The Enduring Covenant of God

The Enduring Covenant of God

The Enduring Covenant of God

Nehemiah 10:1-39

The Covenant

  • The Bible is full of covenant language. Covenants were given to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus Christ.
  • What is a covenant?
    • A covenant establishes the basis of a relationship, conditions for that relationship, promises and conditions of the relationship, and consequences if those conditions were unmet.  While a contract is legally binding, a covenant is a spiritual agreement.
  • Example of Covenant – Moses
    • Exodus 19: 5-6 – Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
      • But they did not keep the covenant.  All of chapter 9 was about how the Israelites, at every step, failed to live up to the standard.  
    • In fact,  the state of the entire covenant of God was in question at this time.  Many of the prophets’ writings before the exile seemed to declare a breaking of the covenant of Moses.  
      • In Hosea 1-2 Hosea was told by God to name his children, “no mercy” and “Not my people” 
      • God tells Jeremiah that He had divorced Israel, and left them to be conquered by the Assyrians, and if Judah didn’t shape up, they would be next. 
        • Judah did not in fact “shape up” and was given over to the Babylonians.  This would have been for many the ultimate sign of a broken covenant.  
  • So here in Nehemiah 10 the Israelites make a “new” covenant to keep the “old” covenant
    • Vs 29 – Took an oath to walk in God’s Law, observe ALL the commandments of the Lord, all his rules and all his statutes
      • Generation after generation, failure after failure, sin after sin.  The warning of destruction, the warning of exile, Israelites almost completely destroyed, they finally see the error of their ways.  They return to Jerusalem, they rebuild the temple and the walls, they recommit to the Lord.  They sign and pledge and seal a new covenant.

The Law

  • They focused on 5 areas.  
  1. We will follow the Bible
    1. Not about us anymore. We submit to the word of God!
  2. We will only marry believers
    1. Statistics show that the highest happiness and lowest divorce rates… (active believers)
  3. We will honor the sabbath
    1. Work six days with God’s blessing, or 7 days without God’s blessing
    2. It’s not legalistic, it is for our benefit to rest and restore us, both physically and spiritually
  4. We will give generously
    1. People always have questions about this. 
      1. Is it off the net or the gross? (The First fruits)
      2. What percentage? How much? Recurring?
        1. Those are good questions to ask God.
        2. Personally I cannot tell you to do something I am not doing… So here is what we do.
      3. But don’t treat the Lord’s house differently than you treat your own house.  I wouldn’t call my mortgage broker and say “I just don’t feel like it… I prayed about it though!  And I’ll keep praying that the Lord lays an amount on my heart…”  No, your home is a priority!  The work of the Lord through the local church should be too.
  5. We will make church a priority
    1. The temple is the old testament church.  They put it at the front of their finances, at the front of their schedules, at the front of their lives.  They aren’t going to soccer, or volleyball, they aren’t getting up and saying, well it’s snowy outside, or I had a late night last night.  Church is a priority
  6. These are all noble commitments!  All good  things to do… but we have to ask…
  • Did this covenant work? The question we have today is, how does change occur? How do people change?  Is this it? Did this new covenant work?  No… They almost immediately break their oaths.
    • Vs 30 – “Don’t marry foreign wives”, is broken in Nehemiah 13:23-24 – people had intermarried all over again
    • Vs 31 – “Don’t trade on the sabbath”, is broken in Nehemiah 13:15-16 – merchants coming in and selling on the sabbath
    • Vs 32 – “Tithe faithfully to the temple”, is broken in 13:10 – Levites had to flee to their homes.
    • Vs 33 – “We will not neglect the house of our God”, is broken in Nehemiah 13:4 – when Tobiah the ammonite is allowed, not only in the city, but to set up shop in the temple itself.  He repurposed the room for grain offerings into his own personal bedroom.  
  • If we are not careful with our reading of the text, we are going to walk away from nehemiah 10 with a self help sermon on 5 ways to change your life for the better. 
    • Clearly something was missing. This whole “let’s obey the law to earn our righteousness before God” thing isn’t working. 
  • Prove
    • Romans 7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
    • Galatians 3:10 – For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
  • Apply 
    • Apart from Christ, we have no righteousness, we have no willpower, we have not the strength to save ourselves. . 
    • If our relationship with God, our covenant depends on us. We have no hope.


The Better Way

  • Explain
    • But I want to note something all the way back in Genesis 15
      • Abraham had been promised by God that He would have a son.  His offspring would be more numerous than the stars, and that they would inherit a vast amount of landBut when Abraham expressed his doubt, God told him to go get a heifer, a goat, a ram, a pigeon and a turtledove.  He told him to cut them in half and place them on either side.  
        • Covenant language.  Pass through the pieces
    • Genesis 15:17-18 – When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
      • But did you notice who it was that “passed between” the torn and bloodied parts of the sacrificed animals? Who by his actions announced, “May what has happened to these animals happen to me if I fail to keep my oath”? Not the weaker party. Rather, the Lord of the cosmos traversed the bloody alley in order to announce to Abram and his offspring that he would not fail.
      •  This has always been how God fulfills his covenants. With Adam, with Abraham, With Moses, with David, with you.
  • Prove
    • James 2:13b – Mercy triumphs over judgment.
    • Romans 3:21-24 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,.
  • Apply
    • Your salvation does not depend on you.  It is not kept by your strength.  God does not measure you by your good deeds. But by Christ’s perfect deeds. 
    • Take great comfort Christian in knowing that you are secure in the good work of Jesus Christ. 



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