You Are Not Enough

You Are Not Enough

The final chapter of historical narrative in the old testament. After this will come 400 years of silence. Nothing else makes it into the book.  Were the Bible written by the same people who write the popular fairy tales in our day, chapter 12 would have simply concluded by saying, “and they lived happily ever after…”  But that is not what we see.  We see monumental failure, it all comes crashing down.

Nehemiah 13:1-31

Our hopes were really high as we turned to Ezra Chapter 1 and read that Israelite exiles are coming back from Babylon. We think, “This is it!” The great restoration of God’s kingdom, when forgiven Israel will finally obey, and become the people of the new covenant. We were brimming with expectation as we read Ezra-Nehemiah. 

  • But at every turn of the story, things don’t work out the way you think they should
    • When the new temple is rebuilt, many people are thrilled. Yet, we’re told that the elders who saw the final days of Solomon’s temple wept. There was a great gap between their expectation and the reality of what took place.
    • When Ezra returns to lead a revival, he finds that many of the leaders of the returned exiles have been compromised by inappropriate marriages to non-Israelites
    • When Nehemiah leads a movement to rebuild the walls, he discovers that the returned exiles were lending money in a way that led to the enslavement of their own people
  • What we see in our text this morning is that despite good intentions, Nehemiah was not able to bring about lasting change.  That truth applies to us as well… we are not enough, our efforts are not enough to bring about lasting change..  

An Enemy Within

  • Explain
    • Defiling the Temple (1-9)
      • No Ammonites and No Moabites (1-3)
        • This is not about Race, ethnicity, gender, or culture.  God is calling all people from all places to repentance and faith.  
        • Remember that Ruth was a Moabite.  She has a book of the Bible named after her. What makes her different?
          • She turned from her sin, her false gods, and sought the one true God.  She was welcomed in, and through her came Jesus.  
      • But here we have Tobiah the ammonite setting up shop in the Temple of God.  (the storeroom) – It was empty anyways!
    • Neglecting the Priests (10-14)
      • People had stopped giving.  The priests had fled the temple because they had no food.  it was literally unlivable. 
        • God’s temple was a ghost town.  No one was there to offer sacrifices, or to do cleansing rituals, or to pray for those in need.
          • Other than Tobiah, the enemy of God.
    • Ignoring the Sabbath (15-22)
      • Merchants were selling their wares on the sabbath, and families were more concerned about going to market on the sabbath than honoring God.  
    • Pursuing Foreign Women (23-31)
      • They went right back to the sin of remarrying foreign wives.  Now as we have already seen it is not about the ethnicity of a person. 
        • Here is the case study that is going on.  In ancient times, if you marry someone, and have children with them. Which of you is going to be responsible for the raising of the children?  The wife.  
        • So what was happening is the children were educated by the wife and mother, and they were educated in the ways of their foreign Gods.  It says that many could no longer even speak Hebrew!
          • This is especially troublesome because that was the only language that God’s law was written in!  In one generation they run the risk of undoing ALL that they had been and believed for thousands of years.
    • These 4 things are listed out for a reason.  For those reading this book, the covenant promises in Nehemiah 10 would have been fresh in their minds.
  • Prove
    • Nehemiah 10:30-31a – We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day.
    • Nehemiah 10:35 – We obligate ourselves to bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord
    • Nehemiah 10:39b – We will not neglect the house of our God.
  • Apply
    • The fickleness of the human heart.
      • They had all bowed their heads and closed their eyes, they had all raised their hand, and come down the aisle, they had prayed with the pastorThe word had struck them to the heart and they were going to be different.  They had made a commitment, drawn a line in the sand. They had prayed the prayer, filled out the form, they entered into the discipleship program. They were not going back. They knew better this time…They were never going to backslide again.  
      • And yet here they are… Scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Buried under the weight of their sins and still digging deeper.
    • This chapter holds a mirror up to us and tells us, You will fail, you won’t keep your promises, you will not hold up to your own standards, let alone God’s. This chapter reminds us that there is nothing in and of ourselves is going to bring change, and nothing in and of ourselves is strong enough to be our final hope.  
      • Super optimistic message!  Welcome to church, “you are not enough, you will fall, you will fail. It is inevitable on this side of eternity.” on our own, it is a losing war.

