In light of what we see in Nehemiah 9 concerning God’s commitment to His people, His supremacy, and His character, Mike Kelsey puts the question before us: Will you fully commit your life to Jesus? Mike Kelsey is the Montgomery County Campus Pastor at McLean Bible Church in the Washington D.C. metro area.
- You will never fully commit to God until you understand how much He has fully committed to you.
- Are you ready to turn from sin and fully commit your life to Jesus?
- God does not owe us anything. But he offers us everything.
Are You Willing to Fully Commit Your Life to Jesus? The Story of Scripture – Part 22
It’s good to be with you today. We’re going to be in Nehemiah 9. Welcome to those of you who are new to our church. My name is Mike Kelsey and I’m one of the pastors here in our church. I’m excited to be studying God’s Word with you, while many from our church are in Ethiopia serving alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ there.
This is the last week in the Old Testament as part of the Bible Reading Plan. We’re going to pivot to the New Testament next week, so I’ll be wrapping things up in the Old Testament today. For those of you who haven’t been following with us—maybe you’re new here or new to the Bible or you haven’t been in the Bible Reading Plan—let me give you a little background to catch up.
The Organization of the Bible
First, you need to remember that the Bible is primarily organized by category and not always by chronology. The last book in the Old Testament is Malachi, because he’s the last in the section of the Minor Prophets. But in Old Testament history the last book was Nehemiah, which is what we’re going to be studying today. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are two different books in our Bible, but they’re really telling one story which is the story of God’s people—the ancient Israelites—finally returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. They were still slaves, but now they were under the Persian Empire, which was much more lenient and allowed them to live in their homeland.
There were several waves of migration of exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Last week we talked about a man named Zerubbabel, who led that first migration wave of God’s people back to Jerusalem. After many years of complacency, they rebuilt the temple and the city walls, resumed their worship practices and renewed their commitment to God’s Word—and then revival broke out. I’m praying that revival will also break out in our church, in our city and in our country. I can’t do this, but God can.
Many years after Zerubbabel, God raised up some other important figures. One of them was a scribe named Ezra, who helped the people rebuild their spiritual lives with God. Then God raised up a man named Nehemiah, who worked for the Persian government. God used him to help the people rebuild their political and cultural life. In Nehemiah 8-10, we read about the covenant renewal ceremony, a revival where the people were repenting of their sins and recommitting themselves to following the Lord. We’ll pick up the story beginning in Nehemiah 9:1: “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.”
Nehemiah 9 Demonstrates a Celebration of God
Let’s pause for a moment. Nehemiah 8 told us that this was the seventh month on the Jewish religious calendar which would have fallen somewhere between our September and October. It was a very important month in the life of ancient Israel, because God had commanded them to observe certain festivals throughout the seventh month that were designed to help them remember and celebrate His faithfulness to them.
All the families from all the smaller towns throughout broader Judah had gathered together in Jerusalem. That means at least 50,000 people were gathered in this local town square and they had gathered to confess their sin. They were fasting and covering themselves in dust and sackcloth, which was a very uncomfortable material. That was their way of physically and visually expressing their grief over how they, in previous generations, had offended God.
Now, a sidebar for just a second. Notice that this was a gathering of 50,000 people, not just adults. Children were there too which I think is important, because the children were able to see the broader community of faith confessing their sin. They were training the next generation on how to relate to God. Parents, our church has an incredible ministry to children and teenagers, but I would also encourage you to bring your children into the broader gathering of the church from time to time— whether on a Sunday, on prayer nights or other events throughout the life of the church. It’s important that they see how we relate to one another as a church family and how we relate to and worship God together.
Nehemiah 9 Reminds Christians of the Sin in the World
Let’s look at this from today’s perspective for just a second. Suppose we made an announcement today or in your email newsletter from the church where we say, “Mark your calendar. Cancel your Friday night plans. If you’ve got a date, invite that person. Come here Friday night. We are gathering together at 7:00 p.m. to confess our sins.” None of you would show up.
I think if we’re not careful, we can give the impression—because we love to gather, we love the guitars, drums and all that as a means to worship God—that when we gather Christianity is just about hype and inspiration, as if everything is okay. But we know that everything is not okay in our world and everything is not okay in our lives. Sometimes we need to slow down and feel the weight of our sin together. We need to reckon with the consequences of our sin, thinking about and coming to grips with how God feels about our sin.
