We are talking about commitment today. That is a dangerous word. Commitment is important. But commitment is something that you really only do with select things. A lot of us go to extensive effort to not commit to things.
I spend most of my time avoiding commitment. Dad, can i play football in the fall. Dad, will you take more horseback riding. Dad, can we go to the pool when you get home? Dad can I spend the night at ___ house? Honey can you fix my shelves tomorrow? Are you going join the gym or not? I like the path of least resistance and you never know when a better one might come along.
It is hard to commit because once we commit to purchase or do something we have allocated our resources and cannot use that money for something else. Commitment binds you.
There are benefits to commitment. Marriage is based on a commitment. Two people move into deeper levels of trust, of intimacy and relationship because they are committed to each other. Their commitment together involves a forsaking of others and that reciprocal action causes them to hold closer and tighter to each other.
Commitment is good. Commitment comes at a cost. Our passage today shows that the people commit to serving the Lord together and that commitment moves them to live a certain way. If you are going to follow Christ it comes with a commitment. God call us to be committed to him!
We are in chapter 10 of Nehemiah and looking at the people make a commitment to God. Verses 1-28 provides a list of names of people. Those are there for a reason but we are going to focus on what those people did together, what they commit to doing.
Today’s passage pertains to everyone but I had a particular burden for our students and those heading off to college. These are some important things for you to do.
"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.
"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, 29 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.
30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.
31 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.
32 "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: 33 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. 34 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. 35 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; 36 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; 37 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. 38 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. 39 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." (Nehemiah 10:28-39 ESV)
This section on commitment is ultimately about separation (v28). From people of land to word of God. Commitment to God involves a separation from the world and a commitment to live by faith. To separate yourself from one things means you connect to something else. They separate themselves from what all the other people were doing and they connect themselves to the law of God (v28). They do this upon a curse and an oath. They are serious and it is about obeying all the laws of God. (Team/City/Marriage)
Note the number of times devotion to the written word of God is mention. If you are going to follow God get in his word (10:28, 29(2x), 34, 36).
The commitment to God and separation from the world is the foundation of serving Christ. However, they focus on several key areas, either for importance or because of need. These items were important in their day and are important for us today too.
Let’s look at these.
- Commitment to Purity
They commit to not give their daughters in marriage to “the people of the land” or to take daughters of other peoples of the land for their sons (v30). There is a commitment here to their own people, more it’s about a commitment of faith.
Marriage is such an important decision. Your spouse will influence and shape you more than anyone else. Solomon’s pagan wives turned his heart from the Lord (1 Kings 11:3). You want to make sure that who you marry encourages you in your walk with God. That is the best thing you can do for someone, and it should be one of the top criteria you have for your spouse. It is above good looks, amount of income, etc. Marry someone who loves the LOrd.
This command is not about racial exclusion but about commitment to faith. Some have used verse like this to say there should be no interracial marriage. That is not what this means, nor is it the precedent of the Bible. Ezra 6:21 there is a provision even for the people of the land to separate themselves. Also, Ruth the Moabites that trusts in the God of Israel and from her comes king David and also Jesus. She is held as a woman of faith.
The New Testament affirms this.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, (2 Corinthians 6:14-17 ESV)
For many this seems superficial and judgmental, why not marry who you want. When you see that in the Bible commitment to God means a commitment to him and his ways above and beyond anything else, that he has reign over your life, that all your thoughts are to be honoring to him, that you are to pray incessantly to him, that you are to honor him with your time, money, life, work, parenting, etc. That his glory is the goal of your life and his work is what motivates you in everything: how you study, how you live, then you see how it is extremely hard to marry someone who does not share any of that with you. If it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal then you have probably missed what God calls you to. Singles, who you marry is one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Put the Lord first in your life and in your decision of who to be around and who you would consider for a spouse. It important to look deeper because many profess Christ but under the surface they are worshipping the god of money, prestige, reputation, and themselves.
Marrieds, don’t think you are done with this command. The best thing you can do for your marriage is to pursue the Lord. Marriage is good, it is awesome, it is hard. You are going to need to forgive each other, love each other, you are going to walk through challenging life situations and the best thing you can do is seek the Lord first and foremost. Need unifying purpose that is greater than yourselves.
Make your marriage reflect the sacrificial love of Christ, which marriage was designed to do. That is a high bar. Husbands know your wife, care for her, romance her. Wives help your husbands, love them, know them, romance them. Commit to honoring the marriage.
- Commitment to Rest.
They agree not to work on the sabbath, which was a command of Moses. The ability to rest is a reflection of what you hope in. If your hope is in money, your career, your productivity then you will never rest. God’s people were to work six days and rest one. There was even a sabbath year they were to take every seven years and other holy days to observe.
It appears some found a loophole on Sabbaths. They were buying from the “people of the land.” So it was not good enough to say I won’t work on the sabbath but I ll buy from those that do.
May have had the best of intentions to keep the sabbath but they didn’t prepare and needed stuff on the sabbath. A key part of resting is preparing for it. You have to plan ahead to get away. Rest is an evidence that your trust is in something other than your effort.
