Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/25/15 Sermon - Learning by Others' Mistakes

“Learning by Others Mistakes, Part 2”

Nehemiah 9:20-38

 

Last week we read through the first half of Nehemiah 9 and discovered after following God’s Word and celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacles, which was the holiday set apart for rejoicing over how God had brought their ancestors out of Egypt and how God provided for them, the Israelites were now dressed in sackcloth, with dust on their heads and fasting.

They truly understood that not only had their forefathers made poor choices and sinned against God, they too had been making poor choices and had sinned against God.

This generation living with Nehemiah recognized that even though their ancestors had sinned, God was a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

It was like they were hearing this story for the first time.

God had just taking them through a 52 day journey of re-building the wall of Jerusalem, against all odds, they completed it and physically they were safer.

Now, spiritually, they were gaining safety. This certainly was not the first time they had been told the story of their ancestors being brought out of Egypt. But, up to this time, the story had been told by their ancestors and had most likely focused on their ancestors. This time, they were being told the story, straight from God’s Word, and their ears heard the story from a different perspective. This time they heard that their forefathers grumbled and complained and they went so far as to make a molded calf and worshipped it, yet God still did not forsake them. He sustained them and provided for them.

There is not much new under the sun. I suspect each of us sitting here today, can think of someone we know, that has heard the story of Jesus, and of His redemption, and yet has molded another god in which they worship. If we are honest, that someone could even be ourselves.

Today’s idols aren’t molded calves but rather jobs, money, prestige, or it could be an addiction that has become the god. Anything that has more control over us than the Holy Spirit, is an idol. And somehow God keeps providing. It may seem like God is holding back his judgment and they are not getting what they deserve. If so, I would like to remind you, the generation that was provided for as they spent 40 years wandering the desert, all but two of them, died without stepping foot into the promise land. Their disobedience kept them from the entering the promise land, but their children and grandchildren were able to enter. Those listening to the story from God’s Word, while in Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Ezra, I suspect caught on to the fact that their ancestors had chosen to disobey God and there were negative consequences for doing so. Yet they were sitting in the Promised Land, listening to the story. And they realized the proper way to be in the Promised Land was with dusty heads and itchy cloth around them. They had been blind, but now they were beginning to see.

As we read further in verses 22-31 the pattern the Israelites are beginning to see is one of God showing His goodness to His people His people turning from Him.

God then delivers them into the hands of their enemies, and in their trouble, they cry out to the LORD and God again, delivers them.

As a result, God’s people turn back to him, but after things start getting better and they have a rest, the cycle begins again, God’s people again turn from Him.

God again allows them to live with their choices and things turn from bad to worse, which results in God’s people crying again for help.  

Do you get the sense that these people just aren’t going to learn?

Unfortunately the people keep returning to their sin but fortunately God doesn’t change.  He is gracious and merciful.

Are you catching on?

Those listening to Ezra and the leaders read God’s Word are catching on. They are beginning to comprehend God’s Great Mercy.

They realize the characteristics of God have nothing to do with their actions.

What a wonderful reminder for us. God is gracious and merciful, regardless of what you and I do. I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I have wondered, God, why aren’t you tired of me, I keep messing up with the same problem, over and over again. And yet, God never gets tired of us and never turns away a repentant heart, no matter how many times it repents.

As humans, we get exhausted. We are easily frustrated. So if someone keeps sinning and it affects us, we eventually give up.

For some reason, we think God is like we are.

He is not.

The characteristics of God, remain the same, regardless of what we do, and two of God’s characteristics are graciousness and mercy.

And whenever one of his children request either grace or mercy, God gives them, no matter how many times we ask.

The Israelites listening to God’s Word, as Nehemiah records in his journal, have recognized their sin and disobedience and that the circumstances they find themselves in, as a province of the Empire of Persia, and having to live under the heavy Persian taxes and obligations, was a result of their rebellion and their wickedness. They recognized that they needed God to do the work of saving them from their enemies. They, once again, as a nation asked God to deliver them from their oppression. At this point, they are doing so, from a contrite heart.

