Summary: Understanding the reason to live whole-heartedly for Christ everyday is the main thrust of this message.
When the Cat is Away…
September 28, 2003
Many of us can remember when we were in grade school how whenever the teacher had to leave the classroom for some reason, she would always tell the class to, “Be quiet and study!” However we also remember that as soon as she left the room, the paper wads would begin to fly! Erasers would be flung across the room while someone would draw caricatures of the teacher on the blackboard.
And then, she would return. There was always that last minute adjustment as we scurried back to our seats and pretended nothing had been going on.
In the book of Exodus we find Moses was called by God to go up into Mount Sinai. While he was away, the Israelites grew restless. Looking for something to entertain them, they melted down their gold, formed a golden calf as an idol and danced around it in worship.
As long as Moses was around, they were doing fine, but as soon as he “left the room,” things changed! They had forgotten all the marvelous things God had done for them, how He had delivered them, and how they were supposed to behave!
Do you recall what the people said when Moses asked about the calf (it sounds just like kids in the classroom when the teacher returns!)?
Exodus 32:21-24 (NIV), He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?" 22 "Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ’Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ’Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"
B. A similar thing happened in Nehemiah 13…
Nehemiah 13:6-7 (NIV), But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem.
C. So what happened in Nehemiah 13 while the cat was away?
I. False teachers were given a say!
Nehemiah 13:1-3 (NIV), On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
A. Now the timeline of events is somewhat confusing here…
1. In verse one, Nehemiah says, “on that day…” Presumably that took place the same day as the dedication of the wall, which is recorded in chapter 12.
2. However in verse 4, Nehemiah says, “Before this…”
3. So what happens in the remainder of chapter 13 took place before the dedication of the wall in chapter 12 and the first three verse of chapter 13.
4. Verses 1-3 tell us that they cut their ties with the Ammonites and Moabites.
5. So if we turn back the clock on verses one to three and turn it back to the time of “Before this” in verse 4, we can say “Before this, the people had inappropriate relationships with the Ammonites and Moabites.”
B. So what would have been inappropriate about having relationships with these foreigners?
1. Was it because their skin colors were different? No, they all had the same dark skin.
2. So what was inappropriate about this relationship?
3. The inappropriateness was in the fact that they worshipped other gods.
4. They believed in and worshipped other gods and we know from the very first of the 10 Commandments that God is a jealous God, Exodus 20:3 (NIV), "You shall have no other gods before me.”
5. Nehemiah said in the first verse, On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God,
6. So the inappropriateness of this was that the people were admitting people of other religions into their temple to teach what they believed.
6. It is called syncretism and it is the religion of today.
7. Syncretism is being pushed everywhere in the world.
8. Syncretism is the blending of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, the so-called “New Age Movement.”