The Need For Leadership

The Need For Leadership

We need Godly leadership to hold us accountable.

Well good morning, China Grove First Baptist Church, Pastor Trent with you after being gone last week. So good to be back. Just want to thank everyone for your prayers for me and my family as we’ve gone through the quarantine process over the last few weeks. Thank you for your prayers for my brother. He’s the only one in the family right now who has tested positive and he seems to be turning the corner as of today, which is Thursday that we were recording it. So I do appreciate your continued prayers for him and for us as well.

But today we are starting the last Sunday of our series of Nehemiah Rebuild and Restore.  I think this is our 10th week going through this Old Testament historical book of the Bible. It’s really the last historical book of the Bible as what happens after this in the history of the redemptive history would be the birth of Christ, about 400 years after we close the pages of this book.  So, we’ll be in Chapter 13, if you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn there to Nehemiah Chapter 13.  You may be thinking last time that I preached, it was in Nehemiah Chapter 9 about God’s faithfulness amidst our failures. Well, what happens at the end of Chapter 9 is they begin to sign a covenant renewing that covenant promise and making commitments to follow God more closely, closer than they had before. As you go into Chapter 10, it’s a list of names of people who signed that covenant.  At the end of Chapter 10, which I’ll read to you or summarize for you in just a little bit are the promises and the commitments they actually make.  Chapter 11 is just again, they kind of take attendance of everybody who’s there. It’s just a list of names and if you want to read it, that’s great, but again, it’s just names and then you get into chapter 12 and it goes through the names of the Levites and the priests.

But at the end of Chapter 12 is this amazing scene that takes place as they dedicate the wall that they built around Jerusalem.  Remember that the wall was built in the first 6 chapters and then Chapter 7 -12 has been about restoring the people.  So on this day, they come together and there’s two huge choirs that go around the city there singing their worshiping, there’s bands playing and instruments are going. It’s just a huge day of celebration and it ends kind of with this verse. 43 in Chapter 12 where it says “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced for God had made them rejoice with great joy, the women and the children, they also rejoiced.”  And this is great, “the joy of Jerusalem was heard far and away.”

I mean, that’s a great day, isn’t it? I mean, God had brought them from exile back to the city.  God had helped them overcome just great opposition in order to build the wall. He had restored them and revival has broken out in the city, and if it ended here in 12:43 would be like the perfect fairy tale.  It would be a movie worth watching. There was a protagonist and antagonist and Nehemiah, the superhero, and all these people are trying to throw kryptonite at ’em. And then this is a happy ending.  But there’s a problem, because the story doesn’t end here, and it’s not a fairy tale. In fact, you and I would probably agree life isn’t a fairy tale, is it?  Yeah, we do have moments where we have happy endings, but then there’s moments where the endings aren’t so happy. And so, when you get into chapter 13 you begin to see wait a minute, all this good stuff, all these commitments, what happened?  You see back in Chapter 10, I just want to share these with you before we get started because these directly relate to Chapter 13.

In Chapter 10, verse 29, they made a promise that says we will walk in God’s law and observe all His commandments. They basically said God, we’re committing our life to following Your laws. We’re going to study the Law of Moses and we’re going to keep the Law of Moses in chapter 10, verse 30, they said we’re not going to let our sons or daughters marry someone outside the faith.  OK, we’re going to protect the family we’re going to protect our spiritual culture.  In verse 31, they promised to keep the Sabbath holy by not buying or selling grain to the outsiders. They’re not going to let outsiders come into the city. They’re not going to buy, sell, trade, or load things, or work on the Sabbath. Chapter 10. Verse 32. They promised to tithe.  They promise to give their offerings, and then they commit to storing their offerings in the storehouses and the chambers in the temple.  And that’s going to be very important when we get to chapter 13. So, don’t forget that and then it ends Chapter 10, the last promises we will not neglect the House of our God. They’re going to keep the Tabernacle, the temple. excuse me, the Temple of God, a holy, clean place.

