Monday, 28 January 2008 16:02

Practical Godly Truths [1]

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In Nehemiah 3 we come to the chapter where we are told about the people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It begins this way. Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zacchur the son of Imri. So the chapter goes, listing many people and different sections of the wall rebuilt ending with verse 32 reading, And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.

Now as we look at this passage, and I encourage you to have your Bible open to Nehemiah 3 if possible, what I want to bring out from this inspired Scripture is how full it is of practical godly truths. That, in fact, will be the theme for the message today and next week. Notice with me a number of practical godly truths that leap out of the page as it were, and that are so important and basic in living for God and good.

Let me, by way of introduction, still just make a point about passages that are full of lists of names and genealogies, etc. In this case our text chapter gives a long list of those involved in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. A chapter like this is not the most edifying for reading at the table with family devotions. Reading through the Bible at family devotions is a very good practice, but with these kinds of chapters we need to show wisdom. The names are hard to pronounce, making for difficult reading in such a setting. Yet this passage can and should still be read as part of personal devotions and it is a passage that we, as parents, can read ahead of time and then read just a few verses and give different comments on interesting notes about this chapter with family devotions. Dont judge chapters like Nehemiah 3 with so many names as simply without purpose and value. It has the immediate value of teaching us that here we are speaking of actual history and people of old involved in the cause and work of the LORD thousands of years ago. Dont skip over these passages but be wise in how you go through them, reading maybe a couple of verses and giving a summary of the rest, and then highlighting a few interesting and instructive points from also a chapter like this one.

What is the setting of the chapter? Nehemiah has rallied the people, with Gods blessing, to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem, the city where the Temple of God was, the place where God pledged His special presence and care. Chapter 3 then tells us of the project beginning and we notice the people were in general all behind it and doing their part to get those walls rebuilt! All classes of people were involved, whole families were involved, and different trades were involved. It was a well organized, united, enthusiastic project in the history of the kingdom of God. It was a high point in the lives of Gods people of old. Let us see a few of the lessons to be gleaned from some of the details about this rebuilding project.

How the priests and high priest give the leadership and example in the rebuilding work. They are the first to be mentioned. The God-appointed leaders in the church are called to give an example to the flock. What a responsibility this gives to those in any leadership position, also in church life. Any leadership role a person has, especially in the home and church and in society at large, comes with that extra responsibility to be a good example to others. Are you taking seriously whatever leadership role or position you may have? I think too of parents with children. What kind of example are you to your children? Are you leading the little ones and youth in Gods way, according to His Word?

Do you think about the example you are giving to those following you, and in the company you are with, and in the life of the home and church and society we live in? Is there not sometimes the attitude shown, Look, Ill take a leadership position and I accept my leadership role, but dont expect me to be an example in every respect as long as I do fulfill my leadership responsibilities. But, you see, being a good example in all of life is basic to good leadership, whatever your role in leadership might be in life. In the home or at work, in school or society, and especially in the Christian church, you and I need to take very seriously our calling to be an example. The high priest and the priests were out there involved in the rebuilding work, giving the example to the rest. Are you giving a godly example in whatever leadership role or position of responsibility you may be in?

Consider next how we are told the rebuilding work begins and ends at the sheep gate [vs1 and vs.32]. Why is this mentioned? The sheep gate is where the sheep would be led in for the animal sacrifices in the temple. Can we not say from this how the whole rebuilding project was one done in the light of the forgiving mercy of God through the sacrifices which ultimately, we know, pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world? What motivated this rebuilding project was Gods love and mercy in His redemptive plan and provision, and the whole project was in view of the ultimate fulfillment of Gods promises of salvation and deliverance through the coming Messiah one day. The work is listed as beginning at the sheep gate and then, going in counterclockwise fashion, ends up again at the sheep gate. This is not without gospel reason. It should remind us how all of life only always makes sense, also the Christian life, in view of Christ and being motivated through Him alone, to Whom be all the glory, together with the Father and the Spirit, for all His saving mercy and grace and power.

