Slides for Nehemiah 13:10-22


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Uniform Study for August 25

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Slides for Nehemiah 13:10-22

  1. 1. Nehemiah 13:10-22 Sabbath Reforms
  2. 2. Call to Worship We have not come to a frightening mountain or a scary place. We have no fear or trembling. This is a heavenly place where angels dwell. We have come to be the community of Christ. We have come to the mediator between God and humankind: Jesus Christ our Lord. We come with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12)
  3. 3. Opening Prayer Sovereign Lord, you have brought your word to us today. Before the womb was our home, you knew us as unique individuals, sacred parts of your creation. In the mystery of the womb you protected us. Out of the womb you have brought us. Empower us to ministry and mission, with the confidence of your divine touch. Amen. (Jeremiah 1, Psalm 71)
  4. 4. Approach to Lesson The lesson teaches how God people should continue to sanctify the Sabbath. The study's aim is to see whether there is a parallel in our experience today where the same Sabbath principle could apply.
  5. 5. Key Verse Nehemiah 12:22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!
  6. 6. Context The conclusion of the book of Nehemiah emphasizes how reform happens. James E. Smith observes, “Once again the reading of Scripture had driven home to the Jews the obligation to be holy unto Yahweh. The prohibition here enjoined (Nehemiah 13:1-3) was not absolute. It was religious, not ethnic. Those who embraced in faith the God of Israel, like Ruth the Moabitess, could find a very different reception in Israel.”
  7. 7. Context Nehemiah 13 describes a time somewhat removed from the first chapters. Nehemiah has now returned to Jerusalem from his homeland (v. 6-9). While some feel he had been gone for about 18 months, most think it could have been up to 12 years.
  8. 8. Context One of the temple requirements that Nehemiah had put in place early on was the use of storerooms to contain the “contributions, first-fruits and tithes” (see 12:44-47). When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, he discovered that this had been changed. Eliashib did evil when he provided Tobiah with a room in the courts of the house of God (13:7). Prior to Nehemiah’s trip, this area had been used to store the offerings, temple articles, and the tithes.
  9. 9. Context Upon returning Nehemiah ordered Tobiah’s household goods out of the room and gave orders to purify the area, returning the rooms to their original purpose in the house of God (v. 9).
  10. 10. Nehemiah 13:10 I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them; so that the Levites and the singers, who had conducted the service, had gone back to their fields.
  11. 11. Nehemiah 13:10 The people were supposed to give a tithe for the support of the Levites, and the Levites were to give a tithe of what they received for the support of the temple. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from visiting the Persian King, where he made his report on his work, he discovered that the giving of tithes was not being done as commanded by God; therefore, the Levites had to go back to work in their fields in order to support themselves and their families.
  12. 12. Nehemiah 13:11 So I remonstrated (protested) with the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" And I gathered them together and set them in their stations.
  13. 13. Nehemiah 13:11 Nehemiah called on the Jewish officials to account for why they had disregarded and not enforced the law of God on tithing. When he gathered the leaders together and reprimanded them, he also assigned them to do their various duties and collect the tithes for the Levites. Nehemiah’s question echoed through the streets of Jerusalem: “Why is the house of God neglected?” By forsaking their duties, the priests had backslidden, not serving in the Lord’s temple.
  14. 14. Nehemiah 13:11 Keith Schoville notes, “Religious leadership in Jerusalem weakened after the departure of Nehemiah, and Ezra may have died; we have no further mention of him in the narrative. This allowed the people to treat lightly the covenant responsibilities they had sworn to fulfill (10:37-39). Acting decisively, Nehemiah called the laboring Levites back to Jerusalem and their duties, even before the flow of contributions returned.”
  15. 15. Nehemiah 13:11 Nehemiah had the city doors... shut on the Sabbath, beginning on Friday evening, with guards posted to see that merchandise was not brought in. Even so, some merchants stayed all night outside the walls, perhaps hoping people would slip outside in the darkness to purchase their goods. When Nehemiah heard of this, he threatened to use force against them.
