Nehemiah 10: Gods Blueprint for Living
We have so far seen in Nehemiah a process of restoring what has fallen into ruin. We have observed a pattern which begins with concern that leads to construction done by a volunteer work force. With a single purpose and goal under the leadership of God , the work is accomplished in just 52 days. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, discovered this principle: Gods work done in Gods way will never lack for Gods supply.
Having rebuilt the walls and repaired and put the gates back in place. Nehemiah then assigned watchmen on the wall to guard against any attacks of the enemy or future damage. He also made sure the gates were barred at night and arranged for gatekeepers. Once we have restored what the enemy has ruined and damaged- we must take steps afterwards to make sure we protect against this happening again.
Following spiritual restoration we must protect what has been restored the same way Nehemiah did. We are to set a watch on the wall in order to repel the temptations of the enemy. Our wall of protection comes from our relationship with Almighty God. In the story of Job we hear from Satan as he speaks of the hedge of protection God has placed around Job. Nehemiah put watchmen on the wall to prevent an attack and/or warn of a pending attack. The Lord Jesus told us we must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation. Be vigilant and alert for our enemy goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,Peter told us. God in speaking to Cain in Genesis 4 tells Cain and us to do what is right and we will be accepted . And God also told Cain and us too, if we do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; its desires to have you, but you must master it.
Although it is difficult to do, it is simple to understand- to overcome sin and not let it master you- one must do what is right, what Gods Word tells us to do. He will give you the desire to what is right and the power to do what is right.
Gods Handbook for Kingdom Living, the Holy Bible is really a blueprint which tells us how to live. Having been born again, and become members of Gods family and kingdom, God then tells us how we now ought to conduct our lives; what our priorities and responsibilities are.
Quite often in the Baptist church we will have a believer come forward to the church to confess he/she has strayed and has come to a place where they want to rededicate their lives. It is a humble confession stating I have wandered off- I have gone away from my God and want to come back home, like the prodigal. They are stating we want to start over again. We want to begin again anew. After spending time in the Word of God, having confessed their sins and reviewed and remembered what all God had done and was doing- Nehemiah says to the people: In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing , and our leaders, our Levites and priests are affixing their seals to it. Nehemiah 9:38.
It is now to be a time of new beginning. This binding agreement will state how they plan to live from now on. The leadership, starting with Nehemiah will sign the agreement as well as the priests, the leaders of the people as well as the people themselves.
In verse 29,Nehemiah says they will bind themselves with an oath and a curse.
A word about oaths and binding agreements from a New Testament perspective leads us to what Jesus taught in Matthew 5: Again, you have heard that is was said to the people long ago, Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord. But I tell you- Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is Gods throne, or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. ( Matthew 5:33-37)
This is confusing at first glance, but look at the context of the teaching in Matthew 5 Jesus clearly illustrates the difference between external performance and internal obedience. For example: on adultery- Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Remember man looks on the outside, but God looks in the heart. He made the same point with anger/murder, divorce, lying, revenge and hatred.
An oath is a solemn promise made to someone that you are really, really telling the truth. As in cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. In fact, swearing and oaths and curses in those days had nothing to do with vulgar and profane language, but were two methods of validating the truthfulness of ones statement or intention. They would swear by a greater witness, i.e., swear on the Bible, swear on my mothers grave; and the curse was also to validate the truth. If I am lying, I am dying- stick a needle in my eye or other such dire consequences.
Jesus was not saying to never take an oath, as in court of law. Jesus was saying as Christians our word should be our bond. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no. We did not need an oath or a curse for failure if we did not keep our word. We kept our word, because Gods law said we should not lie. And Jesus taught us here- because you did not take an oath or sign a pledge did not mean you were free to lie. He also teaches about mixing a lie with the truth- or as we like to call it a half-truth. He clearly says anything beyond our yes or no is from the devil. That means half-truths are lies, and adding to or stretching the truth is a lie also.
By now you must have observed our lives are marked by a series of new beginnings, new phases in our lives: from a new school year to being a newlywed to a new job, a new opportunity, a new season in life and new perspective.
The reason Nehemiah had these written down, sealed and signed was their way of stating their pledge of allegiance and underscoring the truthfulness of their intent. They were starting over and wanted to live life according to Gods Word. Goals should always be written down. Understand a goal is simply what we do to accomplish an objective in a period of time. Purpose is why we do what we do. So goals are what we do to achieve our purpose. Purpose is by nature, long term; goals are of shorter terms.
Here is what was happening: the people realized the ruin they worked so hard to restore was a result of having not done what God had told them to do. Their rebellion and disobedience had caused their problems. Now what they wanted to do was to make a new beginning and to live according to how Gods Word told them how to live. Let us look at the components of their pledge as to how they now were determined to live.
Their purpose was to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord. So their primary purpose was to obey God.
So Nehemiah lists what is their first priority and purpose- obedience to Gods Word.