A Losing War

    • A war of attrition
      • They start so strong!  Don’t we all?  The repentance is genuine. You can tell that they really want to do what is right… but time is the enemy of willpower.  
        • We so easily forget that we are in a spiritual war.  That our enemy is real and deadly serious.  He knows to attack at our weakest moments, not our strongest.  “Sure, you can say no now… but what about next week? Next year?”  Our willpower crumbles under the weight of time and sustained pressure
    • A war of small compromises
      • Well we don’t need to keep the gates closed for the whole sabbath, we can give less than the full amount to the priests, we don’t need to have every room in the temple sanctified, Tobiah just needs 1 room, I know we cant marry foreigners, but cant we just be friends with them?
        • Sin is like a swimming pool
        • Most people play in the shallow end of sin before they drown themselves in the deep end.
    • A war of passivity
      • Many of us are like this… myself included.  we just go along to get alongWe abandon our principles and convictions to keep peace.  We become more concerned with our personal comfort than what is right.  
        • It is the gospel of nice. Voddie Baucham – “Most Christians live by the 11th commandment, ‘thou shalt be nice’…and they don’t believe the other 10.”
    • A war of Frustration
      • 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.
        • What good is a forced oath? As useless as a screen door on a submarine.  It will never stand up to true temptation.
      • Nehemiah has been the hero of the story for so long, but no more.  
      • 3 times in our passage, Nehemiah says “Remember me, o my God, for good”  It is almost as if Nehemiah gives up on them and instead simply asks God to remember Him.
        •  He has lost his hope!
      • Nehemiah realizes finally that he is in a losing war!
  • We are particularly prone to fail when it comes to our response to failure. (Anger, frustration, disappointment, Self righteousness)
  • How do we win a losing war?  We need a better leader.

A Better Leader

    • Explain
  • John C. Maxwell – “Everything rises and falls on leadership”
    • Up until this point, Nehemiah has been an awesome leader…  He has led the Israelites to rebuild the city, to enact Godly policies and laws, to fill the city with inhabitants, to not get distracted by opposition, to open the book of God and to obey it. To separate themselves from foreign wives, to honor the sabbath, to set in place new leaders to do the work.
      • And yet… we see Nehemiah at the end of himself.  
        • Nehemiah is, without a doubt, unable to take the people to the next step.  He is not enough. 
    • This tells us something about the human condition. Apparently, no matter how serious the consequences, no matter the level of personal desire, no matter how hard we try, nothing but God can transform the human heart.  Israel’s problem before the exile was a hard heart that resulted in rebellion against the terms of their covenant with God. And Israel’s problem after the exile … is exactly the same…
  • Prove
    • Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
    • What God’s people truly needed wasn’t just a new temple building or a new city wall. They needed new hearts that could truly respond to God’s love and grace with grateful devotion.  
      • What this tells us is that the new covenant promises of Jeremiah 31 have not been realized yet, and while back in their promised land, they are still in a spiritual exile, stemming all the way back to the garden.
      • They needed a better leader.  One that could take them into the fullness of the new covenant with God. One who would not give up in the face of sin and failure.  One who is faithful unto death.
  • Apply (conclusion)
    • Our only hope for renewal is Jesus Christ.  Nehemiah was a shadow of the true and better leader:
      • Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King, Jesus is the king himself who rules and reigns.
      • Nehemiah wept over the physical state of Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the spiritual state of Jerusalem.
      • Nehemiah established a new covenant that was quickly broken, Jesus established a new covenant that will never end. 
      • Nehemiah built an earthly city, Jesus is preparing a heavenly city.
      • Nehemiah returned to rebuke the people, Jesus is returning to restore his people.
      • Nehemiah responded to sin with anger and beatings, Jesus responds to sin with love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
      • Nehemiah changed the external appearance, Jesus changes the heart.
  • Do you know this Jesus?  
    • Do you follow Him?  If you do, Lean on him in your weakness, pull from his strength, and when you fail, when you fall, when you are overcome with sin, Cry out to your savior king


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