Joy in Obligation (Nehemiah 10:32) - Radical

Joy in Obligation (Nehemiah 10:32)

“We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God.”
– Nehemiah 10:32

Well, Nehemiah 10:32 doesn’t maybe seem to stick out at first. It’s in the part of Nehemiah 10 where they’re basically just listing out all the ways they’re going to obey God and the word that’s used there is obligation. We take on ourselves the obligation to do this, to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God. You get to the very end of the chapter, it says, we will not neglect the house of our God, so they’re saying, we know we are obligated to provide for the services in the temple. Now, when I read this, I think about that word obligation, like are we obligated to do certain things to obey God’s word?

Lord, help us to delight in your statutes, love your commandments, and long for Your Word in love for You.

Well, yes, in one sense as his servants we are. When God speaks, he’s our Lord. When Jesus gives us a command, it’s not an option for us. As followers of Jesus, we obey. We obey. We’re obligated to obey. This is why even when you get to Romans 1, Paul talks about how he’s obligated to preach the Gospel, not only to Jews but to Gentiles as well. He’s obligated. At the same time, there is joy in obligation. Now, we realize there can be lack of joy in obligation, like I’m doing something because I have to. I don’t really want to.

Nehemiah 10:32 Reminds Us God Puts His Law On Our Hearts

But that’s not the picture we see here in Nehemiah 10. They just finished worshiping God, rejoicing over God, so they say we’re obligated to provide for his worship. That doesn’t feel like, okay, so we have to do this. That feels like want to, but even more so, like in the new covenant, that’s the promises. We see that in the new covenant, God puts his law on our hearts so that we want to obey. We want to carry out the obligations in a sense of our faith. It does not have to. It’s a desire to.

This Verse Explains Our Relationship With God

Now, sometimes with our sinfulness and our sinful nature, we have to fight because sometimes we feel like we have to and there’s less want to, but God has designed us in Christ, the power of his spirit in us. He’s put his law on our hearts so that we find a joy in the obligations of our faith. Like is that possible? Absolutely it’s possible. I think about the obligations I have to my wife, to love her, to care for her, to provide for. I want to do that. Love her so much. I don’t think it’s an obligation to come home and give her a kiss and tell her I love her, like this is not something, “Okay, I’ve got to do this.” No, I want to do this. This is the overflow of relationships with her. All the more so in relationship with God.

Nehemiah 10:32 Longs For God’s Word

There is joy in carrying out obligations to obey God. So God, we pray for this and I pray for this increasingly so in my life and in the lives of those who are listening right now, that we would not see your statutes and rules and commandments, your word as a burden, as a duty we have to do, but that we would delight in your statutes and we love your commandments, that we would long for your word because we love you, because we want to honor you, and because we trust you, because we know that your word brings life, that we are not obligated to obey in a way that leads to our bad, that your word always leads to our good.

Now, in my mind I may lead to things being harder in this world, but God, we trust that this will be good for us whenever we obey your word. So we say yes to this obligation. We say yes to this obligation because we love you and we love life in you and we want to experience life to the full in you, and we know that’s found in your word. So teach us, we pray today to carry out your obligations in our lives with joy in relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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