Do your days begin at the sheep gate and end at the sheep gate? Does each project and endeavour and every responsibility you have begin and end with you at the sheep gate, looking to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and seeking to do all things in dependence on Him and in praise to Him? Or do you get involved in this and that with no thought of God really, or hardly a thought at all? Do you begin the day without prayer and without reading Gods Word? Likewise, when you end the day, is there a prayer to God for His forgiving grace and His gracious keeping and His saving, sanctifying ministry through Word and Spirit in your heart and life and that of your loved ones, and with so many others as well?

Notice too how we are told specifically in verse 1 how the priests sanctified and dedicated their work to God and His glory. You find that mentioned twice in verse 1. In Colossians 3:23 Paul writes to the New Testament Christians, And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Is this your mindset with all you are busy with? Are you out to glorify God in all you do at home, at school, at work, in church, and in your community, with body and soul and your whole being all the time? The writer of the words, Praise God from Whom all blessings flow has another stanza to that song which says in prayer and praise to God,

Direct, control, suggest this day,

All I design, or do, or say;

That all my powers with all their might,

In Thy sole glory may unite!

Is this what describes you too? Surely our text is calling for that to be so, and it is sin on your and my part when it is not so! Do you acknowledge this truth as well?

Isnt this all practical godly truth to learn from this passage? Can you find more lessons to learn? What about the point of in Gods service and in His church and her ministry, good organization and order is part and parcel of that? This rebuilding project was well planned by Nehemiah dividing the work into more than forty sections and giving leaders in each section responsibility for the work. Today there is quite a mindset in the Christian church at large that organization and order is to be avoided in the church, and just to let every one do what each thinks works best for themselves, and as the Spirit moves, so to speak. But God is a God of order, and also in church life as Paul states in I Corinthians 14:40, we are told, Let all things be done decently and in order. In I Timothy 3 we are told by the Spirit-inspired Apostle Paul how God calls for office bearers in His church who shepherd the flock of God in the Name of Christ, and God gives very specific guidelines for them. The Christian Church is of God, and even in its structure and organization we are not just to do our own thing, but to listen to God and to follow His Word and will. God followed order in creating this world, and He had order in the building of the tabernacle and in the camp of Israel camped around that tabernacle. Having order in Gods church is not something unspiritual, but rather directly linked to the character of God and in line with the will of God. To be against order in the church is to be against God Himself, as He has revealed Himself so much as the God of rule and order.

See too how in many cases the people worked opposite their houses [vs. 24] or for their district or part [vs. 17], suggesting the importance of taking care on the home front that things are being done in dedication to God and in view to His glory. Things were organized that each would take care of the section nearby and if possible then extend also to other sections. Here we are reminded how important what happens at home and in our families is. We need to pray and work for strong Christian marriages and holy, godly families, for the church is not stronger than her families. The more we, in our personal lives and in our family life, seek and serve the Lord, the more in our church life we will bear such testimony to God and bring real praise and honour to Him. Are you convinced of this as well? Are you earnest and conscientious also that your home, your family, be a godly Christian family, not hardly so but heartily so, not grudgingly so but gladly so, not sporadically so but steadfastly so? Do you say with Joshua, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord [Joshua 24:15], and does this show in your priorities and habits of life, your pursuits and your conduct and conversation?

Next week we will continue our study of Nehemiah 3 with its many practical godly truths. May God bless the practical truths mentioned so far making us not only hearers of His Word, but doers thereof. Will you pursue this fruit in your life, by Gods grace? Wont your humble prayerful life testimony be then too in words based on Psalm 86,

By all whom Thou hast made, be praise and worship paid,

Thro earth abroad; Thy Name be glorified,

There is none great beside, Matchless Thy works abide,

For Thou art God.

Help me Thy will to do, Thy truth I will pursue,

Teach me to fear; give me the single eye,

Thy Name to glorify, O Lord my God most High,

With heart sincere. Amen.

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