Joy and Giving

Joy and Giving

“Joy and Giving”

(Nehemiah 12:44-47)


Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

  • Take your Bibles and join me this morning in Nehemiah Chapter 12.

We are preaching verse-by-verse through Nehemiah in our series REBUILD.  Nehemiah records the events some 400 years before Christ when God’s people had been under the discipline of God for their sin.  They had been unfaithful to God so God allowed the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem, knock down its buildings and walls, and carry off God’s people into captivity.  The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins for many years after that.

But by God’s grace that was all over now and the people are brought back to their homeland in Israel and the city is rebuilt, the walls rebuilt in just 52.  And God then begins a “rebuilding” of the people.  Having rediscovered the Word, the people are led to rededicate themselves.

That brings us to Chapter 12 where last time we read of this great dedication ceremony.  The people gather together to dedicate the rebuilt walls and the rebuilt city and their rebuilt selves to the One True and Living God.  Nehemiah gives us the details in Chapter 12, the two thanksgiving choirs marching around the tops of the walls, meeting together at the front of the temple in what was surely a coruscating musical offering of praise and thanksgiving to God.

We paused to reflect on the concluding verse of that narrative—verse 43—where the word “joy” or “rejoice” occurring no fewer than five times.  Hear it again:

43 “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”  Resounding joy!

So we talked about how God created us to joy in Him.  While we experience times of real sorrow, God created us to delight in Him, to love in Him, to sing in Him, to joy in Him.  He both expects our joy and enables our joy.  

We also noted that the people of God in their worship offered up sacrifices of thank offerings to God.  Our thank offerings today are found largely in what the writer of Hebrews calls “the sacrifice of praise to God.”  

Hebrews 13:15, Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Worship, singing, praise, is natural for the Christian as he or she has Christ within and the word of Christ that dwells within.  As Paul writes:

Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

The presence of Christ is the essence of joy.  It’s easy to sing when you walk with the King. 

But is joyful worship only about singing?  Is it enough just to shout and sing and lift our voices in praise?  Are their not also practical expressions that accompany our shouts of joy.  It’s easy enough to shout and sing, but is more expected of us?  Well, the Bible answers that question with a resounding yes.  And our short passage opens up with Nehemiah’s telling us something that happened at the same time, on that very day.

  • Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

44 And at the same time some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered. 

45 Both the singers and the gatekeepers kept the charge of their God and the charge of the purification, according to the command of David and Solomon his son. 

46 For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chiefs of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 

47 In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.

  • Pray.

Many of you are familiar with that is called the Shorter Catechism; a longstanding disciple-making booklet put together in question and answer format to teach basic doctrines of the Bible.  The old Baptist catechism is based largely upon the Shorter Catechism.  And there are these question and answers, for example:

Q. Which is the first commandment?

A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The very first question of the Shorter Catechism asks this question:

Q. What is the chief end of man?”  

A. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

The chief end—that is, the whole point of our existence—is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  And others have noted that we glorify Him most when we are enjoying Him most.  Joy.

But joy is more than signing.  Joy is living.  And, Nehemiah shows us in this passage that joy is also giving.

These verses describe a people who found joy in giving.  Let me hasten to add that many of you find joy in giving.  Many of you are faithful givers to the church.  You are a generous people.  I shared with you some weeks ago when we returned from Southeast Asia that because of your giving, we were able to purchase a much needed roof for a church building that was being constructed outside of one the villages where people were suffering persecution for their faith.  Recently we received a picture of the completed building.  Check it out:

[Southeast Asia Picture]  

Many of these folks being persecuted in their village are now worshiping together in their new church building “singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord.”  Praise God.

These verses tell us about the peoples’ joyful giving.  Were we to look inside the walls of the rebuilt city we would see not only the temple, but a bunch of storerooms that contained food and grain and pots and pans and other things used for ministry. The priests and Levites would come in from the villages and prepare everything for worship.  It took time and it took resources.  Tithes were collected into the temple and the monies and resources were distributed to those who led in worship, supporting the ministry of the Lord.

By the way, you’ve got to love Nehemiah!  He is keen to capitalize on the joyous occasion, striking while the iron is hot, he teaches the importance of tithing and giving to support the work of the Lord.  As one preacher says:

“It is one thing to shout on a great occasion, but another to offer the sacrifice of praise continually and to make realistic provision for the church’s needs (Derek Thomas).”