Every single one of us has sin in our lives. Right now there are all kinds of sins represented here. Some of us are fighting sin, some of us are denying and trying to hide sin, some of us are willfully and joyfully embracing sin. It might be selfishness that is offensive to God and is doing damage to your relationships with other people. Perhaps it’s sexual choices that don’t align with God’s design for us regarding sex. Maybe it’s prejudice that is deep in our hearts and shapes the way we view and treat people. It could be unforgiveness that has hardened into bitterness and resentment. It could be destructive anger that sometimes gets out of control. Maybe it’s even anger that explodes into violent behavior.
The Sin of the World
Listen, in a church this size, with this many people, there is domestic abuse here. There’s child abuse. Greed, constantly chasing and accumulating more of what you don’t need. Neglecting the poor and the oppressed, maybe even contributing to their poverty and oppression, trampling on them because of our greed. Your sin might be envy, that deep sickness of the soul that causes us to want what others have so badly that we’re sad when they’re happy and secretly happy when they’re sad. It might be a constant lack of gratitude. Maybe disobedience or insubordination toward those in authority over us— children to your parents—or maybe undermining or directly rebelling against your supervisor, making it very difficult for them to do their job.
Some of you have recently sinned against your spouse. Maybe it’s not just recent; maybe it’s a consistent pattern of sin and neglect. If you’re honest, as you sit here today as a smiling couple so everybody thinks everything is sweet and good, you know right now that there is tension in your marriage because one of you has been sinned against, or more likely, both of you have been sinned against.
Maybe it’s some kind of illegal activity. You know that if you get caught, it’s going to have significant legal consequences. Or perhaps it’s judgmentalism or self-righteousness that causes you to look down on other people. It might be refusing to share the gospel even when you have an opportunity.
Nehemiah 9 Calls Christians to Fully Trust in God
I may not have called out your particular sin that you struggle with, but I trust the Holy Spirit to continue this list in our own hearts and consciences. All of us have sin, so the question is why do we cling to our sin? Why do you and I cling to our sin? The answer is because deep down, whether in general or in some particular situation or temptation, we don’t truly trust God. We don’t truly trust that we’ll have everything we want or need in God. We don’t trust Him. One writer put it this way: “The sin underneath all of our different sins is the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ, and that we must take matters into our own hands.”
Here’s what I think God is saying to you and me today through Nehemiah 9: You will never fully commit to God until you understand how much He has fully committed to you. You will always spin your wheels. You will always cling to your sin. You will never fully commit to God until you realize how much God has already fully committed to you.
So we’re going to reflect on what we’ve learned about God in the Old Testament, then at the end of our time together, I’m going to ask you a question. I want to tell you up front what that question is, because at the end of our time you’re going to have a decision to make. Here’s the question: Are you willing to turn from your sin and fully commit your life to Jesus? Whether for the first time in general, or in some particular area in your life, are you willing to turn from your sin and fully commit your life to Jesus?
Nehemiah 9 Asks God to Work in Our Hearts
I want you to be thinking about and wrestling with that question even as we go through Nehemiah 9. So before we dive into the rest of this text, let me ask God to work in our hearts. Father, we pause and come to You. We ask that You will work in our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, because there are so many of us here who are clinging to our sin. Father, You know that I’ve been praying all week that You would break strongholds that keep us from fully committing our lives to You. I need You to do what I cannot do. I can’t do it in my own life and I can’t do it through this sermon. God, send the power of Your Holy Spirit to free us, draw us and compel us to fully commit ourselves to You. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So 50,000 people gathered in this Jerusalem town square, and they launch into this prayer of praise and confession. The prayer runs from Nehemiah 9:5 all the way down to verse 37. As we read it, you’ll notice that as they praise God, they are tracing their history. They’re reminding themselves Who God is and praising Him for how He has been faithful, even when they haven’t been. We’ll read through that prayer together, but look at how it ends in verse 38: “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing.”
As they reflected on God’s goodness, they were compelled to confess their sin and commit their lives to Him. There are six things we’ll learn from their prayer that should compel us to make the same commitment today.
There is only one true God.
Here’s the first thing in verses five and six:
Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, ‘Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 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.
We saw this at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1 and 2. There is only one true God. The God Who revealed Himself to the ancient Israelites is the Creator and Sustainer of everything in all creation—everything in the physical realm and everything in the spiritual realm. He is the uncaused cause of everything that exists.