And then you get to 13 and you’re like what happened to these promises?  What’s wrong with these people, I mean, it seems like every promise that they made has been broken. Now, let’s don’t be too hard on them, because I think all of us have made commitments and we’ve broken commitments, right? But let’s just think.  I know this isn’t a New Year’s message, but we’re getting close to New Years and we’re going to make resolutions. But what is a resolution? It’s a commitment, and you may be like me, or you may not be like me, and it seems like every single year since the time I was 20, my New Year’s Resolution or my commitment has been to go to the gym three days a week or four days a week or every day and workout. It takes about six weeks maybe, and it you know, I mean, it seems like the gyms get a lot of new members in January.  Where are they at in March?

Broken commitments.  Let’s not be too hard on them. Maybe you’ve been like me like I’m going to wake up at 4:30 every day. And there’s probably not many people who are going to make that commitment, but you’re going to wake up at 4:30 every day and I’m going to read the Bible and pray. And that’s great.  Until that first rainy day. Where it’s so cold outside? You know you can sleep in. Maybe it’s a Saturday like yeah, what’s one day of not waking up at 4:30? Broken commitments.  I’ll say this one time in my life I said I’m committing to losing weight. And so I went to a nutritionist. I paid money to have this lady help me lose weight and I tell you it was the most successful venture I had at it. Here’s why.  I met with her once a month, she encouraged me. She gave me recipes, and I learned how to cook better. I mean, I was already a good cook, but I learned how to cook better and healthier.  And she held me accountable because every month the first thing I did when I walked into her office was step on a gigantic scale.  And there was a big placard that had my weight on it. And it was great because every month I was losing because I knew if I didn’t, I mean she’s pretty tough on me.  And one time I went in and I actually gained a pound in a month. Oh my gosh, that was a brutal appointment. She held me accountable. She got tough with me and she motivated me. You know, when you go to the gym to workout, it’s easier when you have a partner. When I used to run, it was easier. When I had somebody to run with me to push me to hold me accountable, to encourage me, and to motivate me.

You know, mentorship and leadership and accountability is important, and what we see in Chapter 13 is a lack of leadership and you’re like, well, where is Nehemiah? Well, Chapter 13:6 answers that question. Nehemiah was fulfilling one of his commitments.  He says, “while all this chaos was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem. For in the 32nd year of Artaxerxes King of Babylon, I went to be with the king.”

Now this shouldn’t surprise you because back in Chapter 2, when Nehemiah had the conversation with the king, the king said, hey, how long is it going to take and when are you coming back? So, it was the goal all along was for Nehemiah to accomplish the task and go back to his job. You see one thing I just want you to keep in mind is Nehemiah is not a priest, he’s not a prophet, he’s a layperson, he’s just an ordinary guy who had a passion for God and a passion for people. And so, he came to rebuild the wall. He came to restore spiritual worship because he loved the people and when that job was done, he put leaders in place and then he went back to fulfill his obligations to the king.  But as the old saying goes, when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

What we see is failed leadership in Nehemiah’s absence, and that failed leadership leads to failed commitments of the people. The leaders failed to set the example. The leaders failed to encourage the people. The leaders failed to hold the people accountable when they slipped.  We’re all going to going to mess up. It should be expected that they were going to struggle and have times where their commitments may not be fulfilled, and that’s why it’s so important to have godly leaders or mentors or accountability partners speak into our life and say, hey, did you do this? Well, no, I I didn’t today. Wait, let me help you get back on track tomorrow. That’s leadership. That’s accountability. The leadership of Jerusalem, in Nehemiah’s absence failed the people.

And it started with a failure to observe God’s commandments and protect the temple. Look at verses four and five in Chapter 13. “Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah,  prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil.”

He took an enemy of God, remember Tobiah, that name should sound familiar because he’s the Ammonite who tried to stop Nehemiah along with Sanballat and Geshem. Tobiah was one of those enemies who said, I’m not going to let them rebuild this wall. I’m going to find ways to stop them. He’s an enemy of God. He’s an enemy of God’s people. And now he finds himself living in God’s temple.

