here – in the way you worship, when you sing robustly (I’m not saying sing so loud you disrupt others – this isn’t the place to show off your singing lessons – or your lack of them!) but when you pour yourself – body, mind and spirit – into worship, you encourage others. Your note taking encourages others. Using your Bible encourages other people.

2.   Pray for those who are sitting by you.

  1. This Body has been assembled by God. He has called us out of the world to gather together. It is important to him. Tony Payne, in his book How to Walk into Church writes: “We’re walking into a gathering that God himself has called together, as part of his majestic plan to save and gather his people around the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. The picture we see in this text is Men, Women, and others who are old enough to understand gathered to a place to hear God’s Word. We see leaders, gathered around the reading of God’s Word. We see teachers expounding on what has been read so that those gathered can get the sense of the reading. This is the Body at work.

 

16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

 

 

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Nehemiah 6-7

Title: The Call to Perseverance

Text: Nehemiah 6.1-7.73

CIT: The author wants the people to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.

CIS: We are called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because there is something grander beyond this moment.

Introduction: Fear doesn’t always cause Fight or Flight responses. Sometimes it just causes a breakdown. It can be crippling. Paralyzing, even. Fear isolates people and causes them to go into hiding. It can arrest a community, a people – stop them dead in their tracks. And, it can come from anywhere…at anytime…from anyone – even from those you would not expect.

Today we’re going to study a man who was attacked again and again. The tactic was to strike fear in this man and halt his work. The goal was to intimidate him to the point that he would stop the work of God and give in to their demands. The enemies of God and His people wanted to bring an end to this rebuilding of their wall and the strengthening of their community.

But, Nehemiah was prepared. He had set it in his heart to accomplish this work because God had called him to this work. Besides, he had faith that the One who had called him to this work, would see it through to completion. He would bring it to completion because Nehemiah knew the bigger picture. Nehemiah was called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because he was certain that there was something much grander beyond this moment in which he was serving and living.

Let me ask you this morning to think about fear. What do you fear? Of what are you afraid? Do you ever get scared? What scares you? I ain’t scairt!

I’ve outlined the passage like this:

The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

  1. Privately
  2. Publicly
  3. Persistently
  4. Because God is at work – there is a bigger picture.

Transition: let’s begin in the 1st section of chapter 6, The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

I.     Privately (6.1-4)

exp.: for Nehemiah, it was with letters of invitation: come, let us meet together. Where? Hakkephirim; we don’t honestly know where this is, but he gives us a little more detail: in the plain of Ono.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think that sounds too encouraging: Oh, No! In Neh.11.35, it is called the valley of craftsmen – but that doesn’t help us much either. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where this place was. What matters for us is what Nehemiah knew. He knew where it was and he knew it was only a ploy to make him stop working. Here’s a great place to make our first application of the morning.

app.: Don’t go there! Too often we’re invited into danger or trouble that will stop the work of God. Don’t go there. Lisa says: Don’t borrow trouble! Leave it where it is. You keep working on the task at hand. Do you need some help with this? Look at how Nehemiah handles it (Nehemiah’s response): Rd v 3: And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

t.s.: the enemy attacks privately, but when that doesn’t work – he’ll up the ante and attack you

II.    Publicly (6.5-9)

exp.: in our passage, they do it with accusations of embarrassment; rd v 6-7 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” “Look, we’re just trying to save you from yourselves.” The request to fix this looks simple enough. It is for all intents and purposes the same request as before. You see it there in v 7: let us take counsel together. There is a pattern here is found in v4:

  • The Request from the enemies
  • The Response from Nehemiah, and it is after this 2nd rotation, that Nehemiah tells us of his insight into this matter. You see the request in v 7; the response in v 8; and the purpose of the enemy revealed in v 9;
  • The Reason: They wanted to frighten us into quitting! The purpose is to instill fear.

ill.: why fear? Listen to this – Why do the enemies of God want you to be afraid? Why scare tactics? You ready for this? Because it is really all they’ve got. In our story: Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the people who follow them have no physical power to stop the work. They’ve taunted them, laughed at them, said that if a fox climbed up on the wall it would simply topple over. They’ve made fun of them and threatened them. But when it all came down to it – they were just a bunch of noise.

app.: Consider your work now – your calling to complete the work God has called you to do. Is God limited in accomplishing his work through you? He is where you focus should be. Scare tactics are used to divert your attention away from your Master and His Work. Scare tactics are meant to get you to look away from God and see the enemy.

t.s.: We will see this pattern again in the next set of verses, 15-19 as the enemy ups the ante and doesn’t relent of its attacks – they are private, they are public and they are, 3rd, persistent.

III.   Persistently (6.10-19)

exp.: The enemy has been straight forward and that didn’t work. So, they change things up a little: they then attack through his passion for the things of God – the temple, and prophets. In v 10 it tells us he is invited to the house of Shemaiah. Let us meet together in the house of God. Sounds harmless. Rd v 10;

ill.: There are two possibilities here on what this means:

First, This ‘man of God’ is warning Nehemiah of a death threat and that he can run into the rebuilt Temple and find sanctuary. There, he’ll be safe. He can run to the altar and hold on to the horn of the altar and be safe.

2ndly, he could be telling him to go into the deepest part of the Temple, the holy of holies or the holiest place. The enemies of God can’t follow him in there.

Answer: Nehemiah’s response is appropriate in either case. He says: “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?

Either one, Nehemiah knows that if he runs into the holy of holies he’ll die.

