Nehemiah 10 - Making Right Commitments to God
- This morning we're going to work through Nehemiah chapter 10.
- I realize that each SS class is at a little different place in your study of Nehemiah...
- for some, you're done with chapter nine and ready to begin chapter 10
- for others, we'll do chapter 10 today and then you'll double back and pick up some things we're skipping today.
- Either way, it should work out OK because, in a lot of ways, chapter 10 is a stand alone unit...so its good that on the day we're having combined SS, we're working through a chapter like this one.
- now, you remember the context --- this has been a very unusual month for the people of God.
- of course the wall is built and all that work is done, but the attention has shifted now to the building of the people.
- and these men and women have responded in a wonderful way.
- they've taken some steps that are very admirable, and are even similar to things we do today as a NT church.
- Chapter 8 told us that the people asked Ezra to bring out the book of the law, which he did.
- they had built a platform so they were prepared for his ministry
- they stood while the Scripture was read, showing their respect for God's law.
- then the Levites went around in smaller groups with the people, and according to Nehemiah 8:8 --- gave the sense of what had been read.
- the people were convicted by the law, and began weeping and confessing their sin.
- the leaders stopped them --- encouraged them that they had repented enough at that time, and that they needed to rejoice in the forgiveness they had received.
- the next day, another wonderful thing happened...where the leaders of the families came back and asked Ezra to instruct them in more of the law, so they could have insight into the Scripture.
- He was more than willing to do that...and the men learned that the Bible said they should be doing something that they hadn't...which was what?
(keeping the Feast of Tabernacles)
- so how did they respond? -- they quickly and completely obeyed.
- Then chapter 9 tells us that on the 24th day of the month....after the people had been studying the Scripture daily....they came together for a time of confession and repentance.
- This chapter gives us a detailed account of their prayers, how they went back and reviewed how they and their forefathers had displeased God, and gotten far away from Him.
- In verse 32-33 --- they affirmed the fact that even though it had been difficult for them and their ancestors to live in captivity, and even though it had been difficult to have Jerusalem destroyed....
- they recognized that that had been their fault...and that God had been more than just in the way He had dealt with them.
- Now, you and I read these two chapters and say --- these men and women are doing a great job.
- they are taking some wonderful steps of growth....and that’s very true.
- but there's an important ingredient left.
- before we go any further....let me throw out a question and have us bat it around -- a question that should help us see the importance of what we're about to study.
- INPUT - Why don't people change? Why don't we change as quickly as we should? What are some reasons for this?
- James Montgomery Boice was writing about this in his commentary on Nehemiah.
- he tells about a conversation he had with a psychologist where he just asked him --- with all of the money being poured into therapy, and all the time being spent---why don't more people changing?
- the answer that was given was --- "Because most people don't really want to change. In the final analysis, they aren't willing to do the things necessary to really change."
- (now, we could undoubtedly add a lot of things to that psychologist's answer, assuming he was a secular theorist....but let's just go with that for a moment...
- its certainly true, that even though study of the Scripture is immensely important, and even though coming to God with prayers of confession and repentance are is very important....
- Change is not going to take place unless there's some sort of commitment made...
- a committment to act on the Scriptures
- a committment NOT TO DO wrong
- and a committment TO DEFINITELY AND AGRESSIVELY DO what is right.
- The history of counseling shows that people have had a hard time maintaining a balance between the importance of knowing and doing.
1) For example, Sigmeund Freud and the other depth psychogists placed a great amount of emphasis on the "knowing" part of the equation.
- exposing the hidden part of the iceberg
- getting in touch with the person's unconscious
- dreams analysis, word association
- they had no trouble looking a person straight in the face and saying --- it may be 3-5 years of psychoanlysis before we can tell you what you ought to start doing differently.
2) Then we had Skinner who reacted violently to that...
- Who said Freud was a spook
- because Skinner was a scientist, he only wanted to talk about what could be measured, namely behavior.
- so what was going on on the inside of the person was of very little consequence to Skinner---as long as he could modify his behavior by changing the external stimuli (or the contingencies) around him.
- now, its interesting that evangelical Christianity has followed a similar path--only in reverse.
- There was the day when it seemed like the great emphasis was on the externals...behavior
- hair length, dress, etc
- not that those things are unimportant, but for some it seemed as if those were the only things that mattered.
- now, its seems as if we've taken a shift in many cases where there's so much attention and emphasis given to understanding the inner...
- that its viewed as shallow or superficial to talk about behavior....
- to talk about making commitments to behave differently, and then to follow through on those commitments.
- A careful study of the Scripture would cause us to have a balance between these two.
- According to James 1:;25, we are blessed in the doing of the deed
- John 13:17 - If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
- James 4:17 - To him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
- Thats what Nehemiah 10 is all about
- now we're not saying that NT believers do it precisely like these folks did it in this text
- but we also have to say....this chapter is in the Bible for a reason...
