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Nehemiah 10- A New Devotion

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FCF: We are constantly giving ourselves over to new devotions, ones that will ultimately leave us empty, broken, void.
Prop: Jesus is the one, true devotion
Have you ever stopped to think about what you are devoted to?
Maybe to slow us down a little further…consider maybe the idea of what “to be devoted” means- to devote yourself to something you are loyal to it. You give a large portion of your time and energy to something. You are committed. You love it. You are loving towards it.
And when a person is devoted to something…it changes their behavior.
What
Consider this story of devotion...When our consultant, John Purcell, flew out here on Feb 7 to meet with our Session from Atlanta, he tells the story of being on a plane full of devotion. What I mean by that is that he was the only person on the plane NOT wearing an Eagles jersey because that was the weekend of the parade. Because every one of those people spent a good amount time, of money to buy a plane ticket, not work, leave loved ones, so they can come and hear Jason Kelce address the crowd in a Mummers outfit! To my Eagles fans…my friends, you are devoted to your Eagles! You love them. You are loyal. You change your behavior for them!
On a serious note, likely most of us are devoted to some sort of relationship - One of my friend shared with me this week how a friend, a person she was devoted to, changed the trajectory of her entire week because her friend was in crisis. She was devoted.
Sometimes there are more sinister things that catch out devotion…It think of various types of addictions. I’ve spent time with friends who are, or have loved ones, who have devoted their lives to drugs, and it has become their masters, intentionally or unintentionally. They sit helplessly by as they watch their money, health, and sometimes life disappear.
Some of these things are good things. Some, not so good…but I would offer that If we stopped for a second to consider devotion, I that that which we are ultimately devoted to becomes our master. It rules us. And it impacts every aspect of our being.
Let’s talk for a minute about the ones whom this passage addresses. Ancient Israel. Friends, this was an extremely devoted group of people. Unfortunately, for most of their 800+ year history they were devoted to most anything else other than the one true God - worshipped God’s of nations around them for protection, offered children to gods for food or offspring. They neglected to do what God called them to, well, probably because they really loved themselves and didn’t want to. And this ultimately led to God’s discipline and them being carted off to other nations and having their temple and city destroyed. Their Devotion took them to some bad places.
But God began to change all of that...
Let’s recap a bit as to where we’ve been. The first half of the book, up to chapter 7, really focused in on God’s promises and His being a God of restoration, and namely to the wall. But back in chapter 7 we talked about how what was in view wasn’t really the restoration of the wall at all, but that as singers and Levites were appointed we saw that God was most interested in the restoration of His worship.
The first half of the book, up to chapter 7, really focused in on God’s promises and His being a God of restoration, and namely to the wall. But back in chapter 7 we talked about how what was in view wasn’t necessarily the restoration of the wall, but that as singers and Levites were appointed we saw that God was most interested in the restoration of His worship. give something glory And we saw that by seeing a genealogy of those who God has preserved, keeping His promises of the ultimate promise of Jesus that will one day come.
And while worship is a word we often use in church, the concept is not something foreign to us. To worship something is to , and given what we just talked about, worship is being ultimately devoted to Him. He is the only one worthy! And we saw that by seeing a genealogy of those who God has preserved, keeping His promises of the ultimate promise of Jesus that will one day come.
And this led us into the last two weeks, that God wasn’t just talking ambiguously as to whom He wants to worship him…Jacob introduced us to God getting to this idea that He wanting to restore not just worship, which reorients the the hearts of His people in the worship of him.
This happened with the reintroduction of God’s Word...
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.
We see renewal taking place as Ezra reads from the law…God’s Word, from early morning to mid-day! You think my sermons are long! But this is why we preach by the way
And by the way, we talked a few weeks ago about why we sing in church, but did you ever wonder where we trace preaching back to? Now this isn’t necessarily the first reference, and it certainly isn’t the last, but we see this...
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.
And today we are going to end this section by looking at the new devotion God weaves into His people.
But all the while God is calling us to worship Him as the ultimate. He is the only one worthy! And we saw that by seeing a genealogy of those who God has preserved, keeping His promises of the ultimate promise of Jesus that will one day come.
The priests read it and gave the sense. It required contextualization and unpacking back then, and it does today.
Repentance unto life is a saving grace,
whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, (this was last week)
2 and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,3 doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God,4 with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.5
and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,
does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, (last week)
with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.