Or two, he is saying: I’m not that kind of man – I’m not the kind of man who would abandon his people. Sure, for anyone who is threatened with death, he can flee those seeking his life and find asylum in the Temple. But, that also means the work on the wall will stop. And, his people will be left out there without their leader.

app.: Nehemiah knows the full counsel of God. He knows this person is perverting the Word of God. Either way, Nehemiah is fully aware of the result that either of these two options would bring – the work on the wall would stop. And that – as far as he is concerned – is no option. He knows what they’re really trying to do is scare him.

So the enemies are persistent by attacking him in using the things of God. Next, the enemies will use the people of God.

  1. The Things of God.
  2. The People of God.

Look at v 14; We expect this from Sanballet and Tobiah. But from the prophets of God? Skip down to v 17: rd 17-19; Man, These guys are relentless. You’d think that Nehemiah would become paranoid! Now, he’ll use his own people against him;

App.: Well, in spite of all this we read in v 15; the wall is done – it is finished; in just over 7 weeks. Their goal was to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of God’s people – so that they would abandon their work. But look at what really happens. Rd v 16; Look what God has done! Do you see the irony in this – they’ve been hoping to strike fear in Nehemiah and Israel; But it backfires!

t.s.: Why does Nehemiah keep up the fight? Why does he keep going? I propose to you that his persistence is born out of a knowledge of greater things. That is: he sees the bigger picture. And that’s our last section this morning: The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

IV.    Because God is at work. There is a bigger picture. (7.1-73)

exp.: rd 1-4; he posts an even larger guard within the city. Rd v 5; God puts it in his heart to put the people of God in the City of God. This is genius at work. The goal was never just the wall. The goal was never just the Temple. There is a bigger picture that Nehemiah understood. He assembles the people of God through their genealogy. Rd v 66-67; rd v 73-8.1.

app.: At this point in Salvation History – God has been true to his people. He had promised to return a remnant – and here they are. The story of God has come full circle. But, you know there is more to come: there is a Messiah who has been promised – and all of this is just one small part of the Bigger picture.

t.s.: So, how does this apply to you?

Application:

  1. The author wants the people of God to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.
  2. You can read this and see how attacks come and know how to recognize them. Basically, attacks come in the form of fear tactics and the purpose is to get you to stop the work of the ministry.
  3. The promises of God are still with us this morning.
    1. Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age.
    2. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
    3. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
    4. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
    5. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
    6. Three times in Revelation 22 Jesus says: I am coming soon. That’s a promise.
  4. In v 17 of Revelation 22 it says: 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Why? Because the price has already been paid.

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Nehemiah 5.1-19

Title: Leaders Who Care

Text: Nehemiah 5.1-19

Introduction: I want to talk to you today about Leaders Who Care. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey isn’t able to go to war on account of his ear – he’s deaf in his left ear. He had fallen into an icy pond saving his brother and never heard from that ear again (except for a short period of time where he gets to experience what life would have been like if he’d never been born. During the war, there are some scenes of George working in the community. He prays during D-Day and VJ-Day; He wept and prayed. He participates in the rubber drive. At one point he hollers out at the people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on.

The point was that there were can drives, rubber drives, rations, keeping the lights off at night. People in times past were expected to live at a certain level during the war. We’ve not experienced that in our lifetimes – those of us 50 and under. But our seniors, when they were little – did without during the war.

App.: Ladies & Gentlemen, Don’t you know there’s a war going on? It’s a spiritual war and we can’t be living like we’re at peace with the devil.

This morning we’re in Nehemiah ch. 5; As we began Nehemiah, we looked at his calling and his leadership. Today, we’ll look at how he cares for his people. Ch. 5 is a chapter that feels like it doesn’t fit. Here these folks are working away on the wall, facing opposition and then this…interruption. Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, the following takes place.

  1. The Setting: (1-6) The Outcry of the People – against interest/taxes/famine
  2. The Conflict: (7-10) Nehemiah confronts his brothers (and himself)
  3. The Climax: (11) Return these to your brothers
  4. The Resolution: (12-13) commitment & Oath; imagery;
  5. Post-Script: (14-19) as Governor, Nehemiah chose not to be a burden to his brothers, but rather took care of his own needs and the needs of his people at his own expense.

This is how I’ve outlined it:

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)
  2. Nehemiah Confronts his Brothers (7-13)
  3. Nehemiah Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

Transition: So, let’s begin ch. 5 w/

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)

exp.: rd v 1; Now, over the next 3 verses we see the groups and their struggles: rd v 2;

  1. We’ve not enough grain. Maybe they worked on the wall and left their fields untended. We don’t know, we’ll read about a famine in a moment – maybe the drought has hit their crops, too. Rd v 3;
  2. We’ve mortgaged our fields, vineyards and homes to buy grain. Another group has entered into debt to cover the costs brought about by the famine. They need food to eat. Rd v 4
  3. We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes. And what’s more – these actions, these predicaments have hurt us; rd v 5-6

The Result: (v 5-6): This debt has forced their children into slavery; it seems a particularly desperate situation for their girls. The power these Jewish brothers have over their own kin is destructive and putting them in a powerless, helpless position. It is an endless vicious cycle.

app.: I believe this is a principle that Christians often forget. Preying upon the poor is something God detests. We’ll see that more in a moment. For now, we apply this portion of Scripture to our lives by recognizing the error of preying upon the poor. And we can do that in so many ways – pushing the poor into deeper poverty and into greater dependence upon the government or the church.

t.s.: Nehemiah recognizes what has happened and becomes angry at the situation. And so he…

  1. Nehemiah Confronts His Brothers (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7a; note how Nehemiah levels 1st a charge against them and then 2nd, he offers a solution to the problem. He said: I took counsel w/ myself and I brought charges.

