Opening Prayer Thoughts
Praise and confession.
- Praise God for the renewing of the mind and the regenerating of the heart that enables us to receive faith in the Lord Jesus.
- Confess the sin of allowing your heart, on occasions, to seek after idols. Pray and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to guard your heart, the wellspring of your life, through God's Word.
Doctrine for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 53 – Which is the third commandment?
Answer – The third commandment is: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Comment – God’s name speaks of God's being and character. To take God’s name in vain is to dishonour God for who He is, the Creator, Judge, and Saviour.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Verse to memorise.
James 1:17 – "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Pray and ask for the Holy Spirit's help as you read God's Word.
Please read Nehemiah 13:15-31.
Notes previously prepared by Rev. Dr. Tim Donachie, with slight amendments.
Ch 13:15-22 – The Sabbath
In the covenant the people made with God at the dedication of the wall, there was a specific promise made with regard to Sabbath observance, chapter 10:31, but it is clear that this was another promise they broke. It was not surprising that the foreigners from Tyre should wish to trade on the Sabbath, but what annoyed Nehemiah was that they were being facilitated by the people of God who were buying the goods from them. Nehemiah immediately took action by rebuking the nobles and reminding them of the judgement of God that had come upon their ancestors for doing the very same thing, and he then reinforced the rebuke by ensuring that the gates were closed on the eve of the Sabbath and not reopened until it was over. After warning the traders not to camp outside the walls, his final action was to make sure that the Sabbath day would be properly observed.
It is always a sign of spiritual declension when people find the Sabbath irksome, binding, and restricting. The Old Testament places enormous emphasis on Sabbath observance, and on the consequences of observance or neglect, Exodus 31:13-17, Ezekiel 20:17, Jeremiah 17:19ff. Sabbath observance was important as a sign of God's covenant with his people, and to neglect it was to neglect Him and to break the covenant. To neglect a day when He specially met with His people for blessing was therefore serious indeed.
It should always be remembered that the Sabbath principle goes back to creation and is merely reiterated in the law of Moses. Could it be possible that this creation principle that was so significant that it should be included in the law given on Sinai would suddenly become of no importance to God, no interest to Him, now that the New Testament has dawned? The same principle holds good, for the Sabbath is still the day when God specially blesses His people, and to neglect it is still to neglect Him and set little store by His blessing.
Ch 13:23-31 – Downward Spiral
It seems as though every aspect of the covenant the people had made at the wall dedication had been cast aside, for Nehemiah, having rebuked them for not keeping themselves separate from the ungodly, failure to provide for the worship of the sanctuary, and desecration of the Sabbath, now turns to their failure to maintain pure and godly marriages. They had been warned about taking wives or husbands from amongst the heathen nations around them, but these warnings appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.
Nehemiah's violent reaction should be a clear warning to Christian young people about the dangers of romantic relationships with those who are not believers. The Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments give very clear teaching that the people of God are to be a separated people, and to indulge in marriage with unbelievers is to lose that separated character and thus to lose their testimony.
There is a clear downward spiral in the declension seen in this chapter. In verse 28 the high priest, Eliashib is again mentioned – he had already been condemned for providing a room in the temple for Tobiah and now it is revealed that his son was married to the daughter of Sanballat, the other leader of the opposition to Nehemiah! Here at the very heart of the nation is where the corruption began. The high priest had no concern for the sanctity of the Lord's house, no interest in providing for the Levites so that they could carry out their work, and no concern to observe purity in the matter of marriage.
When once the enemy gains access to the heart – whether it is the heart of the temple, the heart of the leaders, or the heart of our own individual lives, his wicked influence will soon be seen in every aspect of life and work. Keep the heart, says the Old Testament, for out of it are the issues of life.
Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 105A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung.
Thank God for the Christian Sabbath, the Lord's Day, the one day in seven which, by Creation ordinance and subsequent command of God, has been given to us for the worship of God and rest. Pray that the observance of it would become an increasing joy to you.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC