Pledging Allegiance to God

Pledging Allegiance to God

“Pledging Allegiance to God”

(Nehemiah 9:38-10:39)

Series: REBUILD (Nehemiah)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

  • Take your Bible and open your Bibles to Nehemiah Chapter 9.

While you’re finding that I just want to say that I had a fantastic time hanging out with you all last Sunday at our Family Day at the River!  The “universal baptism” was a special treat.  Most of you stayed after the quick baptism and then we enjoyed a meal and some of us even got “baptized again” later.  By the way I’ve got somebody’s blue folding chair in my trunk!  As I was leaving the park there was one lone blue folding chair leaning up against a tree.  So if that’s yours let me know and we’ll get it to you.

I was going over this book when the rain came down.  And we handed out a bunch of these, but you may not have gotten one and we have copies available today at the doors.  

I was sharing how this Summer Family Activity Book is an exceptional help in treasuring and teaching the Word indoors and outdoors this Summer.  There’s just a lot of fun stuff in here!  I read one or two last week.  Maybe just a couple more this morning before we get into the Word.  Here’s an idea:

Celebrate Christmas in July.  As a family, remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus by setting aside July 25 as “Christmas in July.”  Decorate, throw a party, invite folks over and read the Christmas narrative in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2 and thank God for sending Jesus as the Promised Savior.  

How about this one: For one week this summer, have your family fast from all TV, movies, video games, social media and time spent on mobile devices.  See how the absence of these things affects each person’s mood and the amount of time you spend together.  Spend time that week going on a walk or bike ride together as a family, play board games, make some cards for people you know who need to be encouraged.

Here’s another: Open your home to the nations.  Invite someone from another country over for dinner.  As you get to know that person, ask them to tell you about their country and culture.  Maybe invite one of the families from our Hispanic ministry.

Related to that one is this: international food experience.  Find a recipe from a different country or go to a restaurant that serves ethnic food.  Before your meal, visit to research that country or part of the world.  Talk about what you learned as you eat…and after dinner spend some time praying for both Christians and unbelievers who live in that part of the world.  Pretty cool idea, right?

Listen to this one: what to do when you’re waiting.  As you plan to head out to an amusement park or similar place, write Romans 8:18 or Jude 1:21 on a note card or on your cell phone to bring with you.  As you spend time waiting in line for rides, redeem the time by pulling out these verses and talking about how waiting to get on the ride can be a picture of waiting for the return of Jesus.

Look thorough photos from your wedding.  Tell how you met each other and laugh at how different you looked then.  Spend time laughing as a family!  The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22 that laughter does the heart good like medicine.  Laughter is good for you!  Besides, if you laugh a lot then when you get older your wrinkles will be in the right places.  So look through photos from your wedding and then talk about marriage as a picture of Jesus’ love for the church family.

Here’s a cool one: If you are on a boat—maybe fishing or something like that—try to imagine what it would have been like to for the disciples who saw Jesus calm the storm.  Pay attention to the water you’re on—how you feel when it’s calm or choppy.   Then together read Mark 4 about Jesus’ calming the storm.  Then there are questions: What do you think the disciples saw, heard and felt as the storm came upon them?  Why did the wind and waves obey Jesus?  What other things is Jesus in charge of?  What other things does Jesus save people from?  How does He save people from sin and death?

In the appendices there’s a suggestion for how you can plan to make the most of your Summer.  There are even these months June and July where you can write on them as you plan.  Planning is important!  REMEMBER: You’ll never “find” time for anything, you must “take” time.  Because time zips by, amen?  The longer you live the quicker you can live a year!

There are special dates to remember like VBS week, Family Night, Swim Party, and so on.

Theres a community calendar.  Did you know that this Friday is National Donut Day?  Go out as a family and enjoy a donut in Jesus’ name!

Reading in the Park, stories read at Freedom Park and Audubon Park Tuesdays and Thursdays; lunch provided.  I’ll bet many of you didn’t even know about that.

$1 Summer Movie Schedule and (turn page) Places to See around Kentucky.

Pick these up and use them June & July.  These are at the exits, over here on the table outside these doors, and a few still at the Connection Center.  Summer Family Activity Book.

Have you found Nehemiah 9?

Chapter 9 is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible.  Longest prayer.  Rich preached Chapter 9.  I always try to listen to the messages I miss when I’m away.  Hope you do that, too.  I listened to both Rich and Jacob’s message from the week before.  Like to stay current on what’s going on in my church family!

Chapter 9 is a six hour worship service, 3 hours of reading God’s Word and then 3 hours of confession, confessing the sin of not following the Lord God.  God’s people rehearsed the ways of God and then they responded to the Word.  They responded rightly to the Word.  They said, in essence, “We confess!  We have sinned!  God has been faithful.  We have been unfaithful.”  That’s chapter 9; God’s faithfulness in the face of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

The people genuinely repent.  I was reading in my quiet time the other day where Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7 that there is a kind of sorrow that doesn’t lead to repentance.  Like the serial adulterer who is sorry only that he got caught.  But then there is a godly sorrow, a godly sorrow that leads to repentance, to a commitment to change.  That’s what the Israelites have here in chapters 9 and 10 in response to their sin.  They confess, they repent, and then they purposefully commit afresh and anew to God.  They pledge—in written form—they pledge their allegiance to God.

Verse 38:

38 “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

Basically the people are saying, “Hey, we’ve broken Moses’ Covenant before.  We get it.  We failed big time.  But no more!  We will keep all the words of the commands of the law!”

They were not doing this as a means of acceptance with God.  They weren’t keeping rules and commands in order to get saved.  This is not a covenant of works.  It is a loving response to God’s love upon them.  God had called them into a special covenant of grace whereby they became His special people.

In fact, it had not been that long since they had celebrated the Day of Atonement, a day on which a goat was taken and the sins of God’s people were confessed upon that goat and the goat was driven into the wilderness never to be seen again—reminding the people that God had forgiven all their sins.  So the people are already God’s children accepted on the basis of God’s grace.  Chapter 10 is their loving response to God’s love for them.

Chapter 10 is the covenant, first the people who signed it (1-27) and then the covenant itself in the following verses.  The signatories include the civil leaders Nehemiah and Zedekiah in verse 1, then priestly names and Levite names and then leaders, 84 names altogether.

The point of the long list of names indicates that the people are in solidarity, they are united together on this and they mean business!  In the same way we would sign a church covenant, putting our names down to say, “We’re already in this covenant, but this is a way of saying, ‘Yes, I’m on board.  Yes, I unashamedly stand together with brother and sister before God and say, I am proud to be included in this number of names whereby we are covenanting together.  We will keep the covenant together that God has made with us.’”

Verses 28 and 29 underscore the seriousness of their intent showing that the rest of the people following God were behind all the leaders and with the leaders in keeping the covenant:

28 Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, 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, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 

29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:

They were so serious that they even “entered into a curse and an oath” which means they even set up some kind of consequence for failure to keep the covenant, a ritual of some kind whereby they acknowledged their sin when they broke the covenant.

Now there’s a cool phrase here in verse 28 I don’t want us to miss.  Verse 28 says, “Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers,” and so on—these are Israelites—then this phrase, “and all those who had separated themselves from the people of the lands…”  

“All those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands” indicates the wideness of God’s mercy; a mercy that extends beyond ethnic Israel to all who will leave the false gods of the lands and join with those who worship the One True and Living God.  God’s mercy extends to all who will believe—including you and me!

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

like the wideness of the sea.

There’s a kindness in God’s justice,

which is more than liberty.

And then the specific pledges (30-39).  These are areas of specific application in Nehemiah’s day, areas where the people had been particularly negligent in keeping the Mosaic Law, the love covenant God made with His people.  The people acknowledged they were guilty of breaking the covenant in three particular areas, in their failure to recognize that God is Lord of their Relationships; Lord of their Rest; and Lord of their Resources.

