“The On-Going Fight” // Nehemiah 10:28-39
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Senior Pastor Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday February 27, 2022 at our West U Baptist Church Campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.
The stories of champions’ ruin, are all too common. Some squander their wealth. Others get caught up in abusing drugs and alcohol. Others end up in prison or dead. The fighters they were in the ring didn’t carry over into other areas of their lives. Once victors and heroes, their on-going stories are filled with shame, loss and regret. This is all too common in our lives as well. What was once strong, established and to be honored, dies down and flames out. We need a renewing of our hearts for the on-going fight before us.
Once the wall of the city of Jerusalem is built, it is a new day in Jerusalem. The gates are restored and there is a celebration. We saw this last week. But all too often in our lives, we get to the place of victory and we let our guard down.
I know that in my struggle with my weight, I will get to a “goal weight” and I will stop the practices that have yielded the fruit. And what happens is that I go right back to the where I was before I instituted the reforms.
Here is what I want you to hear today, and here is what we are going to see. After the victory is won, there is still an on-going price to pay for ourselves, our homes, our church and our city. And what you are going to see is how central God’s house will be for these fights.
Let me show you the context of what we will study today.
After the celebration that we looked at last week, we see the celebration of the “Feast of Booths.” This was an annual feast (of which there were three) where Jewish males had to come to Jerusalem and make sacrifices. It says in Nehemiah 8:18 of this feast…
And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.
Ezra, the scribe, is reading from the law. And as he reads from the Law, the people make a new pledge or covenant with God. It’s a covenant in writing and on it’s seal are the names of all of the leaders, beginning with Nehemiah. Now, let’s look at Nehemiah 10:28-39.
“The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law. 35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. 38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”
I want to take a minute and show you the four fights in this passage. I want you to see how they pledge to “fight for themselves, their homes, the church (what is called the House of God or House of the Lord) and their city.”
Notice these words.
First, look at the fight for themselves.
I. The First Fight of the On-Going Fight – The Fight For Yourself
“The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God…
This solemn assembly on the last day of the Feast of Booths comes after a week of feasting and celebration. Offerings have been made. God has been worshipped.
Now, there is a sense of renewal and revival amongst the people. They are renewed to serve God and it is here that they pledge to “separate themselves.”
The “Separate Life” is the “Holy Life.” It is the “Life set apart unto the Lord.” They separated themselves from the peoples of the land and “unto the Law of God.” This is so important…we come out from the world and set ourselves apart unto the Lord.
You see, all throughout Scripture, we are admonished to live a “Separate Life,” offering ourselves to God. In Deuteronomy 7 we see these words:
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
The word “holy” here means “Set Apart.” So, they were set apart unto the Lord. And it was when they lost sight of this, they began to get into trouble.
And that’s a relevant message for us today as well, isn’t it? When we lose sight of the fact that we have been “set apart” unto God, we then compromise in so many different ways. We compromise at home, and how we view the importance of the church, and what we see our role is in our city.
Notice Paul’s instruction to us as individuals in Romans 12.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
When we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are saying…
“God, I am setting myself apart unto you.”
Therefore, we will resist conformity to the world. That’s the first fight…the fight for ourselves. These here, at this solemn assembly had separated themselves.
Let’s look at the second fight of the on-going fight.
II. The Second Fight of the On-Going Fight – The Fight for Our Homes
Notice the fight for their homes. They are gathered in this assembly after a week of celebrating God’s goodness, faithfulness, and provision…and notice what they declare.
We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.
Let me ask you a question. Why is who we marry in a marriage covenant so important? Why does who we marry matter?
Why can’t we just pick the person we are most attracted to…have the most fun with…have the best chemistry with?
Why does the Scripture challenge us in the Old and New Testament on who we give our children to in marriage?
The answer is quite simple. It’s easier to pull someone down than it is to pull someone up.
God’s wisdom tell us to be equally yoked in marriage. We talked about this in week three of our video series – It was the first of the core values of Marital Bliss. Do you remember the letter B in bliss? It says, “What you believe about marriage matters.”
There, in that teaching, Julee and I discussed how significant it is to be equally yoked in marriage. It’s the first step toward bliss. But beyond Bliss, there is a warning involved.
When we, as believers in Jesus, give ourselves in covenant marriage to someone who is not a believer in Jesus, we will be pulled away from our first-love, our Lord Jesus. Rarely is it the other way around. It happens some, and I would never limit God. But the truth is, we will more easily be pulled down to no longer love the Lord, and to love the world, than we will be lifting them up to love the Lord.
If you look at Deuteronomy 7, you see this instruction to Israel.
