Summary: Message 20 in our exposition of Nehemiah. This message explores Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem after an absence to find things not the way he would like.
Chico Alliance Church
"HITTING AND HAIR PULLING PERMITTED"
Sometime after the dedication, after 12 years of strong leadership, Nehemiah returned to Susa to his cupbearer's task for the king of the Persian Empire. How long Nehemiah remained in Susa is unknown. In chapter 13 Nehemiah has returned and continues entries into his Jerusalem journal. The key to understanding "on that day" in verse 1 is in verse six, "but during all this time I was not in Jerusalem.
What a contrast we can see between his first visit and this visit!
First Nehemiah found a collapsed wall and distressed people.
This visit he finds a corrupt walk and disinterested people.
On the first visit Nehemiah extended encouragement and direction.
On this visit he must exercise exhortation and discipline.
The first time around Nehemiah fought constant external conflict.
This time, he faces continual internal compromise.
In the beginning Nehemiah found himself distressed and devoted himself to prayer.
This time he is displeased and devotes himself to purging.
Just what happened to the commitment? Why had they lost their drive to keep their written word? Why do we have such a hard time keeping a commitment to the Lord? What can we do about it? How can we avoid the same mistakes?
As we shall discover in this chapter, every one of the four commitments made during the revival were broken during Nehemiah's absence.
Commitment to discipline by the world. (Hear and Obey)
Commitment to distinctiveness in the world. (Separation from foreigners)
Commitment to devotion to God. (Honor the Sabbath)
Commitment to dedicate firstfruits. (Will not neglect God's house)
Good leadership is a key to keeping commitments. The people during the time of the Judges did fine until the judge died. Yet they had accountability and a call to the truth while Nehemiah was away. We are not told here, but we get a good picture of a reason from Malachi the prophet during this period.
From the first five verses of Malachi, we capture a clear picture of the problem. The Israelites lost sight of God's love. Their minds clouded and caused them to lose sight of their high position as Children of God. "I have loved you." but you say, "How have you loved us?"
A full realization of God's infinite unconditional love for us is foundational to our relationship with Him as well as our stability and strengthening in our walk. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would come to know and understand the full dimensions of the love of Christ which passes all understanding so that they could then be filled up to all the fulness of God. The Israelites had passed through the fire, they had accomplished great things. They had seen God do marvelous things in the rebuilding of their crumbled walls and became so complacent that they were no longer able to discern God's love for them.
Basically they were saying to God, "Prove your love."
How often we demand that God prove His love before we will trust Him. We want Him to prove His love on our terms. The Jews failed to appreciate their status as children of promise, chosen from Jacob on the basis of God's choice not theirs. They failed to realize that no matter what they enjoyed on this earth, they were heir to a city made without hands, and eternal inheritance. We tend to look for little signs and wonders as proof of God's love. If we received nothing else from God's hand but His call to eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son it should be sufficient cause to rest in His love. God provided the ultimate demonstration of His love when He sent His only sinless Son to die for undeserving, unappreciative, self-centered, rebellious people. Any other demonstration is frosting. Besides, He saved us in order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
It is when we lose perspective and doubt His love that we fall back into old patterns and torpedo our commitments. I believe this is the case for the Jews in Nehemiah's day. This morning we want to review their commitments made in Chapter 10 in the peak of revival and then stand beside Nehemiah in Chapter 13 as he brings rebuke for breaking those same commitments in the lukewarmness of mediocrity.
We should never lose the wonder of, "Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the BIBLE tells me so." Not because I feel it or demand that God continue to demonstrate His love according to my standards but because He said it and already demonstrated that love and still demonstrates that love in ways that often surpass my comprehension. If I have doubts about His love for me, I will have definite difficulty keeping my commitments in the following areas.