Blessed Builders: God’s House…The People’s Promise

Blessed Builders: God’s House…The People’s Promise

Let’s Recap…

Nehemiah’s Problem (Nehemiah 1)
Nehemiah’s Process (Nehemiah 2-3)
Nehemiah’s Persecution (Nehemiah 4)
Nehemiah’s Predicament (Nehemiah 5-6)
Nehemiah’s Proposal (Nehemiah 7)
Nehemiah’s Praise (Nehemiah 8-9)
Nehemiah’s Promise (Nehemiah 10)

Opening Illustration: Fire In Church
No wonder there is so little enthusiasm in the church today. Billy Graham tells the amusing story of a fire which broke out in a small-town church. When the fire brigade, siren wailing, arrived on the spot, the minister recognized one of the men. "Hello, there, Jim. I haven't seen you in church for a long time," he chided.
"Well," answered the sweating man struggling with the hose, "there hasn't been a fire in church for a long time."

Point: 
I certainly hope that that will never be said of our church.  I pray that there will always be a fire here amongst us.  Today is really about church.  No, not the building but about the people.  Yes, this building is important because it is an outward display of our faith in God.  

Illustration:
What do you think when you think about the word “church”?  Now after a moment of reflection, you might say “I think of people”.  Let’s be honest, when we hear the word “church” we think of a structure.  We think about steeples.  We might even think about the schedules.  After all, the church contains some of the most busy people we know.  Churches are full of activities and program for all ages.  Our faith is enormously important to each of us. The church plays a large part in the development of our faith.  Right or wrong, this building is the foundation for spiritual development and personal discipleship. 

What Do You Think When You Hear The Word “Church”?

Do You Think Structures, Steeples or Schedules?

Nehemiah 10:28-39 ESV
28 “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.”

Point:
Followers in Nehemiah often refer to their site of worship as “The House of God”.  The Israelites in the desert called it the tabernacle.  The Hebrews took great comfort knowing that God’s presence rested in a building made by human hands.  In Nehemiah 10:39, the Israelites make a solemn promise, “We will not neglect the house of our God.”  The people promises concerning their families (vs. 30), their finances or business practices (vs. 31), their faithfulness in giving and their furnishings for the temple(vs. 37-39).  Big words.  As you know, they kept these promises for a while.  It would not be long until the temple fell into disrepair and they were living in disobedience once again.  

Illustration:
Let's face it, in a Democracy we get the kind of government we deserve:
It was time for the politicians to go campaigning in the backwoods and rural areas of Kentucky. One reporter who was following the candidates noticed that the backwoods people whooped and hollered very enthusiastically for every candidate. The politicians had probably never had such a spirited response in their lives. The reporter walked up to one particularly vocal hillbilly and asked, "What do you think of all these campaign promises?"

The hillbilly replied, "I didn't come here to think. I came here to holler!"

The Israelites Make 4 Promises Concerning God’s…

I. Families vs. 30
Nehemiah 10:30 ESV
We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.

Illustration: Yoked Together
Imagine you see a farmer getting ready to plow his or her field.  They hook up a powerful ox to one side and on the other side, they hook up a tiny little Chihuahua.  Which side is going to work the hardest?  Will they plow together in an equal fashion?  Can they walk along and carry the load on an equal basis?  Of course not!  One will likely be dragged along and impede the progress of the other.  One may pull to the left and one may pull to the right.  The one that is the primary worker will be pulling more than their fair share.  The ox will strain because the Chihuahua will want to run away or go the other direction.  They can not work together because they are unequally yoked together.  They will have little success and the work will either not get done or it will be exponentially more difficult.  It is not fair to the Chihuahua or to the ox.  This will simply not work.  They will eventually have to be unyoked.  For some that are unequally yoked, this means divorce.  How tragic and how unnecessary; it could have been prevented.

Point
The same principle applies to dating or considering an unbeliever as a marriage partner.  Their morals will not be the same, they may have differing principles in child rearing, their television or movie taste will be not be the same, their language, work ethic, just about everything will be different.  They will struggle at almost ever thing they do.  God commands Christians to not marry unbelievers because it is in their best interests.  No marriage is always better than a bad marriage, especially since marriage is intended to last until “death do us part.”  Don’t be fooled by thinking that you can convert them after you marry them because it is God who draws people to Christ (John 6:44).  Just because they say they believe in God does not mean they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord for He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.  Even the Devil and his demons believe in God but that doesn’t make them Christians (James 2:19).  You will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16, 20) and not by what they say.  Time will tell.  Jesus meant this when He said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18) and “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17).

2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

The Israelites Make 4 Promises Concerning God’s…

I. Families 
II. Focus vs. 31
Nehemiah 10:31 ESV
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.

Point:
God is a big believer in rest.  Specifically the Sabbath.  So, the people in making renewing their covenant with God promise that they will do no business on the Sabbath.  What’s really fascinating, not only will they not do business with each other, but they will not do business with outside entities.  God wanted those people to rest as well.  He wanted people, all people to take a break.  