  16. 16. Nehemiah 13:12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
  17. 17. Nehemiah 13:12 The storehouses were similar to warehouses that surrounded the temple and were used to store the tithes for distribution to the priests and Levites. The tithes brought indicate the type of agricultural practices of the Israelites. The grain would have probably been mostly wheat, the wine was from their vineyards, and the oil was from their olive groves.
  18. 18. Nehemiah 13:13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses the priest Shelemiah, the scribe Zadok, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan son of Zaccur son of Mattaniah, for they were considered faithful; and their duty was to distribute to their associates.
  19. 19. Nehemiah 13:13 The priests Nehemiah chose to serve as treasurers were known to be faithful in previous duties, and their ancestors were important families from the tribe of Levi. Their duty was to give the Levites the tithes they were supposed to receive and also collect a tithe from the Levites. They would have been honest tax (or tithe) collectors.
  20. 20. Nehemiah 13:14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
  21. 21. Nehemiah 13:14 Nehemiah wanted God to remember how he had done his duty to bring decency and order to the priests and the people through his reforms. He prayed that his reforms would not be reversed or wiped out in subsequent years. He wanted God to protect him from all of his enemies, and to remember his good deeds as a good reason to protect him.
  22. 22. Nehemiah 13:15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys; and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; and I warned them at that time against selling food.
  23. 23. Nehemiah 13:15 The Sabbath began at sunset on Friday and ended at sunset on Saturday. A priest blew a trumpet to officially indicate the beginning and the ending of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day to honor and worship God and learn God’s word from the Scriptures (as the synagogues later practiced). The fourth commandment established the Sabbath, and it encouraged rest for servants and animals as well as their masters.
  24. 24. Nehemiah 13:15 1 Cor. 4:4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
  25. 25. Nehemiah 13:16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of merchandise and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
  26. 26. Nehemiah 13:16 Nehemiah described the commerce of his day. Just as the Israelites were supposed to collect enough manna in the wilderness on the day before the Sabbath because God would give them no manna on the Sabbath, the Jews were not supposed to buy or sell food on the Sabbath or do other kind of trading but buy enough for the Sabbath before the Sabbath began.
  27. 27. Nehemiah 13:16 2 Cor. 6:14-15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
  28. 28. Nehemiah 13:17 Then I remonstrated (protested) with the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?
  29. 29. Nehemiah 13:17 Nehemiah continued to find that traders were bringing loads of grain, fruit, and other things into the city of Jerusalem during this period. He offered a stern warning (Nehemiah 13:15).
  30. 30. Nehemiah 13:17 C. F. Keil observes, “Nehemiah reproved the nobles of Judah for this profaning of the Sabbath, reminding them how their fathers (forefathers) by such acts . . .had brought upon the people and the city great evil.” They were now increasing their guilt and adding to the wrath on Israel.
  31. 31. Nehemiah 13:17 The nobles of Judah were very wealthy Jews who profited greatly from trade in and around Jerusalem seven days a week. They encouraged foreign sellers to come to Jerusalem on the Sabbath rather than obey the law of God. Nehemiah called this what it was: “evil.”
  32. 32. Nehemiah 13:18 Did not your ancestors act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath."
  33. 33. Nehemiah 13:18 They were profaning the Sabbath by dishonoring God on the very day God had set apart for people to honor Him, learn of Him, study His law, and rest from their labors. God had punished Jerusalem in 587 BC with the destruction of the city and the temple because the Israelites had rebelled against Him and profaned the Sabbath, and these nobles were doing the same thing and leading others to do the same thing again, which would lead to God’s just punishment again.
  34. 34. Nehemiah 13:19 When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, to prevent any burden from being brought in on the Sabbath day.
  35. 35. Nehemiah 13:19 Nehemiah could not trust the Jewish nobles or the foreign traders to do what was right in obedience to God or him. He knew that they would not obey him as the governor of Judah and Jerusalem, so at sunset he barred the gates of Jerusalem and he set his own guards suitably armed to prevent the violation of the Sabbath.
  36. 36. Nehemiah 13:20 Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice.
  37. 37. Nehemiah 13:20 Nehemiah brought a quick stop to the profaning of the Sabbath with his measures of enforcement. It would not be profitable and perhaps somewhat dangerous for merchants to sleep outside the city gates with their goods. In addition to this wasted time and money on their part, Nehemiah warned them to quit camping outside the city gates or he would punish them.