  • Nehemiah’s Charge: rd v 7b-8a
    1. In this great assembly he says:
      1. We’ve brought back our brothers from slavery, only to enslave them ourselves. Note 8b – silence; rd 9;
      2. He says: This isn’t Biblical and it’s a poor witness to the Nations! And he add to that in v 10; Where is he getting this from? Why does he think this is wrong?

Q.: How is it that we can ever say anything is wrong? Who sets the standard for right and wrong?

Ill.: I’ve been quizzing our girls at home: How do you know something is wrong and something is right? A.: God’s Word, the Bible. Well, that’s where Nehemiah gets this bit of information, that what they’re doing is wrong – namely,

  • Leviticus 25.35-38; 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

It’s here in the last part of v 10 that Nehemiah offers a solution; rd 10b-11:

  • Nehemiah’s Solution:
  1. Let’s abandon this practice. App.: When you’re doing something wrong – abandon the practice!
  2. Let’s return their stuff to them. i.e.: their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.

The Brother’s Respond in v 12; rd v 12; note their points of action:

  1. We will Restore these
  2. We will Require nothing (except to payback what is borrowed)
  3. We will do as you say
  4. A verbal commitment – he made them swear…raise your right hand. There is something interesting that takes place here – something like a covenant. Rd v 13;

ill.: Their Commitment Demonstrated: the shaking out of the garment. So may he be shaken out and emptied.

app.: And all the congregation said: Amen.

t.s.: Now, really, that is the end of that story, but Nehemiah gives us a sort of post script. Why? I’m not sure of his purpose. Some people might think it’s narcissistic. Woo-who! Look at me. Not me.

  1. Nehemiah’s Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

exp.: rd v 14; Governor for 12 years; I wonder if this is the amount of time he asked the King for back in chapter 2; During his 12 year tenure, he:

  • Did not burden the people; as was the practice of his predecessors.
  • He finished the work on the wall;
  • He provided for his servants and workers; out of his own pocket…
  • Remember me, O God – 6x’s; 5.19; 6.14; 13.14, 22, 29, 31;

app.: Nehemiah changes his lifestyle and begins to live like his country is at war. And he’s telling his wealthy brothers who’ve enslaved their own people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on? This implies sacrifice, it implies service, and it implies giving. Nehemiah demonstrated his understanding of this with his life.

Here’s what we’ve seen today:

  1. Leaders who care see the injustice being done to their people.
  2. Leaders who care confront the injustice of their people.
  3. Leaders who care set the example by living a godly life toward their brothers.

t.s.: so, how does this apply to us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. We should be cognizant of the way we treat the poor. Are we hurting them with our policies? Are we enslaving them to a life under the burden of debt? Are we cashing in on their desperate situations? Are we exploiting their despair for our betterment.

Nehemiah is the govt. He sees what they are doing to the poor. Ladies and Gentlemen, as the time comes for us to vote – vote for someone who is going to stop exploiting the poor.

  1. How do you use the money God has blessed you with? Are you faithful to tithe? Are you faithful to give to ministry needs as they arise? Do you live with a wartime mentality when it comes to your finances?
  2. If God is your God – and not money, if you’re a good steward of the resources He has blessed you with, if you’re looking out for the poor and those in need – then enjoy the blessings of God. There is no need to feel guilty for being rich. God has made you that way because you have shown yourself faithful. Continue in that blessing…
    1. Listen to James Hamilton: Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty about being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give an account to him for the way that we stewarded what he gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that he has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. If he has lavished largesse upon you, praise him.

Let’s pray

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Nehemiah 2.9-4.23

Title: Why do the Nations Rage?

Text: Nehemiah 2.11-4.23

Introduction: We began this portion of our sermon series in Nehemiah with a look at his call. He heart was broken by the news from his homeland. He fasted and prayed, as God put a plan into his heart. When the time was right, he took action. He petitioned the king with a well thought out plan. And God blessed.

With this thought in mind, that is, Nehemiah’s obedience to the call in his life. I’d like to continue looking at this man, called to a task, called to lead.

Today, we’ll cover a lot of information in a short period of time. My purpose in doing so is two-fold:

  1. I don’t want to be in Nehemiah through the summer and into the fall. And in order for that to happen, I’ve got to keep moving.
  2. I feel I can cover a lot of information without going into deeper detail. You can have your own time of study if you feel led to dig deeper. My purpose isn’t to conduct that here. I’ve got this message on my heart and to preach it, I’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

Today, we’ll cover 2½ chapters. So, let us begin. The outline is as follows:

  1. Before the work begins: Nehemiah gets organized. (2.9-20)
  2. The Work begins: Beams, Bolts & Bars (3.1-32)
  3. The Work progresses with Shovels & Spears (4.1-23)
    1. The Nations Rage (1-4)
    2. The Peoples Plot (5-14)
    3. The Lord Laughs (15-23)

Transition: so let’s begin quickly now, with point # 1…

I.     Before the Work Begins: Getting Organized (Tell this in my own words quickly)

  1. Assessment of the Ruins (2.9-16) possibly over two nights?
  2. Appeal to Rebuild (2.16-18) A call for unity; community;
  3. Antagonists Rise up to Oppose the Work of God (2.19-20)

 

II.    The Work Begins: Beams, Bolts and Bars (3.1-32) – a basic description of the work; not just a rebuilding, some areas are totally wiped out.

