Faithlife Sermons

A Change of Heart

The Story Before  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 5 views
Notes
Transcript
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

Introduction

I want to welcome you again this morning - its exciting to gather together this morning and worship God as a church family. If you haven’t been with us the last several weeks, we want to let you know that we are doing an overview of the Old Testament in 10 weeks. We’ve done our best to pick highlights from the Old Testament to give you a picture of its overarching story. And as we do that, we see time and time again that people struggle to remain true to God - to serve Him and serve Him only - even though He’s good, and forgiving, and overlooks a number of faults. And so in the last several weeks we
discussed Moses and how God used him to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt, yet the people still struggled to trust God
talked through how Israel was led by judges, but then Israel wanted to be like the nations around them instead of following God’s plan and begged for a king, so they got a king to lead them instead of trusting in the leaders that God appointed and in doing so rejected God
And last week we talked through the prophets whose primary purpose was to remind the people who God is, the promises He had made, and what he had asked of His people Israel. And if you take time to read through the prophets, you begin to realize that they spend a lot of time reminding the people that they need to turn back to God. There’s a reason for that - they continually turn away from God!
What comes after the prophets continually reminding Israel that they need to turn to God is the Exile, in which God allows a foreign country to come in and conqueror the people of Israel and many of them are taken from their homeland to a strange place far away. And this takeover happens in phases because a lot happens to the nation of Israel - there’s some infighting and some things happen that cause the nation to split into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. Eventually, both north and south are defeated and the people are taken far away. If you remember that’s when Daniel occurs - who we studied together in-depth last year. And so the people of Israel had been conquered and taken to a foreign land.
But, it wasn’t without hope. God had promised that the people would not be forsaken but would one day return from Exile. So we find ourselves at the end of the Exile and there are kings who have become sympathetic to the situation of the Jews - these Jews who had been taken from their homeland - and those kings begin letting the Jews return home.
That is where we are as we look at Nehemiah - the end of the Exile. Nehemiah is considered to be a part of the third wave of Exilic Jews returning home - and we have a lot to learn from Nehemiah. What we are going to see in the overarching story of Nehemiah, however, is this:
“Things can look good on the outside, but lasting change starts with the heart - so we need to come to the God Who changes hearts.”
But before we dive in, let’s pray.

Rebuilding of the Wall (Chapters 1-7)

