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 #5– John Piper, Nehemiah Chapters 9 & 10 (VIDEO: Nehemiah 9-10: John Piper http://vimeo.com/99775552)
In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah we see the Israelites, those of Jewish descent, have separated themselves from the foreigners. They read from the book of law, they confessed their sins. First we see their humility and their reverence for God. They acknowledge God for who He is and what He has done for them. They recognized that God was clear and straightforward with what He asked of them. Then they literally begin to detail out all of the times that their people, the previous generations, have rebelled against God; and also the mercy of God in each of those situations. They acknowledged that in each instance that discipline was given, that it was just and they deserved it. They didn’t point the fingers at others, but assumed the blame as a community. They wanted to make binding agreement with God.
In Chapter 10 of Nehemiah there is another detailed list of everyone who signed this agreement, and what they were promising. Reality was that this wasn’t exactly a new covenant, but instead a new generation who was agreeing to the covenant established with the forefathers.
From John Piper
The stories that are in the bible are not their for our enjoyment, like an entertaining story to share with our kids. Instead they are there for our enjoyment of the Lord, so that we can remember and acknowledge Him, give him the glory, and truly appreciate the gift of grace we are given. The entire point of any and every story in the Bible is to point toward Jesus. It is the foundation, the groundwork, the steps that take place to lead us to the time of Jesus’ arrival, and the foretelling of that arrival. It all points toward Jesus. It’s not about Adam and Eve, it’s about Jesus. It’s not about King David, it’s about Jesus. It’s not about doubting Thomas, it’s about Jesus.
And, the point of the entire universe is to tell the glory of God. History glorifies God, because it is His story. God wrote it, produced it, directed it, acted in it… to make Himself known. And He is known! (Neh. 9:10)
As speakers, writers, witnesses, pastors, leaders, etc… ALL OF OUR MESSAGES ARE TO AID GOD IN MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF.
It is not my story or your story, it is His story. When I am sharing my story… it isn’t about me at all. Not about myself, or my situation. Our story is the means in which we tell others of how the hands of the Holy Spirit can change the heart of man to know God, love God and enjoy God for who He really is.
Nehemiah was in distress. Those who love God’s people are often in distress. Nehemiah’s people were in distress, over how they have failed to live up to God’s statues, rebelled against Him, forgot Him. How did they handle it? They cried out to God in prayer, over 30 times.
To often when people find themselves in distress they think God put them there as discipline, some ask for help out of the situation without acknowledging they brought themselves there in the first place, some won’t cry out to God because they feel like the deserve to be in that bad place because of their actions. BUT NONE MAY ESCAPE THE GOOD NEWS! Jesus died for all of our sins. We cry out to God because of who He is, no who we are or what we have done… because we all fall short.
When people feel guilt & refuse to cry out to God in prayer…. they don’t want help, because they feel the deserve the consequences of sin in their life… THEY DIMINISH THE CROSS & EXALT THEMSELVES IN THEIR SIN.
Here the Israelites are praying back to God a full retelling of everything that God has done for them. Why? Because they needed to know that there was hope for them, and the answer was found in the history, in the stories. It was a reminder to them not just of what God did… but reinforced the promise of what God would do. And God keeps his promises because He is RIGHTEOUS.
In their prayers the people praised God, humbled themselves, accepted God as the standard of their living – we are image bearers, seek pity from God because they fail, reestablish the covenant & establish consequences. Should we pray like this? NO! Why? Because 1) they had the odds stacked against them already, a history of failing to live up to their promises to God. 2) They point to his righteousness & promises as a protection for their lives. They own their faults, but they forget that God doesn’t need them in order to keep His righteousness. He could wipe all of these people off the face of the earth & raise Abraham from the dead, create a new lineage…. and still keep His promise.
There is going to be a cycle of failure amongst God’s people until His work is done. At the end of the OT, God has not acted to end sin or taken payment of the wages of sin. If the OT ended at Malachi, what a terrible ending, it’s a perpetual cycle of failure, sin and rebellion. It also illustrates God passing over the past sins of his people without holding them accountable, in order for God to be righteous he can’t allow their sins to go unpunished. There must be atonement. God must do something.
And, God does… in the New Testament, when Jesus Christ was sent … a Savior, a Redeemer. He was, and is, HOPE for a stiff necked rebellious people. At the Last Supper, Jesus creates a new covenant… bought with His blood ending the external law that demanded obedience and creating an internal spirit that moves our desires toward obedience. Through this God made Himself known again, proving Himself true to His Word, character and very being.