  1. The Sheep Gate (1)
  2. The Fish Gate (3)
  3. The Old City Gate (6)
  4. The Valley Gate (13)
  5. The Dung Gate (14)
  6. The Fountain Gate (15)
  7. The Water Gate (26)
  8. The Horse Gate (28)
  9. The East Gate (29)
  10. The Muster Gate (31)

Transition: as we move into chapter 4, we begin to see what happens when God’s people do God’s work – following His leading – being obedient to the call. Let’s pick up in chapter 4 where the work progresses.

III.   The Work Progresses

  1. The Nations Rage (1-5)

exp.: rd v 1; enraged; Why do the nations rage? A question asked by the Psalmist that was read earlier in the service. A common theme in Scripture: People, who are not God’s people, always stand against Him. They stand against Him as if it were possible – and I believe they think so – that they could persevere against Him. They say he isn’t real but their words don’t match their actions. Perhaps it is no more poignantly presented than in the words Christ heard while hanging on the Cross, Matt 27.42ff: 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Rd v 2-3; now for me, what’s surprising in this story is the way Nehemiah responds: rd v 4-5; wow! He’s praying a “King David, before he was king” kind of prayer (e.g., Pss 35, 58.6, 59, 69, 109, and 137)!

ill.: Can I pause and expound on this? I want to be careful to not be misunderstood. You ready for this? I’m ok with this kind of praying: (e.g., Pss 35.1-8)

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;

fight against those who fight against me!

        Take hold of shield and buckler

and rise for my help!

        Draw the spear and javelin

against my pursuers!

Say to my soul,

“I am your salvation!”

        Let them be put to shame and dishonor

who seek after my life!

Let them be turned back and disappointed

who devise evil against me!

        Let them be like chaff before the wind,

with the angel of the Lord driving them away!

        Let their way be dark and slippery,

with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

        For without cause they hid their net for me;

without cause they dug a pit for my life.

        Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!

And let the net that he hid ensnare him;

let him fall into it—to his destruction!

58.6-9

        O God, break the teeth in their mouths;

tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

        Let them vanish like water that runs away;

when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.

        Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,

like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

        Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,

whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

59.1-10

        Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;

protect me from those who rise up against me;

        deliver me from those who work evil,

and save me from bloodthirsty men.

        For behold, they lie in wait for my life;

fierce men stir up strife against me.

For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,

        for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Awake, come to meet me, and see!

        You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.

Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;

spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

        Each evening they come back,

howling like dogs

and prowling about the city.

        There they are, bellowing with their mouths

with swords in their lips—

for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

        But you, O Lord, laugh at them;

you hold all the nations in derision.

        O my Strength, I will watch for you,

for you, O God, are my fortress.

10         My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Cf.: 69, 109, and 137

app.: Here is where I think it is ok: when the attack is against the LORD and not you. Just because someone doesn’t like you or what you’re doing doesn’t give cause for such prayers. However, when it comes to the work of God, I believe such prayers are warranted.

  1. 1st, the prayers here are directed to God, not their enemies.
  2. 2nd, such prayers are the response to threats – not retaliation. It is not wrong prayer when your heart’s greatest passion is the glory of God. Such prayers for retaliation that are delivered from an insecure heart and a damaged ego should be condemned. But when your heart’s cry is God’s glory – well, you know you’re praying according to God’s will because that is His will. He has said in 48.11 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Where prayers from insecurity draw condemnation, such prayers from a sincere and upright heart should be commended.

t.s.: The Nations Rage and

  1. The Peoples Plot in vain (6-14)

exp.: rd v 6; oh, they rage and they plot, but it is all in vain. Why? Because God will accomplish his heart’s desire. Rd v 7; he was very angry; in v 1 he was just angry; rd v 8; heh, the people plot; rd v 9; Note actions on the part of Nehemiah:

  • He Trusts God – and makes this evident in his prayers.
  • He Takes Action – he posts guards in strategic places.

Nehemiah does this in spite of the mocking coming from the peoples. Rd v 10-12; Here is the reality of this sort of persecution, this opposition: It brings discouragement to the ranks. The wall is half high, meaning they’re about half way through, maybe a little further (because the doors and gates are hung). Now, it’s one thing to be hit by those outside your own walls, but it is altogether a greater sense of defeat when the discouragement comes from within. We learn a great principle from Nehemiah at this lowest of lows for the people. Rd v 13; Nehemiah puts people as guards over their own people. And he tells them, rd v 14;

app.: And here is the principle: we protect and serve best – the people we love.

t.s.: the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain, but…

  1. He who sits in the heavens laughs; The Lord holds them in derision. (15-23)

exp.: rd v 15-23; Here we find another principle for the one who has been called to serve and to lead: Nehemiah leads by example. He was there in the midst of the people. He kept the trumpeter near, while he kept a watch over his people and on the enemy in the distance. And this charge was not his alone, but also the other leaders.

app.: this is a wonderful lesson for us here as a church: The Nations Rage and the People Plot in Vain. They have as far back as time goes. But God is not moved. As we read about Sanballet and Tobiah’s mocking, jeering it says back in v 1, we find that this is the same word used to describe the Lord’s actions in Psalm 2. And again in Ps 59.8: But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.

t.s.: Galatians 6 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Let me close with some questions for you to Ponder:

