Nehemiah 9:4-15 - The Legacy You Leave - Part I
- the basic chronology of chapters 8-9 is:
1) People ask Ezra to bring out the book of the law and read in to them on the first day of the seventh month.
- after Ezra read, the people were broken into smaller groups where they "read from the law of God, translating to give the sense, so they understood what they read."
- the people are greatly convicted - cf. 8:9 - "For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law."
2) Ezra, Nehemiah, the priests and scribes told the people not to weep any more that day, but to rejoice in the forgiveness they had received as a result of the repentance that had taken place thus far.
- "This day is holy to the Lord your God, do not mourn or weep."
3) On the second day, the leaders of the families came back and asked questions so "they might gain insight into the words of the law."
4) They learned that they were supposed to be observing the Feast of Tabernacles later that month. They therefore hurriedly made preparations so that they would be obeying the Scripture's commands.
Neh 8:17 - And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing.
- Chapter 8 ended with the words:
And he read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.
5) Chapter nine tells us about the 24th day of the month, where the people gathered together for additional prayer, repentance, and confession.
- One of the things we ought to appreciate about this chapter is that it is a summary of OT history.
- What we're going to be looking at in the next two weeks is entirely different than anything we've studied in Nehemiah up to this point.
- even though we've been in the same book now for some time, there's a lot of variety simply because the book has such variety.
- one of the reasons I'm thankful for these verses is because often believers feel somewhat intimidated by the OT.
- If you're a new Christian, or just started studying the Scripture, that’s probably especially true.
- These verses will give us an overview of the main events in a way that should help us put some "OT History pieces" together in a way that helps us see the main points.
- Some other places in the Bible that take a similar approach are Psalm 78, 105, 106.
- If you're looking for things to add to your Bible study list, those would be some good ones to compare to what we're doing here in Nehemiah 9.
- Aldous Huxley said - "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all lessons that history has to teach."
- I trust that that’s not true of us, but that we will learn from this historical overview in a way that strengthens our relationship with the Lord and our ability to please Him.
- Warren Wiersbe does a good job of summarizing the verses that we're about to study:
"This prayer reviews the history of Israel and reveals both the majesty of God and the depravity of man. Israel responded to God's "great kindness" (9:17), "great mercy" (9:31), and "great goodness" (9:25, 35) with "great provocations" (9:18, 26) that resulted in "great distress" (9:37).
- At this point, I'd like us to read the first half of the prayer.
- we're going to do something a little different in that I'd like to break you up into 6 groups, assign you a portion of the prayer, have you practice it for a minute with your leader, and then we'll read the verses together.
1. Group 1 - Introduction - verse 5 (Beginning with "Arise")
2. Group 2 - Creation - verse 6
3. Group 3 - Choice of Abraham - verses 7-8
4. Group 4 - God's care from Egypt to the wilderness wanderings
5. Group 5 - Giving of the Law - verses 13 -14
6. Group 6 - Provision and promise - verse 15
- Divide up, bring groups back together facing one another, have each group stand and read their section, verses 5 - 15)
- In the time we have left, I'd like us to think about four primary truths about our God, and how they ought to impact the way we live for Him.
I. Our God Is The Only True God
- This prayer begins with the people declaring that God ought to be praised because "He alone is the Lord."
- Undoubtedly, as Ezra had been reviewing the OT law with them all through the month, He would have emphasized the ten commandments.
- The first two commands deal with the very topic that the people are now praying about:
Exodus 20:3-4 - You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
- Derek Kidner said of these verses, "The barely habitable city, the encircling heathen, and the poverty and seeming insignificance of the Jews are all transcended by the glorious reality of God."
- It was very important for these men and women to begin by declaring their allegiance to monotheism, that they had placed their faith in the one true God of heaven.
- Warren Wiesrbe said,
"One of Israel's ministries to the world was to bear witness to Jehovah, the true and living God. Their Gentile neighbors were surprised that the Jews had no idols (Psalm 115). When Israel turned to idols, as they often did, God disciplined them."
- a passage of Scripture that is very important in this regard is Isaiah 42:8
Isaiah 42:8 - I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.
- If these men and women were going to move from "just having a new wall around the city" to being the kind of people who were developing Godly character that He could bless, their commitment to believing in, and loving, and serving Him EXCLUSIVELY had to be declared.
INPUT - How do we show our commitment to this truth today? (How do we avoid idolatry?)
- the second truth about our God that these people emphasized in their prayer was:
II. Our God is the Creator
- verse 6
- The fact that they are emphasizing this truth shows the impact that the reading of the Scriptures had had on them.
- For the past 28 days, there has been a heavy emphasis in their lives on God's Word.
- Now we're seeing that emphasis show forth in their prayers.
- I hope that every person in our class understands the importance of believing in the literal account of Genesis creation.