Now one thing that Christ does is there is a change to the law. Murder is no longer the physical act of murder but it includes hating another. Adultery is not just the physical act of adultery but includes looking as well. Some commands are heightened. The sabbath is loosened. We are not bound by legalistic observance of the Sabbath.
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6 ESV)
Whatever you do you need to do it to the Lord (1 cor 10:31). A simple way to understand the Sabbath is that there is a pattern of rest that is a part of the created order but we are freed from legalistic obligation to it. Jesus is the Lord of rest and we need to look to him for the rest, refreshment that we all want. And part of finding that rest is in the willingness to put our work down in order seek him.
Take time to rest. To get refreshed. Have some structure in your life. Put up boundaries. You need a rhythm of rest.
If you do not find a way to rest on Sundays you will never make time for church. This connects with the next point.
- Commitment to the Temple Service
In verse 32 there is a commitment to give to the temple, to provide for its maintenance, to observe the feasts and all the work of the house of God. v 39 they say they will not neglect the house of God. They commit to make sure all these activities are going on. The temple is destroyed because they neglected it. Don’t neglect the church. Steph Curry “not in my house.”
Any organization has a center, a headquarters, and in that headquarters much of its work gets done. No headquarters no work. If McD’s doesn’t have a central place making hamburgers no other franchise gets them. Their work gets neglected everything else suffers. The temple is the headquarters that the work of God gets done then ripples out to everywhere else.
In Nehemiah we have seen that God worked in the gathering of his people. In chapter 8 they experience God through the simple reading and explaining of his Word. Without the prioritization of the temple that doesn’t happen.
They commit to participate in services, they commit to make sure the temple has what it needs to function, to bring offerings for sacrifices (v33 grain offerings, burnt offerings, and food for the priests).
“Those that forsake the worship of God forsake God.” Matthew henry
Commitment to the temple facilitates everything that pertains to the worship of God. These are things that enabled the people to enjoy and experience the presence of God. As we engage in the work of God it is about enjoying and experiencing who he is. If the temple is neglected the sound of the gospel and of hope will fall silent.
In the NT Jesus is the temple. It is spiritual and he is the center.
“But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (Joh 2:21 NIV).
We are the temple of God. “dont you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).
We are to commit to serve Jesus’ purposes in the world, and gathering as a church is the eye of the storm that should stir all of that up. We gather to remind ourselves the perfect sacrifice has been made. We don’t need lamps and bulls and grain to make atonement. We gather to read the word and make it known. We gather to lift up and encourage one another. This is what happens in the church, the community of God’s people. People are stirred in their faith.
The church isn’t just one of many good causes. It is the central cause instituted by Jesus to further his causes and purposes in the world.
If you are going to serve God it involves serving the temple of his body… the church. The church is the one institution that Jesus founded and called us to be devoted to. Forsaking his church is like Nehemiah forsaking the temple.
G.K. Chesterton said, “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person”
Refire yourself for the mission of God. What do you love to do. Go do it and do it to the glory of God. If you are disinterested in the church. If you find church meetings boring it may be because you are uninterested in God.
If we are going to move forward in our mission, we need to reach our community, and for that we have to move forward in knowing people. Genuine friendship is the seedbed of genuine Christian service and mission.
They made a commitment together, as a people. This is what the church is. Notice here that these people covenant to follow God’s commands. They already had God’s commands. They knew they should follow them, and yet here they are coming together to make a statement of I am going to follow what God says. They put their names in writing. That is commitment! The church, the true church is not just an audience that shows up on Sundays. It is an army that is furthering the mission of God. You need to be coming together to push us forward
You cannot serve God if you refuse to play an active role the temple of Christ’s body. I realize that in most church the majority of people will no be there in five years. I want to see people growing in their understanding of what Christ has done and committing to serve, to give, to live out your faith with other people. When you go off to college I want you to jump into a church, commit to being there and being known, and to do that without anyone having to ask you to do it. You do it because it is what God calls you to do. Commit to do these things with the people you are around, with the church you are a part of: support it, participate in it, build it up, if you dont you will be disconnected from those people and disconnected from God’s purpose for you. The church is a priority for God and for his people, if it is not a priority for you then it shows a disconnect between you and God’s intent.
Bridgeway. Our mission is to worship God, love each other, and make a difference in the world. We need people coming together saying I want to worship God in all of life, I want help and I want to help. We need people who love the community here and want to help other people join and get involved in this community. We also need people saying I want to get out in the community, get to know others and learn to help them in every way: physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc. And really, it’s only going to happen when the church moves up in our estimation, when we see the incredible privilege of what it is. Each person owning this. Who are you reaching out to, who are you praying for, who are you serving.
Have you committed to serving the Lord? If you have not then it means you do not see him as valuable, or at least not as valuable as the other things in life. It also means you have not experienced his fullness. You cannot enjoy know someone that you have not committed to…
- How important is commitment? How and why do you avoid committing to things?
- What do the people commit to in Nehemiah 10? Are you committed to these things?
- Why is commitment to “God’s house” so important? What is your plan for being involved and committed to a church?