The True City of God – His People

Dustin Folden May 27, 2018 Nehemiah 8:13-10:29
Outline

3 timeless characteristics of godly leaders

I. Godly Leaders Remember His Word (8:13-9:4)

A. Seek to apply what you learn in God’s Word immediately (8:15)

Nehemiah 8:15 - So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”

B. Apply God’s Word with joy (8:17)

Nehemiah 8:17 - 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.

C. Read the Word of God daily (8:18)

Nehemiah 8:18 - 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.

D. Take sin seriously and respond appropriately (9:1-3)

Nehemiah 9:1-3 - Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.

II. Godly Leaders Remember His Faithfulness (9:5-37)

A. Start with Who He is and allow the character of God to fuel your worship (9:5-6)

Nehemiah 9:5-6 - Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed And exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You.

B. Give an accurate historical account of mankind’s unfaithfulness (9:16-17a)

Nehemiah 9:16-17a - But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

C. Allow this to humble you appropriately (9:33)

Nehemiah 9:33 - However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

D. View our unfaithfulness in light of His unending faithfulness (17b)

Nehemiah 9:17b - …they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 - The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

E. His faithfulness is shown in giving us His Spirit (9:20a & 30a)

Nehemiah 9:20a - You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst.

Nehemiah 9:30a - Many years you were patient with them, and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; yet they would not listen. Therefore you handed them over to the peoples of the lands.

Galatians 5:16 - Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5:25 - If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

III. Godly Leaders Remember Their Promises (9:38-10:29)

A. Make public commitments, and lead others to do the same

Nehemiah 9:38-10:1 - Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests. Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah…

B. Allow yourself to be held accountable in community

Nehemiah 10:28-29 - The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to adhere to the law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, join with their kin, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his ordinances and his statutes.

C. Pray that the Lord would help you keep your promise

Nehemiah 13:31 - …and I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good. 

So we continue our study in Nehemiah with a focus on…

The True City of God – His People

Nehemiah 8:13-10:29

3 timeless Characteristics of Godly Leaders (that are to characterize the people of God)

Everyone leads in some way, and if you are a Christian, you are to lead and seek to grow in being a leader.

  • Go and make disciples
  • Image bearer – leading others to view God accurately

I. Godly Leaders Remember His Word (8:13-9:4)

Now that God’s people have a wall, the question is how are they going to keep building…their relationship with their God who has brought them back from captivity…the answer is The word of God, scripture, the bible.

Godly leaders don’t read the word of God like a novel, as if it were just a story to pass the time and entertain them. Now the bible is gripping, with adventure and loss and victory, but it is more than just interesting content….it is to be life changing content.

So if you are to remember His word, you need to…

A.     Seek to apply what you learn in God’s word immediately (8:15)

Nehemiah 8:15 — 15 So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”

Why were the people making booths, or little forts of branches they got from the Hills.

Feast of Booths – Explain

I think it is helpful to visualize that after they have this wall done, and they have a secure structure, they construct temporary structures, to remind them of their history, the temporary nature of this life, and it is important when you are living in this booth, this hut…what is life all about, what is really important.

I think this also teaches us that what is important is God’s word. Notice how they read the word, and they learned what they were supposed to be doing and they went and did it. They didn’t have a consultation, a meeting, they made a proclamation, this is what God says, and this is what we are going to do.

I want to encourage you when you read the word of God, expect to be changed…not only in what you learn about God and how you know Him more, but how your life is to change after reading about who God is and what His commands are. It may not be as specific as build booths, but there are so many clear commands that apply to our life…Take Eph 4:25 lay aside falsehood and speak the truth…after you read that then next thing you do that day, you want to make sure it is marked by truthfulness.

B.     Apply God’s word with joy (8:17)

Nehemiah 8:17 — 17 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.

When you understand God’s word, and how it is to impact your life, the proper response is great rejoicing.

The Israelites realized they had not been doing what God had commanded them, and they had not been doing it since the time of Joshua, but now they were going to do what God commanded.

Joy needs to be tied to obeying the commands of God (john 15, 13:17)….not only because that brings blessing, not only because it brings us together with a common purpose, but it gives a right view of God…the true city of God His people are living in a way that reflects who God is and what God has said…that is how things are supposed to be, and that is cause for rejoicing.

So when God commands you to be patience and kind and you do that by being patience and kind to your spouse, kids, co-workers…it is good to rejoice that you obeyed God and applied His word.

C.     Read the Word of God daily (8:18)

Nehemiah 8:18 — 18 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.

This was an event, a feast that was focused on the word, they were reading it publicly, the priests were explaining it so everyone understood, and they were doing it over multiple days for hours at a time. And the people were understanding and applying it.

If you want to be a godly leader, if you want to have influence in the lives of others spiritually…you simply can’t do that without being a person of the word. You don’t know what God says, and so you won’t be able to lead anyone in the direction God wants his people to go because you don’t know what God says.