He is the only Being in existence Who is self-sufficient. Everything and everyone in all of creation depends on Him for its existence, but God depends on no one. God does not depend on anything. God is not dependent on oxygen. He doesn’t need sleep. God doesn’t need B3 vitamins. God is not dependent on anything.
Nehemiah 9 Reminds Christians that God has Full Authority
So when we talk about God, it’s not like shopping for a light bulb when you’re trying to get the best kind of light bulb to suit your needs, the best version of all the different options. Do I go with GE? Do I go with Philips? Do I go incandescent or fluorescent? Or it’s our anniversary, so are my wife and I going to get a dimmer light bulb tonight? It’s for our marriage.
That’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about God. He’s not the best version of several different options. We’re not talking about different kinds of light bulbs; we’re talking about the sun versus a light bulb. Both shine to a degree, but one is the source and the other is manufactured. You don’t shop around for the sun. It is what it is and you live in its light whether you choose to or not.
So, listen. Anything we have and anything we as human beings create is derivative. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him and everything we have and everything we do ultimately comes from Him (James 1:17). God is the Creator and He is the King. He has absolute authority over everything in all of creation, including us.
All of heaven is worshiping the one true triune God Who sits on the throne. So when we gather on Sundays, we’re not beginning a worship service—we’re joining one. We’re joining the angelic beings who cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” They are gathering around His throne, worshiping Him. Why? Because He’s God. Because He’s the only true God.
God is a gracious God.
Look at verses seven and eight:
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, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
Remember Genesis 3 where humanity joins Satan in rebellion against God? Yet, God in His grace pursues a relationship with us. He initiates a covenant with Abraham and launches His plan to save the world. Remember reading Genesis 12? God revealed Himself to Abraham and made him a three-fold promise. Do you remember what that three-fold promise was?
One, it was to multiply Abraham’s descendants and make them His covenant people. Two, He would use them to accomplish His covenant purpose. God would spread His blessing through them to people of all nations, all ethnic groups. Three, God promised to give His people a covenant place. God would establish them in their own land. Now, why did God give those promises? Why did He make those promises to Abraham? Was it because Abraham did anything to earn or deserve it? It’s not a trick question. No. He did nothing. In fact, do you remember how God ratified His covenant with Abraham?
Nehemiah 9 Thanks God for His Covenant
In Abraham’s time there was a standard ceremony that was their equivalent of signing a contract. They would take several animals, cut them in half and place them across from each other with an aisle in between. Then both parties would walk down the aisle, basically saying, “If either of us breaks this deal, may that person end up like the dead animals. May they pay the penalty of breaking covenant.”
Do you remember what happened in Genesis 15? God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep, then God proclaimed His covenant to Abraham, who’s unconscious, and God walked down the aisle by Himself. You say, “But wait. I thought you said both parties would walk down the aisle.” Exactly. God takes the covenant upon Himself. God was saying, “This is a covenant that is initiated by My grace and I am the One Who’s going to fulfill it.”
And the new covenant is the same way. God does not owe us anything, but He offers us everything—not on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what He has done for us in Christ. God is a gracious God.
God is a compassionate God.
God cares about your pain. Look at verses 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.
You might remember from the book of Exodus that the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. They were exhausted from intense labor. It never stopped—just one thing after another. They were discouraged, because of how far they had fallen from the favor of God. They were humiliated and hopeless, under an oppression they had no resources to resist. But look what it says in verse nine: God saw their affliction and He heard their cry.
If we can be honest in church for just a second, sometimes we hit situations and seasons in life when we wonder, “Is God real? If He’s real, does He not see me? Does He not hear me? Does He not hear my cries late at night when I’m alone? Does He not see what’s happening in my life? Does He not see the anguish and turmoil that’s in my heart?
Nehemiah 9 Reassures Christians that God Listens to His Children
We’re reminded as we read through the Old Testament that God sees our pain and hears our cries. God was paying attention to their suffering. He knew and He cared about what they were going through. Listen, the presence of pain is not the absence of God. The presence of pain and suffering in this world is the curse of sin. Following Jesus doesn’t exempt us from that.
God sees us and hears us in our suffering; He meets us in our suffering. When He works, verse ten, He does it to make a name for Himself, to glorify Himself, to show us and those around us that He is God, that He has all power, that He is a God Who is full of compassion and power. And He uses that power for the benefit of His people, for the joy of His people and ultimately so that they would delight in and glorify Him. God is a compassionate God.