That’s a problem. And it’s a big problem because it violates God’s law. I believe it’s Deuteronomy 23 versus 3 and 5 spelled this out pretty clearly that no Moab or Ammonite or Moabite is supposed to step foot in the temple and worship, why? They were God’s enemies. Those are two nations that tried to attack and curse God’s people while they were wondering through the desert and trying to enter into the Promised Land.  The Ammonites, instead of bringing out water to the people, came out to fight the people.  The Moabites, they came out and tried to curse the people with a guy named Balaam and his donkey. It’s a great story in Numbers. It’s the talking donkey. It’s one of the funniest things I think in the whole Bible. It’s a lot of funny things in the Bible that’s pretty funny.  But God used the Balaam story and he was going to curse the people of Israel but it turned out as a blessing for the people of Israel. But because those two nations just absolutely hated God’s people, they were not allowed to enter into the temple and worship.

And here he is Tobiah, an Ammonite, in the temple. Now you might be thinking, well, is this mean it’s exclusive? Are there people we should keep out today? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that Ruth was a Moabite.  And she was able to worship because she made a conversion. Ruth said that your people will be my people. OK, and because of that statement she completely turned away from her paganism from her being an enemy of God and she joined God’s people, so it’s not that we’re exclusive, it’s that we don’t let the enemies of God come in.

You heard the story of the Trojan horse, right?  It was a peace offering and once the Trojan horse got in there, the armies came out and attacked and destroyed the people.  What do you think Tobias doing?  He’s got influence over the priest who’s a leader. And the leader who should have known better. It’s very likely that Eliashib is a is a high priest is the High Priest.  And if he’s not the High Priest and the High Priest, let this priest get away with it again, it’s a failure of leadership to say God’s Law says no, why are we doing it?

Now, the reason he did it, which we’ll find out a little bit later, is because Tobiah married somebody in the priest family. So, I imagine that it went something like this. Hey, you know I need a place to live.  Why don’t you take one of those storerooms and just make me a place?  And the priest was like no, we shouldn’t do that. Hey, what’s one guy gonna hurt?  What’s one compromise? Well, one compromise leads to another compromise which leads to another compromise. The leadership failed to set the example. They failed to keep God’s laws. Now this begins to spiral because this directly leads to the next failure because the next one that Nehemiah noticed was a failure to tithe.

The people failed to give their offerings before God. In fact, Nehemiah 13:10 says this now. This is after he throws out Tobiah and cleanses the temple. He then notices this in verse 10.  “I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.”

OK, so remember the chamber that is being used for Tobiah’s house was used to store the grain offerings, the frankincense, the oil.  The things that were used to support the ministries of the Levites and the singers. OK, they had to serve in the temple. They had to work in the temple and minister to the people. They relied on the people’s offerings, their tithes to support them. Now, if the people don’t have a place to store the offerings, then they’re going to stop giving the offerings in this particular case.  And when the offerings stop the Levites don’t have any support, so they have to go back home and work the fields.  So, you see how the failure of one leader or multiple leaders spiraled into the failure to keep the commandment to tithe.  Which also means if there’s no Levites, if there’s no singers, they’re not worshiping.  They’re not worshipping ’cause there’s nobody there to lead worship.

Broken commitments because of failed leadership. Now this leads, I believe, directly to the third failure, which is a failure to keep the Sabbath. If there’s nobody there to lead worship, then how do they keep the Sabbath? And I imagine that the people finally got to the point where we’re just sitting around not doing anything today, we can’t go worship ’cause there’s nobody in the temple to lead us in worship, so hey, let’s make the most of it. Let’s go make some money. And so what Nehemiah discovers about the Sabbath is this in verse 15. “In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.”

Now they committed. We’re not going to buy. We’re not going to sell. We’re not going to load. We’re not going to do business on the Sabbath day. That was the commitment. Well?  Now they’ve broken it.  Failed leadership, nobody stopped him. You know, maybe one guy said I’m going to do it.  Well, where is the leadership to come up to him and say, hey man, you know God’s Word says keep the Sabbath holy. You really shouldn’t do this. Let me encourage you. Let me hold you accountable. No leadership, nobody held them accountable. Nobody stopped them. And you may be thinking, well, this is pretty legalistic ’cause we don’t really keep the Sabbath today, do we?

