Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (13:10-14)

Flashback to the Israel’s covenant they made in chapter 10:

  • WE WILL NOT give our daughters to godless, foreigners as wives or take their daughters for our sons.
  • WE WILL NOT do business on the Sabbath or Holy Days.
  • WE WILL let the land rest and cancel all debts every seven years.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to pay the temple tax.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to bring the firstborn and firstfruits of everything to the temple.
  • WE WILL NOT neglect the house of our God.

Unfortunately what we see in chapter 13, is what I often see in my own heart–a complete turnaround from their commitments.  Oh, it is subtle!  Last week, my son and I challenged each other that he couldn’t go a whole week without video games and I couldn’t go a whole week without sweets.  Guess who lost?  Me!  A little craving here, a little sneaky treat there, and boom I was right back to my habits.

The people had committed to giving tithes, taxes and offerings to support the work of the temple and to provide for the workers of the temple.  They promised  not to  neglect the house of the Lord.  But what Nehemiah found upon his return was a forsaken temple and God’s workers forced to return to farming.  God’s house was empty–no one there to sing, teach, make sacrifices, put out the bread, burn incense, light the oil, or bring in the wood for the altar fire.  No wonder there was room for an apartment for Tobiah the enemy Ammonite!

Based on verse 10, the workers were fulfilling their responsibilities, but the people were not.  Interestingly, Nehemiah didn’t call the people into account, but the leaders.  It was their responsibility to make sure the temple workers were adequately provided for, and they neglected that role.  If the leaders did their job, the people’s actions would soon follow.  And that is exactly what happened.  The people were quick to change and restore their commitment to their promises.  Revival starts in leadership!

It is interesting to note that in the chronological Bible, the teachings of Malachi happened during Nehemiah’s absence prior to this confrontation.  In Malachi 3:8-10 the Lord says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until THERE IS NO MORE NEED.”

NO MORE NEED VS. I NEED MORE.  What keeps people from following through with their commitments especially when they involve money, resources, food, etc…? Often it is the thought, “I need it more!”  Give generously and joyfully, and God will supply your need!

Are there any ways I am neglecting my responsibilities to God’s church?  Is my soul–God’s temple now–empty because I have neglected it spiritually?  Have I forced godly things and work out in order to provide for myself or meet my own needs?  Is there any way that I have made what I want more valuable than what God wants for me?  Am I neglecting His work because of my own selfishness?  In Nehemiah 13:10, he asked “Why is the house of God forsaken?”  If my soul is found forsaken, neglected, void of His presence, why???

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 12:44-47)

The role of priest was all-consuming.  They served and ministered day and night.  The people depended on them for so much.  In God’s perfect wisdom, He provided a way for their financial and physical needs to be met.  Out of the tithes and offerings of the people they ministered to, a portion was given to each who served.

The people did not give out of obligation, but out of joy.  This, I’m sure, encouraged the hearts of their ministers.

“For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work!”

Think about your pastors.  Do you take joy in their work?  Do you find giving joyful, knowing a portion will meet your pastors’ families’ needs?  God is using your generosity to care for His servants!

Going a little deeper:  What was the work that the priests did that the people took joy in?  The “ministry of purification.”  Their job was to help the people maintain purity before their God.  We have ministers who serve in small ways in that capacity, but we have Someone even better.  We have a great High Priest named Jesus! Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore, He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” In 9:13-14 it says, “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. JUST THINK HOW MUCH MORE THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL PURIFY OUR CONSCIENCES FROM SINFUL DEEDS SO THAT WE CAN WORSHIP THE LIVING GOD.”  And finally, in Hebrews 10:21-22 it promises, “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

Do you rejoice over the work of your great High Priest-Jesus?  Are you thankful that because He shed His own blood as a sacrifice for your sins and is ministering day and night on your behalf, that you are pure before the Father and can confidently worship in His presence?

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