Renovate With Contributing Service (Nehemiah 10-12)

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EXAMINE                       Nehemiah 10-12       Renovate With Contributing Service

Review

  • We don’t make Bible relevant; it already is once we read it. Our passage speaks to today’s issues.
  • God’s people were exiled from homeland due to their disobedience of God.
  • After 70 years, foreign policy changes among Persia to permit Jews return to Jerusalem.
  • The Jews return to rebuild temple (Zerubbabel & Ezra) and later rebuild the walls (Nehemiah). However, Nehemiah also sought to renovate the community of people as a whole.
  • Their community revitalization occurs in the seventh month as the Jews renew its feast calendar celebrating the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles – all religious celebrations of renewal and hope for the people of God.
    • Remember poem: Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.
      Nehemiah’s poem: Here’s the wall. Here’s the city. Open the gates, what a pity.
  • Ezra the preacher reads and teaches the Scriptures so everyone can understand. The response of the people is to pray in confession of sin and to re-commit themselves to the Lord.
  • Nehemiah 9:38 “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing, on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”

 

Committing to God starts with faith.

The phrase “because of all this” stands out as important. Recognizing the religious feasts before signing a covenant it noteworthy. The feasts incorporated the sacrificial system, which was the Jews only means of forgiveness from God (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22). So, following receiving forgiveness they were ready to begin their commitments to walk with the Lord.

Faith precedes following Jesus. We can add the external religious trappings: attending church, serving, giving, good deeds; but if we have not put our faith in Jesus then we are still dead inside. Eventually the external deeds will shrink or cease and without faith there is nothing to keep us moving forward.

Illus: Envision a bouquet of roses. They’re beautiful and lovely. However, after a couple days a rose petal falls off. You think it’s an accident and anomaly, but the next day two more petals drop, and several more over the next few days. You realize you’re about to lose the beautiful bouquet of roses. You think: “If I could just re-attach these rose stems to a rose bush then they’ll grow back.” So, you find the duct tape and start re-attaching. Sound silly?

Well, this illustration relates how many try to grow spiritually. They disconnect from the root and attempt to stay helpful to others and hopeful for themselves, but slowly they start to lose their character and capacity. They make commitments but in time the fire fades, the passion disappears, and their promises are revealed empty.

Faith is the fire inside our life that fuels our beliefs and behaviors. If we are not rooted in faith then we will never truly have a proper foundation for our life.

  • Faith in God is turning away from self and sin and trusting in Jesus.
  • Faith rededication is not duct-taping a rose to a bush, but dying and planting in good soil to begin again.

 

Nehemiah 10:1, 28-29 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah… 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 the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, join with their brothers, their nobles and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD and his rules and his statutes.”

Committing to God is sustained with a faith community.

The people seal (sign) a written covenant. All their names are listed for their community to see before the eyes of God. Faith in God is personal, but it is not private. While the Neh 10 appears as another monotonous list of names, when we see ourselves as part of the family of God then we view lists and genealogies as meaningful.

Illus. 1

On February 11, The Grand Princess cruise ship set sail with 2,421 guests and 1,113 crew members. They spent several days between ports and beaches in Mexico, and then over a week along the Hawaiian Islands. Upon return, on March 4 they were diverted from course and held off the California coast. 5-days later they docked in Oakland and finally started to release passengers. However, of the 3,500 names on the passenger list, 21 tested positive for the C-virus. Passengers who tested negative were still quarantined for 14-days at various locations.

Those names listed as having the virus did not want to be on that list, nor did loved ones want them on that list.

Illus. 2

There was another popular ship that began her maiden voyage from England on Noon of April 10, 1912. 8.5 hours later they picked up more passengers in France, and the next day reached Ireland for more passengers. April 12-14 they sailed calm waters until an iceberg struck the starboard side of the ship. As you know the story, water poured in and all chaos happened with 2,224 passengers packing onto lifeboats that could only carry half that many on board. On April 15, the Carpathia started picking up lifeboats and collected 705 survivors. Over the next several weeks, another 328 bodies would be found floating in the area. Lists tell us there were

  • 324 first class passengers like businessmen, politicians, military personnel, bankers, entertainers, etc.
  • 285 second class passengers like professors, authors, clergy, tourists
  • 708 third class passengers were primarily servants and immigrants.
  • 908 were crew, ship officers & captain, deck crew, engine crew, caterers, telegraph operators, 8 members of ship’s orchestra.
  • 13 honeymooning couples
  • 107 children on board, mostly traveling in third class
  • 710 of 2,224 survived.
  • 20 people who were said to have cancelled their plans to set sail on the Titanic.

Illus. 3

The WWII memorial consists of 56 granite pillar walls with 404,800 names inscribed of those who served in US as well as a few other US territories. The plaza is 337’ long and over 240’ wide and all honors the 16 million who served and reminds us the cost of freedom is not free.

 

What we do with these sorts of lists is to see if we know/related to anyone and then they become meaningful.

Likewise, in Jerusalem 444 B.C. there were many exiled and fewer who survived. The names on these lists were powerful testimony to the grace of God to redeem the past. Further, the covenant names were a powerful testimony to the grace of God to mature and multiply a new work of God into the future. Many of these people helped rebuild the temple and protective wall and renovate the city of Jerusalem. And now, they were signing their name to be identified not only as inhabitants of Jerusalem but as those listed to live for the ways and word of God.