  1. Do you exist for a cause greater than yourself? Think about this: Purpose comes from meaning. There is then direction, action, and movement. No meaning or purpose leads to simple existence.
  2. Does your purpose lead you to lay down your life for others? I’m not talking about dying – I’m talking about taking your selfish ‘ness’ and laying it down – on the altar of life. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  3. Nehemiah is prepared to interrupt the building of the wall to address concerns. Some of the people trade a spade for a spear. Others trade a shovel for a sword. Others continue the work. To pursue the completion of the wall without addressing concerns would have meant certain failure. It is quite possible that people might have put down their spades and shovels and walked away. Which by the way, is what the enemy was hoping for! What would you do – how would you respond if your leadership approached you and asked you to change positions? What if they moved you to a different section of the wall? What if they took your tool away and gave you a trumpet? What would your response be?
    1. This is MY ministry! I started it!
    2. This is MY committee – MY team – I created it!
    3. This is MY… you fill in the blank.
  4. Nehemiah set a guard in place both day and night. In today’s context, what should God’s people be on guard against both day and night? How might you live in such a way that you work with one hand and hold your weapon with the other?
  5. In 4.12, God’s people were discouraging God’s people. How might your actions or your words be a discouragement to God’s people today?

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Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Title: When God Calls You

Text: Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Introduction: Recording? We’re in Nehemiah 2. We began last week with a message in Nehemiah 1 and stopped at chapter 2.11. I don’t think that has ever happened before in 28 years of ministry. There have for sure been interruptions and unintended bumps, but never have I had to just stop.

Let me let you in on my personality: when something like that happens I ask God what He is doing. I’m really good at missing a moment and I didn’t want to miss what God was doing. So I got scared. Responding to moments like that is crucial and critical. You guys made me proud.

Last week I began with a question: What do you do when you’re in a wonderful job, life is good and begin to feel the call of God on your life to do something else? Maybe it is a one time thing or for the rest of your life, but its God’s call nonetheless? Maybe the call begins with information. There has been a tug on your heart. There has been something inside – you’re not sure what to call it – but something inside that has drawn you to this. Then, it hits! There is the unmistakable reality that God has been working in your life for this moment.

You can pull away. You can choose to ignore it and hope that someone else might go. Or, you can face it.

We than began a look at a man who was in a grand place. His life would seem to indicate that he has arrived. He has position. He has power. He has Prestige. He has access to the king himself. But something happens to shake his world. Let’s meet him in Nehemiah 1.1-4a…rd 1.1-4a; As we meet Nehemiah, he is in the service of the King. V11 tells us he was cupbearer to the King. Nehemiah inquires of his homeland of a brother who has just returned from there. And something happens to Nehemiah. He is moved. He is pained when he…

  1. He Hears of the plight of his homeland

exp.: he hears in v 3 that the walls are torn down and the gates are burned ; this news just destroys him! It knocks him off balance. This is not what he had expected. It had been that way for 50 years, why was he so hit by this news? He must have thought his people would have made the repairs by now. Note how it affects him in v 4: I sat, I wept, I mourned for days!

ill.: Pause for a moment: When was the last time you were moved to tears over the matters of God? Maybe this morning God is tugging on your heartstrings concerning the matters of God. Maybe it is his house – the church. Maybe it is over his people – church. Maybe you’re struggling with his name and his fame among the people?

app.: Are you being called to preach, teach, to go into the world? Has God put into your heart a people, a place, a plan? What will you do about it?

t.s.: Well, let’s look at what Nehemiah does…rd v4b;

  1. He Prays to God according to God’s Word 4-9

exp.: fasting & prayer; these two have a way of humbling God’s servant. There is nothing in this life as wonderful as an extended fast and time of prayer before the Master. Nothing. Fasting and Praying takes you into the presence of God in a powerful way. It cannot really be explained. It can only be experienced. The joy – the pure joy of experiencing this closeness to God is something that must be felt – enjoyed. Look at how he prayers:

  • His Praise: rd v 5; The Great and Awesome God, who is faithful! He keeps his covenant; he keeps his promises; He remains steadfast! Would you like a simple way to learn to praise God? Learn a lesson from Nehemiah – list God’s characteristics. Next,
  • His Petition: rd v 6; Please hear my prayer! Please give me your full attention – open your eyes and see me in my desperate state; open your ears and hear my desperate plea; Hear my confession of sin! 3rd,
  • His Confession; rd v 7; We have; When I was a teenage, I heard a sermon on confession; I wrote in my bible and it has stuck with me all these years. Confession is the acknowledgement that He is right and I am wrong. Note the acknowledgement of Nehemiah:
    • Acknowledgement: we have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules. “Lord, your commandments are right. We haven’t kept them. We’ve acted corruptly toward you.” Now, how does he know this? How can he identify his failures and that of his people? Easy, you ready? God’s Word; rd v 8;
    • God’s Word – The Source of his knowledge: What we have here in v 8-10 is a summation of Leviticus 26. In Lev. 26. He offers blessings for obedience and following him; however, in v 14 he gives them fair warning about not following them – he says he will discipline them – And if they still won’t obey: 27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. He is basically quoting God’s Word in v 8; compare v 8 w/ 26.33; rd v 9-10 he’s paraphrasing the rest of 26 in Leviticus. You’ll find it again in Deuteronomy 4; “we’re talking about your servants and your people – whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand; rd v 11a;

app.: he sounds like he’s repeating v 6; hear my prayer, O Lord.

t.s.: Now there comes a time when you get up off your knees – note, I didn’t say stop praying. You get up off your knees, you leave your prayer room and you take action; So far we’ve seen his pain, his prayers and now his plans…

  1. He Plans in faith, according to the promises of God.1-8

exp.: rd v 1.11b; Now I was cupbearer to the king. This was a very important position; He was in a place to protect the king, but he may very well have been one of his counselors, too. Williamson in the Word Biblical Commentary writes: Royal cupbearers in antiquity, in addition to their skill in selecting and serving wine and their duty in tasting it as proof against poison, were also expected to be convivial and tactful companions to the king. Being much in his confidence, they could thus wield considerable influence by way of informal counsel and discussion.

