Build: Covenant

November 15, 2022
Series: Build
Book: Nehemiah

Speaker: Michael Dennis

Audio Download

Bible Passage: Nehemiah 10:1-39

You know those moments in life when you have tried to do what you want to do and no matter how hard you try it feels like something keeps going wrong?

It might be in our career, it might be in our romantic relationships, it might be in our personal goals but there are times in life where we try to do something over and over and over until we come to a point where we say to the Lord, “Okay, Lord, I am going to do life Your way?”

That’s the context of our passage this morning.  We are studying through the book of Nehemiah.  The book of Nehemiah is in the Old Testament.  The book of Nehemiah is about the history of Israel and the book of Nehemiah is about a people who have tried to do life their way over and over and over until they come to a point where they surrender their life to the Lord and say, “Okay, I am going to do life Your way.”

In our passage this morning we are going to see three sub-points; 1. The People. 2. The Promise. 3.  The Particulars.   Let’s look at our first sub-point; 1. The People.

  1. The People (vs. 1-27)

Nehemiah 10:1-27, “1 Now on the sealed document were the names of: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch…”

In the context of Nehemiah, the spiritual and political leaders had given themselves over to corruption.  The temple worship had been neglected.  The reverence of God’s Word had been neglected, so that the city of Jerusalem had been decimated physically and spiritually for generations.

In Nehemiah 1-6 the walls and the gates are rebuilt.  In Nehemiah 7 godly leaders are placed in position.  In Nehemiah 8 Nehemiah and Ezra gather the people to hear God’s Word.  In Nehemiah 9 the people respond in confession unto the Lord, so that in Nehemiah 10 the people make a covenant with one another to follow the Lord.

Do you know the word “covenant?”  The word “covenant” is a biblical word for a promise between the God of scripture and His people.

Its why marriage is such an important conversation in our culture today because a biblical understanding of marriage isn’t just glorified dating between two people.

A biblical understanding of marriage is a promise between a man, a woman and the God of Scripture that these two will commit together in marriage.  It’s a covenant in marriage!

So that Nehemiah 9 ends with the people coming together to make a covenant with the Lord, you see that at the top of your devotional and then Nehemiah10 we see a list of names.

In verses 1-8 we see the priests.  In verses 9-13 we see the Levites.  In verses 14-28 we see all the names of the civil servants, so that verses 1-28 we see a list of the people who are making the commitment to follow the Lord and the names of the people are important because these are the people who are making the commitment.

I remember we did something similar when we first started North Village Church.  We started with about 15 adults.  We studied God’s Word to remind us of what we were doing and why we were starting a new church, and then we invited every person in the room to make a vow of commitment to seeing North Village Church birthed into existence.  It was a powerful moment!  You remember that Rhesa?

One by one we all walked to the front of the room.  One by one we signed our names on a charter document.  One by one we committed our time, our resources, our emotions, and it was our way of creating a seal between us and the Lord as a new church family was birth into north central Austin.

In a similar way this morning, we’re not here just to attend a worship service where we sing some songs, hear God’s Word and get some coffee.

We are here this morning as a physical expression of our commitment to the Lord and to one another.  Perhaps there are some of us who are thinking, “I am just visiting.”  Welcome!

But our hope and prayer isn’t that North Village Church is simply a place to hear God’s Word and sing some songs.

Our hope and prayer is to “build and belong.”  Our hope and pray is that each of us, even the visitor this morning, would be growing in our commitment to the Lord, growing in our commitment to one another as we become the people of North Village Church.  Let’s talk about our second sub-point; 2. The Promise.

  1. The Promise. (vs. 28-39)

Nehemiah 10:28-30, “28 Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, 29 are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; 30 and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” 

Nehemiah 10:31, “31 As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.”

Nehemiah 10:32, “32 We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.”

Nehemiah 10:34, “34 Likewise we cast lots for the supply of wood among the priests, the Levites and the people so that they might bring it to the house of our God, according to our fathers’ households, at fixed times annually, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law; 35 and that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the Lord annually, 36 and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God.”

Nehemiah 10:37, “37 We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns. 38 The priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.”

Do you see what’s taking places in Nehemiah 10.  The people are realigning themselves with the Lord and realigning themselves with what’s important to the Lord.

Remember, in the context of Nehemiah’s day the leaders drifted from the Lord, so that the people drifted from the Lord, so that over time the people stopped praying to the Lord.