**We Pledge Allegiance to God in…

  1. Our Relationships (30)

Look at verse 30:

30 We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; 

This is a pledge of allegiance to God regarding relationships.  Verse 30 acknowledges the danger of mixed marriages.  The law condemned mixed marriages—not on racial, but on religious grounds.  That’s important!  God is not opposed to people of different races marrying.  He created all the races!  It was not a racial problem, but a religious problem.  The problem was that the people of the surrounding lands did not worship the One True God.  So marrying someone with a different religious worldview was disastrous.  Think of Solomon whose heart was drawn away from God because of following the hearts of the women of foreign lands with foreign gods. 

It’s still an issue today.  Paul teaches this same principle in 2 Corinthians 6 where he warns of two people being “unequally yoked.”  He’s talking about the wedding of two people who do not have the same biblical worldview.  It’s not a racial problem, but a religious problem, a holiness issue.  A believer should only marry another believer.  Also 1 Corinthians 7 where the Bible says that a widow is free to remarry but. “only in the Lord,” only a believer.

Michele and I were honored to lead a marriage retreat yesterday—Friday and Saturday—for a friend of ours pastoring about an hour from here.  It was a lot of fun and these couples were committed to marriage; they were very much united together in faith—so while several couples were struggling, there was a commitment to work together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It makes a difference when husband and wife are on the same page spiritually.

Think of applying Deuteronomy 6 we talked about at the park last week—parents passing on their faith to their children.  Or Genesis 2:24, where it says the husband and wife are “one” in marriage, one flesh.  How does that work if the one-flesness is not in agreement on matters of faith?  Ephesians 5 says marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with His people; Christ and His bride the church.  Well, if one of the two persons in marriage is not a believer in the God of the Bible how then could their marriage adequately reflect the relationship of Christ with His church? 

God’s children pledge allegiance to God in our relationships.  Secondly, God’s people pledge allegiance to God in:

  1. Our Rest (31) 

31 if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt.

God’s people had broken the fourth commandment, broken the Sabbath, the day of rest, by beginning to business on the Sabbath instead of observing the sabbath as a day of rest.

Keeping the Sabbath was an evidence of faith and trust in the Lord to provide.  Refraining from work was a way of saying, “God, I trust You to take care of my needs.  I know I don’t have to worry about making money today, because You will provide and You want me to show You that I believe that by resting.  So I will rest.”

And the true Israelite would rest on the Sabbath day, trusting God, resting in His promises, taking the day as a special time to focus upon the goodness of God.  

This is the point of the Sabbath today.  It’s not a law to be kept legalistically.  The Sabbath principle of rest we observe on Sunday because that’s the day Christ rose from the dead—Christ in Whom is found our eternal rest!  So we are wise to refrain from working on the Lord’s Day where possible, on Sunday, whereby we too indicate that we have faith to believe that God will provide our needs.  We enjoy taking a day to rest, reflect, and recharge, keeping the day as a day unlike the usual routine and rhythm of work.  

He is Lord of our Relationships, Lord of our Rest, thirdly Lord of our Resources.

  1. Our Resources (32-39)

The term “offerings” or bringing the “first” as in first-born or first-fruits, or “tithe,” these words occur over a dozen times in these last eight verses.  That’s a lot of times!  The people pledge allegiance to God with regard to their resources as the way in which ministry will continue.  Listen for that as I read verses 32 and following:

32 Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:

33 for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God. 

34 We cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for bringing the wood offering into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at the appointed times year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God as it is written in the Law.

35 And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 

36 to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; 

37 to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the [u]house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. 

38 And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse.

39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.

The main takeaway here is that the people of God recognize that God is the Lord of our Resources.  They had neglected worship of God though their giving and they are pledging to make it right.  

We too recognize God is the God who owns all our stuff.  He is the One who gave it.  So when we tithe—the word means “tenth,”—and when we give, we acknowledge God is the rightful owner of everything we have.  And God has used the means of His people tithing and giving offerings as the way to fund ministry so that, last phrase in the chapter, so that “we will not neglect the house of our God.”