This brings us to a very important part of your calling after fasting and praying:

  1. Start where you are.
    1. God has brought you to where you are for a reason. I have no idea why he has you where he has you. Maybe it’s growth. Maybe it was because of your disobedience. Maybe the way to get to where He is calling you to go is through your current position. Whatever the reason, God has you right where he wants you – so start there. Which brings me to a question concerning the fact that God has brought you to where you are for a reason.
    2. How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you right now?

ill.: There is a couple that you are all familiar with. They are our missionaries to our unreached people group. They had felt the call to missions for years. And, even when they got here, they both still felt called to missions. We met her before we knew anything about him. Both of these two, served where they were. And the greatest example is when they were here. For just over a year, both knew that God’s call was on their lives. But they didn’t sit around waiting for a miracle to beam them overseas. No, they got involved in ministry where they were.

Here is something many of you may not know. CUB was not their first choice of ministry. There were other ideas that were shot down. Good ideas! Doors were closed, but that didn’t stop them. They looked for other areas to serve. Eventually came up with joining CUB.

app.: Listen, this couple isn’t perfect. They’re just normal people doing their best to serve God. But there example leads me back to this question: How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you now? I’m talking about in the smallest of matters. Is there something God has revealed to you but you’re just not doing anything about it. Luke 16.10-13 says:

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is obedience. We’re afraid of this word obedience. In this day and age we long to focus on Grace. We don’t use words like obedience, but rather call that legalism – and it can be. But, it is a very important word and a very important act on our part because obedience is the display of our faith and trust. Your faithfulness to service in little things will open doors for your service in bigger things.

t.s.: So, start where you are: Bloom where you’re planted. I heard a testimony from the pastor who coined that term. He was struggling with his call and didn’t want to be serving where he was. He longed to be in the place he felt God had called him to go. He was in an alley way, just crying out to the Lord. He got out of his car and started to walk to the place he was going and there in the crack of the asphalt, a flower had grown and blossomed. He said he felt the Lord saying to him: Bloom where you are planted. A sermon was born out of the experience.

Be faithful right where you are. 2ndly,

  1. In your season of prayer and service where God has you, take action.

exp.: rd 2.1a; Here we see Nehemiah has waited 4 months to approach the King. (1.1 – Chislev; 2.1 – Nisan) Surely this isn’t the 1st time he’s seen him or been in his presence. No, he’s fasted and he’s prayed, all the while working for the king. Now, he’s ready to act. rd 2.1-2; Ah, yeah! Of course he’s afraid. You’re not supposed to be sad in front of the king! But the moment presents itself and Nehemiah takes action.

I wonder if Nehemiah was filled with fear because he hadn’t expected to speak to the King at that moment. This is important for us to see because when God calls you and God prepares you, he then opens up the doors. My guess is that it won’t be in a way you expect. Nehemiah is expecting to pour a glass of wine for the King. Instead, God opens the door to share. This leads me to an application:

If you take action before you’ve prepared, you’re sure to fail. Too many people are just waiting around for the opportunity without the proper prior planning. They’re hoping to get lucky when the opportunity presents itself.

Steve Kerr, the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors played on 5 NBA championship teams. Three with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and two with Timmy Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs and one as head coach with Golden State. I remember well the last year of his time with the Spurs. He sat the bench most of the season. What we didn’t know was that he was working his tail off for the moment he would get to play. Game after game he sat the bench. Night after night, day after day he worked on his three-point shots. Then, his opportunity came. The year was 2003. It was game five against the Dallas Mavericks. Steve Kerr hadn’t played a single minute of the playoffs. But for some reason Coach Popovich put him in. And he went on a terror! Hitting threes from every area of the floor and sparking a comeback for the ages. The spurs went on to outscore the Mavericks 34-9. Steve Kerr went on to collect his 5th NBA Championship.

Later, when he was interviewed about that moment he said that he didn’t know if he would get the chance to ever play again – but if he did, he wanted to be ready. So he practiced and prepared for that moment. Success is when preparation meets opportunity.

If God is calling you, then he is preparing you. Don’t shun it. Soak it up! Take advantage of every moment where you are. Get education; get experience. Be observant if you can’t serve. Practice, Pray and prepare.

Look at what Nehemiah has done. We’ll see it as we read through this next few verses; rd v 3-4; Boom! Opportunity presented! He swallows, throws up a prayer (in keeping with his prayers over the past few months), and presents his requests to the King: rd v 5

  • Let me go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Rd v 6
    • He planned it out in such a way that he knew how long he’d be gone and when he could return. Rd v 7
    • He knew what travel plans were needed. He needed papers, he needed protection (you see that in v 9); rd v 8
    • He knew he needed supplies. Wood for beams, for the gates, for the walls and for his house where he would live. That’s planning. That’s preparation. Rd 8b: And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

app.: Can I encourage you to make plans to fulfill the calling of God on your life? You may be asking: how can I know?

Application:

  1. Is there a burden on your heart? Is there something that has grieved you, something you see needing to be done? Where has God been active in your life? I believe God gives you a passion for where he is leading you. Some of you are set up perfectly: you’re retired or near there. Some of you have nothing holding you back except your sentimentality to this place. You think your momma needs you or your daddy needs you or your children need you. It makes me sad to think of the blessings missed out on because of fear or sentiment.
  2. Pray about it. Set aside time to fast & pray. And when you’re done – pray some more! Create a prayer journal to help. Make notes. Be observant in your prayers. Watch for where God is working in preparing you. If you think about it, Nehemiah’s position in Persia prepared him for the work he would do in Jerusalem.
  3. Take Action: start where you are and go from there. Outline the steps: do you need schooling? Do you need training? Do you need finances? Do you need backing? Do you need accountability? Do you need resources? Do you need to be discipled? Make a list; start checking off the items on your list; and finally,
  4. Be ready! Success is when preparation meets opportunity. The day will come when God will call your name to come in off the bench.

Do I have any Cowboys fans in here? We’re all gonna go home today and not watch our favorite team in the playoffs. That wasn’t the picture last August. Most everyone had picked the Cowboys to be in the super bowl! The best offensive line in football! Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray. What happened? Jerry Jones wasn’t prepared for what happened. Tony Romo went down and we went through three QB’s 11 loses and 1 win. One win. The opportunity came and the Cowboys weren’t ready.

My hope, My prayer for you is that you’ll be ready… let’s pray.

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Filed under Calling, Ezra-Nehemiah, Purpose, Sermon

Ezra 9-10

Title: The Greatest Threat to the Church

Text: Ezra 9-10

Introduction: Ezra 9-10; We come to the conclusion of Ezra – but it isn’t really a conclusion. Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah was seen as one book. For us today, we’ll be closing this book and beginning another focus next week. Interestingly, this book stands alone in its teaching. And, this message is a message that can stand alone in its preaching.

Let me offer a quick review, since it was before the Holiday break we left off…

Ezra and Nehemiah are about the rebuilding of the Temple and the Rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – respectively. Ezra, the book about the rebuilding of the Temple, is two divided into two parts – two accounts, if you will, of the rebuilding of the Temple: 1-6 and 7-10. In both sections, Israel faces opposition. The main difference between the two sections is that 1-6 is about external opposition from the people of the land. In Chapters 7-10, the opposition comes from within.

I propose to you this morning, taking from the Title of my message, that the Greatest Threat for the Church comes not from opposition outside this community of believers, but from inside the church itself.

Transition: As believers, we will face opposition. Jesus clearly warned us of this. However, as the body of Christ, we must be ever aware and always on heightened alert to the internal opposition – to the sin that destroys the body of Christ from within. Today’s passage does just that – it sets off a warning to our faithlessness and yet, encourages us to hold on to God’s Faithfulness. I’ve outlined these two chapters this way:

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion – 9.1-15
  2. The Repentance of the People – 10.1-17
  3. A list of those who publicly repented – 10.18-45

Transition: Let’s begin with…

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion (9.1-15)

exp.: rd v 1; the 1st step to healing and restitution is to admit you have a problem; The leadership does that here:

  1. Israel’s Sin is Recognized – note their words: they have not separated; God had made this clear ffrom their beginning and for centuries afterward. The slippery slope into rebellion begins when one doesn’t acknowledge that there is sin against God. Those commands aren’t really commands. That applied to them or that doesn’t apply in the 21st Century or etc. Is there any one reason to the weakening of the church greater than the church’s acceptance of sin? Note it is the Leadership: I recognize this begins with the pastor and the pastoral leadership (elders).

ill.: something I see from time to time is a picture of ‘pastors’ who are standing together in a display of solidarity for something the Bible clearly condemns. The most recent is of the Wheaton College Professor. But I’ve seen them surround others concerning their stance on Gay Marriage and other politically motivated agendas that conflict with Scripture. I started looking for some online, but started feeling queasy and uneasy.

app.: Their acknowledgement gets pretty specific here:

  • We have not separated ourselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations; special note here: it isn’t so much the peoples of the land as it is with their abominations – it’s not their ethnicity! Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
  • Rd v 2; For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands; race is seed or offspring; reminds me of Gen 3.15; I think that plays a part here. Hey are the holy seed, descended from Eve – through whom the promise One would come.

app.: if you want to stop the fall down that slippery slope into rebellion, acknowledge your sin. And that’s just what Ezra does.

  1. The Response of Ezra to that Faithlessness – rd v 3; Torn garments, pulled hair/beard, sat appalled. But it’s not just him, rd v 4; There were others; Why did Ezra respond this way? Were the others moved by his response? No, not the very specific words in v 4; which brings me to sub-point #3;
  2. The Source that sets the Standard – God’s Word; rd v 4: Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, How do they know they’ve sinned? How do they know their actions are rebellion? How do they know they’ve been faithless? God’s Words. It is God’s Word that informs us.

ill.: Russell Moore wrote in his blog this past week What I’ve Learned in 20 years of Ministry. # 2 is: 2) At my ordination, an elderly deacon referenced the Bible and my wife, saying, “Son, don’t ever get in the pulpit with any other book than that one, and don’t ever get into bed with any other woman but her.” Wise counsel. Another way of putting it: “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

app.: that is wise counsel – Preach God’s word in the pulpit. Only God’s Word. This is the source that taught the Israelites that they were in violation of God’s Word. Back in 7.10 we read: 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. He must have done a good job for the people to speak up.