  38. 38. Nehemiah 13:21 But I warned them and said to them, "Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you." From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath.
  39. 39. Nehemiah 13:21 Nehemiah knew that they could complete all of their business the week before the Sabbath began or during the six days after the Sabbath ended. He probably did not want the city gates barred throughout the Sabbath, because this could prevent worshipers from coming to the temple from outside the city to worship on the Sabbath. If his threat did not mean imprisonment, it could have meant a severe beating. Nehemiah left them (or those of us reading this) in doubt about how he would punish them.
  40. 40. Nehemiah 13:22 And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
  41. 41. Nehemiah 13:22 Nehemiah established order and enforced God’s law, and then he turned the responsibility over to the Levites to do their job. They were to enforce the Law of God and make certain that the Sabbath was truly observed. Once more Nehemiah directed the Levites to purify themselves and then guard the gates to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. From this point on, no one would be permitted to buy or sell on that day of the week. God’s people were to be a new creation, not falling again into the trap of selfishness and disobedience.
  42. 42. Nehemiah 13:22 Nehemiah was humble and knew that he was not perfect, so he prayed for God to spare him (or save him) not because of all he had done to honor and obey God and enforce God’s law, but because of God steadfast love. He also prayed for God to spare him because he was in danger of assassination by the nobles of Jerusalem and Judah. Almost 500 years later, the nobles and religious leaders of Jerusalem arranged the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  43. 43. Nehemiah 13:22 Ps 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
  44. 44. Conclusion Ps 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
  45. 45. Conclusion The word Sabbath means “ceasing,” and the first references to this day as a day of rest (ceasing from labor) for the people are in Exodus 16:23-30. The basis for this “cease day” is Genesis 1:1–2:3. In imitation of their Creator, the ancient Israelites were to work six days but cease from their labors on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11).
  46. 46. Conclusion This requirement extended to foreigners residing among God’s people and even to animals. This was part of a covenant sign (Exodus 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12). Deuteronomy 5:12-14 repeats this requirement but adds another rationale: Israel’s deliverance from the slavery of Egypt by the mighty hand of God (5:15). The people were no longer to work as they had in slavery; rather, they were to work only six days and cease all labor on the seventh day as a free people.
  47. 47. Conclusion Violating this law carried dire consequences (see Exodus 31:14, 15; Leviticus 26:2, 14-35; Ezekiel 20:13-24). Nehemiah knew all this. Today we celebrate the new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6); those in Christ “are not under the law, but under grace” (6:14).
  48. 48. Conclusion To be under grace is not a license for lawlessness (Romans 6:1, 2; 2 Peter 3:17; Jude 4), but certain requirements of the Old Testament law no longer apply. These include Sabbath-keeping (Colossians 2:16). Even so, the principle of resting at least one day a week is good principle demonstrated by God Himself. Also, our Christian liberty requires that we be tolerant of those who honor certain days above others (Romans 14:5, 6). We also keep in mind that the ultimate Sabbath-rest awaits us at Jesus’ return.
  49. 49. Lessons The Lord's Day is a special gift from God, and we should honor it as such. (Neh. 13:15) Our choices on the Lord's Day may indicate our real priorities (vs. 16) God wants us to have a day of rest and worship; we neglect it at our own loss (vs. 17-18)
  50. 50. Lessons Properly setting apart the Lord's Day may require some practical limitations for ourselves and others (vs. 19) Serving God fully may sometimes require drastic measures (Neh. 13:20-21; cf. I Tim. 6:11) Choose to do right, and God will care for the details (Neh. 13:22)
  51. 51. Benediction On the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, and a crippled woman was healed. Jesus set her free. After he touched her, she rose up and praised God. As we depart today, may God set us free. May we lead lives worthy of our calling and may your praise be always upon our lips, O Lord. Amen. (Luke 13)
  52. 52. Blessing On the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, and a crippled woman was healed. Jesus set her free. After he touched her, she rose up and praised God. As we depart today, may God set us free. May we lead lives worthy of our calling and may your praise be always upon our lips, O Lord. Amen.