- How we view God, and how we view ourselves, and how we view the world, and how we view the Scriptures, is affected mightily by this matter.
(cf. the liberal pastor who came in for counseling --- asked to turn to Genesis 2 -- it had literally been taken out of his Bible -- embarrassed, said it was given to him by a friend -- some friend!)
- INPUT - What impacted you from the presentation we heard last week from David D'Armond?
- a couple of observations about these verses:
1) Please notice the "place" the heavenly host are given.
- There is an interesting emphasis being placed today on angels.
- While its good that these programs generally have a moral lesson (I'm supposing), the problem is that angel is often the focus, where in the Scripture the angel was simply a messenger and the Person of God was the focus.
- This passage keeps that clear by showing that the angels are simply part of God's creation.
2) The effect of "caving in" on this subject is tremendous.
- Its interesting that there's a sudden outcry about what went wrong with our schools.
- so we're having all sorts of discussions, town meetings and the like to try to figure out what to do.
- A report came out this week showing that the Goals 2000 Education Program implemented during the Bush presidency is not being fulfilled in many significant ways.
- Of course the politician's answer to the issue is, "Give us more time, and give us more money."
- While we appreciate those people in public education who are trying to do a good job with he children under their care, I think we need to recognize that there are significant problems with the philosophy of public education.
- Secular humanism has not served us well.
- A simple but significant answer to the question --- "What should we do?" is...."Repent".
- You can not achieve godly results using worldly means....its impossible.
- Our society wants to raise young people who are characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control....but are unwilling to acknowledge the God who is the only One who can produce those characteristics.
- Secular humanism ignores God and His Word, and censors God and His Word, and at times even ridicules God and His Word...and then has the audacity to ask what went wrong.
- I don't believe this is the only issue involved in this discussion, but I think we'd be blind historically to fail to see the correlation between the removal of prayer and God's Word from our schools, and the dramatic decline in our student's behavior and performance.
- The point is --- where the Bible begins (the existence of God and creation), and where this prayer begins (the existence of God and creation) is very significant.
- and I trust that regardless of what educational option you have chosen for your children, that you are working hard at home to help your kids to believe these truths and live in light of their implications.
- By the way, I'd like to ask you to pray for the development of our high school.
- regardless of which option you choose for your kids, I hope you'll be excited about the fact that next year at this time there will be a high school here that joyfully and confidently proclaims God to be our Creator.
- We are working hard to make our science department second to none, and God is blessing that desire in some unusual ways.
- What excites me is thinking about how these truths will affect the "pudding," the character of the young people we produce.
3) We don't have time to discuss this as thoroughly as I'd like, but you also may want to jot down Romans 1:25
Romans 1:25 - For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Augustine said of these verses, "Thus does the world forget you, its Creator, and falls in love with what You have created instead of with You."
- a third truth emphasized in this passage is:
III. Our God Reaches Out To People
- If we're going to understand OT history, we have to know about Abraham.
- This passage reminds us that God is the one who called Abraham.
- he lived in a pagan land, and grew up in a pagan family (Joshua 24:2-3)
- But God chose him, and made a covenant with Him, and Abraham rightly responded by faith.
- This passage again shows the emphasis of the Scriptures on these men and women and the way they prayed.
- They weren't all "full of themselves"....they were humbled and thankful by the fact that God had chosen them.
- the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is one that God's people have wrestled with down through the years.
- the bottom line is that the Scripture teaches that in and of ourselves, we possess no righteousness.
- Romans 3:10 - there is none righteous, no not one.
- We would not choose Him apart from Him working in us.
- on the other hand, people are called upon to cooperate with that work.
- we are commanded to use our wills to repent, to believe, to become a follower of Christ.
- we also understand that apart from Him, we could not make that choice.
- We'll never fully understand the way that works this side of heaven, but we choose to believe the Scripture when it says things like:
John 15:16 - You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.
- INPUT - How would focusing on this truth have helped these men and women in their current situation?
- Kept them from being proud about the wall that had been completed.
- Kept them from fear of Sanballet, etc. since if God chose them, He could certainly protect them.
- One last truth about God from these verses:
IV. Our God Protects and Provides
- verses 9-15 tell of the way God brought them out of Egypt.
1) He heard their cry and brought them out of Egypt
2) He parted the Red Sea
3) He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.
4) He gave them the law.
5) He provided food and water.
- the overall point of these verses is that as these men and women studied the Scriptures, and that as they confessed their sins, and as they focused on what God had done them for them historically...it caused them to rehearse those things in their minds, and praise Him for what He had done.
- They knew that they needed that truth in order to successfully handle the challenges they would face now that the wall was built.
INPUT - Ways we can remind ourselves of these truths, and ways they will help us live for Him today?