God is a generous God.
God gives direction. Verse says, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.” When we feel confused and don’t know what to do, God is generous and gives us direction. In verse 13 we see that He also gives instruction: “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws…” I love that description of God’s Word. It’s right and it’s true. He also gave them “good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.”
God gave them the Scriptures, not to restrict and restrain them, but to teach them how to live and thrive as His covenant people, how to reflect His character and wisdom. Remember, God had chosen them to be His visual aid, so that the world would look at them and learn about Who God is and what God is like.
God is not just concerned about our spiritual lives. God gives direction and instruction, but God also gives physical provision. He cares about our physical needs. Look at verse 15: “You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger…” God cares when we’re hungry. “…and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.” God sees and cares about our physical needs.
Nehemiah 9 Thanks God for His Compassion
Some of us wonder, “I know He cares about sanctification”—which is a big word for spiritual growth—“but does He care about my chronic pain? Does He care about the fact that I’m exhausted and I can’t seem to get sleep because I’m anxious and I’m awake? Does He care about the fact that I’m fried? Does He care about what’s happening to me physically?” Yes. God cares. He’s a generous God and has shown His grace and His compassion. He has shown His generosity and provision.
Yet we read this in verses 16-17: “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously—”they took Your grace for granted— “and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.” They wanted to return to slavery? This is the same slavery God had rescued them from? This is the same slavery that had caused them to cry out in affliction?
Here’s the problem. Slavery had become normal and comfortable to them, to the point that they preferred the familiarity of slavery to the freedom of life with God. And this is our problem as well. That’s exactly how sin enslaves us. It lies to us. Just like the serpent in the Garden in Genesis, it lies to us and tells us what’s outside of God’s will is better than what we have within God’s will, in a relationship and in the presence of God. It lies to us and deceives us. It makes us insane. It makes us crazy when we prefer slavery over the freedom God gives us.
God is a patient God.
Look at the rest of verse 17. Even in all of that, “You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger.” Is anybody glad God is slow to anger? And He is “abounding in steadfast love…” and He still “…did not forsake them.” Why? Because God is a patient God. Verse 18 says, “Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf”—the surrounding cultures and nations used a calf as an image to represent their pagan gods—“and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt.’” Who? The golden calf? They “had committed great blasphemies.”
These people are insane. This is so crazy. They’re in slavery in Egypt, they cry out for help, God miraculously delivers them, then they reject God and give credit to something they made with their own hands. How did God respond?
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. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
The Patience of God
And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. 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 the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.
God was so patient with them—and God is so patient with us. Even in our sin, He still allows us to enjoy His goodness, to inhale His oxygen, to eat from His creation, to buy with His provision, to enjoy relationships with people made in His image. He has been so patient with you. Maybe that’s why you’re here today, because He’s patient with you.
Nehemiah 9 Praises God’s Patience
Tragically, we too often mistake God’s patience for tolerance. We mistake His persevering, undeserved kindness for some kind of never-ending, always-affirming tolerance. We think that because God has not executed His judgment that He somehow accepts our sin. But generations later, Peter, one of Jesus’ lead disciples, warns us in 2 Peter 3:8: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” In other words, God is outside of time. So what seems like a long time to us is no time to God.
Peter goes on, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” One minute everything seems great, then the very next moment the dam of God’s judgment breaks. It rushes in and it is too late to avoid. The day of the Lord will come like a thief, “and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
God has been patient with you. Like I said, maybe that’s why you’re hearing this message today. He’s been patient with you. Why? Because He’s giving you time to repent. God does not want us to experience His punishment and judgment. He wants us to experience and enjoy, now and for all of eternity, His goodness, grace, compassion and His generosity.
God is a holy God.
God is a patient God, but we have to remember that God is also a holy God. He does not tolerate sin. He is our Creator and He will be our Judge. He’s the One Who sets the standard for what’s right and wrong, for what is sinful and what is acceptable. And there are consequences for our sin—now, and if we refuse to repent, for all of eternity.
God had been so good to the Israelites. Look at Nehemiah 9:26: “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back.” We don’t need Your Word, God. And they “killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.” Then we’re given a summary of the book of Judges starting in verse 27: “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.” It’s the same cycle over and over again.