You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
You see, this goes back to Jesus being our first-love. When I am in love with the Lord, as first and as pre-eminent… guess what? I am more equipped and capable of loving my wife. I am allowing God to have his way in me. I am allowing Him to reform me and conform me…so I better love and serve Julee and my family.
But when we enter covenant with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus, we are saying, “Jesus, I love them more than I love you. I’m asking you to decrease in my life so that they can increase.”
And when we order our homes this way, we miss out on THE MARITAL BLISS and the BLESSING that Jesus has for us.
I have had young men come to me for counsel about “this girl.” And as they explain it, they are basically asking me to “bless their choice.” And I’ll look at them and say, “Hey man, you are choosing that girl over Jesus…you realize that, don’t you?…I can’t bless that.”
And sometimes they will sever that relationship…but most of the time, they will just fade away, and I won’t see them anymore.
When you launch out on a course for your homes that has a foundation in disobedience, don’t be surprised when you have left the church…have left the foundation of your faith…and the foundation of your life is built on the sand versus a strong foundation.
Jesus said these words in Matthew 7 as He concluded his Sermon on the Mount.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
What foundation is your home being built upon?
Let’s jump to the fourth fight…the fight for the city.
III. The Fourth Fight of the On-Going Fight – The Fight for the City
Alan Platt, in his book, City Changers says:
“True community transformation will not succeed if all we do is add programs to our existing paradigm…Much if the church’s engagement in the community in the past has focused on benevolence, not really on transformation. By transformation, we mean shifting the needle in the spiritual, social, and cultural dimensions of our cities. Transformation will not happen unless we harness the collective capacity of the kingdom in the regions we serve.”
Now, let’s get back to Nehemiah 10 for a moment. Notice something with me.
Look at Nehemiah 10:31.
And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
This is a pledge to keep the Sabbath holy unto God, to allow the land to have a Sabbath, and to honor their neighbor who has gotten into debt.
- By keeping the Sabbath holy, they aren’t going to engage in commerce. In other words, the day that is set apart unto the Lord wasn’t to be shaped into any other business day.
- They were to give the land a sabbath rest…this would ensure the rejuvenation of the soil which would help their food production.
- They were to forgive debt every seven years. They are to keep relationship with their neighbor as a higher priority than their financial gain.
This would be good for their city.
But notice something with me. Nehemiah returns to Babylon. He leaves the city in charge to others. He is gone for awhile and then returns. And look at what he finds when he returns.
In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. 16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! 17 Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
When Nehemiah confronts them, he is saying, “Do you really want to undo all that we have just done? Do you really want to invoke the curses of the covenant?”
If you go back all the way to Nehemiah 1 and you study his prayer, as we have looked at, you see that Nehemiah knew that the reason they were in Babylonian captivity was because they had sinned. They had violated God’s conditional covenant with them and they were in captivity because they deserved to be.
Now that he has confessed the sins and believe God for restoring the city and gathering the people from their captivity, he is livid that they would go right back to the same practices that led to this captivity in the first place.
It’s like me and my weight-loss. The real fight is the on-going fight. Getting it off is one thing…keeping it off is another.
But our tendency is to go back to the practices that got us into captivity in the first place. And we have to fight to keep the reform in place that we need.
Which leads me to the significance of God’s House in our lives. It’s the third fight, as have examined these four fights. And as I stated earlier, what you are going to see is how central God’s house will be for these fights.
IV. The Third Fight of the On-Going Fight – The Fight for the Church
I want you to see this. This is so rich and so good. If you read Nehemiah 10, from verse 32-29, you see the abundant weight of this covenant promise they are making to God is for their giving to the temple.
Notice just the first few words of a number of these verses here, lest we get bogged down.
“We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God…
We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God,
We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord;
also to bring to the house of our God…
and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions…
For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers… We will not neglect the house of our God.”
You can’t mistake how SIGNIFICANT God’s house is. It’s not just something else in the schedule of those who live set apart lives.
And we can’t treat it as such. We must prioritize it!
- We must see that at God’s house we are challenged to live godly, upright and set apart lives.
- We must see that at God’s House we are constantly preaching the gospel of Jesus so that people can be saved.
- We must see that at God’s house we are called up to be a people of worship, where Christ is exalted over all else in us.
- We must see at God’s house that we are to marry and have children in light of God’s plan.
- We must see at God’s house this call to be a disciple…a follower who is all-in, who see the mission of God to take the gospel to our family, our neighbors, our community, our city and world.
It’s in God’s house that we are GATHERED TOGETHER, BUILT UP, and SENT OUT.
We must have an attitude of heart and mind that says, “WE WILL NOT NEGLECT THE HOUSE OF OUR GOD!”