Session #6- Kathleen Nielson, Jenny Salt & Carrie Sandom, Nehemiah Chapters 11 & 12 (VIDEO: Nehemiah 11-12 http://vimeo.com/100122592)
Chapter 11 – The Israelite leaders settled in to Jerusalem, the holy city. Everyone else was in the surrounding towns (their ancestral property). In order to populate the rest of Jerusalem, of these surrounding towns they began to cast lots (lottery). One out of every ten would move into the city. A detailed list is given of the new residents in Jerusalem from their descended tribes, through to the gatekeepers and officers.
Chapter 12 – We are given a complete list of the Priests and Levites within the community. When the wall was completed they were called to the city to dedicate the wall. They ceremonially cleansed themselves and then purified the people, the gates and the wall. There was a celebration of singing (choirs giving thanks), musical instruments (as David prescribed), made sacrifices to the Lord. The sound of the celebration could be heard from far away. Appointments were made for the keeping of the storehouse, tithes were taken from the people & given to the priests, who tithed from their portion to the descendants of Aaron.
From Carrie Sandom:
Again, we need to recognize that the list of names was important. The Jews were meticulous record keepers which gives credibility to historical authenticity. It validates how important each person and the role God has given them is to God, His story. These names connected them to their past, as they were grouped by their tribes and forefathers. It also served as a reminder that God had not forgotten His promises/covenant to these particular people. It also acknowledges the collaborative effort it took to bring this city & these people back to Jerusalem, their promised land.
Lists are important. When we are present at an event, and names are being read off a list… we listen closer… we want to hear our name, we want to be included, we don’t want to miss hearing our name called out. We are more attentive.
With their renewed covenant, they needed to repopulate the city, rededicate the wall and reorganize the temple and storerooms. They couldn’t just rebuild, they had to actually live there. Their willingness to sacrifice illustrates that God was at work in the people. There was joyful anticipation within the people, they were bringing God back to the center of their lives, sacrificial system was back in place again (something that had been abandoned when they were enslaved)…. life was springing back in Jerusalem.
They will full of courage, joy and anticipation; but at this time period, people still didn’t have direct access to God (Holy of Holies, located in the temple, for the High Priest to enter only). We should rejoice even MORE because we DO have direct access to God through Jesus!
There will be a new list of inhabitants… of the New Jerusalem. We will be waiting, with eager anticipation… for our names to be read off that list.
From Jenny Salt:
In these chapters we watch the Israelites full of joy, anticipating the return to their ways of worship & God’s favor.
1) It is God Centered: We get our joy from His presence in our life, and from Him directly. It’s not just about meeting in a place, like church… but also communing directly with God.
2) It Comes in Remembering God’s Faithfulness: The gospel truths help get us through our tough times. We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves!
3) It Focuses on Thankfulness: Joy combats depression, dispair and fear.
—–I had to leave the room during part of Jenny’s presentation, and missed some of the presentation. The Gospel Coalition is still working on the media from the event. I’ll post a link when available, and you will be able to catch what I missed.
From Kathleen Nielson:
People are called to move, and to do. To celebrate, and rejoice.
We learn from the OT commands that there is an order an structure to their lives, to keep things going smoothly and in accordance with God’s will.
The Israelites were establishing this order to the city, as they were returning as inhabitants.
1) They didn’t make up these rules, but rather they were according to God’s Word
– Example… tithes and offerings, done in a certain way & on a regular basis.
2) Structure helps pass the information and traditions on to our future generations.
– Example… the order of our church services, prayers, etc. Structure = duplicatible = easy to remember = easy to teach. It becomes habitual.
3) When done in accordance to God’s will, structure helps focus on satisfying God… over ourselves.
– We may want to do it another way, but by doing it God’s way, we take ourselves out of the equation & put the focus and credit on Him.
4) Structure brings joy because it makes us dependent upon His promises.
Having order has been in existence since the beginning. God didn’t just do everything all at once, simultaneously. He did each step of creation independently and saw that it was good. He took joy in each step.
As we head into Chapter 13… we will see that while their intentions were good… THEY COULD NOT DO IT.
Previous Related Posts:
Pre-Conference Part 1 – Male and Female, He Created Them – Speaker Panels
Pre-Conference Part 2 – Male and Female, He Created Them – Don Carson
Conference Part 3 – Nehemiah: Sessions 1 & 2 (Chapters 1-4)
Conference Part 4 – Nehemiah: Sessions 3 & 4 (Chapters 5-8)
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