- and according to II Tim. 3:16 --- it is profitable for us to study
- so we're talking about --- "Making Right Commitments to God.
- let's read some of our verses:
- Read 9:38 - (all of this --- all that’s been said in the chapter)
- Read 10:1 (through Zedekiah)
- many students of the Scripture believe that Zedekiah was Nehemiah's personal secretary
- the reason is that in many of the same kind of legal documents from this era, they are signed by the one on charge and then attested by the person's chief assistant.
- Now, the next verses, verses 2-8, contain 21 names.
- most of them are family names, which explains why Ezra's name does not appear...
- he was of the family of Seraiah (the first name on the list)
- in verses 9-13, there are 17 names of some of the Levites
- then in verses 14-27, there are 44 names of the noble families, many of whom originally returned under Ezra's leadership several years before to rebuild the temple.
- now let's pick the commitment up in verse 28 - 39 - READ
- now, these verses make it very clear what's going on.
- they've been studying the Scriptures carefully for many days now.
- they've confessed their sin to the Lord and acknowledged that His judgment on them was just.
- now its time to commit themselves to follow through on living for Him.
- As we said earlier, we're not suggesting that we ought to do this sort of thing corporately as a church.
- There is no NT parallel of this kind of a corporate event that churches ought to have.
- However, having said that,
1) The Lord does have this chapter in the Bible for a reason, and
2) there's no question that one of the reasons people don't grow at the rate they should....and that we don't always grow at the rate we should, is because we're slow to make commitments....and in some cases, way too slow.
- let's start with this:
I. God's Wants His Children to Make Commitments
A. An important starting place - they must be biblical.
- the argument of verse 28 is very important...
- they separated themselves from the people of the land, to the law of God
- sometimes folks think about separation as only being a negative idea.
- we separate ourselves from .....(this, this, and this)
- biblical separation is as much a separation to something....or a separation to Someone....
- they wanted to separate themselves to the law of God.
- you see that same emphasis in verse 29 ----
- INPUT - please tell me, how are they describing their relationship to the Scriptures in this verse?
- an oath to walk in God's law
- to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord
- and His ordinances and His statutes
- now that’s important, because as we talk about making commitments for the rest of our class time, we're not talking about making commitments based on something other than the Scriptures.
- some churches ask their folks to make promises based on some spooky measurement instead of God's Word.
- that’s why we don't have "faith promise" missionary giving here...because "faith promise" giving asks a person to pray, God will give you a number you ought to give (apart from the Scripture), and that’s what you ought to commit yourself to.
- and we say -- no, revelation is complete.
- God's not giving us any more apart from the Scriptures....so we need to follow biblical principles of finance and make our commitments based on biblical principle, not on some supposed feeling I have on that particular day.
- now, having said that...
B. There are many occasions for NT believers to do so.
- our line of reasoning in this lesson this morning goes something like this:
1) people don't change at the rate they should unless they commit themselves to doing so.
2) These godly people in the book of Nehemiah made a commitment, and it was a help to them spiritually...
3) Even though we may not do it in exactly the same way today, there is no question that God calls on us to make commitments all the time....and he may...especially at this time of the year, want you to be thinking about some commitments you should be making to Him.
- let's think now about some ways in which it is right and appropriate for believers to use specific occasions in their lives to make biblical commitments.
1) at salvation
- A fundamental aspect of salvation is that it is a commitment to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
- that’s why we talk so much about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:9 - that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
- We saw that in the passage we studied last week in the morning service.
- the irony of John 1:12 is that it is often used to teach exactly the opposite of what it is actually saying...
- some folks use that terminology and say, in salvation, you just have to receive Jesus....you just have to accept the gift of salvation....
- and while, in some senses, there's truth in that....a person needs to carefully ask ---- what does it mean to receive Jesus?
- at least we're talking about:
- admitting one's sin
- acknowledging that Jesus is the rightful Lord
- committing ourselves to following Him.
- by the way, John 1:12 does actually say that...John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
- often times, the "even those who believe on His name part" is left out.
- the point is -- salvation is a commitment to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to become a follower of Christ.
- by the way, if you're here this morning and you don't know Him, we'd invite you, in this lesson on making right commitments...to make the most important commitment of all...that of trusting Jesus Christ.
(could develop -- isn't it exciting to think about all of those who made that commitment this weekend? -- As I was greeting folks, I found myself thinking -- I wonder how many in this vehicle don't know Jesus)
- at baptism, a person is publicly declaring their allegiance to Christ.
- they are saying, before everyone there, that are trusting Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection as their only hope of heaven.
- they are testifying that they have died to sin and have been raised to a new life in Jesus Christ.
- its a step of obedience, and as such, is an important commitment that God wants us to make.
(In Bible times, and throughout history -- Baptism was much more public -- Anyone here baptized in a creek?)
C. Church membership
- ....is a commitment
- our church covenant calls us to obey the Scriptures
- our doctrinal statement binds us together.