Likewise you won’t have the motivation, the drive because without reading Gods word we easily forget and get distracted by other things.

Did you skip breakfast? Do you work through lunch, is dinner optional. Maybe that is the case sometimes, but that is not normal…nor should it be normal to not read the word of God each day.

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You need God’s word to live just like you need food and water each day, and so do the people around you.

In addition, godly leaders are focused, and they…

D.    Take sin seriously and respond appropriately (9:1-3)

Nehemiah 9:1–3 — 1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. 2 The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.

So much of the Christian life has to do with admitting Sin. Sin means to miss the mark, and if we start with the character of God, and when we read the word based on Who He is, what He has done, and what he commands,…it follows if we are in the word that we fall short of the glory of God…

And so a key aspect of godly leaders is that they take their sin and the sin of those they are leading seriously.

Everyone sins, the question is to you address it, confess it (agree with what God says, and then repent, change your mind about it and turn away from your ways and turn toward God and obeying what He says.

For us to worship God, and value Him, we must properly value our sin against Him.

I think for all relationships, parenting, children, within the church…a humble recognition of your sin is what keeps the community together and on mission, whereas sin and pride left unchecked divides and destroys.

The people of God are not just fighting raiders and other nations, but they are fighting sin.

Even though godly leaders take sin seriously, they don’t take God out of the equation and travel a path of despair, instead they…

II. Godly Leaders Remember His Faithfulness (9:5-37)

A.     Start with who He is and allow the character of God to fuel your worship (9:5-6)

Nehemiah 9:5–6 — 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed And exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.

Godly leaders may have different styles, but what they have in common is a focus on the Lord…and they want to lead others to think rightly about God.

Godly leaders are not just self-aware, they are God aware.

Specifically we learn

Godly leaders focus a lot on the character and attributes of God, so they can reflect that same character, and influence others to do the same.

So we start with God, but then we see how mankind responds to God…godly leaders…

B.     Give an accurate historical account of mankind’s unfaithfulness (9:16-17a)

Nehemiah 9:16–17a — 16 “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

The more you read the bible, the more you understand it does not paint man in a good light. The Lord is the Hero of the bible, and in order to exult Him, we have to be honest about how Mankind has rebelled.

C.     Allow this to humble you appropriately (9:33)

Nehemiah 9:33 — 33 “However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

You see it over and over in every book of the bible, and this extended historical account of God’s redemptive plan includes historical evidence of how we all fall short.

I would encourage you to think about your story. What was your life like before Christ, and then after you trusted Christ as your Lord and savior, were there times that you really rebelled from Him.

That is not only part of your story, it is part of God’s story. It is good for us not to ignore that or pretend it did not exist. Allow your past to humble you and recognize that reveals mankind’s need.

Don’t only look at your rebellions and failings…allow it to be a springboard to appreciating who God is all the more?

D.    View our unfaithfulness in light of His unending faithfulness (17b)

Nehemiah 9:17b — 17 they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

If you read almost any story in the bible, you could find a reason for God to give up on His people. Yet, He doesn’t. The question is Why, why with all the unfaithfulness of mankind does God not forsake His people.

The answer is found in the character of God, not in the actions of His people or if they are deserving. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and that is the reasons he maintains his covenant with His people even when they break it time and time again.

This is reaffirmed in a number of places in the NT…one is.

2 Timothy 2:11–13 — 11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

The reason that He does not case away His people for their rebellion is that they are His…they bear His name.

As you read this text you see the tension…if we endure, we will reign, that is good, we need to persevere. If we deny Him, he will deny us…that is understandable. If we are faithless, you almost think the text might say, He is faithless toward us…but in fact it says He remains faithful…not because we deserve it, but because It is part of His character to be faithful to those that He has set His love upon.

But his faithfulness is not dependent on our faithfulness – it is dependent on His character, and since He cannot deny Himself, He will always be faithful

This does not excuse or even encourage faithlessness, however

Leaders should be characterized by faithfulness – they just recognize it’s done by His power and not our own…

If we are in Christ, if we are united to Christ, then we are in a relationship with the Lord, based on who the Lord is, and He cannot deny Himself and His promises. Our security is not in our faithfulness, it is in the Lord’s faithfulness.

This is displayed in a variety of ways, but one of the ways is…

E.     His faithfulness is shown in giving us His Spirit (9:20a & 30a)

Nehemiah 9:20a — 20 You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst.

This passage describes how the Lord provides not only their physical needs, but also their spiritual. He guides them by His spirit.

The way He did this is important.

Nehemiah 9:30a — 30 Many years you were patient with them, and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; yet they would not listen. Therefore you handed them over to the peoples of the lands.