When you give your tithe—your tenth; 10% of your earnings—you also acknowledge that you are not worried about God’s providing and you are happy to return your tenth to God for the funding of ministry.  It is a faith issue.  Our giving is one of the ways we indicate that we trust God.  

And because of the giving of God’s people, ministry thrives.  I want to take the remainder of our time to show you how your giving blessed some people our team was able to minister to in Southeast Asia.  

Thank you for your prayers…hope you are praying for our team in Brazil right now…signing up for those emails…

Can’t go into geographic details because I’m not sure which service will be broadcast on the radio and we want to be careful not to put to risk our Christian brothers and sisters living in a persecuted country (pic 1).

Here are a couple believers who shared how they were recently arrested and jailed simply for worshiping Jesus on the Lord’s Day.  When that happens our missionary friend on the ground there has to gather up funds in order to get them out of jail.  These two guys shared about how they and 14 others were imprisoned—including a 2 year old—imprisoned for worshiping Christ.

They told their stories about how they were singing as police came to arrest them.  While they were in jail other believers visited them and brought food to them.  They continued worshiping in jail and they even baptized a guy in jail—found a container just big enough to baptize.  The guy who was baptized served in their army and so when word got out, his pay was cut by 70%.  But these folks continue following the Lord.

Here’s a picture (pic 2) of church building under construction.  One of the villages we visited; there are Christians who were told they could no longer worship in their village or they would all be driven out.  So they are building a church outside of the village.  That’s what this is.  They were waiting to gather funds to build the roof—a certain kind of material is necessary for the roof.

The leader of that church is a fella who preaches and ministers to the believers.  We gave him a gift to take to his granddaughter (pic 3).  Our WMU ladies were generous in donating clothing and other items to give—using their resources for the kingdom.

And when we learned about this church building going up outside the village, our team determined to fund the roof of that building—thanks to many of you who give weekly and some who gave particularly for this trip.  They sent us a picture recently (pic 4) and you can see the roof there.

Also a number of backpacks were donated as gifts to give to the leaders.   One of those backpacks just happened to be the one given to the leader of this particular church.  Check this unique backpack (pic 4).  See what it says?  “Henderson County Colonels!”  So our local high school team is proudly represented all the way over on the other side of the globe!

Here’s a church of 33 families, the largest we were able to visit.  These folks cannot legally build a church building so they meet in a person’s home like most of the churches there do.

We visited another church one morning where we were honored to pray for the sick and share a word of encouragement from the Scriptures.  These folks were waiting for us since 4PM the previous day, just waiting for our arrival.  There’s a powerful missional encouragement that comes to people just by virtue of being there, our presence with fellow believers, it really is a huge encouragement.  Their leaders remind them to remember that folks from Kentucky visit because they are loved.  Remember these folks when you are in jail—your brothers and sisters—and that you are not alone.

And again, the giving of resources, clothing here.  Look at these little girls.  I guarantee you these girls wore those dresses to bed that night and are probably still wearing them right now.  And same with these twin boys who were running around naked.  Praise God for people who are generous in their giving—recognizing He is Lord of our resources.

The people covenanted together to say, “We will do what God says!” but, as we’ll see in future chapters, they fall back into old sinful habits.  We’ll see that in Chapter 13.  

Many of us can relate.  We really want to serve the Lord yet we fail Him.  We sin.

So what sin do you need to confess to God as you respond to His Word today?  

What does your current obedience to God say about your love for Jesus?

What is your initial response when you hear the word “tithing” or “giving?”  

Is there a way you have “neglected the house of God?” 

Neglected seeking a relationship where the other person shares your biblical worldview?

Neglected to find in Christ

Take time right now to repent of sin and turn to Christ who lived for you and died for you and rose from the grave for you so you could have the best relationship ever—rightly related to your Creator, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let’s pray and then we’ll respond through song.

RESPONSE: “I Surrender All”

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