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. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 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 Prays for God’s Continued Faithfulness
At this point in the prayer, they’ve been talking about previous generations, surveying God’s faithfulness throughout their history. But now they transition to their own lives. Remember, they’re still slaves of the Persian empire.
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. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.
God is a holy God and there are consequences to our sin. God is patient with us, but there is a line at a certain point that when you cross it God will send His discipline into your life. The terrifying thing is you and I don’t know where that line is. We don’t know at what point God’s patience is going to run out and He’s going to decide to bring His discipline into our lives.
At a certain point, God will allow us to experience His anger over our sin. He will bring His piercing conviction to our hearts or allow painful circumstances in our lives—not to destroy us, but to get our attention and redirect us, to bring us to a point of humility and sanity, to snap us out of the illusion that we are our own authority, that God tolerates our sin, that our ways are better than God’s ways.
The One True God
Now look at verse 38: “Because of all this,” because of what? “God, because You are the only true God, the only One worthy of our worship, because You are a gracious God and a compassionate God, because You’re a generous and patient God, but also, because You are a holy God…” 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.”
Then throughout Nehemiah 10 we see the people making specific commitments to turn from specific sins, fully committing and surrendering their lives to God. Listen, the whole structure of the Old Testament is based God repeatedly saying to His people, “Commit yourself to Me, because I have chosen to commit Myself to you. It’s not commit yourself to Me so that I can choose you. I’ve already chosen you. Commit yourself to Me because I have chosen to commit Myself to you.”
That’s the covenant nature of the Kingdom of God. It’s the covenant nature of the gospel. You will never fully commit to God until you understand, until you allow yourself to be overwhelmed and awestruck by the amazing reality of how much God has already committed to you in Christ. It is the good news of the gospel that God Himself has committed Himself to you and me. He demonstrated and proved His commitment by sending His Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Nehemiah 9 Thanks Jesus for Paying the Penalty we Deserve
God did not send Jesus in the world to condemn the world (John 3:17). He sent Jesus so that He might save the world through Jesus. You and I deserve God’s eternal punishment, but Jesus paid the penalty we deserve on the cross, after having lived the perfect life that you and I fail to live. God raised Jesus from the grave so that He alone declares that He has authority to forgive sin and to give eternal life.
Throughout the Old Testament, the One Whom God’s people had been aching for and longing for—in book after book after book, era after era after era—yet all of their messianic leaders and kings and judges continued to fail, over and over and over and over again. But then One came Who would never fail. He would be tempted, yet He would remain without sin, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, without blemish, to offer Himself to Almighty God in our place so that our sins could be forgiven.
God has committed Himself to you and to me. So now it’s time for the big question. I’ve been praying for this moment right here in your life and in my heart. It’s time for the question are you ready to turn from your sin and fully commit your life to God? Actually, that’s a misleading question, because we’re never really ready. The real question is are you willing? You already know enough. God has already demonstrated to you how good and patient and kind He is. Are you willing today to turn from your sin and fully commit your life to God, whether for the first time in general or with some specific area of your life?
Some of us have added Jesus to the life we’ve already decided to live. So we already build the lives we want to live—our routines, rhythms, ambitions and all that type of stuff—then we sprinkle some Christianity on top of it. That is not repentance. That’s not following Jesus. That’s idolatry. That’s using God like a vending machine to serve your needs and interests.
True repentance and following Jesus is to let the building-block tower come crashing all the way down and allowing God to rebuild it according to His will, His priorities and His Word. That’s repentance. That’s what it really means to follow Jesus. Some of you have been in church and professing Christians for your whole life, but you’ve never truly turned from your sin and fully committed your life to Jesus. So whether for the first time in general or in some specific area of your life, are you willing to fully commit your life to Jesus?
I’m not asking you to do this alone, but with the rest of us running alongside you, supporting you and cheering you on as you support us and cheer us on. I’m not asking you to do this perfectly. Being fully committed doesn’t mean being perfect. Each of us are weak in certain areas. We all struggle against sin and complacency in our lives. But when you turn and trust Jesus, when you commit yourself to Him, His grace will be sufficient. His power will be demonstrated in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Nehemiah 9 Reaffirms God’s Grace
So we’re going to respond in just a moment with the Lord’s Supper and in worship. But I want to give a moment just between you and God. This is not a symbolic moment. This is a very real moment. God is real and God is here. I want to give you a moment to decide if you are willing to turn from your sin and commit your life to God.