Well, don’t forget the purpose of the Sabbath.  It’s really more for the people than it is for God.  The Sabbath was meant to give us a day of rest, first of all.  God created us. God knows everything about our minds and our bodies, and God knows that we need a day of rest.  And so this commandment is like, hey, you work your tails all for six days. Take a break ’cause your body needs it. You need a time. You need a Sabbath to rest and relax into worship and then meditate on God’s Word.  You know you shouldn’t work all the time.

But another reason the Sabbath was given as two separate God’s people from the rest of the world.  The rest of the world’s working seven days a week. They’re out there doing it and making money and being greedy, and God’s people are to be set apart there to be different. And so what you see is the people not keeping the Sabbath means they are conforming to the world and they’re not transformed by the Word of God.  That a problem and there was no one to stop them. I mean come on.  There was no one to say stop.  That’s a failure in leadership, and they failed to keep their commitments.

And then they 4th failure that we’re going to look at is a failure to protect the family. And again, the priest set the example because the priest let somebody in his family marry Tobiah, an Ammonite.  And so what Nehemiah finds and at the end of kind, as we closeout that little section of failures is this. And this is verses 23 and 24, “In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.  And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people”

Now, we have to be really careful with these verses. We have to be careful not to misinterpret or misapply.  First, it has nothing to do with interracial marriage. It’s not about race, it’s not about ethnicity. It also has nothing to do with nationalistic pride. OK.  You have to understand the context of this and that helps you understand why it’s a problem.  And Nehemiah as he continues to explain this, he uses Solomon as an example. Solomon brought in wives from foreign nations, and those wives influenced Solomon and led him to compromise.  Which led to idol worship, which led to the exile eventually down the road.  OK, so these foreign nations who do not share the same faith as God’s people.  Who do not share the same love of God and love of God’s Word were coming in and they were negatively influencing the people.  And listen, when the family erodes the culture will erode. And when the culture erodes, the spiritual heritage will erode. And so when it talks about language, keep in mind this is about their spiritual survival. There is one translation of God’s Word and it’s Hebrew. That’s it.  If the kids, if the generation of children can’t speak or read Hebrew, how are they going to read, hear, or understand the Word of God.  If they can’t read, hear, or understand the Word of God, how will they continue to live for God and grow in their faith?  Protecting the family is about protecting their spiritual heritage. The New Testament tells us that we should not be yoked to an unbeliever because it’s hard.  You know, and I know what you’re thinking. Pastor Trent, does this mean we should never walk into the darkness? Should we just separate ourselves from nonbelievers? No, we are called to take the Light into the darkness, but we are not to bind our self to the darkness. And that’s really important, because when you read your Bible, what you see most often is that when we bind ourselves to unbelievers, the unbelievers will lead us down a path of compromise.

Listen church, we are one generation away. We’re always one generation away from losing our faith, from losing our freedom to worship from losing our values.  If we don’t have Godly leaders and Godly parents who are going to stand up and guard the family, then who knows what the next generation will be? I’ll say this to teenagers and college students and single adults. Guard your relationships. Guard your relationships. Listen, I want you to go into the places of where nonbelievers work and nonbelievers hang out. I want you to take the Gospel into the darkness, but be careful who you bind yourself with. Be careful who your friends are. Be careful who you date. Because the consequences of allowing non-believers or someone from another faith or someone who doesn’t have faith coming into your life could be detrimental to your own faith.  You might be strong enough. Most people aren’t. But again, I will say this, where’s the leadership?  Where was the parents to stop this from happening? Where was the, oh wait, the priest let his own family do it. He set a bad example. We need Godly parents to set Godly examples for our children. So that the next generation will not make the same mistakes of the past.  And Nehemiah reminds them of this.  Twice, he reminds them that, our forefathers did these things and it led them into exile. Solomon did these things and it led him down a path of compromise and away from God. So, we have to protect the family. And so what we see is a failure of leadership that led to the failure of commitments.

But then, on the flip side, as we read this, we see that strong leadership leads to strong commitments. We don’t know how long Nehemiah was away. Most people believe it wasn’t more than a year, but Nehemiah shows back up and what he sees infuriates him. I mean, he is angry. He is mad. In fact, we got two scenes that just absolutely blew my mind.