Over time the people stopped wanting to hear God’s Word.  Over time the people stopped coming together to worship the Lord.  It didn’t happen overnight but in small little choices they slowly became less committed to their faith in the Lord.

Listen to me, as a nation, as a city, as a church, I think we are in the midst of a transition like that of Nehemiah 10.  The routines and rituals of our faith have been disrupted, and I think it’s possible that there are layers of our life where we don’t realize where we have drifted from the Lord, where we are doing what is right in our own eyes, where we are living in our own strength.

It’s possible that we are early on in this process, so we don’t feel the sense of desperation that we read about in Nehemiah 10, but God’s Word has us in this passage this morning for us to ask ourselves, “Are there parts of our faith that have been neglected?”

Are there unhealthy patterns showing up in our marriage, finances, career, parenting, or spiritual disciplines?

I am a big fan of plants, and they say you can’t wait to water a plant until they look like they need water.  When a plant looks like it needs water that plant is already in a place of emergency.

Instead, you want to create a routine of consistent water into the life of the plant so that the plant will know water is coming and as a result a strong root system will begin to grow.

In the same way, we would do well to ask ourselves, “Are there parts of my faith that have been neglected?”  Our last sub-point will give some examples for us to consider.  Let’s look at our third sub-point; 3. The Particulars.

  1. The Particulars.

Unified Faith:  Nehemiah 10:30, “30 and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” 

There’s a lot we could talk about here but first, please know, God’s Word isn’t teaching us if a spouse doesn’t follow the Lord, then the marriage is doomed.

But more so that a person’s faith, even a person who says, “I don’t have a faith” speaks to how a person views the world, approaches life, makes decisions, spends money, raises children, solves problems, so that at the ground level you want a husband and a wife to be aligned in their beliefs.

But even more so, verse 30 is talking about a people who are submitting the whole of their life to the Lord, even the romantic, sexual part of their life to the Lord, so that they are saying to one another and to the Lord, “I will follow You!”

In the same way, each of us would do well to ask ourselves, “Am I putting the Lord first in all things?”  We’ve changed up a lot of rituals and habits over the last year.  We’ve been influenced by a lot of different voices over the last two years.

Is there a part of our life where we have walled up from the Lord?  Have we invited the Lord into every area of our life?  Have we invited others to speak into our life to see where we might be creating walls?  Let’s grow in our commitment to submitting the whole of our life to the Lord!  Let’s look at our second one:

Sabbath:  Nehemiah 10:31, “31 As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.”

The importance of the Sabbath is established in Genesis 1 when the God of Scripture creates for 6 days and then on the 7th day He rested, so that in the context of Nehemiah 10 the people were using the Sabbath day, not to rest as an act of worship unto the Lord, but to make a profit for themselves because their trust wasn’t in the Lord but in themselves.  Does that make sense?

In the same way, each of us would do well to ask ourselves, “Where am I putting my trust and security?”  We’ve changed up a lot of rituals and habits over the last year.  We’ve been influenced by a lot of different voices over the last two years.  Where is our trust and security?

We know from the New Testament that our ultimate rest is in Jesus.  It’s why Jesus calls out, “All you who are weary, come to Me and I will give you rest.”  It isn’t just a rest from physical work but an emotional rest, a spiritual rest because our trust and security is not in ourselves but the Lord.

Therefore, are we taking time for physical rest?  Are we taking time away from smart phones and electronics?  Are we trusting the Lord to take our 40-50 hours at work to be enough, or are we always working, always striving?  Might we be a people who are growing in our rest and peace with the Lord?  Let’s look at our third one:

Worship:  Nehemiah 10:32, “32 We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.”

You see the phrase “house of our God” repeated 9 times in this passage, so that we would do well to consider our attitude toward our weekly worship together.

Each of us would do well to ask ourselves, “Am I growing in my commitment of weekly worship with God’s people?”  Are we quick to sleep in on a Sunday morning and miss worship?  Would we consider being back in town on Sunday for worship?  Would we consider saying “no” to children’s activities on Sunday morning because our family is committed to worship?

We’ve changed up a lot of rituals and habits over the last year.  We’ve been influenced by a lot of different voices over the last two years.  What is our attitude toward weekly worship?