You see, people are always a focus of the church.  I say “a” focus because God is the focus.  However, the church, the modern day church should not just be focused on themselves, but also it should be focused on helping, loving, and ministering to the outsider.  

PointL
Scripture:

Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Point: So What Does Sabbath Mean?

According To The Baptist Faith And Message
The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

“Shabbat”

Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word "Shabbat" comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest.

If you don't take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You're doing too much, you're being too much in charge. You've got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you're not doing anything.
-Eugene Peterson

Friend,s we need to rest.  We need to reenergize and renew ourselves.  I love the fact that God wants His people to honor that request and even help others honor the same command.  

The Israelites Make 4 Promises Concerning God’s…

I. Families 
II. Focus
III. Finances vs. 32-33
Nehemiah 10:32-33 ESV
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. 

-Point: Jesus and Money
Did you know that nearly one forth of the Sermon on the Mount was dedicated to how we use our money?  Jesus fielded questions about money from the crowd.  Jesus paid His taxes to the temple and to the state and commanded others to do likewise.  Jesus talked about buying, selling, investments and hidden treasures.  Jesus even appointed one of His disciples as treasurer.  

Jesus knew that where we spent our money revealed a lot about our character.  Just read Matthew 16: 19-21.

Matthew 16:19-21 (NIV)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
These are just the facts…
Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven and hell combined.
Jesus talked about money more than anything else except the kingdom of God.
11 of 39 parables talk about money.
1 our of ever 7 verses in the Gospel of Luke discuss money.  

So, what does that mean.  Well, it means that money was important to Jesus.  It is the one earthly resource that fuels kingdom work.  In today's terms, the congregation's giving frees up men and women to perform their calling.  Basically, because of you I can give all my focus, time, prayer and energy to studying the scriptures and serving the body.  Of which I am eternally grateful.  It also fuels our ministries and missions.  Our church is able to go around the globe sharing Christ with thousands because of generous givers.  

Today, we need to ask ourselves how we spend our money.  The Old Testament suggest a tenth of our financial resources.  My family gives over that amount when you factor in missional giving like Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.  We have also given to other Christian organizations in the past like FCA and Women's Care Medical Center.  We give first to our church.  Second to other important places that we love.  

You might say to yourself, "I don't agree with everything decision in the church so I'm not going to give."  Well, you can do that but you will never find any church that you completely agree with every policy or procedure.  If you are looking to give to the perfect church you will never find it.  Giving is not really about us anyway.  It is about our obedience to the Lord.  

Why give?  Because there is a reward at the end of the game.  Listen to Paul words found in 1 Corinthians 15:58

I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The Israelites Make 4 Promises Concerning God’s…

I. Families 
II. Focus
III. Finances 
IV. Fellow Workers vs. 37-39
Nehemiah 37-39 ESV
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.”

Point:
So the last promise God’s people make is they will not neglect the house of the Lord.  They will provide the sacrifices and the furnishings for God’s house.  Moreover, look at verse 38-39.  

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.”

Did you see what happened right there.  The Levites or priests would take a tithe of the tithe and place that money into a storehouse.  Why?  Clearly it still belongs to God but it is to used in a different way.  The storehouse functioned several purposes.  Again, the storehouse was used to help the poor or the down and out.  It was used to give food to the staring and water to the thirsty.  Again, God loves people and wants to meet the physical needs of his people.  However, the storehouse was also used to house the salary of the Levites.  No, they were not paid like they are today, but the storehouse was there so that the Levites could live, work and carry out their calling.  

Point:
Practically speaking, you need to know that a portion of your tithe dollars pays my salary and the salaries of those that work on this church staff.  Yes, all of us depend on each of you to provide for our families.  I am very thankful to ESBC, the Pastor Search Committee and the Finance Committee because they have done a fantastic job of meeting the needs of my family.  Likewise, you have done a beautiful job of meeting the needs of our staff members.  

Brothers and sisters, we were all called to serve.  Our calling is quite possibly the most important call on anyone’s life because our calling carries with it an eternal consequence.  The Bible does not discuss how pastor’s should be paid but Paul discusses minister’s pay in I Timothy 5:17-18.  

I Timothy 5:17-18 ESV
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Paul is clearly saying that a man or woman called by God should be payed a fair wage for what they do.  It means that ESBC is not going to run a spiritual sweat shop expecting pastors and ministers to work for free or little payment.  

Point:
I am thankful and grateful for my salary.  To honor God,we give back an allotment of that salary to God.  We do this to be an example to others.  Yet, not everyone who works here is paid.  This is a volunteer organization.  We have so many more who volunteer than get paid.  I am so thankful for those people as well because they are also earning a reward for their Kingdom work.  

Point:
So, let’s keep working on God’s house. Let’s find people because that is what God loves.  Let’s continue to partner together as a staff and as fellow laborers  for the Lord.  


Make Sure You Are Not Neglecting God’s House!

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