- develop -- have you made these three commitments?
- INPUT - other times in a believer's life where you are making a commitment, and it is perfectly appropriate to do so?
- marriage, new child, new year, new day (Rom. 12:1-2), birth of a child, new job...
- when you're convicted by a passage of Scripture
- when a ministry opportunity arises that you can be a part of.
- stewardship month
- Question I'd like to pose to you today is --- Why did the Lord allow this event to be recorded in the Scriptures?
- Do you make commitments the way God wants you to make commitments? (or is it possible that one of the reasons you're not growing like you should -- if in fact that’s the case --- is because you don't mind studying what the Bible says about something....you'll even confess sin....but making the commitment to follow through on what is right --- that's another matter entirely.
- another truth we see from this text is that:
II. God Wants Us to Make Commitments Regarding Our Children
- look at verse 30 -- READ 30 and 36
- the point is -- in this critical commitment chapter -- one of the first areas that comes up is the matter of what they're going to do with their the children God has given them.
- God wants us to make commitments regarding our children.
- isn't it interesting that of all the things they could have said concerning their children, that the issue that came up first was what? (the kind of people they would allow them to marry)
- now, they had received that idea from the Scripture.
- Exodus 34:16 and Deut 7:3 taught that God's people could not allow their children to marry people who were not believers.
- and of course at many points in the history of Israel, God's people violated this principle, and it hurt them badly.
- now if you happen to be here this morning and you're not saved and your spouse is...let me assure you that we're not here to judge you, or criticize you....
- but the message of the Scripture is this --- God wants you to be saved
- God wants you to become one of His children
- if I'm speaking to anyone in that category, you probably understand very clearly why God would give this principle to His people...because of the difficulty of having a marriage where one is a believer and one is not.
- that’s why this same principle is repeated in the NT in places like II Cor. 6:14 - "Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers"
- Paul told widows in I Cor. 7 that they were free to remarry after their first spouse died, but only "in the Lord."
- so the point is -- that when these people were making commitments...part of those commitments had to do with their children.
- now let's take a minute and discuss a question together.
- Suppose there was a parent here who said --- Well, my 16 year old son wants to date an unbeliever. We don't like it, but we think he's at the age where he should be able to make those decisions.
- INPUT - What would you say to a parent who held that view?
- (deal with the associated question of --- need to also be concerned about the spiritual condition of your own child that wouldn't see the importance of marrying a believer. INPUT - Things parents can do to help our children to develop such convictions?
- also hit the importance of helping our children establish dating standards.
- INPUT - Other commitments a parent may need to make regarding their children?
- a third part of their commitment is recorded in verse 31 - READ
- the point is:
III. God Wants Us To Make Commitments Regarding Our Work
- the point here is --- they were committing themselves to living for God and being different from the world even in their work.
- even in the way they conducted business.
- they were going to obey what the OT law said regarding the Sabbath even if it hurt.
- and also, please remember, we know that many of these people were living in poverty.
- we saw that in a previous chapter where Nehemiah had to come down on some of them because the richer Israelites were taking advantage of the poorer ones.
- so there were a number of these people who were living in poverty---yet they were committing themselves to following God's Word in the workplace even if it cost them something.
- Keith Miller, writing about work said, "It has never ceased to amaze me that we Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet almost totally pagan in the day in, day out guts of our business lives and never realize it."
- now, let's work on this one.
- INPUT - Areas in which a believer ought to commit himself/herself to pleasing God with regard to work?
- what about relationship with opposite sex?
- (here's a hot potato) -- what about if you work at a place where there's a homosexual?
- Since we believe that homosexuality is wrong, do we also believe that if you work around a homosexual, its OK to make fun of them, call them names, gossip behind their backs, etc?
- (Also hit -- just because someone says that happened doesn't mean it happened)
- (Also -- its not hateful, or harassment, to in the proper context say what you believe the Scripture says about that matter. If the setting is appropriate for a homosexual to say -- "I believe homosexuality is right" ---- then its surely just as appropriate for the believer to respond -- "I believe homosexuality is wrong."
- its not like one of those statements is offensive, and the other isn't..
- or that one of those statements is hateful, and the other isn't...
- Overall point here is --- you may be here this morning and God may want you to make a commitment regarding some aspect of your work.
(If time -- could discuss those who say --- well, thats business. I don't mix my religion with my business.)
- the last area is the one that actually takes up the most space in their commitment:
- Read 34-39
- the point is:
IV. God Wants Us To Make Commitments Regarding Our Worship
- we don't have time to look at these statements individually, but the end of verse 39 really summarizes all they've said in this section:
- Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.
- they were making a commitment about the way they were going to treat God's house.
1) Many in our church could say that they've also made that kind of commitment.
- develop --- work on the building, sacrificial giving (could use transparency on land)
- develop --- guys working on building Friday
- Painting coming up.