What Do We Need For A New Devotion? (Chapter 9)

There are two things from Chapter 9 that can help us here
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.
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.
The priests read it and gave the sense. It required contextualization and unpacking back then, and it does today.

The Control of Devotion

Ward did a wonderful job last week walking us through chapter 9 and seeing the idea of confession and repentance. They needed to be reminded of something. What they read reminded them of God’s faithfulness to them. The mercy that He lavished upon them.
We saw that through Abraham, of not merit of his own, was chosen by God to be His people and blessed them with “the Promised Land!”
God then, through Moses, brings them out of the land of slavery in Egypt, again, through no merit of their own.
But even though God was totally devoted to them, listen to this...
Those people, despite God’s grace, were arrogant. It says in vv. 17-21 that Did not obey God. Couldn’t even see the wonders you were doing before them. They appointed people to take them back to slavery. They knowingly built other gods.
Nehemiah 9:17 ESV
They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
That’s just what it is, isn’t it. A slave is mastered, or controlled by something else. And we see here, and need to be warned of this reality that when we are devoted to something other than God…then we are totally content to allow that thing to lead us back into slavery, time and time again, even if it means our destruction!!!
The NT talks about the mastery of our devotion to anything that is different than God’s will. And by the way, the word “sin” is used here, and what that word simply means is anything that is opposed to the will or law of God in what we think, say or do.
Romans 6:6–7 ESV
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Romans 6:16–18 ESV
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:16 ESV
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
When we are fully devoted to something, we offer ourselves to it as its slave. Under its authority. To behave the way it wants us to. And in this case it is sin, which leads to death.

Beauty of Devotion

Do you see this last line of 9:17? That is the beauty of devotion. Not our own, but His towards us! Ready to forgive. Like a runner at the starting line
Ill- me at the starting line, at set. Heart in my throat…ready to jump when the gun sounds.
But in the midst of that, God did not forsake them, he still lead them, didn’t depart from them, still gave His Spirit to instruct them, gave them food and water, they lacked nothing.
God brought them into the land he promised, multiplied them, gave them victory, had more than they could imagine.
Yet in the midst of this…they rebelled. Forgot God’s law, killed the prophets who warned them. This would be like me, after correcting something you were doing relative to the Bible, killing me! Please don’t!
Because of this, God did make them suffer after hundreds of years of warning. Yet even in that, he did not forsake His people because He is gracious and merciful.
Finally, there is a call for mercy. Have mercy on us. Free us from this place of where we made ourselves sinners.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Thomas Chalmers - the expulsive power of a new affection: - Seldom do any of our habits or flaws disappear by a process of extinction through reasoning or “by the mere force of mental determination.” Reason and willpower are not enough. “But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed…The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
When our hearts finally grasp this, when the coins finally drop, life has no choice but be reordered. No one falls in love…I mean love, not heat, not lust, not heat…but love with that desire that I love this person so much I will lay my everything down for them and it not change everything about them. And God here is putting it all out there to show us His devotion and love for His people and are enraptured by it.
Doctrines of Sin and Grace experienced, not just understood intellectually
Rewrite this paragraph with my story in mind
Revealing: Life-changing discovery of the Gospel
Renewal: Life-changing recovery of the Gospel - because we drift.
Doctrines of Sin and Grace experienced, not just understood intellectually
Recognize constant drift to either religion or irreligion
Bending vs. Melting
I think for many of us, we want the formula. Okay Anthony, give me the formula to form a greater affection. Well I will. There are two things that we see repeatedly in Scripture that change hearts - 1. God’s Word. We see it here. It won’t happen unless we are in it because without it we have our own warped view of God. But 2. It is His Spirit. It has to work. tells us that. But I also know this...

What do we need for renewal? To constantly be reminded of the control and drift of devotion, and the beauty of the One who is fully devoted to us.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The Spirit works in a unique way as we gaze upon Jesus and what He has done for us.
So what if we took the general outline of Israel and adapted it to our situation to capture God’s grace for us:
God chose me, knowing every time I’d __________ (rebel against Him) and gave me, or offered me, every blessing of being His child. He freed me, or offered to free me from ______________. But I refused to follow you and wasn’t even mindful of your work among me when you ____________. I stiffened my neck towards you and ran right back into slavery by ______________. But, you are a God ready to forgive ME, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and have not forsaken me.
What do we need for renewal? To constantly be reminded of the control and drift of devotion, and the beauty of the One who is fully devoted to us.