So Nehemiah is a guy that is working as a cupbearer for the king when one of his brothers who was in Judah comes back with this report:
Nehemiah 1:3 ESV
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
Nehemiah 1:3 ESV
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
And in response to this Nehemiah mourns and weeps for days and he finds himself praying, asking God for help and openly confessing that Israel has sinned and that he has sinned, but he asks for mercy from God and that God would grant them mercy with the King. Nehemiah then says something that is a really a theological observation. Here’s what he says:
And in response to this Nehemiah mourns and weeps for days and he finds himself praying, asking God for help and openly confessing that Israel has sinned and that he has sinned, but he asks for mercy from God and that God would grant them mercy with the King. Nehemiah then says something that is a really a theological observation. Here’s what he says:
Nehemiah 2:1–2 ESV
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.
Nehemiah 2:1-2
Nehemiah 2:1–2 ESV
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.
“Now I had not been sad in his presence” is Nehemiah’s way of saying that God had heard his prayer and that God had put it in the heart of the king to ask Nehemiah what was wrong. One amazing thing about Nehemiah through this entire ordeal is he is constantly turning to God in prayer. You’ll be happy to know that after Nehemiah told the king about what had happened, the king granted his request, which was to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
“Now I had not been sad in his presence” is Nehemiah’s way of saying that God had heard his prayer and that God had put it in the heart of the king to ask Nehemiah what was wrong. One amazing thing about Nehemiah through this entire ordeal is he is constantly turning to God in prayer. You’ll be happy to know that after Nehemiah told the king about what had happened, the king granted his request, which was to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
Nehemiah 2:8 ESV
and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
Nehemiah 1:8 ESV
Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples,
Nehemiah 2:8 ESV
and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
As Nehemiah does this, we find out that there a group of people that oppose any kind of welfare for the Jewish people and they speak out against Nehemiah and the Jews, whether its the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem or any other kind of progress for the welfare of the people of Israel. Here’s a little taste of what they were saying:
As Nehemiah does this, we find out that there a group of people that oppose any kind of welfare for the Jewish people and they speak out against Nehemiah and the Jews, whether its the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem or any other kind of progress for the welfare of the people of Israel. Here’s a little taste of what they were saying:
Nehemiah 2:19–20 ESV
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 2:19 ESV
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
Nehemiah 2:19 ESV
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
Now let me ask you something: how would you respond to this kind of opposition? Here’s what Nehemiah said:
Now let me ask you something: how would you respond to this kind of opposition? Here’s what Nehemiah said:
Nehemiah 2:20 ESV
Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 2:20 ESV
Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
And you should know that they set out to build the wall and it was in a very organized manner. Nehemiah took meticulous records and what becomes clear as you read through chapter 3 of Nehemiah is that this guy was an amazing leader - in fact I’d say he was one of the first executive pastors. I’m serious - this guy knew how to organize people and inspire them to get things done. Chapter 3 names the people involved in the work of rebuilding the wall and their exact tasks. Each person who did work and the work they performed was important to Nehemiah. That’s the mark of a truly great leader. Through it all, they continue to experience opposition. Look what we read in chapter 4:
And you should know that they set out to build the wall and it was in a very organized manner. Nehemiah took meticulous records and what becomes clear as you read through chapter 3 of Nehemiah is that this guy was an amazing leader - in fact I’d say he was one of the first executive pastors. I’m serious - this guy knew how to organize people and inspire them to get things done. Chapter 3 names the people involved in the work of rebuilding the wall and their exact tasks. Each person who did work and the work they performed was important to Nehemiah. That’s the mark of a truly great leader. Through it all, they continue to experience opposition. Look what we read in chapter 4:
Nehemiah 4:6 ESV
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
Nehemiah 4:8 ESV
And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
, ,
Nehemiah 4:14 ESV
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Nehemiah 4:6 ESV
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
And here comes the opposition:
And here comes the opposition:
Neh. 4:8
Nehemiah 4:8 ESV
And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
Nehemiah 4:8 ESV
And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
But here is what Nehemiah has to say in the face of opposition, which is more than just words now…their lives are being threatened:
But here is what Nehemiah has to say in the face of opposition, which is more than just words now…their lives are being threatened:
Nehemiah 4:14 ESV
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Neh.
Nehemiah 4:14 ESV
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
That is Nehemiah’s constant reminder - God has got this. He will fight for us. Do not be afraid because He is with us.
That is Nehemiah’s constant reminder - God has got this. He will fight for us. Do not be afraid because He is with us.
You should also know that Nehemiah was a humble guy that did not care much about personal gain, but watched out for the poor. In his time in Jerusalem he challenged the wealthy people to watch out for those who were less fortunate and he even provided for the poor at great personal sacrifice.
In chapter 6 we learn of a plot to have Nehemiah killed. Its clear that the opposition are feeling very threatened now - this appears to be a last ditch effort to take out the leader before the wall is completed. So they start to make up rumors that might get him in trouble with the king and conspire to have him killed, but here is what Nehemiah says:
Nehemiah 6:9 ESV
For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Do you see how, at his core, Nehemiah was a man who constantly turned to God? He knew that He needed God to help him accomplish the task at hand. He stands in an amazing contrast to what we see happening time and time again with Israel who constantly turns away from God and goes their own way.
Finally, at the end of chapter 6 the wall is completed. And amazingly from here on out, we don’t hear anything else about the opposition except for this:
Nehemiah 6:16 ESV
And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
Neh. 6.
Even the surrounding nations, though they plotted to kill Nehemiah and the Jews, thought they hurled insults and discouragement their way, completed the task to which God had called them. In the end, God was glorified. Everyone recognized that Nehemiah came in the name of the one, true God and that it was with His help that He was able to accomplish his task.
At this point, the story shifts. Nehemiah provides us with a long list of Exiles that had returned from Babylon. Now, we tend to make fun of how we skip over these lists of names many times when we are reading. Be honest - you’ve skipped over plenty of genealogies in the Old Testament. But I want to just pause for a second and give you Nehemiah’s perspective on this list of names:
Nehemiah 7:5 ESV
Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:
For Nehemiah, counting every group and their numbers was very important. It was as if Nehemiah was saying this:
God fulfilled His promise in bringing us out of Exile and restoring us to our homeland. We survived and this is our number. God is faithful.
So far Nehemiah has done the following:
Assessed the damage
Rallied the people to repair the damage and restore Jerusalem to its former glory
Did all of this in the face of great opposition
Counted each person

The Spiritual Condition of the People (Chapters 8-12)