You see, life is different when you put your name on something; when you’re willing to be identified and stand in representation of God.

What are you willing to sign your name? Too often we spectate bc we don’t want our names included for taking heat if something goes wrong; having to hear complaints, having to bear responsibility to fix or cleanup, etc.

  • I’m grateful for those who step up and sign their name to a ministry role and team.
  • We should ask ourselves, If my name is nowhere to be found, then am I really being faithful to God?
  • SPBC is at a moment in time where we need people to list their name – not just as a church member on a roll, but as a contributor to the priorities of God’s kingdom and our church body. You may ask: what are spbc priorities?
    • Gatherings where we enter hungry “Bring The Book” and humble confession.
    • Groups where we open Bible to learn and open our lives to love.
    • Going to people (#WhosYour1) and places (neighbors & niche ministry)
      • Priority: next gen is missing – what can you do? Pray. Patiently mentor. Pass baton (when ready)… next gen needs to show up, follow, and then serve.
    • Some of ways you can minister to others is by being attentive to neighbors needs and ministering in the name of Jesus. Be known.

 

10:28-29 “[All these people…] join [together] to enter a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD and his rules and statutes.”

Committing to God has significant cost.

Their faith resulted in a commitment that previously they were not willing to give.

Their commitments:

  • not to enter multi-faith marriages (Neh 10:30)
    • Side note again: Just as Ezra 9 wasn’t, Nehemiah isn’t condemning multi-ethnic marriages. Joseph had a wife from Egypt (Gen 41:45), Moses had a wife from Midian (Ex 2:21) and later Ethiopia (Nu 12:1), Boaz married Ruth the Moabite. The Bible affirms one race for humanity (Acts 17:26) and there is no distinction of equality among ethnicities (Rom 10:12-13; Gal 3:28; Eph 2:11-19; Col 3:11). The concerning issue is not multi-ethnic but multi-faith marriage. God does not want Christians to be unequally yoked (2Cor 6:14) and expects godly offspring in marriages (Mal 2:15-16).
    • Another application is for current spouses to re-commit to enriching Christian marriages – your own and others.
      • What is one way you can express love to spouse in a way they want it received?
      • What is one way you can encourage another couple – who is it and what will you do? Actually do it!
  • to honor the Sabbath in contrast to culture… honoring the Sabbath year in forgoing crops and forgiving debt… and taking on obligation to give generously for the service of the house of God. (Neh 10:31)
    • In the case of a health concerns there is concessions to be made. But, too often people marginalize what God prioritizes.
    • The practice of forgiving debts was to ensure slavery did not become a permanent industry.
    • Further, the people committed to support the house of God and priests. (Neh 10:32-39)
      • The phrase “house of God” shows up 9x in passage, emphasizing stewardship and not neglecting the temple. Previously King Artaxerxes was funding the temple, but now it was the responsibility of God’s people to step up.
    • Interestingly, their giving was not just financial but diverse gifts: financial offerings, wood for altar, first-fruits of crops, animal herds, wine and oil, dough, grain, dedicating children to God, and likely much more.
      • Even more, some gave the relocation of their homes to return living in Jerusalem (Neh 11:1-2). For relocating, they were described as “valiant (11:6), “mighty men of valor (11:8, 14). Jerusalem was a distressed city still in rubble, needing renovation, and even dangerous. Yet, these sacrificed, they showed courage, and they sought to display shining light in the darkness.
      • Sociologist Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity, describes one of the ways the early Christian Church transformed the world was by their willingness to reach and care where others would not. Throughout history Christians have stood out helping during plagues, pandemics, and persecutions.
        In 260AD, Pope Dionysius
        “Most of our brother Christians showed unbonded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Needless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy… The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.” Over a hundred years later, in an 362AD letter, Roman Emperor Julian thought it strange that Christians were “benevolent to strangers, cared for the graves of the dead… and the impious Galileans [Christians] supported not only their own poor but ours as well.”

The same happened in 1793 when yellow fever gripped the city of Philadelphia. While thousands of citizens fled, hospitals became overwhelmed, and dead bodies rotted in homes, the AME church under the leadership of Richard Allen ministered to the sick and dying.

In most recent times it was Christians like Dr. Ken Brantly with Samaritan’s Purse who treated Ebola patients while others would not.

The hallmarks of Christianity have always been extraordinary faith, incomprehensible mercy, generous compassion, radical sacrifice, and selfless service.[1] We can be tempted to let fear flood our hearts, tempted to greed and hoard, tempted to isolate and shun, but we must not. God’s word anchors us in faith and courage, trusting God to work good from evil.

APPLY/THINK

In all, our commitment to God may waver but His commitment to us has not. God does not view us with casual love but with the sacrificial cost of His very own Son. Our lives are infected with the virus of sin that has 100% fatality rate. But Christ is the cure. God injected His Son with the poison and overcame the effects of death with His resurrection.

In Christ we are able to discern true priorities in life.

  • Priority of serving people.
  • Priority of seeing God’s power.
  • Priority of faith in Christ for eternal life.

[1] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/13/christianity-epidemics-2000-years-should-i-still-go-to-church-coronavirus/

 

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