The first one is he walks into the temple, there’s Tobiah.  And so listen, this is leadership. He makes a decisive decision out of his righteous anger. Leaders have to be decisive in their decision making. He didn’t hem-haw around.  You didn’t see Nehemiah going around and then say Tobiah lives there, that’s a problem. Let me form a committee and then that committee will form a subcommittee and then that committee will form 2 subcommittees and in six years we’ll have the problem fixed. That’s not leadership. Leadership is a decisive decision. He says this is not right. And yeah, he’s angry. Let me tell you something, strong leaders are angry when they see their friends, their fellow church members falling into sin. But it comes from a place of love and a place of passion. Nehemiah is passionate about God. He’s passionate about people. Of course he’s going to be angry ’cause he had all this fixed.

It’s righteous anger. He doesn’t want to see his brothers falling back into sin or rebellion. He doesn’t want to see them broken. He wants to see them restored and this idea of Tobiah, where if you read in those verses where he starts throwing out the furniture from the temple.  I mean, Can you imagine that some guys just walking by? And here comes the bed? And you’re like, oh, Nehemiah is back. It’s not a good thing.  That’s what’s going on.  But it should remind you ’cause we got the whole story of another guy who shows up to the temple and who’s angry about what He sees and it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus walks to the temple, the week of His death, that passion week, and He sees the money changing tables and He sees all this sin going on. He forms a whip and then He starts cracking it.

Now Jesus was angry, but Jesus never sinned because Jesus was upset and heartbroken and enraged at the sin of God’s people. Listen, this reflects God’s attitude towards sin. Do you think God’s happy about our rebellion in our sin? No, He’s angry. But He loves us enough to have a way to restore us. And that restoration comes through faith alone in Christ alone and a commitment to follow Jesus as the Lord of our life.  We don’t have to stay trapped in this sin. We have a way to be restored and Nehemiah doesn’t want them to be broken. He wants them to stay restored and so he gets mad. He’s decisive about it. Then he confronts him.

Listen, sometimes leaders have to do the hard thing and confront people. Three times he confronts them. Really 4, but we see that word confronted four times or in your translation, it may say rebuked. It’s in verse 11,17 and 25 and here’s what it says:

“So I confronted the officials and said, why is the House of God forsaken?” Verse 17 “then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, what is this evil thing that you were doing profaning the Sabbath day.” Verse 25 “and I confronted them and cursed.”  This is a dangerous verse, so we’re not going to apply it like Nehemiah applies it, but it’s an interesting verse like UFC.  Verse 25.  “And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them, pulled out their hair an made them take a note in the Name of God saying you shall not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons or for yourself.”

Confrontation is something leaders have to do. We can’t just sit back and allow the people we love to fall into sin and I get it confrontations hard. I don’t like it, I’m a I’m kind of a people pleaser. I mean I know that’s not good ’cause when you try to please everybody, you’re not going to please anybody. But I don’t like confrontation. And we live in a world that doesn’t really like it. We really don’t like confrontation ’cause the world tells us, hey, you can do this and you can do this and mind your own business. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. But spiritual leaders have to confront people about spiritual issues. Because we have to hold people accountable and we do it because we love ’em. We do it because we don’t want them to be broken. And here’s the thing.  And I know I’ve said it before early in this series.  When someone confronts us, we need to receive it when it’s coming from a place of love and when it’s coming from a place of caring when it’s coming from someone who truly desires the best of us, we need to accept it and receive it. Listen, I have people in my life who hold me accountable. I have pastors who are my friends and when they see me faltering or failing or sliding, they will call me on it.  I have young men who I mentor, who I hold accountable. OK, Nehemiah, I’m pretty sure had people who held him accountable too.  We need godly leadership in our life. We need to be Godly leaders for somebody else because we have to hold each other accountable. Because that’s the only way it’s going to do it. Kind of like working out. We gotta have help. The Christian life is not meant to be lived solo.  Because we’ll never do it by ourselves.

Churches gotta have Godly leaders to lead the church. We gotta have Godly elders who are committed to the Word of God. Plural, elders, more than one.  Gotta have Godly deacons to serve the church the way the Bible tells them to serve the church.  We gotta have Godly Sunday school teachers who are committed to teaching the Word of God and encouraging their students and holding them accountable.  We’ve got to have godly small group leaders or disciple group leaders who you know those 1 on 3 discipleship groups where you walk with each other and you encourage each other and where the leaders set the example and we hold each other accountable. It’s essential because we don’t have Godly leaders, this doesn’t work.  If we don’t have Godly leaders, we’re going to end up just like the Israelites, and we’re going to look more like the world and less like what God wants us to look like.

And church we gotta pray for that.  We have to study the scriptures and say this is what Godly leadership looks like.  And we have to pray that God would raise up leaders again. I want to go back to this. Nehemiah is not the preacher.  He’s a lay leader.  It’s not just the preachers who lead the churches, it’s the people God calls to lead the churches. So we need to pray for Godly leaders who are willing to do the decisive and hard things. But we need leaders who offer solutions. You know Nehemiah could have complained. He could have great, he could have beat him and then just walked away.  But he didn’t do that.  See Nehemiah gave them solutions. He cleansed the temple.  He kicked out Tobiah and cleansed it.  He shut the gates and wouldn’t let anybody in and he said today is the Sabbath. We’re going to worship and we’re going to rest.  Leaders make decisions and they offer solutions.

And then he made the people take a note that, hey, you’re going to stop this interfaith marriage.  And listen, the solution for us and I gotta say this ’cause it just. I don’t want you walk around beating somebody up.  The solution for us today is not to go pull somebody’s hair out or to beat somebody, OK?  But the application for us is to lovingly go to our brothers, go to our sisters and lovingly say this is what’s wrong right now.  Let’s pray together, let me help you get back on track. Do not go to somebody and tell them what they’re doing wrong without committing to help them get back on the right path. That’s judgment.  That’s not removing the plank out of your eye.  Accountability is saying you are sliding, let me help you.  And then you commit to walking with them day in and day out, praying with them, setting the example and encouraging them.  That’s what we need.  That’s what we need.  We need strong leaders who are willing to hold people accountable so they can have strong commitments.

You know throughout this chapter you see two very different things happening.  If the church doesn’t have leaders, then we will follow the same path.  You know, I don’t know any of them personally, but I know of a lot of pastors who have failed and their churches, very rarely recover.  And if the church doesn’t recover, who’s going to share the Gospel?  And so my challenge to all of us is 1, Have an accountability partner. Have somebody in your life to hold you accountable.  Challenge number 2.  You invest in somebody’s life and hold them accountable.  And 3.  As a church, let’s pray for God to raise up Godly leaders who are willing to do the hard things but the right things.  And when we do that, we’ll be amazed at what we see God do in our communities.

Now last thing as I close.  The Book of Nehemiah ends on a pretty depressing note, I think.  All this work, all this time, all this effort and they failed.  And even though it ends on this depressing note, I want you to be encouraged because there is an anticipation because Christmas is coming.  Christmas is coming.  In just a few weeks, in about 2 weeks we’re going to start a series of sermons looking at Advent.  And even though this story kind of ends on a sour note, there’s a bigger story of redemption coming through Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray together, Father, we pray today that You would raise up in our communities and in our communities of faith, leaders.  Godly leaders who will stand on the Word of God, who will hold the church accountable. Who will set the example.  Who will be encouraging.  We pray that all of us would have people in our lives who would hold us accountable, and I pray that You would raise up an army of believers within our church who would hold others accountable so that we can keep our commitments to follow You and to be more like You each and every day. We know we’re not going to be perfect, we know we’re going to mess up, but we need those people to hold us accountable and to encourage us. And so we just pray that You would lift that You would raise up a generation of Godly leaders.  We pray that You would help us to remember all that You’ve done in our lives so that we could move forward, proclaiming Your blessings and Your goodness that we would be able to take the Light of the Gospel into the darkness of this world.

We ask this in Jesus name, Amen and Amen