We wrapped up our series on Nehemiah this past Saturday at Revolution. It was an amazing 22 week experience for me personally and for our church. I thought I’d share a few things that jumped out to me over the last year of preparing for this series and actually preaching it. A lot has been written about Nehemiah as a leader, so this might duplicate some of that, but I wanted to share some personal applications from the story of this man.
One thing that stands out about Nehemiah is his ability to call sin a sin.
In our culture where relativism and pluralism have gained more and more steam, many pastors seem afraid to stand up and say, “Here is what Scripture says about the way we are living.” No one wants to step on anyone’s toes. Now, I am not suggesting that we are to become the preacher on the street corner shouting about everyone going to hell (I’ve always found it interesting that when I walk by one of those guys I get condemned, he doesn’t even know me).
The book of Nehemiah ends abruptly by pointing out the sins of the people. We get this beautiful, idealistic picture of a church. Yet, chapter 13 takes place roughly 12 years after chapter 12. We do not get the hollywood ending. We get the brutal facts of being human. Men have started marrying women who don’t believe in the God of the Bible, people are worshiping idols, working on the Sabbath, having bad business practices, giving their kids in marriage to the wrong families and no one is doing anything about it. The key verse for me is 13:24 where it says the kids no longer could speak or understand Hebrew which means when they went to the temple, they couldn’t understand the words of the songs or the scripture. The men were no longer pastoring their families.
Nehemiah calls this out. He even goes so far to scorn the men, pull out their beards, beat them and curse them. For many, this is a part of the Bible they would like to cut out and while I’m not suggesting we beat up people who are sinning, I think we can take away the hatred that Nehemiah had for sin. Many of us no longer hate sin, at least, not enough. We have become passive and accepting of sin.
I talk to countless people who start with this question, “I have __________ problem and I want to be free, how can I be free?” The underlying issue of why they will never be free is that they don’t actually want to be free. They don’t hate it enough to find freedom. To live a life that is free, we must hate sin to the point that we are willing do call it out, and beat it into submission. Like Nehemiah.