Here are some dates that you need to know...
--586 BC... the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; king of the Babylonians.
--539 BC... Cyrus; king of the Persians, releases some exiles to return to Jerusalem.
--516 BC... Those who returned finish the House... The Temple is reopened for worship.
--445 BC... Nehemiah receives a report that the walls of Jerusalem are still broken.
For 140 years the walls, which once surrounded the proud city of Jerusalem, were piles of rubble.
--This rubble was a 140-year reminder of Nebuchadnezzar’s revenge.
--This rubble was a 140-year reminder of their humiliation.
--This rubble was a 140-year reminder of their sin of chasing the pagan idols.
--This rubble was a 140-year reminder of a broken covenant... with YHWH.
--The descendants of Abraham broke their covenant with God. They were supposed to be YHWH’s blessing to the world.
--Instead, the children of Israel worshipped the hideous Canaanite gods; breaking YHWH’s covenant.
--The followers of Moses broke the covenant they had received on Mount Sinai.
--The kings, who descended from David, did not have the heart of David. The kings led their people off into the worship of such gods as Molech.
140 years after... Nehemiah receives a report that the walls of Jerusalem are still rubble... Nehemiah begins to weep.
Nehemiah 1:4-10 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants... 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.' They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.”
Nehemiah reminds YHWH that he is a God who keeps his covenant with his people! That is who YHWH is... the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
That is the point of Nehemiah. I suspect that is the point of 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and even Esther... God has created a covenant community; a covenant community that must endure.
After the report on the walls, Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem. He organizes the people. He overcomes opposition. They rebuild the wall. It is an amazing story. You should have read it. Then, Ezra gathers all the people and reads to them the Law of Moses. Ezra reads to them their covenant; the covenant that created them as a people. They have a celebration because they have rebuilt the wall; ending their humiliation.
Nehemiah 8:10 Then Nehemiah said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
During their day of celebration, several of the Levites preach a sermon... This sermon is a recap of the covenant community down through history... it is an amazing sermon... and I know sermons.
Nehemiah 9:6-38 "You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”
Nehemiah 9:7-8 You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite...
Nehemiah 9:9-11 "And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters.
Nehemiah 9:13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments...
Nehemiah 9:16-21 "But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments... But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, 'This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,' and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go... Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.
Nehemiah 9:22-25 "And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land... You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess... So, they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.
Nehemiah 9:26-30 "Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore, you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies... Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore, you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
Nehemiah 9:32-33 "Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.
Nehemiah 9:38 "Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests."
Wow... Nehemiah and his people renewed the covenant... In writing!
This is a powerful recap of covenant history from 2,000 BC down to 445 BC when the wall was rebuilt. 1500 years of covenant history. YHWH in his mercy never forsook His covenant community. He punished them. He sent them into exile. But YHWH never left them! Even in their sin; even in their rebellion, even in offering children to Molech... YHWH kept bringing his people back into the covenant!
I suspect, this is the point of the entire Old Testament... God preserved a covenant people!
I’m going to let you in on a secret... He kept on with his covenant community for another 445 years down to 0 BC, or is that 0 AD, in between the Old and the New Testament.
--In 330 BC Alexander the Great swept through his world and defeated the Persians... but God’s covenant community endured.
--At Alexander’s death his empire was divided... First the Egyptians and then the Syrians ruled the covenant community... but the community stayed God’s people.
--In 63 BC the Romans took over... But, guess what? God’s people were still there when in 4 BC a baby was born that changed everything... including what it meant to be the covenant community.
Listen to Galatians 3...
Galatians 3:24–4:4 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise... 4:1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
The Law, the covenant, which created the covenant people... was the guardian, the Greek word is... paidagogos... a babysitter... a tutor... a teacher... a foster parent. The covenant community of the Jewish people created and preserved a people who knew YHWH. A people who knew YHWH as a God who was ready to forgive, who was gracious and merciful, who was slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This covenant community knew that YHWH would never forsake them.
God made a covenant with Abraham... with Moses... with David... with Nehemiah... which preserved a people for his son to be born... within the people who knew the love of YHWH!
Let tell you another secret... over the next 10 weeks, we are going to explore how Jesus created a new covenant community. Jesus came to this world to create a new covenant community, by his blood on the cross, he formed a new covenant, a new people, who would know the abounding, steadfast love of YHWH.
Let me end this sermon with a promise...from Malachi... the last book in the Old Testament... written during the days of Nehemiah.
Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts!”
Wow. The Old Testament looks forward to Christmas... So, do we!
June 17, 2018
Los Alamos Church of Christ