Here’s specifically how I want to invite you to do this. You don’t have to do it this way, but I would encourage you to write down your answer to this question: What’s the next step I sense God leading me to take in my own life?
Forget who’s around you. Forget the person sitting to your right or to your left. This is the God Who is Creator and King, Who over and over again has demonstrated that He loves you, that He desires to be your Heavenly Father, that He has laid out a life for you that is full of joy and meaning and purpose, according to His will. Forget the people around you and talk to God.
Whatever you need to do—if you need to get on your knees, if you need to get on your face before God, if you want to stand with both of your hands up just to symbolize, “I surrender,” or if you need to just sit quietly in your seat and write it down on your bulletin, in your Bible or on your phone. What is the next step you sense God is leading you to do? I want to give you a moment just between you and God. I’m going to pray, then I want you to take a moment just confessing that to Him.
Nehemiah 9 Prays for Commitment to God
If you’re willing to make a commitment today, especially if it’s your first time committing your life to Jesus—even if you’ve been a professing Christian—I want you to make that commitment to Him today and receive the commitment that He’s made to you in the gospel. I’d encourage you to note this on your bulletin, then leave it in the lobby at the welcome desk, so we can follow up with you. So we can care for you, support you and cheer you on in your new relationship with the Lord. Let me pray.
Father, I began by praying and asking You to do what I cannot do on my own power. I cannot change hearts. I can’t even change my heart. But You can, by the power of Your Holy Spirit. So Father, I pray that You would do supernatural work through Your supernatural Word. You know I’ve been praying that today You would break strongholds that are keeping people from being fully committed to You. Holy Spirit, would You do that work in our hearts, freeing us to live as the people of God You have called us to be. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
What is the significance of Nehemiah being the final book in terms of the history of the Old Testament?
How does God’s commitment to us fuel our commitment to Him?
According to the sermon, why do you and I cling to our sin?
What does Nehemiah teach us about God’s character? What attributes are vividly seen in this chapter?
Are you willing to turn from sin and commit your life to God? What is the next step you sense God leading you to take?
What does the passage say?
- Nehemiah 9:1
- Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and insackcloth, and with earth on their heads.
- You will never fully commit to God until you understand how much He has fully committed to you.
- Are you ready to turn from sin and fully commit your life to Jesus?
- Nehemiah 9:38
- Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing…
- There is only one true God.
- Nehemiah 9:5—6
- Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah,said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your gloriousname, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 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.
- God is a gracious God.
- Nehemiah 9:7—8
- You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave himthe name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give tohis offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and theGirgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
- God does not owe us anything. But He offers us everything.
- God is a compassionate God.
- Nehemiah 9:9—12
- And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signsand wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that theyacted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And youdivided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you casttheir pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters.
- Psalm 56:8
- You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
- God is a generous God.
- Nehemiah 9:12
- By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way inwhich they should go.
- Nehemiah 9:13—14
- You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and truelaws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath andcommanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.
- Nehemiah 9:15
- You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for theirthirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
- Nehemiah 9:16—17
- But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey yourcommandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed amongthem, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt…
- Nehemiah 9:17
- …But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfastlove, and did not forsake them.
- Nehemiah 9:18—25
- Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you upout of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them inthe wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillarof fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instructthem and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty yearsyou sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and theirfeet did not swell. And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So theytook possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multipliedtheir children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathersto enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before themthe inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and thepeoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and arich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, oliveorchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delightedthemselves in your great goodness.
- 2 Peter 3:8
- But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and athousand years as one day.
- 2 Peter 3:9—10
- The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishingthat any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up anddissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
- God is a holy God.
- Nehemiah 9:26
- Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back andkilled your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed greatblasphemies.
- Nehemiah 9:27—37
- Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of theirsuffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great merciesyou gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they didevil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominionover them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you deliveredthem according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet theyacted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if aperson does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neckand would not obey. Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through yourprophets. 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 agracious and merciful God. Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, whokeeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, uponour kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of thekings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you havedealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have notkept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even intheir own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land thatyou set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves thisday; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over ourbodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.
- Nehemiah 9:38
- Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of ourprinces, our Levites, and our priests.
- Are you ready to fully commit your life to Jesus?
- Are you willing to fully commit your life to Jesus?
- What is the next step you sense God leading you to take?