What Happens When We Face Reality? (1-29)

Sincerity

We need to talk about what is happening at the very end of chapter 9
Nehemiah 9:10 ESV
and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day.
Nehemiah 9:38 ESV
“Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.
What comes after that, in the first 27 verses of chapter 10, was a list of the civil authorities who signed a covenant on behalf of the people.
vv. 1-27 is a list of the people who signed the Covenant.
God’s people were renewing their covenant with God after hearing clearly from the Word that they had blown it! vv. 1-27 is a list of the civic leaders who signed the Covenant.
Now remember, A covenant is an oath-bound relationship between two or more parties.
But unlike what we call “contracts” today, it isn’t simply getting out of one if one person lays down their side of the bargain. There are blessings and curses.
Nehemiah 10:28–30 ESV
“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, 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. We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.
Nehemiah 10:28–29 ESV
“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, 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.
So we need to first understand that these weren’t people who were just saying I swear on my right arm, or my great grandma Freda’s grave. This was how covenants were made. There was a seriousness to these things to where they knew if they didn’t. There are blessings and curses. ; . They weren’t being harsh.
So in other words, they pleaded for mercy, but didn’t take it for granted. Was a commitment to follow the Lord at all costs.
Was a commitment to follow the Lord at all costs.
What happens? There becomes a sincerity
When I was in college I was an RA and we had community bathrooms with shower stalls. Trey was one of my residents and I had shared the Gospel with him. One day we were getting ready for class and he yells, “Anthony, you know that whole Christianity thing? It just seems boring. Why on earth would you follow all those rules? And at that time I was in a season of renewal…where I was grasping Jesus’ love for me in a new way, and just said, “Trey, you love Tara, right? Yeah. If she asked you to not do something in public because it hurt her, would you do it? No. Would you run after other women…give them all your devotion, right in front of her? No. So that’s part of why I follow.
Illustration: Me and Tre

Questions:

Isn’t this just legalism or religion?
First we need to define legalism. Legalism
Legalism, or religion, says, “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” But this is quite different. It says, “I’m accepted, therefore I obey.”
This is different. This is obedience. It is a response to the Grace they had experienced. They weren’t trying to create favor with God.
we should not think that a commitment to do whatever God asks us to do is inherently return to work righteousness. It could be that, of course, in certain instances, but not here. These fork we’re not saying to God, “we will do our very best to earn your favor towards us.“ This was not an attempt to earn God’s benevolence towards them
Litmust test...
This was the “gospel grammar“ of the Bible, Old Testament as much as new: the imperative follows the indicative; the promise of obedience is made in the wake of experience of grace
it is a response to the Grace they had experienced. any suggestion that this act of consecration was an attempt to create the favor of God flies in the face of what had just occurred. The Nehemiah does not record it, having read the law on the first day of the month, the Jews went on to celebrate the day of atonement....this was the “gospel grammar“ of the Bible, Old Testament as much as new: the imperative follows the indicative; the promise of obedience is made in the wake of experience of grace
we should not think that a sincere commitment to do whatever God asks us to do is inherently return to work righteousness. It could be that, of course, in certain instances, but not here. These fork we’re not saying to God, “we will do our very best to earn your favor towards us.“ This was not an attempt to earn God’s benevolence towards them
Then we need to define the context - ResponseGospel Language
Titus 2:11–12 ESV
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
it is a response to the Grace they had experienced. any suggestion that this act of consecration was an attempt to create the favor of God flies in the face of what had just occurred. The Nehemiah does not record it, having read the law on the first day of the month, the Jews went on to celebrate the day of atonement....this was the “gospel grammar“ of the Bible, Old Testament as much as new: the imperative follows the indicative; the promise of obedience is made in the wake of experience of grace
any suggestion that this act of consecration was an attempt to create the favor of God flies in the face of what had just occurred. The Nehemiah does not record it, having read the law on the first day of the month, the Jews went on to celebrate the day of atonement.
We actually should expect those who call on Christ to look more and more like Him.
but the desire of a believer to render obedience to the 10 Commandments of gratitude for Grace received is what God expects and what spirit filled believers whole heartedly desire.
In 1 John, John says if we do sin - we have an advocate…but then it says.
Colossians 2:21 ESV
“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
this was the “gospel grammar“ of the Bible, Old Testament as much as new: the imperative follows the indicative; the promise of obedience is made in the wake of experience of grace
1 John 2:3 ESV
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:1–4 ESV
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
Then we need to consider our place in the story - NT, law on our hearts.
1 John 2:
Finally, we need to consier
Should we do this today?
When I was in college I lived with a bunch of other Christian men, and we were all struggling with the same issue (of which I will not mention here for the sake of young listeners and the fact that this goes out all over the world). We made a pact with each other not to “do this” thing anymore, and if we did, we’d have to pay a certain amount of money. That money would go to charity, etc. What ended up happening is that our will eventually lost out, our hearts weren’t changed, and some charity got a lot of money from us.
Then we need to consider our place in the story - NT, law on our hearts.
Titus 2:11–12 ESV
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Now was that wrong? We made a covenant, just like them. Short term- simply obey God because it is His right and His due, and by faith accept that He is Good, and right, and he made you a certain way, and that by trusting that even when we don’t feel like it we protect ourselves and give Him glory - Faith. Long term, Ultimate way to shape our lives and escape its deadly influence is by moving the heart with the Gospel.
As we behold Jesus.

