[otw_shortcode_info_box border_type=”bordered” border_color_class=”otw-black-border” border_style=”bordered” shadow=”shadow-down-right” rounded_corners=”rounded-10″]This sermon is part of our Expository Preaching Collective on the Book of Nehemiah. Follow the link below to know more about What Expository preaching is and Why is it important to us. (Click here)[/otw_shortcode_info_box]
This is our second last preaching collective on the book of Nehemiah and our text today is Nehemiah 13:15-22
Last week we saw how the Eliashib the priest profaned the house of the God by preparing for large chamber for Tobiah where the offerings were supposed to be kept as per the commandment from the Lord. When Nehemiah hears this news he gets angry and throws away all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber and bring back the vessels of the house of God along with the other offerings.
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We learnt how SIN damages the worship of God individually and contaminates the worship of God corporately. To deal with sin that leads us into disobedience we must begin by hating them, take drastic measures to uproot them & replace them with elements of worship.
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Today we will look at another unusual event or an issue that takes place in the camp.
In verse 15 Nehemiah is saying “In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day”
What Nehemiah meant to say was “they were basically working on the day of Sabbath”
The reason I used the word unusual event or a problem is because we live in a generation where work is celebrated and is the norm. Day in and day out, in season and out season … you ought to be working.
Majority of middle class, lower middle class and especially the lower class people don’t even get a Sunday off. If they don’t work all 7 days then they won’t be able to provide for their families. In my new company they encourage people to configure the company email on their mobiles so they are constantly working even on holidays, our team has a whatapp group where they are chatting about work all the time. This is the culture we are living in right now and maybe in this context the verse 15 may have sounded unusual to you.
Why is Nehemiah the leader upset to see people working a Sabbath day? Isn’t that good for the growth of the nation? Isn’t that good that people are busy?
Nehemiah wasn’t upset because of some personal reasons but he was upset because the disobeyed God’s command. It was God’s command that people shouldn’t work on a Sabbath day.
It was one of the commandment given to Moses, we read that in Exodus 20:8-11. It’s the 4th command.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
Here’s what we will be doing in the next couple of minutes, we will unfold the meaning of Sabbath and also discover its implications for us in the new covenant. Two lessons we will learn from this text is ..
1. Obeying God is more important giving in to our cultural demands.
2. Obeying God is more important that making extra or even losing much.
5 things that stands out from the command over Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11 are
1. The word “REMEMBER”
Firstly, God is telling the people to remember the rest day. Sabbath means Rest.
People of God had to remind themselves that they need to take a break, a day off after every 6 working days. It was not an optional command but a mandatory one.
I guess because in those days they did not have systems like today, it’s easy to remember a day of holiday because it’s an off at work, we in fact count our days till the weekend comes. But in those days since they did not have a calendar they used to work at their winepress, farms etc every day and maybe they had to make an extra effort to count 6 days … thou they had to do it as a community they had to remind themselves to take a break after every 6 days.
2. KEEP IT HOLY
Second, “Keep it holy,” means set it aside from all other days as special. Specifically, as verse 10 says, keep it “to the Lord,” or “for the Lord.” In other words, the rest is not to be aimless rest, but God-centered rest. Attention is to be directed to God in a way that is more concentrated and steady than on ordinary days. Keep the day holy by keeping the focus on the holy God.
3. The command is not just YOU
“your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates”
We cannot say “Well, I will keep it, but I will put my maid to work, or set my ox to threshing with a carrot in front of his nose at 6 PM the evening of the sabbath so that it will thresh the grain all day while I rest.” God says, No. You miss the point if you try to keep the business running by using servants or animals or relatives. What point?
4. God’s Rest after creation
In Genesis 2:2 we read, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”
The questions that arises in our hearts is If God is omnipotent—if He has all power—it doesn’t make much sense that He would need to “rest.” After we’ve had a busy week, we take a nap—but God.
The important thing to notice in that verse is, it doesn’t say God “needed” to rest; it simply says that He did. It is therefore clear from Scripture that God did not rest because He was tired.
Genesis 17:1 calls God the “Almighty God.”
Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.”
God is all-powerful; He is never tired and never needs to rest.
Isaiah 40:28 says, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.”
God is the sum of perfection; He is never diminished in any way, and that includes being diminished in power.
When God said, “Let there be light,” the light appeared. He simply spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1:1-3).
Later, we read that Jesus Christ “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
The entire universe is held together by Jesus’ word. The creation and maintenance of the universe is not difficult for God. A mere word will suffice. As Psalm 33:9 declares, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
The Hebrew word translated “rested” in Genesis 2:2 includes other ideas than that of being tired. In fact, one of the main definitions of the Hebrew word shabat is “to cease or stop.” In Genesis 2:2 the understanding is that God “stopped” His work; He “ceased” creating on the seventh day. All that He had created was good, and His work was finished.
God did not merely “rest” on the seventh day; He “stopped creating.” It was a purposeful stop. Everything He desired to create had been made. He looked at His creation, declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and ceased from His activity.
Sabbath means to cease and rest ….
Here what I believe the implications of Sabbath is for us today.
1. Firstly, it is applicable to all and not just the leader, pastor or elder of the church
2. The bible doesn’t suggest a particular day as Sabbath, like only Sunday …. It just says the 7th day.
3. It basically means to cease from doing any kind of work …. whether office work or even household work … it means to halt from doing any mundane daily activities … that may even include cooking … even our servants & maids shouldn’t be allowed to work on that day
4. It is not supposed to be an aimless rest where we sleep till 12 PM, have lunch in the afternoon and go back to sleep again. Rather it has to be God centered – Praying, reading & meditation on his word
5. More than physical or mental rest it means to rest in God, trusting his sovereignty over our lives.
In the light of what Sabbath means and the disobedience of the people of Judah in the story of Nehemiah here are 2 lessons we need to learn from the text.
1. Obeying God is more important than giving in to our cultural demands.
We understand the reason for the disobedience of the people of God was the influence of the outside world. And to stop that Nehemiah takes a drastic step.
In verse 19-21 it says
As soon as it began to grow 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 stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath.
Let’s evaluate, what are some of the cultural influences and demands that distract us from obeying God and what are some of the drastic steps we need to take in order to avoid them.
Job Culture – Stand firm in our convictions
Family Culture (Indian) – Speak up against them as the Lord gives you grace
Societal Culture (bribe) – Conduct yourself in godliness and set ourselves as an example
Entertainment Culture – Discern what is distracting you from worshiping and obeying God and restrain from those as the Lord leads.
We looked at Romans Romans 12:2 a few weeks back it says
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The word of God prohibits us from loving the world and the things of the world.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Story of Eric Liddel is a great example. Been a sprint runner and been selected for the Olympics, he refuses to run the race because it was scheduled on Sunday his Sabbath day.
2. Obeying God is more important that making extra or even losing much.
It is often that people give in to the demands of their financial needs and end up working every single day without rest. But I believe taking a Sabbath off also implies that we cease to trust in our own ability to provide for ourselves but trust more on God who is our ultimate provider.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
– For some it would mean for some of us to give up on the extra income that we make on our rest day – share my example of working on rest day for extra money – people of God faced loses on that day because of no trading
– For some it would mean to have less or limited food for that day
In this context I consider Sunday to be my Sabbath day .. my sermon preparation and preaching is not work but deep diving into god’s word … our fellowship time with you guys are a joy whether it’s a Sunday morning or an afternoon or an evening get-together – as long as we’re not working – neither our maid and cook – as long as our focus is God.
Let’s reflect on these lessons and make adjustments in our lives that are God glorifying.