  1. Ezra’s Prayer of Repentance –rd v 6; we’re drowning in our sins; rd v 7-8; but you O’ God are merciful! We don’t deserve to be here but you have preserved us. Rd v 9: you’ve been merciful but we’ve been unfaithful in spite of your great mercy! Rd v 10-13; So great is your mercy, you’ve not punished us to the extent that we deserve! You’ve blessed us and allowed us to return and build this great temple. You’ve protected and preserved us! Rd v 14-15; We are utterly defenseless! We are guilty! We deserve the punishment you dole out.

ill.: Wow! This is powerful! Ezra totally understands what has happened. He comprehends his position and the position of the people before a holy and righteous God. Do you?

app.: Do you comprehend God’s perfection? He is blameless. No one can accuse Him…of anything. He has never done anything wrong and there is no wrong in him. He is right. As God, he not only sets the standard, He is the standard – In every way.

We are the antithesis of God. He is light; we are darkness. He is the standard of what is right, we are epitome of what is wrong. He is perfect in his actions. We are imperfection… in every way. With him there is no spot or wrinkle or blemish. We are, at our very best, filthy rags piled in a heap of trash. We need sacrifices of pleasing aroma to cover our stench. The wages of our sin is death. If we got what we truly deserved, not one of us would finish the breath in our lungs. On our own we are lost. We can’t find our way out of a wet paper bag without his grace. We haven’t the ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We are utterly destitute, lost, helpless and hopeless with out Him. And what’s worse? We don’t even deserve His Grace. He would be right and just to impose on us the penalty due our sins.

And that is what Ezra is saying. And that’s what repentance is – it’s acknowledging that God is right and we are wrong. And then, saying I don’t want to do it wrong anymore. I don’t want to do things my way anymore. Right here, Right now, I’m changing my ways to do things your way. That’s not my nature, but it’s my desire. God, come into my life and change me. Cleanse me. Make me new. Make me like you.

t.s.: Rebellion is a slippery slope. It starts when we fail to acknowledge the sin in our lives. It steepens as we walk in that rebellion. But look at what the people do…

  1. The Repentance of the People

exp.: rd 10.1; Have you ever been moved to tears over your sin? Not because you got caught, but because God’s Word told you that you were a sinner? Rd 10.2 – here we see a 1st step in returning to God.

  1. Confession your Sin – rd v 3; 2ndly,
  2. Turn from your sin – producing deeds in keeping with repentance. Your heart convicts you to rectify the situation as you can. Sometimes you can’t! Often times you can’t. But here they can – and they want to do right according to:
    1. The Counsel of Ezra
    2. The Counsel of others who understand God’s Word
  • God’s Word – His Law
  1. Take Action – rd 4; Be strong and do it! They told Ezra that they wanted to make things right. Lead us! We’re behind you. Sometimes you can’t make things right. But if you can, would you?
    1. Pornography – seal off your computer from that stuff. Get help. For yourself. For your family. Stop hurting your wife with that stuff. Don’t think she doesn’t know. You’re destroying her self image – her confidence.
    2. Tithes and offerings – God has commanded you to not love money more than him. I’m not asking for your money and I’m not telling you where or when to give. But God does. That’s something you can make right. You can begin to be obedient in this matter. You can stop using money to fill selfish longings and start using money as God designed.
  • What about your time? Do you find yourself wasting too much time in sloth and laziness and not being productive with the time God has given you? Do you make excuses for not getting things done and keeping your schedule because of this problem? Repent. Stop. Get organized. Get accountability – “open your books” to someone who can help.

We see some great steps right here in Ezra.

  1. Start with your words – rd v 5; I’d encourage you to do that today. Start with your words. In a moment I’m going to give you that opportunity. We have elders and staff members and their wives available to pray with you. You start with your words. Acknowledging you have a problem is the very 1st
  2. Own up to it. The trash in your backyard is your trash. Rd v 2…“We have broken faith with our God… we have married foreign women… You say: Dear God, I am a sinner. I have sinned against you! You said in your word not to… or to… and I have failed. This is my sin.
  3. Make the necessary changes – in v 6-17 the people take the steps to correct the rebellion and faithlessness.

Note: I’m supposing that the people did not put away wives who worshipped Yahweh. I’m supposing the people put away idols and idolatry and the evil and wickedness brought into their lives.

app.: The list of those who confessed and made corrections are listed in v 18-44: the priests in v 18, the Levites in v 23; and of Israel in v 25.

t.s.:

Conclusion: the Title of the message today is The Greatest Threat to the Church. The Greatest Threat to the Church isn’t the oppression that comes from outside the Church. No, it’s the threat of what is inside the church. The greatest threat to the church is allowing sin into the fold. That is what will destroy us.

We can be thrown in prison and some of us could even be put to death – but that won’t stop God from getting the glory in all of that! But if we allow sin to flourish within these walls and we allow the church to be destroyed from within.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Do you look at what God calls sin and not let it bother you? Do you change words so as not to offend?
  2. Do you think you could ever be so repulsed by sin that you would pull out your hair and sit in shock and outrage? Not because you got your feelings hurt…but because it offends God!
  3. Do you ever feel entitled, like God owes you something? Do you comprehend the greatness of your sin and that God has been gracious by not punishing you as your sin deserves?
  4. Did you recognize that Ezra and Israel moved from Conviction to Confession and a commitment to take action because they saw…but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. (10.2) Or, is your tendency to break down and sully in your wretchedness and despair? Do you see the hope in Jesus?
  5. What steps can you outline to alienate yourself from the sin that is destroying you and maybe those around you? Can you see them as action points?

Invitation

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Filed under Ezra, Ezra-Nehemiah, Faithfulness, Scripture, Sermon, Uncategorized