Are we showing up with an attitude of worship unto the Lord?  Are we looking at God’s Word throughout the week to increase our chances of hearing from the Lord?  Are we prayerfully considering who we might talk to on a Sunday, encourage or pray for on Sunday morning?

Would we consider going to bed early on Saturday evening so that we might increase our chances of being alert on Sunday morning?  These are all questions that speak to our heart attitude toward weekly worship of what we are building up in the body of Christ.  Let’s look at our last one:

Giving:  Nehemiah 10:34, “34 Likewise we cast lots for the supply of wood among the priests, the Levites and the people so that they might bring it to the house of our God, according to our fathers’ households, at fixed times annually, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law; 35 and that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the Lord annually, 36 and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God.”

You might be thinking, “Michael, are you going to talk about financial giving?”  Yes!  In the context of Nehemiah 10 we see the people renewing their commitment to the “house of our God” and it’s because it takes a lot of commitment for a people to gather in worship.

In the context of Nehemiah 10 we see the need for showbread, grain offering, burnt offering, wood that is continually burning and the people bringing the first fruits from the harvest as an act of worship unto the Lord.

There’s a lot that goes into a local place of worship.  There are bills that need to be paid.  Keeping the place clean.  Systems in place to care for people.  Events that need to be planned.

And the only reason any of these things happen in the life of a church is if individual people come together to give financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, prayerfully, relationally, vulnerability, authenticity, so that we might be a people who are being built up unto the Lord.

It is financial giving, but we are talking about a bigger picture of our relationships with one another, so that we are asking ourselves, “Am I holding back on some level?”

In a similar way to Nehemiah 10, we are in a place of renewal.  We are in a place of asking the Lord to show up in ways we can only imagine, therefore, I don’t want you to hear these questions through a lens of obligation but a lens of invitation where each of us would ask ourselves, “Am I giving as much of myself to the Lord and to our church family as I can?”

That is a question I can’t answer for you. That is a question between you and the Lord and if the answer is, “Yes” then praise God, we will trust Him and His provision.

But if the answer is “No” or you don’t know how to answer that question, then come talk to me, come talk to our elders, so that the Lord might use this season, like that of Nehemiah 10 to renew our relationships with one another and renew our relationships to the Lord for His glory.

But let’s not close there.  Let’s end with the gospel.  It would be easy to read a passage like this morning and say to ourselves, “Let’s do it!  Let’s try harder.  Let’s do more.  Let’s make it happen!” But that’s not really the hope of the gospel.

In fact, if you fast forward to Nehemiah 13 you are going to see that Nehemiah goes back to Susa, but then returns to Jerusalem only to find that the great renewal of Nehemiah 10 had already faded.

The people continued to neglect the Sabbath.  The people continued to neglect the care of the temple.  The people continued to wander from the Lord, so that Nehemiah walks around throwing blows!  That’s not our hope this morning.

Our ultimate hope this morning is that we could never get ourselves back on track, we could never pick ourselves back up and make ourselves strong but instead the hope of the gospel is that someone outside of us has to come to pick us up, holds us together and secures our way.  His name is Jesus!

Jesus is the One who comes to make us pure, clean, and without any blemish.  No matter what we may do with our bodies sexually or physically.  No matter what we do with our thoughts.   Jesus says, “I love you.  I have come for you.  I will never leave you.”

Jesus is the One who gives us rest.  Jesus gives us His righteousness.  Jesus gives His perfection.  Jesus gives us His security.  Jesus gives us His eternity.  Jesus gives us identity.  Jesus gives us forgiveness that makes us whole and complete in Him.

Jesus is the One who makes our bodies the temple of worship so that wherever we go, He goes, so that our lives are acts of worship unto Him.

Jesus is the One who sat with the disciples in Luke 22, lifted up a cup and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

There’s that old covenant, old promise where we try, and try, and try, and try, and Jesus says, “Trust in Me, I will make you new.”

Jesus doesn’t give us an outward work where we need to try harder but instead, Jesus gives us His inward work that empowers us and keeps us till we are face to face with Him in eternity.

But for that hope to be true, you have to believe in Jesus.  If you’ve never trust in Jesus, then you need to receive Jesus.

You need to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.  You need to believe in your heart that Jesus resurrected from the dead.  Jesus is the One who lived a perfect life.  Jesus is the One who takes our sin at the cross.  Jesus is the One who conquers our sin in the resurrection, but you have to believe in Him.  Won’t you do that this morning?