In our time remaining let me share with you:

**Three Words About Giving

Very simple.  As we look to the passage, Nehemiah helps us see these three truths about the giving of God’s people.  First:

  1. It was Cheerful (44)

Their giving was done cheerfully.  We have already noted the theme of jubilation that precedes this passage, the people rejoicing with great joy.  And Nehemiah tells us in verse 44 that as the people gathered together tithes and offerings that they did so joyfully.  The very last phrase in verse 44 says, “for Judah (that is, the people of God), rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered.”

The passage goes on to show that the peoples’ giving was the joyful expression of gratitude for those and to those who led in worship at the temple.  Cheerful giving.

The Apostle Paul teaches the same truth in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Someone said, “You’re not really giving to God until you enjoy it.”  I think that is true. 

I mean some say, “Give till it hurts” and for others “It just hurts to give,” but I think it is true that we’re not really giving to God until we enjoy it.  

We’re not to give grudgingly, nor of necessity, as though being forced in some way.  We’re to give cheerfully.  

You’ll remember Jesus one day was watching people give their tithes and offerings in the temple.  Some were showy in their giving, pouring a number of coins into the giving containers making as much noise as possible.   And Jesus saw a poor widow woman putting in just two small copper coins into the temple treasury—not much, not even worth a penny in our day.  And He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had (Luke 21:1-4).”

You can’t give like that if you’re not giving cheerfully.  We can’t expect God to honor our giving if we give grudgingly or of necessity.

Some of you will know the name Harry Ironside.  Ironside was the famous pastor for some 20 years at Moody Church in Chicago and author of a number of commentaries.  I was given one with his signature by Joan Littlepage, a dear member here for years before her passing; she had worked there at Moody before coming to Henderson.

Ironside used to tell the story about an old Scotsman who accidentally gave more than he intended into an offering bag during a worship service.  In Scotland the ushers at the church used a pole with a bag on the end of it and they would make their way through the pews and position that bag in front of you and you put your offerings in the bag.  Well, this one guy accidentally dropped in a gold sovereign coin by mistake when he meant to put in a shilling.  Now a shilling back then was like a quarter, 25 cents.  And a gold sovereign was worth 20 shillings, so like $5 which was a lot back then.  And so, this old Scotsman accidentally drops in the sovereign and, as soon as he realizes it he tries to get it back.  But the user pulled the bag back and said, “Nah, once in, always in!”  And the old Scotsman says, “Ah well, I’ll get credit for it in glory.”  And the usher says, “Nah, you’ll get credit for the shilling!”  That’s all the old man intended to give, so that’s all the credit he’ll get.  We’re to give as God has given to us: joyfully, freely, gladly—cheerfully.

Their giving was Cheerful.  Second word about their giving:

  1. It was Scriptural (44-46)

Nehemiah notes twice in verses 44 and 45 that their giving was “by the Book,” according to the Scriptures.  Look at verse 44 again:

44 And at the same time [on that very day] some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites…

Specified by the Law; that is, as recorded in the Scriptures.  Tithing was biblical.   

You’ll also see in verse 45 the phrase: “…according to the command of David and Solomon his son.”  The service of ministers was supported by the people as the ministers were doing what was commanded in the Word.  Ministry was supported by tithing and giving.

The word “tithe” means “tenth.”  That’s literally what the word means; tenth; one tenth, or ten percent.  Strictly speaking, to tithe is to give 10% of what you have received.  A tithe is 10% of your earnings.  Earn $1,000, ten percent, $100 dollars goes to the Lord. An “offering” is when you give above the tithe.  So you’ve returned your tithe to the Lord and as God often prompts you, you may give an offering in addition to, or above your regular giving.  That’s an offering.

It’s not our place this morning to do an exhaustive Old Testament survey about the various tithes of grain and money and offerings collected by God’s people.  I’ll leave that to your further study this afternoon.  But one truth is unmistakable: God expected His people to give the first tenth of what that had received, to return that to God to support the ministry, the ministry to God’s people.  The people in verse 44 were obeying that command, the command “specified by the Law.”

They obeyed God’s command, His Law about giving and tithing.  And again, you can read some of those commands later in places like Leviticus 7, Numbers 7, and Deuteronomy 18.  By the way, I am reading through Numbers in my devotion time and discovered that one of the longest chapters in the Bible is Numbers Chapter 7, nearly 2,000 words and all of them about giving.

The greater point is that God uses the tithe to do the work of the ministry to God’s people.  Tithing is a principle that continues into our day.  Some may differ on whether the Old Testament Law about tithing is still binding as a law, but nearly every Christian agrees on the principle of tithing, tithing is an ongoing principle, the means by which God funds the ministry of the church.

So our church expects members to discover the joy of tithing, the joy of returning to the Lord the “first fruits” of their harvest, the top of their giving, the first tenth, 10% of what God has given us through the providence of a job.  

