Repent and Rise To Serve The Lord

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 10.

Nehemiah Chapter 10 is one of those chapters of Scripture you would most likely skip when you come across it. The first part of the chapter looks like a Phone Book – with very hard names to pronounce. For instance:

Nehemiah 10:1-4 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch …

I think I’ll stop there. Most people would stop here, and then skim over to the next chapter to continue reading. But if you do so, you will miss some great truths that apply to our lives, and to our country today. Israel has begun to return to the Promised Land, has rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem, and has rebuilt the Temple. The reason Israel has been conquered and exiled from their land for 70 years is because that nation ceased to follow the Great Shepherd of the Sheep.

Godly Leadership Is Calling Israel To Repentance

When we left chapter 9 we read that:

Nehemiah 9:37-38 … because of our sins: {our enemies} have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. 38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

The reason Israel collapsed is because Israel walked away from God. It is – as the leaders of Israel said – because of our sins. When Jesus Christ – Incarnate God – came to this earth to preach, the very first message He ever preached was:

Matthew 4:17 Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Repent. Turn from your godless ways, and begin to follow God. Not too long ago I preached from 1 Peter 1:13, where believers are told to Gird up the loins of your mind. Israel allowed godlessness to dominate their minds, and therefore dominate their actions. Now God is calling His people to repent”. Repentance means to RENOUNCE what God declares is evil, to RENEW our minds by reading and feeding on His Word, and to RESIST the evil (James 4:7). Out of repentance the people now approach God and do two things. They

  • make a sure covenant. These are the Hebrew words אֲמָנָה ʼămânâh, {pronounced am-aw-naw’} כָּרַת kârath, {pronounced kaw-rath’} which mean cut a covenant. In the ancient world covenants were NOT MADE, but were CUT. Animals without spot or blemish were sacrificed to God. Why? When God made a Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-10) He had Abraham “cut” the sacrificed animals into pieces (except for the birds), and then God walked between the cut pieces. To “cut a covenant” is a sacred thing. Nehemiah and the leaders of the nation were committing themselves and those who would follow to honor and obedience to God.
  • and write it. 84 people sign this document. God didn’t need to see the written document. God sees what we do, and remembers what we say and do. This written “contract” or perhaps a better word would be “Constitution”, give a physical record for the people to keep and refer to in future generations. It has been fashionable of late to poo poo the idea that America was founded on Christian principles. Gregory Elder, a professor of history and humanities at Moreno Valley College writes:

    “Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration, the great majority, perhaps all, identified themselves as Christians, and all but one were Protestants. Four were either present or former ministers, and a number of the signers were the sons of clergy. At least half of them had studied “divinity” at their various universities. The denominations breakdown runs as follows: 32 of the signers, well over half, were Episcopalians, or Anglicans, the old state Church of England. There were 13 Congregationalists, 12 were Presbyterians. There were two Quakers, two Unitarians, and one Roman Catholic.”

The breakdown of the Leaders who signed the Covenant were:

Nehemiah 10:1-8 Nehemiah the Governor and the Priests signed the Covenant
Nehemiah 10:9-13 The Levites signed the Covenant
Nehemiah 10:14-27 The Civic Leaders signed the Covenant

The repentance of the nation meant nothing unless
the leadership of that nation repented.

The Bible repeatedly shows us that – when the leadership is corrupt – the nation will follow that corruption. The Bible says, Where there is no guidance, a people falls. But in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Throughout the Old Testament we see instances where the leadership moved toward idolatry – and it wasn’t long before the people followed suit. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Where the head goes, the body goes. When the leadership of a nation, a state, a community, a church, a company, or a family drift away from God, it isn’t long before the crowd follows. Before God established a human king in Israel, we read:

Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. When there is no leadership, people will do what is right in their own eyes. And guess what? Without Godly leadership, the nation will falter and fall. This is what happened to Israel. This is what led to Israel’s conquering, exile, the destruction of the Temple, and the destruction of the Holy City Jerusalem. Where people are not directed by Godly leadership, the nation falters. We must pray for our leaders, pray for our Presidents, Governors, and Pastors. We need to pray for our political parties and their leadership. This is imperative for the stability of the nation.

Notice that Nehemiah and the priests were the first to sign the Covenant with God. Nehemiah was the acting ruler of Jerusalem, the Governor appointed by King Xerxes. He took the lead – and God’s priests followed. Next the Levites, those who assisted in the operation of the Temple, signed the Covenant. Finally the Civic Leaders – the Commissioners, the Aldermen, the Mayors, the various political entities that led the people signed the Covenant.

This was a written Covenant with God Himself!

Once the various leaders of Israel “cut a covenant” with God, the remainder of the people made an affirmation to follow God. We read:

The People Choose To Follow Their Leaders

Nehemiah 10:28-29 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; 29 They cleave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into 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 judgments and his statutes

An interesting phrase says the people entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law. The people were recognizing that – when they followed God – they would be blessed. BUT if they rejected following God, they would be cursed. God expects His people to follow Him. Throughout the New Testament we find that blessing only comes by following the Spirit of God. Before we were saved, we walked following the spirit of this world:

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you hath {God made alive}, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the {ways} of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our {way of life} in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

This is where we WERE, before we met the Lord Jesus and were born again of the Spirit. Once saved, we are called – not to walk in darkness – but to walk in the light of God with Jesus. Hear the Scripture:

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16 Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

When you walk through this life arm in arm with God our Savior, you will have a blessed life. This does not mean you won’t be tried. Jesus was tried. But it does mean that you will victoriously overcome every trial that comes your way, for God is greater than anything that might come against us. The Scripture says:

Proverbs 14:34 (ESV) Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Israel now gets very specific on how they will follow God. We read:

Nehemiah 10:30 And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, not take their daughters for our sons:

  1. Israel would not allow an unequal yoke within the families of the nation. This does not refer to racial exclusion, but to religious exclusion. When God called His people from Egypt, He warned them:

Exodus 34:12-16 (ESV) Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

One of the major reasons Israel kept wandering away from God is because they made intimate covenants – in marriage and in business – with unbelievers who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Nehemiah discovered this when he came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah was quite vocal – and physical! We read:

Nehemiah 13:23-28 (ESV) In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” 28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me.

When you enter into an intimate relationship with an unbeliever, it will not be long before that unbeliever drags you down to his or her level. We are told in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Children of God should be very careful as to whom the “hook up” with. This also applies to secular activities, like television, movies, and plays. The devil uses the visual media to effect our thought patterns, leading us away from what God has said is “righteous” and into something dark.

Marriage is a contract with God as the Witness. Your wife “is your companion, and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14)

When I do a wedding, before I go through the ceremony I ask both parties to come and speak with me in “premarital counseling”. If one of the parties is an apparent believer, but the other an apparent unbeliever, I refuse to do the ceremony, and encourage them to go to the courthouse and have a judge do it. Believer and unbeliever should never be yoked together in marriage, nor in business. Israel suffered from evil kings because many of these men married evil and godless women. And yes, this goes both ways! How many times have I heard good Christian women tell me they wanted to marry a godless man because they believed “I can change him”. Beloved, only God can change a person. Be not unequally yoked!

Nehemiah 10:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.

Under the Old Testament law, Israel was not to buy or sell anything on the Sabbath. God wanted Israel to have one day a week focus on worshiping God and not money.

  1. Israel would honor God first in their business practices. God calls on His people to love Him first. When Jesus was asked:

Matthew 22:36-37 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

God was to be first. God is always to be first. God wants our ALL. Prior to the coming of Christ, Israel had a seventh day Sabbath – a day of rest – where they celebrated and cherished God. The Jewish Synagogues met on the Sabbath (see Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Luke 13:10–16; Acts 13:14, 27, 42–44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). When Jesus Christ came of God, He was crucified and rose again on the first day of the week or Sunday. Christian studied the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), but

In honor of Jesus (Who rose from the grave on the first day of the week) we Christians meet on Sunday to worship the Lord.
(see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Matthew 28:1)

God demanded that Israel further celebrate a seventh year Sabbath, as well as special Sabbaths that occurred prior to certain Feasts or Festivals. God incorporated these days into the life of Israel so that they would take a break from business, rest, and meditate on Him. Because Israel refused to keep the Sabbatical Year for 490 years, God had them exiled from the land for 70 years. Nehemiah also adds the words and the exaction of every debt..

Though we are New Testament believers, it is still important for us to take one day in seven to rest and rely on the Lord. The Manufacturer of the human body has highly recommended we not overwork ourselves – but to take one day in seven to rest and rely on Him.

Nehemiah 10:32-33 Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; 33 For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

  1. Israel would also support the Temple by giving a special offering once a year. God specified that this third of a shekel would be for certain priestly services and supplies. Then the people cast lots:

Nehemiah 10:34 And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:

to see who would be responsible for bringing wood into the Temple for burn offerings as the Law required. The Temple was not to be neglected by the people. Also, the people agreed to bring in the first fruits of the harvest unto God.

Nehemiah 10:35-37 And to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord: 36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: 37 And that we should bring the first fruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.

The Israelis showed their love for God by not giving Him the leftover, but giving Him the first fruits or the first harvest. This was not a new requirement. God told His people:

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Our Lord Jesus tells us today to:

Matthew 6:31-34 (ESV) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

When we make God first in our lives, He will make us blessed in our lives. My Commentary notes:

Simply said, the Bible says we need to be givers. Not so much for the sake of those we give to, but because giving sets our heart right about material things. God Himself is the greatest giver. … The New Testament speaks with great clarity on the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely and cheerfully given (2 Corinthians 9).”

I have said before that you cannot out give God. Put God first in your life and in your hearts, and see if this isn’t true.

Nehemiah 10:38-39 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. 39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.

We are told that the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes. We learn from Deuteronomy 14:22-29 that:

  • People took a tithe to the sanctuary for 2 years
  • The third year the tithe was paid locally to help the poor Israeli
  • Every seven years the field were unworked, so no tithe was gathered.

Those who have been saved by the Grace of God should also be gracious and loving to others. 1st John 3:14 states:

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

The Scripture tells us:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Like recovering Israel, we are to live our lives so as to please our God. God calls His people to have a different type of love from what the secular world has. We have a different Source (our Savior, not our selves), a different sustaining power (God the Holy Spirit) and a different goal (not self satisfaction, but God’s satisfaction). May God bless us as we put Him first in our daily lives. Amen and Amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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