Now he turns his sights to the spiritual condition of his people, and in one of the most profound passages of Scripture, I think, his fellow leader Ezra brings Scripture before the gathering and begins to read it. Look what Nehemiah says:
Neh. 8.2-
Nehemiah 8:2–3 ESV
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
Neh. 8.5
Nehemiah 8:5–6 ESV
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:8 ESV
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Now, in our culture Scripture is something that is found everywhere. It is not difficult to get access to a bible - and let me say that if you do not own a bible but would like to have one, please let us know because we would like to give one to you - our gift. You can just note it on your connect card and we’ll make sure to get in touch with you to pick one out. But for many, it might not seem like a big deal that we have God’s Word at our finger tips.
Pick up Bible
But listen: this is a miracle. This is precious and life-changing. When you find God’s Word and you read His Word you find God Himself. You find our Creator and the One who saves us. You find the Lord of all things reaching down to us to show us who He is and who we are and offers the solution to our broken condition - and its Him! God Himself is the one that we find when we read His Word. Look at the reaction of the people to the reading of Scripture:
Nehemiah 8:9–12 ESV
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
Is the “joy of the Lord” your strength? Do you believe that, at His core, God is happy and rejoicing and that in Him we find joy? These people did in this moment. They came face to face with the Word of God and knew that to know God and to know His Word is to know Joy itself.
I want to share with you a very short video that is closer to our time - this video was shot around 30 years ago when it was illegal to sell bibles in China and so a person had to smuggle them in secretly…here’s how these Chinese believers react to getting their own bibles:
Play Video of Chinese Christians
And from here on in chapter 9 the Israelites go through a time of remembering their sin. This is a natural progression - when we come face-to-face with who God is, His holiness, righteousness, His justice, we also begin to realize just how sinful we are. So the Israelites saw it appropriate to confess their individual sins and their collective sin as a nation. They remember the times when they turned away from God and the results that came of it. But even though they had sinned time and again, here is what they observed about God:
Nehemiah 9:31 ESV
Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
And that passage goes on to acknowledge God’s mercy and faithfulness and the faithlessness of the Israelites. And they appeal to God’s ongoing mercy to deal with them according to God’s own character and not their own character. Likewise, we can be grateful everyday that God deals with us according to His own character and not to our own character.
From here, I guess the Israelites decide that they need to publicly recommit to adhering to the Law of God, so they create a written document that essentially reaffirms Israel’s commitment to the Law previously given by God. The spell out what they are going to do, sign it, and then they seal it. After this, they dedicate the wall and have a big party. Here’s what it says in chapter 12, verse 43:
Nehemiah 12:43 ESV
And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
After this, they resume the sacrificial system at the temple and reinstate the priests so that they can come before God in proper worship.
Now, I want to recap what we’ve been through again:
Jerusalem has been rebuilt to its former glory
The people have read Scripture and, while we didn’t talk about this, they reinstituted a feast that was to remind them of the consequences of disobeying and mistrusting God.
They even made a special holiday to remember this event.
They openly confessed sin and worshipped God together
They drafted a written document, signed and sealed to publicly state they were committed to serving God.
They cleaned up the temple and resumed worship according to God’s design

Only Surface-Deep (Chapter 13)

Now, it seems like things are really good, right? Let me ask you something - can you think of an instance in your life when you got really excited about doing something that you knew was going to be good and you made a bunch of commitments to do it, only to fall through in the end. Do you see where I’m going with this? Remember the idea we started with:
“Things can look good on the outside, but lasting change starts with the heart - so we need to come to the God Who changes hearts.”
Let me tell you what happened. Nehemiah had to leave for a while to head back to Babylon to report to the king. After a while, he comes back to Jerusalem and finds out these things:
The temple duties is being neglected
The people aren’t fulfilling their covenant promises like they publicly vowed to do
They are working on the sabbath which is in direct violation of God’s Word’
In response Nehemiah begins going around tearing out people’s hair, beating people, and chasing people away.
The problem was this: the change that was made wasn’t lasting changing because it didn’t start with the heart. By the standards of the nations around them, Israel looked pretty good. Their city had been rebuilt to its former glory despite great opposition and it appeared that the nation of Israel was on the rise. But how do you think it appeared to the surrounding nations when, as soon as Nehemiah left, the people of Israel turned their backs on God? It confirmed to them that they were not faithful in serving the Lord. It confirmed their hearts were far from God and that - as soon as they got what they wanted, they went back to serving themselves and ignoring what God had done.

Application

So what do we do with all of this? How does this apply to us today? To start, ask yourself - has my heart been changed by God? There’s a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Have you humbly come before Him, acknowledged your sin, and trusted Christ with your life? That’s the only way that God can give us a clean heart - if we look at sin in our lives for what it is and realize that we need God - and so we turn to the only One who can take away our sin and give us a new heart - Jesus Christ. If you have not trusted Christ with your life, know that forgiveness of sins is something that is a free gift, offered by God freely. Its bought and paid for by the death of His Son, Jesus - He rose from the dead and as you trust in Him, you too will be given new life. I want to invite you this morning to place your faith in Christ - not to believe because I tell you to believe but because God’s Word tells us of this newness of life he wants to give us:
Ephesians 2:1–10 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Eph. 2:1-1
If you have trusted Christ, our endeavor is to not grow weary and tired of doing good and serving God. Its to concentrate on those things that will result in long-lasting, eternal results. We should long for a changed heart. What are those things we are building in our life that we think are important, but really we need to turn to God and ask him to search our hearts? says this:
what are those things we are building in our life that we think are important, but really we need to turn to God and ask him to search our hearts? says this:
Psalm 139:23–24 ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
So what does this look like? It looks like:
Daily, humble prayer before God.
Invite them to be a part of 40 days of prayer
Reading is Word and asking Him to show us how we might change
Invite them to start a bible reading plan by indicating on their connect card
It is asking a brother or sister in Christ - who really knows you and will be honest with you - what are the things in my life that need to leave because they don’t look like Jesus?
Invite them to be a part of a Life Group
It is reliance on the Holy Spirit to bring about true change in my heart and not on my own efforts.
“Things can look good on the outside, but lasting change starts with the heart - so we need to come to the God Who changes hearts.”
Let’s Pray
Related Media
Related Sermons