Next Nehemiah lists six specific goals the people would set out to achieve. These goals were: not marry non Jewish neighbors; observe the Sabbath; observe every 7th year as a Sabbath year; pay a temple tax; supply wood for the burnt offerings in the temple; give dues to the temple.
Lets look at these six provisions or goals they have specified and why they chose these six. For there are more laws than just these six. However, Nehemiah has wisely chosen six specific things they should do and not do for Nehemiah knows these are the areas that are the most dangerous areas of temptation for the Jewish people at this time.
First, they pledge not to marry an unbeliever. Paul tells to not be unequally yoked. He says what can light have to do with darkness. If we are married and live our lives based on faith in God and His Word, His instructions, how can that possibly work when one is an unbeliever? It cannot. The reason this was a priority is there were few of them who had returned to Jerusalem from exile and the choices for a Jewish wife or husband might be limited while there were plenty of non-Jewish males and females living in the area.
Second, Nehemiah vowed they would remember the Sabbath, the seventh day and keep it holy. In observing the Sabbath, this involved not buying or selling on this day. Nehemiah knew the lure of making money would conflict with the day set aside for rest and worship and time with ones family. It was an expression of faith in the Gods ability to supply what was needed in six days. God also knew they needed rest and refreshing.
To forgive debts and allow land to lay fallow every seven years was a law they pledged to keep. Any debt that could not be paid in seven years was to be cancelled.
Paying a temple tax was necessary to insure the House of God was not neglected. Reminding them the kingdom of God was to come first. The amount was small- but when all gave it was enough.
Supplying wood for the altar fires was something everyone could do regardless of their economic condition. It was also a family project where they each were able to invest their time and efforts to collect wood and bring it to the temple.
The people also pledged to bring the first fruits of their crops and flocks. It was an expression of giving God the first portion of your time, treasure and talent. Giving Him the first and the best, not the left-overs.
And then there was the tithe to be given to support the House of God and the work of the priests. Paul tells us in his letters to the church at Corinth states they are to bring an offering on the first day of the week( Sunday) according to our income and we are to do this not out of compulsion. We are not to give grudgingly but cheerfully because the Lord loves a cheerful giver. So we are to give a determined amount, we give on a regular basis, and we give cheerfully. And Paul also reminds us if we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly; if we sow abundantly- we reap abundantly.
God is still the same today. He looks at our cities and our families and the world and how it is in ruins, with walls that are crumbling and gates that are burned. The enemy has come in and stolen our possessions and taken us into exile. We the people are discouraged. Our country is not what it used to be. God calls us to rebuild. Remember God is a seeking God. He found David in the field, Moses on the backside of the desert tending sheep, Abram in the Ur of Chaldeans, and he found me on the ledge of a hotel balcony.
His first summons us to salvation. The Bible describes the process of salvation as being born again. After we have become Christians, then God gives us His Blueprint for how we now are to live.
Now just as Nehemiah did not list every commandment in the Bible but selected some key commandments to help them live they way they need to live 2500 years ago in a rebuilt Jerusalem, let us look at Gods Blueprint for Living now in the 21st century.
I cannot list every commandment either- but here is an excellent way to start with a great summarizing truth stated in the Westminster Catechism. It states: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The following list is a general outline of how we are to do this:
GODS BLUEPRINT FOR LIVING ( excerpt from: The Rest of Your Life by Patrick Morley)
There are two great commandments: Love God and Love One Another
Four principal callings: A disciple; a servant; a witness; a steward
12 Major Responsibilities:
- Seek first His kingdom. ( Matthew 6:33)
- Be conformed to His image. ( Romans 8:29)
- Win the lost. ( Matthew 28:18-20)
- Make disciples ( Matthew 28:18-20)
- Remember the poor. ( Gal. 2:10; Matthew 25:31-46)
- Learn and use your spiritual gifts. ( Romans 12: 6-8)
- Be careful with natural abilities/ talents. (Matthew 25:14-23)
- Accept your place in the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5. I Cor. 12:12-27)
- Bear Much Fruit (John 15: 8,16)
- Perform Good Works ( Ephesians 2:10)
- Accept suffering ( I Peter 4:12; Phil. 1:29)
- Obey God ( John 14:15)
Two Stances in the World.
Salt. Matthew 5:13 tells us we are to preserve and flavor the society in which we live. We are to be in the world but not of the world
Light. Light is to drive out darkness.
2500 years ago, a man named Nehemiah looked around and saw that Gods people and Gods creation had fallen into disrepair and ruin. He wanted to restore it and maintain it. There was only one way it could be doneGODS WAY.
So Nehemiah followed Gods Blueprint.
We find ourselves and our country in much the same state today. If we are to restore it we must follow Gods Blueprint for Living, just as they did 2500 years ago.
Gods Work done in Gods Way will never lack for Gods supply. Hudson Taylor.
Want to rebuild something in your life the enemy has ruined? Follow Gods Blueprint for Living!Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14