Service Video Message Video Message Audio %} Lakeside Christian Church · Guarding Our Mission | Unbroken episode 11 Scripture Verses Nehemiah 13 Worship Playlist Great Things by Shane & ShaneHis Mercy Is More by Matt BoswellPsalm 23 by Shane & ShaneEstablish the Work of Our Hands by Porter's Gate Study Questions Think of a time when you broke a commitment to another person. How was your relationship affected?Read Nehemiah 13. What commitments had the Israelites broken in the years Nehemiah had been gone (see Nehemiah10:28-39)? What was the result of the broken commitment?How did Nehemiah handle those who had broken their covenant together with God? Why was he so severe? What was at stake?How was the Sabbath day to be observed? What are some ways we can observe the Sabbath today?Read Hebrews 10:24-25. How can we guard our homes and church from distractions that pull us away from worship? Downloads & Resources Guarding Our Mission Dr. Jon Morrissette - 11/13/2022 If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: We have a crisis of leadership in our culture. We see this leadership crisis at a personal level—people don’t know how to lead themselves much less others. People lack an inner moral compass, a kind of north star, to guide them in decisions. They don’t know which principles to live by. There is no sense of truth, or rightness, much less sobriety (physical or emotional). Each person does what seems right in their own eyes, despite the cost to self and especially to others. There is profound erosion of character. We see this leadership crisis in the family—what, after all, is a man or woman? What is a husband or wife? What is a father or mother? What roles and responsibilities ought we to have? The hearts of fathers are turned against their own families, the hearts of children against their parents. Where is the concern for honoring one’s parents, honoring one’s vows, honoring the marriage bed and keeping it pure, remembering and honoring the wife of your youth? Where is the concern for covenantal faithfulness of both heart and mind, body, and spirit? We’ve become an adulterous, pornographic, and promiscuous people. I don’t care much to speak about the leadership crisis on the cultural level. If you are a partisan, you imagine that the leadership crisis is singularly red or blue, left or right, in Washington, on Wallstreet, or on Mainstreet. A socio-political-economic leadership crisis permeates every branch of government, every office, every house, every chamber, every industry—every corridor of private, public and social power. But this isn’t our focus this morning. The grandest leadership failure of all, however, is spiritual, and it’s happening within the church. If the very people called by God’s name cannot get their own spiritual house in order, then what business do we have demanding that culture gets their house in order? This is the essential crisis that confronts the people of God in Nehemiah 13. Having experienced spiritual renewal, would they make their ongoing spiritual renovation a priority? Would they make those hard, costly, God-honoring decisions? Or would they succumb yet again to the gravitational pull of human nature and worldliness? Before we jump into Nehemiah 13, I want to frame the challenge of spiritual leadership. In John 17 Jesus prays that the Church, though “in” the world, would not be “of” the world. In Romans 12, Paul admonishes that in view of God’s mercy that we not be “conformed” to the pattern of the world but be “transformed.” This is the task of spiritual leadership for Christ’s Church. In Nehemiah 13:1-3 we read these words: “At that time the book of Moses was read publicly to the people. The command was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 because they did not meet the Israelites with food and water. Instead, they hired Balaam against them to curse them, but our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 When they heard the law, they separated all those of mixed descent from Israel.” Now granted, we have to be careful with these verses. Jesus explicitly taught that the temple was to be a house of prayer for “all nations.” All nations means all cultures, races, and ethnicities. What’s in view here however, in that there were a certain group of people who openly and brazenly declared their hostility against God’s people. Not only did they deprive Israel of vital necessities (food and water), but they hired Balaam the prophet to curse them. We live in a time when “tolerance” is a kind of cardinal reigning virtue. Implied is that everyone belongs and deserves a seat at the table. But if a person is openly hostile to God, hostile to God’s Kingdom, hostile to God’s purpose, plan and will; hostile to the gospel, hostile to the authority of God’s word, hostile to all things moral, decent, and good… if a person wishes harm and evil on you (or on your family) … ought you not separate? Tolerance cannot and does not stand alone as a cardinal virtue. We must discern that line between tolerance and separation, being in the world and not of the world, between conforming and transforming. For reasons in the mind of God, for reasons relevant to this ancient cultural context, it was necessary to separate from Ammonites and Moabite people. Now, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why. One of the most notorious and famous Ammonites of Nehemiah’s day was . . . TOBIAH! Do you remember “Tobiah the Ammonite” and his crony friend Sanballat? Remember all the ridicule, threats, and abuse they heaped on Nehemiah as they built the wall? They tried to lure Nehemiah into the valley of Ono to kill him. Tobiah wasn’t good. Yet what do we read in Nehemiah 13:4-5? “Now before this, the priest Eliashib had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was a relative of Tobiah and had prepared a large room for him where they had previously stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, and the tenths of grain, new wine, and fresh oil prescribed for the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, along with the contributions for the priests.” Aha! Of course! Eliashib the priest was giving comfort and hospitality within the city to one of God’s chief enemies! You know this triggered a memory for me. Back at the end of Nehemiah 6, right as the wall was completed, we read how the Jewish nobles had been sending and receiving letters to Tobiah. We’re told in Nehemiah 6:18 that “many were bound in oath to him!” And what’s really ironic, in Nehemiah 6:19, Nehemiah says, “These nobles kept mentioning Tobiah’s good deeds to me, and they reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.” And of course, now, in Nehemiah 13:4-5, behind Nehemiah’s back, the priest Eliashib turns over a temple storeroom to Tobiah! Let me tell you what is so painful about spiritual leadership. As a leader, as a parent, as a shepherd. . . even as you are confronting evil (or an evil person)… those you are protecting may be giving hospitality and comfort to the enemy behind your back! You are trying to purge an evil influence, but those you are leading are not only inviting them to the table, but also giving them the whole storehouse! In Nehemiah 6 they are reporting all Nehemiah’s activities to Tobiah… even as Tobiah is waging a letter campaign stirring up trouble for Nehemiah! Spiritual leadership can be very lonely place. I can tell you there are times when our Elders have taken steps to curtail the influence of a malicious person (or group of people). Meanwhile, people in the church are giving comfort, aid, hospitality, and sympathy to the person doing real spiritual damage to the Church! People are in full communication with them, updating them, exchanging letters and emails and viewpoints… inviting them over for dinner. If you are a spiritual leader, not everyone is going to be playing from the same playbook! So many other loyalties, friendships, seem to outweigh whatever spiritual concerns ought to exist. Again, all of this is happening behind Nehemiah’s back. In Nehemiah 13:6 he explains how all this was happening in his absence, after he’d returned to Babylon. It’s like that old slogan, when the cat is away the mice will play! But of course, Nehemiah discovers the evil that was happening and confronts it. There is no room the Eliashibs—they must be rooted out. Eliashib was a priest, a person of authority, and he was undermining the spiritual integrity of God’s people. Nehemiah ordered everything Eliashib and his crony Tobiah touched, be purified. He appointed new, trustworthy leaders. By the way, the cost of what Eliashib had done, was that all the Levites and singers had neglected their posts and returned to their own fields. They knew what was going on, but had no means to do much about it. It was the task of Nehemiah, of spiritual leadership, to rebuild trust by rooting out Eliashib. In Nehemiah 13:14 we find the spiritual leader’s prayer: “Remember me for this, my God, and don’t erase the deeds of faithful love I have done for the house of my God and for its services.” If you exercise any level of spiritual leadership (in your church, in your family) expect to be misunderstood. Expect to be an unsung hero. Expect that it may only be God that truly sees and has the fullest context of your actions. At the end of the day, it has to be enough that God remembers you. The Eliashib and Tobiah is what you get with intermarriage. Eliashib sinned by putting friends and family above God. But in Nehemiah 13:15-16, just a chapter after people had bound themselves with an oath (blessings and curses), they’re already violating the Sabbath! Nehemiah has to confront them. Nehemiah 13:17-18, “I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil you are going, profaning the Sabbath? Didn’t your ancestors do the same, so that our God brought all this disaster on us and on this city? And now you are rekindling his anger against Israel by profaning the Sabbath?” Ugh. As a spiritual leader, don’t you sometimes hate having to rebuke, correct, and admonish people? You may think you can neglect confrontation… But the spiritual reality is we are all in this together. Your consequences aren’t just your consequences…they are my consequences too! Those chickens don’t just come back to roost on your fence, but by our fence. In Nehemiah 13:21 Nehemiah has to threaten to address a problem with “force” if it doesn’t change. It’s one thing to rebuke, correct, and admonish… it’s another thing to use your authority to discipline and punish. But the leader must put teeth and accountability to what he says or else problems will metastasize. In Nehemiah 13:23 the intermarrying and vow-breaking continues. So, what does Nehemiah do? Nehemiah 13:25, “I rebuked them, cursed them, beat some of their men, and pulled out their hair. I forced them to take an oath before God…” Nehemiah 13:27, Nehemiah says, “Why then should we hear about you doing this terrible evil and acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women?” Nehemiah 13:28, “Even one of the sons of Johoida, son of the high priest Eliashib, had become son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. So I drove him away from me.” Let me tell you how thankless spiritual leadership can be. You overcome God’s enemies, Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat the Horonite, only to have those you lead to betray God and marry them. Nehemiah’s only sanity, and the spiritual leader’s only means of sanity is to pray! Nehemiah 13:29, “Remember them, my God, for defiling the priesthood as well as the covenant of the priesthood and Levites.” And it’s upon this same note story of Nehemiah concludes, Nehemiah 13:31: “[I prayed] remember me, my God, with favor.” The spiritual leader’s north star is being seen and remembered by God. Lead on.