This is what confession is all about. They recognized that God was right and they were wrong. They had heard how God had graciously and with mercy given forgiveness to their ancestors and they were trusting Him to do so for them.

Psalm 34:18 says,

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

And we have in Psalm 51, the words of David after being confronted by the Prophet Nathan and acknowledging his sinful actions with Bethsheba, and her husband, For You (he’s talking to God) do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Can we be like those Israelites dressed in sackcloth, with dusty heads, and honestly look up into the face of God and say,

“Yes, LORD, you are right and I am wrong”?

When will we stop arguing with God, or trying to make a deal with Him. When will we accept the fact that there are some consequences we are living through that are a result of our poor choices and we deserve the situation we are in.

It is at the point when we can honestly admit, that God is right and we are wrong, that conversion begins. It is my hope that everyone in this room has come to this point at one time with God. That you have come to your knees and asked for forgiveness for your sins, have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as a payment for your sins and have entered the family of God.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that forgiveness for sins is a one time, done deal, forever.

The example of the nation of Israel shows us that is not true. We are human, and just like our forefathers before us, we will continue to sin, until the day we are taken home to live with the Father for eternity. Until then, the cycle exists. Sure, you may receive deliverance from one sin, only to discover down the road, there is another sin to deal with. That is where the consistency of God’s graciousness and mercy become a blessing.

When we find ourselves in a mess, we have a redeemer.

A redeemer that never changes.

That is ready with open arms to receive us, love us, and take us back, no matter what.

Salvation brings us into the family but it doesn’t keep us from being human.

This brings us to the final verse in this chapter, verse 38, And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.

Israel came to the place where after coming to the realization of who God was and who they were they decided to make a covenant with God, they even decided to write it down. And this covenant was to commit themselves to God’s ways.

 

This covenant was a means to express their renewal of obedience. By writing it down, there was a record they could return to when they needed to be reminded and they could also pass it to down to their descendants.

In case you haven’t noticed, Nehemiah has not only assisted in securing the wall around the city of Jerusalem, he has instigated a revival. And revival has four sure signs:

1st – Brokenness of heart

2nd – Reflection on God’s goodness

3rd – Recognition of our sinfulness

4th – A conscious decision to commit to God’s way

 

Is there a place in your life that could use a revival? As we have been studying Nehemiah has God been revealing a place in your life that needs to be addressed?

Are there circumstance in your life that result in negative outcomes?

We can join the Israelites and learn from others mistakes. If we are willing to participate in the four steps of revival, we can begin today to shape our future in the manner God desires.

1st - it will take a broken heart. The place where you recognize your role in the mess you are in, and your need to rely on God for his grace and mercy.

2nd - there needs to be a time of reflection. This isn’t a ten minute ordeal, but an honest amount of time and energy. As much time and energy needs to be given to reflection that was given to getting you in the place you find yourself today. The reflection is focused on God’s goodness. It requires reading God’s Word and praying for understanding and trusting in who God says He is.

Once you have reflected on who God is, step 3, becomes easier, you need to recognize your sinful part in it all and repent. Remember that God is a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

And then finally, 4th make a conscious decision to commit to God’s way, make a stand to do what God wants, and against the other things that have been getting in the way of doing God’s will.

We decide that with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The same power that raised Jesus from the grave, is available to raise us up from where ever we find ourselves. The way out has to do with God’s power, not ours. I suspect, if we are in a mess, and we could get out of it on our own, we would. When we can’t, we need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Writing it down isn’t that bad of an idea. Once it is articulated and written down, you will be able to read it daily and prayerfully bring it to the God and share it with others for support and encouragement.

All this being said, I recognize there may only be four steps, but each step requires emotional energy and commitment and they are not necessarily easy.

They are however, worth doing.

Because as we will read in the following chapters of Nehemiah, blessings come to those who follow the LORD.

May we seek God’s blessings.

 

Let’s pray.