We’ve made it really easy to give here at Henderson’s First Baptist.  Just look at the back of your worship bulletin…the old fashioned-way through the offering, go directly to our website, TouchPoint app on your mobile device (on which you can also see the pictorial directory now!), and text-to-give.

Like God’s people giving to the temple, we give our tithe to the church and all those monies support the ministries of the church.  You are receiving ministry from the church—including the ministry of hearing the Word of God, sitting under the teaching of God’s Word in Sunday school, gathering together in a nice facility like this—you are receiving so it is natural to be giving; giving to support what you are receiving.  That’s why the tithe is returned to the local church.  

We’re not to use our tithe for other things.  That is, we don’t take our 10% and give it to other causes and call that “tithing.”  We give our 10% back to God through the local church ministry; that’s tithing and then—as God leads us to give above our tithe—we may choose to give offerings to other causes, missional, or humanitarian needs, or otherwise.  

You will be happy to know that every staff member here tithes faithfully.  10% returned to the church.  And every staff member also gives above the tithe to other causes as led by the Holy Spirit.  Our active deacons are tithers; it’s in the Deacon Covenant.  And I will bet that each of those deacons also gives above the tithe to other causes.

God always honors our giving.  Tithers will provide testimony that when they return their tithe, God always provides.  

As God says through the Prophet Malachi in Malachi 3:10:

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,

That there may be food in My house,

And try Me now in this,”

Says the Lord of hosts,

“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven

And pour out for you such blessing

That there will not be room enough to receive it.

A good question for us to ask is, “What would the church look like if everyone were to give as I give.”

Their giving was Cheerful.  Their giving was Scriptural.  And so, thirdly, their giving was Bountiful.  

  1. It was Bountiful (47)

Verse 47 essentially demonstrates that the people provided more than enough funds for one another.  Everyone received what was necessary.

47 In the days of Zerubbabel [a hundred years earlier] and in the days of Nehemiah [so both then and now] all Israel [note that: all of God’s people] gave [all gave] the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.

And what you have here is unity of the people with regard to their giving.  They gave cheerfully, Scripturally, and bountifully so that each and every person received what was needed to do the ministry.

To cite one commentator:

“The people funded the worship of God. Their perspective was, ‘Whatever it costs us, though we must sacrifice, we must support the worship of God in the temple. That’s what our lives are about (James Hamilton).’”

Bountiful giving is easy once we reflect on our bountiful receiving.  Jesus says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required (Luke 12:48).”

Here’s a question: “What have we NOT received from God?”

“If we belong to Christ, it’s logical that everything we have belongs to Him.” 

As Isaac Watts wrote in the hymn we often sing: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

“Giving to God is just taking our hands off of what belongs to Him.”

It’s in the context of giving in 1 Corinthians 9 that Paul says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (1 Corinthians 9:15)!”

The greatest gift we have received from God is Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God for HIs indescribably GREAT GIFT, the gift of salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ.

I know I’ve shared with you before the words of my friend Danny Akin.  He was talking about Christian giving and how those who are believers should give generously, the tithe to the local church merely being the start of our giving.  Rather than splitting hairs about how much a person should give each week he suggested this exercise, he said:

“Get on your knees, look to the cross, and give based on that.”

  • Well let’s bow for prayer.

With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, let’s consider the teaching we have heard from God’s Word.  When God’s people give, their giving is cheerful, their giving is Scriptural, and their giving is bountiful.  

What are you giving?  Do you tithe, do you give 10% back to God through the church ministry?  Many of you do.  But how do you do that?  Do you give cheerfully—or begrudgingly, out of necessity?  Maybe our motives are not right.  Let’s take a moment to confess silently and repent from sin.

Some of you are convicted about giving to God, beginning to return the tithe to Him, the first 10% of your paycheck as the means by which you say, “God, I trust You to provide.  I’m taking You at Your Word when You said, ‘Try me now in this.’  I am doing just that, believing You will pour out every need I have through the open window of Your provision.”  Silently thank God for His abundant provision and ask for His grace to be a faithful tither.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, God does not want your money, He wants your soul.  Your greatest need is not to receive more stuff, your greatest need is to receive a Savior; Jesus Christ.  Be encouraged to know that God loves you this morning and has made a way for you to be accepted by Him, forgiven of sin through Him, finding life in Him.  Turn to Christ this morning and be saved.

Our Father, when we survey the wondrous cross, when we look to the cross, we see there every reason for our giving generously.  Your love so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our lives, our all.  Be pleased as we respond to You in truth through Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

Now stand and sing—and as you sing, respond however you need to respond.

RESPONSE: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

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