Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/1/15 - Sermon - We Will

“We Will”

Nehemiah 10:28-39

 

We are getting towards the end of our study of the Book of Nehemiah. I thought I would take some time this morning to reflect on what we have learned from the reading and studying of God’s Word thus far.

The book is actually Nehemiah’s journal of how God used him to further God’s Kingdom, here on earth. Nehemiah, was an ordinary man, with a unique story but not anything earth shattering. He was born a Jew. At the time he was alive, 98% of the Jewish nation was still living in exile, mostly in Persia, who at the time had control over the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had been born in exile and at the time of his returning to the city of Jerusalem, the Jews had experienced 70 years of captivity among the Persians. The prophet Ezra had recently returned with 2% of the Jewish people who were willing to live in a desolate city, with no walls, but with a history of being God’s chosen people.

At the beginning of the book, we found Nehemiah as a servant to the King of Persia, a fairly well off servant, he happened to be the cupbearer to the King himself. However, decadent his position may have seemed, were someone to attempt to take the king’s life, via poison, Nehemiah would have died first. You could say he took his life into his own hands, every time he took a drink of wine or tasted a meal. However, we get the sense that Nehemiah was faithful at his position because the king noticed when Nehemiah’s countenance had changed for the worse and asked him about it.

Nehemiah had received word from his brother, who had recently taken a visit to the city of Jerusalem, that although those living there were doing okay, the city walls were a shambles and the threat of being robbed, hurt or captured were a daily stress for those trying to make a go of it in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah became heartsick. So heartsick, that his face revealed his emotions and the King of Persia, and his wife, Esther, noticed. After finding out the concern, Nehemiah was allowed a leave of absence from his job, he was given materials to build the walls and an army to escort him to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah arrived and as soon as he revealed the plan God had shown him, he received opposition. The opposition continued throughout the entire building project. Yet, Nehemiah did not focus on the opposition or the struggles. He kept his eyes on the promise he had been given, by the God he trusted, to complete the restoration of the city of Jerusalem.

As we continued reading in the book of Nehemiah, we discovered the wall was completed in 52 days, by chapter 6, less than half way through the book. Which brings us to the real purpose for Nehemiah coming to Jerusalem, sure he came to rebuild the wall, but that was the visible manifestation of the inward restoration of the Jewish nation. Before the Jews could even begin to hear God’s word, God knew they needed to be living in a safe place. Their physical safety and physical needs had to be assured of, before they were even able to comprehend God’s Word and then act on it.

Not much has changed in that regard today. The Homeless Prevention Coalition which began the Open Door Café and seeks to prevent homelessness in our area, comprehends this order of events.

We realize that if someone is hungry, someone is in need of safety, doesn’t have a warm, dry and safe place to lay their heads at night, cannot be expected to listen and understand God’s Word. You see, God knows that as humans, we need some basic needs met first, before we are able to grow in understanding and response to His Word.

Once the walls were complete, the people asked to be read from the Word of God, they had found in the temple. It was the reading and hearing of God’s Word, that moved their hearts and gave them the conviction to follow what they had heard. Their eyes were opened to who God really was, and to what they were really like. Their hearts were changed and they desired to express these changes in their hearts with outward signs. They wanted to show that not only had the wall of Jerusalem brought security, their new found understanding of God’s love and grace and mercy for them brought about an even better security. They decided to write out a covenant, an outward commitment to their inward change.

So the Jewish people confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They came to God with a contrite heart and sought His forgiveness. At the end of chapter 9 the Israelites came to a place that the best way to demonstrate their changed hearts was to make a covenant with God. The word covenant literally means to cut. In the ancient world, covenants were not made, but they were cut because a covenant at that time almost always involved the sacrifice of an animal. There was always a cost involved in the making of a covenant. This Jewish nation knew what covenants were all about. They were the result of a covenant God had made with Abraham, and with Moses.

Chapter 10 began with the 84 leaders who sealed the covenant. If you are interested you can go home and read their names. Although only 84 sealed the covenant, the rest of the people, everyone who had knowledge and understanding, were also part of this covenant. They even went so far as to say that they would accept a curse if they were not following the covenant. They understood that the curse would remind them of the covenant and bring them back to following the covenant again.

Today we may something like, “Whatever it takes God, I want to follow you.”

The sealing of the 84 leaders also demonstrated this covenant was a public event. Sure, the covenant was individually between each of them and God, but we read their wives, sons and daughters were also present and agreeing to this covenant and this offered accountability.

The Israelites had three areas they were covenanting to do:

First, they stated: We will be faithful to God when it comes to our relationships.

Especially the romantic relationships which would develop into families and provide a protection from other religious influences that would lead them astray.

Second, they stated: We will be faithful to God in doing business.

They wanted their focus to be on following God and His example, not on making money. So this decision focused on the keeping of the Sabbath and not trying to make money on a day they were to be focusing on and worshipping God.

Third, they stated: We will be faithful to God, when it comes to supporting God’s work.

This manifested itself in committing to the tithe God had mandated. By giving to the Levites and the church their first fruits and their first cattle and herds, God’s leaders did not have to work in the field, they were able to work for God. This meant the spiritual needs of the people would be addressed on a continual basis because the spiritual leaders would be taken care of and had time to focus on serving the people.

The idea of covenant is presented today in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. God made a covenant with King David, that the Messiah would come from his family. And we live today with the answer to that covenant, known as the New Covenant, instituted by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his life to offer us eternal life.

For us today, God paid the ultimate cost, in the covenant of salvation, which was the death of his one and only Son. When we enter into that covenant with God and seek salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, it costs us something too. We are told in Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?…

So today as we prepare for the taking of the Lord’s Supper I am going to challenge you to consider making a covenant with God. Taking the word picture of the meaning of covenant, to cut, perhaps there is something in your life that you need “to cut” out of your life and replace with God’s plan. What things in your life is God asking you to state, “I Will” to?

Today’s Scripture gave us three thoughts to consider.

Will you commit to be faithful to God in your relationships?

Will you commit to be faithful to God in your finances?

Will you commit to be faithful to God in supporting God’s work?

There are a myriad of things for us to offer back to God. I encourage you to come up with your own

“I will commit to be faithful to God”          statement.

Perhaps there is an area in your life that God has been revealing to you that needs to be handed over to Him so He can heal you and take away your burden.

The covenant is between you and God. Should you choose to make it public, will offer you accountability.

Let’s pray as we begin the Lord’s Supper.