Keeping Commitments

Explore the Bible Series

January 28, 2007

 

Background Passage: Nehemiah 11:1-13:31

Lesson Passage: Nehemiah 13:1, 4-5, 8-12,15-18

 

Introduction: The Book of Nehemiah chronicles a significant revival among the Lordís people.Careful study of Scripture and Christian History will quickly identify some of the essential marks of revival: earnest prayer, deep conviction of sin (corporate and individual), great energy in the service of God, rock-ribbed confidence in God during times of trial and opposition, perseverance, profound awareness of the glory of Jehovah, rapt attentiveness to the reading of the Scriptures, concern for holiness of life, and a renewal of covenant with God.At times, Satan counterfeits revival, but the reforms of Nehemiahís day seem to transcend mere outward rehabilitation.This revival touched the hearts of the people.

 

One sure mark of a genuine reviving work of God is the transformation of individual and corporate conduct.When Godís people experience revival, the Holy Spirit transforms hearts, and this heart-renovation manifests itself in outward conduct.The life, therefore, follows the heart.As we complete our study of the Book of Nehemiah, we should examine the record of this revival to detect a final, vital element of true reformation.Did the religious experiences of these people lead to a genuine transformation in their practical obedience to Jehovah?Mark it down, dear brethren, it is possible that disingenuous people might, for a time, ape the outward trappings of religion; that is, they may maintain a merely formal and external profession of honorable living (Time will eventually disrobe this outward display of religiosity).Jesus called such people ďwhited sepulchersĒ, beautiful and wholesome on the outside; yet full of dead menís bones. However, the converse can never occur.I mean by this, that internal transformation always reveals itself in the outward obedience of a revived people.I do not, of course, suggest that Godís people will live perfectly, but I do assert that a pure heart will lead to growth in practical holiness. Real revival is more than religious excitements and internal experiences.

 

Chapters Nine and Ten describe the nature of the covenant the Jews struck before the Lord.The provisions included careful Sabbath observance, proper use of the land, generous giving to sustain the Temple and the Levites, and tithing.We should not assume that this is an exhaustive list of covenant obligations, but the list does give a sample of the kinds of practical obedience that the people desired.

 

 

Outline of Background Passage:

 

I.                   A Covenant-Keeping People (11:1-36): At the end of Chapter Nine, the inhabitants of Judah made a solemn vow to keep covenant with God. (See 9:38).The people heard with earnest conviction about the triumphs and failures of their forefathers, and they determined to keep convent with Jehovah.To demonstrate the solemnity of the occasion, the Jews required that the leaders of their families sign and seal a covenant document. Chapter Ten reveals the names of those who signed the covenant and laid out the provisions of their pledge (See vv. 28-39).Then, Chapter Eleven outlines how the people determined to keep their covenant obligations.

A.    The new inhabitants of Jerusalem (vv. 1-24): Many of the faithful people had chosen to live in the villages surrounding Jerusalem; however, covenant obligations required that some people live in the holy city.How, for instance, could the Jews properly sustain the liturgical calendar and Temple rites without a faithful people to oversee the rebuilt city?In addition to the religious leadership, other people were chosen, by lot, to inhabit Jerusalem, and these first several verses of the chapter identify how these people were chosen.

B.     Inhabitants of surrounding villages (vv. 25-36): This list identifies the families that were allowed to remain in the villages surrounding Jerusalem.

 

II.                The Generations of Levites that Presided Over Temple Worship and the Dedication of the Wall (12:1-47)

A.    The linage of the priests (vv. 1-26): At first glance, it may seem odd thatNehemiah mentions the priests who returned with Zerubbabel; however, the issues discussed here prove very relevant to the development of the story.The Jews knew the importance of establishing a legitimate priesthood, and these contemporaries of Nehemiah traced their line back to the Levites of the earlier period.

B.     The dedication of the wall (vv. 27-47): The celebration occasioned a great time of worship for Godís people.The musical references seem particularly interesting.Since the time of Zerubbabel, the Jews paid for the support of skilled musicians. The priests purified the people and led a great procession through the city.Instrumentalists accompanied two choirs of singers, and all of the people, including the women and children, joined in the celebration.They sang so wonderfully that the sound was heard far away (See v. 43).O brethren, let us ever praise the Lord with joyful exuberance that all men might hear the delight of the Lordís people at worship.

C.     The stewardship of the people (vv. 44-46): On this wonderful day of worship, the men appointed stewards to oversee the contributions of the people and apportion the gifts in ways that honored the Lord.Godís people must ever take the safeguarding of tithes and offerings very seriously.There can be no taint of greed, misappropriation, or scandal concerning these offerings.

 

III.             Final Reforms by Governor Nehemiah (13:1-31)

A.    Separation from the ungodly people of the region (vv. 1-3): The Ammonite and Moabite people descended from Lotís incestuous relations with his daughters (See Genesis 19:30-38).Deuteronomy 23:3-6 gives the reasons why the Jews were to separate from the Moabites and Ammonites.Perhaps some modern ďseparatistsĒ might take solace in this action by Nehemiah, but we should exercise some caution with this.First, this prohibition did not include all non-Jews, just the Ammonites and the Moabites.For instance, the text in Deuteronomy forbids the Jews from abhorring the Edomites and the Egyptians (23:7-8).

B.     The expulsion of Tobiah from the Temple court (vv. 4-9): A corrupt priest named Eliashib allowed the Lordís enemy, Tobiah, to live in quarters located in the Temple court.Nehemiah, of course, could not allow such a misuse of the Lordís dwelling place.

C.     The financial mistreatment of the Levites (vv. 10-14): The people had failed to attend to the financial needs of Levites, and Nehemiah acted to remedy this cruel oversight.The laborer is, indeed, worthy of his hire.

D.    The profaning of the Sabbath (vv. 15-22): Nehemiah discovered that the people conducted their business affairs, on the Sabbath Day, in violation of the clear commandments of the Lord.Nehemiah reminded the Jews of the own tragic history of Sabbath breaking, and took steps to correct this serious problem.

E.     Intermarriage with idolatrous spouses (vv. 23-32): The problem of these unfortunate marriages continued to plague Israel.The most grievous example of this defilement centered on Eliashib, the high priest.He had, according to our text, married the daughter of Nehemiahís Samaritan nemesis, Sanballet.This was a grievous indiscretion, and Nehemiah pronounced Godís displeasure on the marriage.The Book of Nehemiah ends, as it began, with a prayer of this great statesman (see v. 31)