Sunday School Material 8-25-13: Sabbath Reforms

(Nehemiah 13:10-12, 15-22; 8/25/13)

Introduction: A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is Nehemiah leads the people in returning to God’s will regarding the Sabbath. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to turn back to God in various areas of our lives.

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Read Nehemiah 13:10-12

I. Support Neglected. In our lesson Nehemiah observes that the Levites and musicians are not on their posts. They have not received support from the people, so they have returned to their own affairs and sources of income. The officials are rebuked, workers reassigned, and tithing is resumed.

Applications -

- Church staff. Notice in vs. 10 the lack of support led to a lack of staff at the place of worship. First, there is a need for churches to have staff, especially when so few people are compelled to serve voluntarily. Volunteers do their best with projects. Year round excellence often calls for paid staff.

Second, staff costs money. If believers don’t tithe and give generous offerings, there will be no money for staff.

Third, staff should help the people find and perform their areas of service, not simply replace the service of the people. We cannot afford enough staff to replace the service of the members. Let’s work on giving, so our churches can be well staffed with people who help equip and encourage believers to do their ministries.

- Discipline. Notice in vs. 11 of the Sunday School material the officials/leaders are rebuked. First, they are rebuked because they are responsible for things being out of order. We should remember that being a leader is more than a matter of looking important and telling people what to do. It includes being responsible for getting things in order.

Second, with the rebuke were corrective actions. God is not simply calling us to feel bad about what is messed up in our lives - guilt. God is calling us to make corrections - conviction.

Let’s work on receiving rebuke and making corrections in our lives. Too many waste valuable time and energy complaining about being rebuked by a human being, instead of hearing what God is saying through the human being and acting accordingly.

Read Nehemiah 13:15-22a

II. Sabbath Violated. In this section of the Sunday School material Nehemiah observes that the Sabbath is being desecrated. Trading is taking place.

Nehemiah warns the people and rebukes the nobles. He positions some of his own men to keep merchants from coming into and out of Jerusalem on the Sabbath.

Applications -

- Too whom much is given. Notice in vs. 15 of the Sunday School material the people are warned, as opposed to the nobles who are rebuked in vs. 17. A key idea here is that to whom much is given much is required.

There are too many who want the apparent prestige of being an officer, but don’t want the responsibility and often rebuke that goes with the office. Let’s work on being and developing people worthy of leadership and who respond appropriately to rebuke.

- Sabbath principle. Notice in vss. 15-22 of our Sunday School material the whole issue of the Sabbath. First, as believers, we are not under the Mosaic Law’s requirements regarding the Jewish Sabbath, which was on Saturday (i.e., sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday).

Second, as believers, we are called to be wise stewards of our health and to honor God in all that we do. One way to do this is to live by a Sabbath principle.

This means taking a 24 hour period every seven days to rest and worship the Lord. The human body is not designed to work, work, and work.

We need to make time to rest. And God deserves quality time and undivided attention. It would be nice, if we could all worship on Sunday together. However, jobs and other responsibilities may make this impractical.

Let’s work on living by a Sabbath principle. The church can help with this by not filling the calendar up with ineffective “worship services” (i.e., that often have very little worship).

- An appeal to history. Notice in vs. 18 that there is an appeal to history. On one hand, when we look back and see how God has blessed some behaviors and punished others, we should be inspired to do what God has blessed and avoid those things that God has punished.

On the other hand, when we are historically ignorant, an appeal to history can be a waste of time. And when we do not acknowledge the hand of God in our history then an appeal to history can be vain.

Let’s work on seeing and responding to the hand of God in our history. An example of this application is that in the African American experience, we see that historically we have been at our best and experienced the most blessings of God, when we worked together.

And we have historically been at our worse, when we were in public conflict with one another. Thus, we should strive to work together on those things that we can. And we should avoid embarrassing ourselves by public displays of conflict.

- Being sendable. Notice in vss. 19-22 of our Sunday School material that trusted people are sent to take actions. First, there is so much work that needs to be done in our churches, families, and communities. 

If only one person is doing the work, so many things will go undone. We need sendable people.

Second, in order to be sendable, there is a need for you to have an humble godly character and the competency to carryout what you are being sent to do.

Unfortunately, character seems to be a greater challenge than competency in too many occasions. Let’s work on being and developing sendable people for the sake of God’s agenda.

Read Nehemiah 13:22b

III. Petition Made. In our Sunday School material Nehemiah breaths a brief word of prayer. He wants the Lord to remember his reform efforts. Nehemiah also wants the Lord to add mercy according to His great love to the memory of Nehemiah’s efforts.

Applications -

- Prayerful service. Notice in vs. 22b of the Sunday School material that Nehemiah prays for God’s loving and merciful remembrance. It appears that Nehemiah wants God to remember and bless him for his faithfulness.

First, we should do what we do more so because of our relationship with God than anything we expect to receive from people. People can let us down.

Second, we can trust God to remember what we have said and done as well as respond appropriately. Consequently, we need to join Nehemiah in praying for not only God to remember but to remember with mercy and love.

If God simply remembers, we are sure to have more bad than good in our folder. But with God’s mercy and love, we can anticipate some blessings. Let’s work on serving the Lord with a prayerful spirit.

Conclusion: Let’s work on turning back to God in various areas of our lives. God has much for those who obey His will.

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