These are my notes on the book of Nehemiah from The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference. There were 7 total sessions, covering all 13 chapters.
Session 7 Notes: Chapter 13 – Don Carson (VIDEO: Nehemiah 13: DA Carson http://vimeo.com/100122593)
Chapter 13 – The final chapter of Nehemiah exposes the triumph and the failure of reformation and revival. For about 12 years Nehemiah was with the people in Jerusalem, repairing the wall, rebuilding the city and re-establishing the people. Nehemiah returned to his duties with King Artaxerces. While he was gone, we find once again rebellion amongst the Israelites. They had been told, when reading the book of Moses, that they were to exclude those who were of foreign descent from the assembly. But, while Nehemiah was gone Eliashab had allowed Tobiah (who was trying to stop the rebuild project) to live in the storerooms of the temple. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he found out about this, threw Tobiah and his household out, purified the rooms and returned the proper equipment to them. The Levites were no longer being given their due portions, and had returned to their fields. They were working on the Sabbath. They were marrying foreign women & their children were not learning their language or customs but that of the foreigners. Nehemiah rebuked them for breaking the law.
From Don Carson
What we learn through the final chapters of Nehemiah, is that in the end… the happy progress the Israelites were making was over. Despite the renewed covenant, despite bringing the people together to repair the wall and city, despite restoring the tribes to their homelands, despite their promises to return to the statues of the Lord… THEY WERE INCAPABLE OF DOING SO.
What this means to us today… is that we have to learn from what went wrong.
1) There was a new legalism. And as history has repeated itself, these people were incapable of sticking to their promises. But since they made this covenant, their inability to keep this new covenant led them to compromise, which is sin. On the flip side, with legalism you will have those who begin to elevate the law & their own power to abide by it. This is arrogant and implies that you can do it on your own & don’t need God.
2) The people were valuing their relationships with people over their relationship with God. Blood relations became more important than the blood covenant.
3) The people were not faithful to God. They took on wives they were told not to. They were more concerned about how they appeared to other people than to God. They were more concerned with making money than honoring the Sabbath. They were not taking care of their own priests like they were instructed. They were not preserving their language and customs with their children.
In the end all Nehemiah is left with is the plea to God to remember him, his faithfulness… despite the failure of the people.
The problem today with legalism is that you have people doing godly things with the wrong motivation vs. doing for God. People will elevate the work of the church for a time, and then later destroy it with their own hands. Because we are incapable of following the rules, we can’t do it on our own. We need God.
The entire point of Nehemiah is that there was sin in the beginning, sin in the middle and sin in the end. The only way we can be saved is the arrival of Jesus in the NT. The only way we will be delivered to the New Jerusalem is when Christ returns.
The more we increase the focus on legalism, the more disobedient we become because legalism is an impossibility. For God’s own chosen people, those with whom He had direct relationship with… those whom He made the covenant with … COULD NOT DO IT. It isn’t within our own strength or power.
The more we increase the focus on legalism, the more we are looking for the experience itself (the feeling of doing it) than the actual real relationship with God.
Christ is the only recipe… God is GOOD & RIGHT … We are wicked…. Which is why we need Him, to turn our face toward Him.
We follow the same patterns as the Israelites. We struggle. We examine ourselves. We confess our sins. We ask for mercy. God brings judgement and revival. Until Christ returns, we will struggle. So, we PRESS ON… BEING CONSTANTLY AWARE OF OUR NEED FOR GOD, CONFIDENCE IN HIM DESPITE OUR UNCERTAINTY.
The overall point of Nehemiah is to point us toward the need of Jesus. The Israelites were incapable of following God’s statutes. They rebelled with Moses. They rebelled with Nehemiah. Despite our best intentions, we are people who are incapable of following the law. Because God is righteous, and allowed His people to be spared from his wrath over and over again, Jesus had to come. It was the only way to atone for the sin, to save God’s people. The book of Nehemiah is not about the people, or what they are capable of doing on their own or even as a community, but a reminder of what we are incapable of doing & our need for a Savior…. which ultimately reveals the righteousness of God.
Previous Related Posts:
The Gospel Coalition, Women’s Conference: NEHEMIAH VIDEOS
Nehemiah 1-2 Kathy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99765572
Nehemiah 3-4 Timothy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99790975
Nehemiah 5-6 Paige Brown: http://vimeo.com/99776947
Nehemiah 7-8 Nancy Guthrie: http://vimeo.com/99775551
Nehemiah 9-10: John Piper http://vimeo.com/99775552
Nehemiah 11-12 Sandom/Salt/Neilsen http://vimeo.com/100122592
Nehemiah 13: DA Carson http://vimeo.com/100122593