Nehemiah | Dedication Back to God and His Law
DEDICATION BACK TO GOD AND HIS LAW
- Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah at the time is destroyed and lying in ruins
- The Jewish holy city, part of the Jews promised land
- Nehemiah (of Jewish decent) cup bearer to King Artaxerxes
- Nehemiah finds out that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed and have not been rebuilt
- This break Nehemiah's heart and tells the King he is called back to build back up his home
- We see that all the people of Jerusalem help build back up their sections of the city
- Nehemiah faces opposition from other leaders.
- Sanballat, Tobiah and his friends start sending letters to Nehemiah to draw him out of the city to harm him
- They even sent a letter of hearing a rumor that Nehemiah wants to become the king of Judah and start a rebellion
- Nehemiah has epic response to them saying they are making it all up in their head
Nehemiah 7:1-4 NLT
”After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors in the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. I said to them, “Do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day. And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.” At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt.“
- We see the rumors from chapter 6 are indeed not true – Sanballat and his friends sent to Nehemiah that the rumor was he wants to be the king in Judah and rebel – I think they not only said this to try and draw him out of Jerusalem for a conversation but also to plant the seed of deceit, the loud voice of the enemy that tries to distract us into rebellion against God
- How many times do we hear rumors or lies in our head that are not true in the moment but may intrigue us into disobedience?
- We see Nehemiah hold true to his calling and even after the wall is built his first order of business was to secure the city and appoint new leaders within Jerusalem.
- His second order of business was to call together the people for registration.
- Verses 5-73 all talk about the genealogy of the Jews who had returned back to Jerusalem and Judah from their time in exile.
So we see in chapter 7 that Nehemiah's business was getting everything back in order.
But none of this could really be complete without people setting their focus back onto God.
The reason they are in this chaos in the first place is because their ancestors had greatly sinned and strayed far away from the word and laws of God
Back in 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25 we see Jerusalems walls were broken down, the temple destroyed and the people taken into captivity in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar.
At the beginning of Ezra we see the people return to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple.
But even after returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple the Jewish people are not living by the law.
We see is Ezra chapter 9 is says they are not separating themselves from the people of the land and their abominations.
They are doing many detestable things and marrying outside of the holy race.
They need to re-dedicate themselves to God’s laws and God’s ways.
Nehemiah 8:1-6 NLT
”all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey. So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. To his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet. Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.“
Nehemiah 8:13-14 NLT
”On October 9 the family leaders of all the people, together with the priests and Levites, met with Ezra the scribe to go over the Law in greater detail. As they studied the Law, they discovered that the Lord had commanded through Moses that the Israelites should live in shelters during the festival to be held that month. He had said that a proclamation should be made throughout their towns and in Jerusalem, telling the people to go to the hills to get branches from olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees. They were to use these branches to make shelters in which they would live during the festival, as prescribed in the Law. So the people went out and cut branches and used them to build shelters on the roofs of their houses, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of God’s Temple, or in the squares just inside the Water Gate and the Ephraim Gate. So everyone who had returned from captivity lived in these shelters during the festival, and they were all filled with great joy! The Israelites had not celebrated like this since the days of Joshua son of Nun.“
- This is the Feast of Tabernacles
- This is celebrated to remember God’s faithfulness from the exodus and the wilderness journeys
- In verse 17:
- The part where it says they have not celebrated the feast of tabernacles since the days of Joshua was interesting.
- Because Joshua was many years ago and surely we see in Kings, Chronicles and even in Ezra where is said the people had celebrated the festival.
- After doing some research we see that it was not celebrated with the same consistency, attitude or purpose.
- It was not celebrated to the same extent that God had set out through Moses for it to be celebrated.
- But here in Nehemiah we see a change, we see a difference in the way they are celebrating it.
- People from all over came to celebrate it – in chapter 8 verse one it say all people gathered together.
- It was celebrated with “great joy” – they were not just doing it to do it
- It was celebrated with a Biblethon – continual Bible reading for the whole week.
- It was celebrated exactly how Moses commanded them to celebrate it.
- How often do we find ourselves doing the same things the Jewish people had been doing for many years? Not celebrating to the full extent and purpose.
- One thing growing up in an old school Southern Baptist church, a lot of what I saw was people coming to church every Sunday based on tradition. Its just what they did.
- Or how about lifegroup – our vision of being Acts 42-47 – they worshipped together, shared everything they had, gave money to those in need and had meals all with great joy and generosity.