What Happens When we Face Reality? Growing sincerity towards devotion to Him

But there was also Specificity...

What Does This Look Like? (30-39)

For the Israelites we find that they did not keep their sincerity in the abstract…they got very specific...
Nehemiah 10:30–31 ESV
We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 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.
Neh 10:
Not exhaustive, not every single law. Identifies the major issues of their day that is taking them away from their God.
Nehemiah 10:30–39 ESV
We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 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. “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: 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. 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. 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, 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; 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. 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. 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.”
Neh
But note, this is not exhaustive, not every single law. Identifies the major issues of their day that is taking them away from their God.
They then got specific. They weren’t generic. They wanted to kill sin and that which hampered them.
Their Specifics
Mixed Marriages (30)
Nehemiah 10:30 ESV
We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.
This isn’t a racial thing. – one that brought really just compromise into every corner and the very center of home and family. When two people Mary, they swapped their idols and gave them a prominent place in their home. Also think of Solomon is disastrous marriages and King Ahab‘s marriage to Jezebel. This was not ethnicity but religion.
Problem in the recent past - Ezra 9-10
Marriage isn’t wrong, but marriages that take them away from the heart of God is. Why, because devotion to God is so hard in a mixed marriage.
2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Sabbath Year
House of God
Giving to other things that are of God isn’t wrong…but doing it to the point where it takes them away from their God, and neglecting that which is most important to God is.
2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Honor the Sabbath (31)
Nehemiah 10:31 ESV
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.
Giving to the work of God’s house (Temple) and not neglect the house of their god (32-39)
Nehemiah 10:32 ESV
“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:
Giving to other things that are of God isn’t wrong…but doing it to the point where it takes them away from their God, and neglecting that which is most important to God is.
Frankly, I take this for me to mean even pastors should tithe.
Neh 10:
Nehemiah 10:39 ESV
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.”
Our Specifics
What are our specifics? And its easy to stay on the surface and say, sexuality, anxiety, anger…but that’s just the part of the iceberg that’s above the water line. Usually the things that are driving those are idols…comfort, control, power, reputation.
Plug them back into the formula above, and ask the Lord to show you what it would look like to bring those areas under His reign and follow Him.
And remember, when you fail…not if…that God is not requiring perfection, but perseverance, which He gives you His Spirit to help you. Perseverance in believing what is true, and beginning again the what to do.
If you do not have the Spirit of Christ…if you haven’t trusted in Him as Savior, says it is actually impossible to please Him. But if you trust in Jesus, it is impossible to wipe the smile off His face because if you trust in Him, you are as right as His perfect Son..
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Have you ever stopped to think about what you’re devoted to? But most importantly, have you ever stopped to think about the Cross and how Devoted Jesus is to you?
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