He instructed and warned His people through His word being delivered through His prophets. They didn’t listen and to address His people’s rebellion He handed them over, to be enslaved to other, but if you keep reading it says, that Nevertheless, in your great compassion you did not make an end of them or forsake them. For you are a gracious and compassionate God.

He also has provided His spirit to us. If you are a believer you are indwelled with the Spirit, and the spirit seals you until the day of redemption. Also the Spirit brought about the word of God, so that we are also being guided by the spirit as we read, listen to and obey the word of the Lord.

Galatians 5:16 — 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5:25 — 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

You might ask…but how do I know if I am living by the Spirit or not?

The verses in-between 16 and 25, namely 22 and 23, describe the fruit of the Spirit. A godly leader who is acting in obedience to the Word of God and indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit will be displaying the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

But you cannot display the fruit of the Spirit unless you have the Holy Spirit, and that cannot happen unless you have placed you faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Maybe the First step for you today is to admit your sin, and place your trust in Jesus as your Lord and savior, so you can be indwelled with the Holy Spirit and guided by the Holy Spirit as you feast on God’s word to direct you.

The Lord is faithful to guide his people, even though His people are rebellious.

Now, just because our security is based on His character does not mean we have no responsibility…in fact…

III. Godly Leaders Remember their Promises (9:38-10:29)

Verse 37 ends in a pretty bad place, but the people are turning from their sin, and committing to the Lord.

They do this publicly…they put it in writing.

You see godly leaders….

A.     Make public commitments, and lead others to do the same

Nehemiah 9:38–10:1— 38 Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests. 1 Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah;

People love to fly under the radar. To not be known. That is why you sit in the back of the class right, so you won’t be called on and you won’t have to give an answer.

Sometimes God’s people sit in eh back of the class, and won’t publicly commit to anything, but you need to realize that you will still be held accountable to God.

The public commitment actually helps you be motivated by something other than if you feel like doing it or not.

This is why as a church leadership team we do yearly initiative that we write out and post online…and why every 5 years as a congregation we go through a 5 year strategic planning process, and we put it in writing.

We are going to be held accountable to the Lord how we stewarded what He entrusted to us…putting our plans in writing just helps us prepare better to give an account.

Let me encourage you to put your name to something…whether it is helping serve in a ministry, bringing a dessert to something, or clicking the going instead of maybe button on a Facebook event…if you want to grow in being a godly leader be a person who people can rely on because you are willing to put your name behind a responsibility rather than just show up if you feel like it.

B.     Allow yourself to be held accountable in community

Nehemiah 10:28-29 - 28 The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to adhere to the law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their kin, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his ordinances and his statutes.

This wasn’t just the leaders, everyone was making commitments. And when you are in a group, and you say, I am going to turn from my sin, and live for the Lord, the other people are there to help you.

When you understand that a person will reap what they sow, you stop seeing people who want to help you please the Lord as jamming you up, and you can then see them as brothers and sisters who want to help you reap good things.

It is also important to note that There is (and should be) a public aspect to your faith.

Sometimes people say, If people knew I was a Christian at work, they will hold me to a higher standard….Good…we are to walk worthy of the Lord, so we have the highest standard, and being in community and recognize we have a public witness for Christ helps us.

We want to take responsibility for our sinfulness, for the grace and mercy the Lord has provided in Christ, and we want to walk in a manner that is worth of the calling we have received, but that doesn’t mean we can do it alone…we need community and we need the Lord’s blessing.

So we take one more lesson from Nehemiah from the last verse in the book…

Godly leaders…

C.     Pray that the Lord would help you keep your promise

Nehemiah 13:31 — 31 and I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

The end of Nehemiah we see the people deciding by lot who will move to Jerusalem, and how they are going to not neglect the house of god by giving faithfully, and then we see Nehemiah making sure everyone is in their positions they are supposed to be in and they are supported by the people who have made the commitments, and lastly he is giving the Levites their priestly tasks, and making sure they had what they needed, and that there would be wood for the sacrifices, and that the first fruits would be delivered for the sacrifices, in other words, the godly leader Nehemiah is leading so that the people would be focused on worshipping their God.

Nehemiah finally prays and asks the Lord to remember Him…He focuses on His God, and He ask the Lord’s blessing so that good would be done, and that good would ultimately mark the people of God…and for them to know what is good, do what is good, would mean they need to keep building, keep building with God at the center of all they do.

Let’s pray and ask God to help each of us do that as well.

 


Dustin Folden

B.S - Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Dustin Folden and his wife Trisha joined the Pastoral Staff in 2010. They have two children, Mackenna & Sawyer. They enjoy playing board games, cooking together and going on hiking adventures. Pastor Folden shepherds the 9:30 worship service, oversees the Adult Bible Fellowship ministry, the Wednesday evening Faith Community Institute as well as serves in Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries.

Read Dustin Folden's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Folden to Faith Church.