- I'm not just preaching to you I am preaching to myself because I am one of the worst offenders of this as well.
- We get caught up in the rhythm of performing the action and forgetting about the passion that leads us to show up or do it in the first place – that passion being Jesus.
- But now we see them, fully and wholly giving their all to God and what his Law says in this moment
Nehemiah 9:1-3 NLT
”On October 31 the people assembled again, and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.“
- We see the people dressed in burlap with dust on their heads. This is a public sign of repentance and humility before God.
- They did this as an outward expression of what was happening internally.
- Kind of like baptism today is an outward expression to the public of how we dedicated our life to Jesus and he cleansed us of all our sins.
- Though burlap and ashes was not a public sign of salvation like baptism is, it is a humbling of themselves before the Lord.
Nehemiah 9:5-37 NLT
Then the leaders of the Levites—called out to the people: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!” Then they prayed: “May your glorious name be praised! May it be exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you.
“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldeans and renamed him Abraham. When he had proved himself faithful, you made a covenant with him to give him and his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word. “You saw the misery of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cries from beside the Red Sea. You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten. You divided the sea for your people so they could walk through on dry land! And then you hurled their enemies into the depths of the sea. They sank like stones beneath the mighty waters.
You led our ancestors by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night so that they could find their way. “You came down at Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just, and decrees and commands that were good. You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath. And you commanded them, through Moses your servant, to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions. “You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry and water from the rock when they were thirsty. You commanded them to go and take possession of the land you had sworn to give them. “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands. They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies. “But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.
“Then you helped our ancestors conquer kingdoms and nations, and you placed your people in every corner of the land. They took over the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. You made their descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and brought them into the land you had promised to their ancestors. “They went in and took possession of the land. You subdued whole nations before them. Even the Canaanites, who inhabited the land, were powerless! Your people could deal with these nations and their kings as they pleased. Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings. “But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies. “But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times! “You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them. But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!
“And now, our God, the great and mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of unfailing love, do not let all the hardships we have suffered seem insignificant to you. Great trouble has come upon us and upon our kings and leaders and priests and prophets and ancestors—all of your people—from the days when the kings of Assyria first triumphed over us until now. Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved. Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your Law or listen to the warnings in your commands and laws. Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you, though you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness. “So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land. The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”“
- Whew – what a long winded prayer, but what a prayer of power. The prayer goes through the history of Israel
- Genesis: Recognizing God is the creator of earth and heaven, making a covenant with Abraham to give him the land of Canaan (the land referred to as milk and honey).
- Exodus: God see’s the suppression of the people Israel in Egypt and leads them out through the Red Sea. Continuing on to lead them by pillar of cloud and fire.
- Exodus: Again, even when they make a golden calf idol, God does not desert them.
- Numbers: We see the people not trusting God when going into Canaan, but still the lord was with them conquering the land of King Sihon and King Og.
- Joshua: We see them take possession of Canaan and the land that God had promised Abraham long ago.
- Judges: Then we see them rebel again and repeatedly be subject to their enemies.
- Kings 1 & 2: We see them eventually given over into the hands of the enemies, kings 2 even ending with Jerusalem being destroyed which is where we are now years later in Nehemiah building it back up.
- The prayer helps to continue cultivating their heart to change.
- The prayer recognizes all the flaws and failures in the past of the people Israel.
- But this is also a prayer of recognition that God is always with them and provides a way, yes even when they were dumb and rebel against Him.
- The prayer praises God for all he has done thus far!
Chapter 10: The vow of the people
- They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the Law of God issued by Moses
- They solemnly promised to follow all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord God
- They promised not to let their daughters marry the pagan people and not let their sons marry their daughters
- They refused to buy merchandise or grain sold on the sabbath
- They promised every 7th year to let their land rest and cancel debts owed to them
- They promise to obey the command and pay the temple tax
- They promise to bring the first part of the harvest every year to the Lords temple
- They agree to give God the oldest sons and the firstborn of all the heads and flocks
- They promised the Levites a tenth of everything their own land produces
- They promise to give their best grain, fruit, wine and olive oil
- Finally they promise not to neglect the temple
When I pray I will remember the things God has done for me and give Him praise even in the midst of needs
There is an area of my life that I need to refocus back onto God and what He has called me to.
I will dedicate my life to the Lord, I believe in Jesus and will strive to follow Him daily.