SPIRITUAL SLIPPAGE REQUIRES GODLY LEADERSHIP AND BOLD CONFRONTATION TO PURIFY AND RESTORE PRACTICES TO BIBLICAL NORMS
Memorial Day Message – Our nation today knows very little of the significance of Memorial Day. It has become another three day weekend devoted to pleasure and the kickoff of summertime activities. Those from a military background probably have some stronger emotions about this issue than most Americans. It was designed to be a day of Remembrance – of giving special recognition to those who have given their lives in defense and support of our nation so that we can enjoy our present freedoms. Our liberty has come at a great cost and will only be maintained by similar courage and sacrifice.
As we come to our last message on the Book of Nehemiah, we see that this theme of Remembrance is foremost on the heart of this great and effective, godly leader. Chapter 13 with its attention to 3 specific areas of reform due to the spiritual slippage of the nation is structured around the repetition of this theme of Remembrance.
– Dealing with the Pride of life – Corruption of Worship (:14)
– Dealing with the Lust of the eyes – Profaning the Sabbath –
Greedy Materialism and Covetousness (:22)
– Today: Dealing with the Lust of the flesh – Mixed Marriages (:31)
1 John 2:15-17 – “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
But don’t miss the contrasting reference in vs. 29 – God will remember those who have opposed His work as well; those who have rejected the path of holiness and defiled themselves and set a bad example for others. We all will be remembered by God in one way or another. As we finish our study this morning on this Memorial Day weekend, let’s reflect on how we will be remembered for our life here on this earth.
I. HEART ISSUES RELATED TO MIXED MARRIAGES – FLESHLY LUSTS
A. Faithless — No Satisfaction in God or Trust in His Provision – No Spirit of Thanksgiving – But Covetousness . . . Leading to Fleshly Lusts and Idolatry
“In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people.”
Problem here was not one of racism – but issue of believers marrying unbelievers
These were the very surrounding nations that had been causing so much difficulty for Nehemiah back in chap. 4
Clear biblical command: Deut. 7:3, 4 – Repeated in the NT in 1 Cor. 6 – no confusion
You might end up in that situation if one partner subsequently is saved – in that case 1 Cor. 7 gives some guidelines – stay married as long as the unbelieving spouse will have you; there is some sanctifying benefit to the other spouse and children of their association with a true believer;
But you are not to enter into a mixed marriage situation
What was the motivation resulting in such unions?
Certainly not putting the emphasis on a spiritual union – but the lusts of the flesh
She’s a looker
People kid themselves when they think they can date unbelievers but still not put themselves in danger; difficult to act on biblical conviction once your judgment is clouded by emotional involvement
Or people rationalize: This is how I will be used by the Lord to save this person; don’t kid yourself; Why are you setting your standards so low anyway?? What does that say about your spiritual commitment?
Kidner: The babble of languages among the children (:24) was not only a symptom but a threat; it meant a steady erosion of Israelite identity at the level of all thinking and expression, and a loss of access to the Word of God which would effectively paganize them. A single generation’s compromise could undo the work of centuries.
Fensham: If we take the view that everything was under control when Nehemiah left Jerusalem, we may deduce from the fact that the children spoke a foreign dialect that quite a time had elapsed between his departure and arrival.
David Moore: Five Common Problems In Marrying The Wrong Person – Nehemiah 13
A. The Unequal Yoke often results in Ignorance of the Scriptures – vss 23-24
B. The Unequal Yoke often results in Incompatibility between loved ones – vs. 25
When you marry an unbeliever it often sets you at odds with your family
C. The Unequal Yoke often results in Impurity in the heart– vs. 26
D. The Unequal Yoke often results in Impediment to the Truth– vs. 27-28
E. The Unequal Yoke often results in Indifference to Worship– vs. 29
B. Fearless — No Fear of God
“Do we then hear about you that you have committed all this great evil by acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women?”
Characterized not just as evil or wickedness; but a great evil
C. Foolish — No Wisdom from Lessons of History
“Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin.”
Look at all of the warnings we have from Solomon recorded in Proverbs and book of Ecclesiastes – why do we want to repeat his mistakes?
Do we think we are wiser than Solomon and will somehow involve negative consequences from such sin?
Look at how costly his sin was for the nation – led to a divided nation and all sorts of compromise and entanglement
Balance: Reminder of God’s Grace, Mercy, Compassion, Love – despite our sinfulness
II. CORRECTIVE ACTION RELATED TO MIXED MARRIAGES – FLESHLY LUSTS
A. Confrontation: Verbal Rebuke
“So I contended with them and cursed them”
Legal terminology – as civil leader, Nehemiah acting as judge and executor here; not a model for how we would act today
Kidner: The rest of Nehemiah’s onslaught used the leverage of divine sanctions (the curse; the promise under oath), physical pain, shame (cf. 2 Sa. 10:5; Is. 50:6 with the plucking of the hair) and an appeal to loyalty (27). It was a fearsome attack, but a crucial issue.
Swindoll: Cursing in this context does not mean he used coarse profanity. Rather, it means “to be disrespectful, to dishonor.” It’s a severe term, implying “to treat with contempt, to revile.”
Paul Decker: Illustration: Need to Confront Sin, Reject Compromise, take stand for Righteousness
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft soothing voice, “Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let’s negotiate the matter.”
Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, “I want a fur coat.”
“Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable item. I only want a full stomach, so let us sit down and negotiate a compromise.”
They sat down to negotiate and after a time the bear walked away, alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat!
Well, that goes to show that compromise is not always ideal, right?
B. Confinement: Closing Off Opportunity
“and made them swear by God, ‘You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.’”
Nehemiah got them to make a commitment to change their actions
Illustration: confinement efforts in the Gulf by BP to try to control the spread of the oil spill; important not to minimize the damage; not to cover up the problem; be truthful
C. Consequences: Corporal Punishment and Shame
“and struck some of them and pulled out their hair,”
“Even one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite, so I drove him away from me.”
“chasing” him off
Not exactly a model for parental nurturing
D. (:30) Consecration: Purification and Refocusing
“Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties for the priests and the Levites, each in his task, and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits.”
III. (:31) REFRAIN OF SEEKING GOD’S FAVOR FOR COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP
“Remember me, O my God, for good.”
Theme of Remembrance
What kind of a leader did Nehemiah prove to be? Much more than a wall builder
7 Key Traits of an Effective, Godly Leader Modeled by Nehemiah:
– 1) A man of Vision – understood God’s kingdom purposes for his times
o “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down!” (6:3)
o Rare when you combine a visionary with a man of practical implementation
– 2) A man of Courage – would not be intimidated or discouraged – understood the tactics of the enemy
o “Success is never final and failure is never fatal: It’s courage that counts.”
o Would not back down despite strong opposition; strengthened himself in the Lord
– 3) A man who could Motivate others – get them to stay on task and use their gifts
o He led and others followed
o “Leadership is the art of getting others to do what you know needs to be done because they want to do it.”
– 4) A man of Decisive Action and Hard Work
o Servant mentality
o Led by example
– 5) A man who had a High View of the Word of God and a Low View of Sin
o Led to righteous indignation and confrontation of sin
– 6) A man who could Accomplish Great Things for God through Commitment and Determination and Perseverance
o Wiersbe: President of Wheaton College, Dr. Raymond Edman, used to remind his students, “It’s always too soon to quit.”
– 7) A man of Prayer who looked to God alone for His Reward – “Remember me”