“What are YOU living for?”
Nehemiah 10

Perhaps you’ve heard of the philosophy of the Navy SEALs, an elite branch of the United States Navy. Here is the oath which they vow to keep.

United States Navy SEAL Philosophy

In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call; a common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country and the American people, and to protect their way of life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes who have gone before, it embodies the trust of those whom I have sworn to protect. 
By wearing the Trident, I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans, always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates, and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish the mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of the mission depend on me—my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.
We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required, yet guided by the very principles I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail. 
Wow! That’s quite a commitment the Navy SEALs choose to take.
Just as the Navy SEALs commit themselves ultimately to the Constitution and the people of the United States, we heard in chapter 10 of the book of Nehemiah how the returned exiles committed themselves to the law of Moses and the people of God. Basically, they make a covenant to keep a covenant. 

What about today? 

As Christians, those who accept redemption by the blood of Christ, we also have a commitment. Not to an earthly government, but to the Lord who redeemed us. Jesus is our example. We are not called to live for ourselves, but to live for Christ. A cause to which we can give our all and we do so by loving and serving one another. We should do so with all we are and have, like a Navy SEAL.

As for the people of Israel they had been in exile because they broke their covenant with God. God brought them back to Jerusalem. The temple and the wall had been rebuilt and as they listened to God’s Word it was like they had new ears and understood from a different perspective. So in Nehemiah 10 the returnees decide to make a covenant to keep the terms of the old covenant. 

Let’s take a quick review of the story. The first wave of returnees was told in Ezra 1-6, and they rebuilt the temple. In Ezra 7-10, we read about their internal crisis and they focused on rebuilding the people . They had begun to intermarry with people around them. It wasn’t a racial issue, but a holiness issue. They were intermarrying with idolaters. Ezra addressed the problem and they came up with a solution. 
Nearly a hundred years later, Nehemiah returned to the land to rebuild the wall, like Ezra the first six chapters are the building project. Also like Ezra the following chapters are dealing with rebuilding the people. The rebuilding of the people involved them renewing their original covenant. However, sadly the book ends with them re-breaking the covenant in chapter 13. Humans. What can I say? For today, the returnees in chapter 10 actually serve as a good example. We are living with a new covenant and those who trust in Christ are the ones who participate in this covenant. Believers sign church covenants where we make a covenant with one another to keep the covenant that God made with us. We have a membership list of those who have made that commitment. The first 27 verses of Nehemiah 10 is a list of names of those people who signed onto renewing the covenant. 
This is followed by the second part of the chapter, verses 28-39, where the people entered into a curse and an oath to keep the covenant and to do what they had been commanded. 

Nehemiah focuses on three commitments:
They would not intermarry with pagans
They would keep the Sabbath and the sabbatical year
They would support the ministry of the temple
Let’s begin with the list of names. Writing down people’s names is a Hebrew thing, but there are some interesting things to notice. Notice who signed it first, Nehemiah. Then we have a list of priests. Excellent Navy SEALs, leading by example. Next came the Levites, another set of religious leaders, who were followed by “their brothers.” Verse 14 we get the list of the “leaders of the people.” Then we get “The rest of the people.” 
So we don’t have an exhaustive list, but we have a pretty good idea of who is in and who is out. 

Notice in verse 28, that it wasn’t just Israelites who were “in,” but “all who have separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God.” This refers to those who were non-Israelites. Basically anyone, regardless of their ethnicity, who chose to follow the covenant, could be “in.” Even in the Old Testament, God was concerned with saving anyone who chose to follow Him. We saw something similar to this back in Ezra 6:21.
If you continue to read in verse 28, it says that those who joined were, “everyone who was able to understand.” People understood what they were being offered and chose to voluntarily take it upon themselves. 

Verse 29 describes for us the terms and consequences they were agreeing to follow. 
They take a curse upon themselves. They also make an oath or a promise to obey the Torah, laws they were originally given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, so actually this was a covenant renewal. 

Verse 3o tells us the first thing they committed themselves to do was no intermarriage. By committing to the renewal of the covenant they meant to separate themselves from those who had not devoted themselves to Yahwah. They committed not to intermarry with idolaters. This is a tough one. For one thing, it seems difficult to keep. We saw this problem in Ezra 7-10. Malachi was probably ministering at this time because he addressed the problem in the second chapter of his book. 
Paul taught in the New Testament that marriage is about Christ and the church in Ephesians 5. Paul learned this while studying the Old Testament. 
The covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel was treated as a marriage in Jeremiah 31 as well as in the book of Hosea. If a man and his wife were not united in the worship of God, how could their marriage reflect the relationship between God and His people?

The second obligation they focused on was the sabbath and the sabbatical year observance. There were several parts of this one commitment: the weekly Sabbath, the sabbatical year, and the consequent obligation to cancel debts. Let’s look first at keeping the Sabbath.

Notice how they come at the observance of the Sabbath. They don’t just reiterate the commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy; they address the loophole. 
Verse 31 reads, 
“When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day.” 

Tricky, tricky! It appears that the reason they needed to word the commitment this way was that some Israelites claimed that they were not working on the Sabbath; it was the idolaters who did the work. So they themselves weren’t exactly breaking the Sabbath by engaging in trade with those surrounding peoples who were doing work. That loophole was closed by these words.

Keeping the Sabbath holy was not about legalism. It was evidence of faith. There was always more someone could do, yet, by trusting God would provide instead of trusting in doing more on the Sabbath, was an exercise of faith. 

Contrary to popular belief, keeping the Sabbath does not mean you make less. Chick-Fil-A restaurants are a prime example. 

Why we’re closed on Sundays
Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose – a practice we uphold today.

Ames True Value Hardware in Wiscasset has the same philosophy. Both businesses are doing just fine. 
The only way to keep the Sabbath is to trust that resting would be better than being productive would be. Keeping the Sabbath demonstrates the best stewardship of our time is rest, not work. 

This was similar when it came to the Sabbatical year. By keeping it, one was demonstrating their faith. 
Without faith, you wouldn’t do it. Allowing the land to lie fallow meant the year before had to produce enough for three years. The year it was harvested, the year it was fallow and the year it would take for the crops to grow afterward. That’s a lot of faith. 

But not as much as it would be to let all your debtors free every seventh year. The money that was owed, wasn’t owed anymore. The only way you could let it go, would be to have faith. 

What about those of us living after the New Testament? Are we obligated to keep the Sabbath, and Sabbatical year? Paul argued this in Colossian chapter 2. Christ has fulfilled the Mosaic law, and no one should be taken captive in regard to a Sabbath day, which I think means that we’re not to allow others to impose their convictions on us in this matter. 
If by faith you look to what the Sabbath pointed to, which is rest in Christ, then be convinced in your own mind as to what you should do.

We come to the third obligation the Israelites took upon themselves, which was supporting the worship of God at the temple. 

Look at all the references to the temple in this passage:
10:32—“for the service of the house of our God”
10:33—“for all the work of the house of our God”
10:34—“to our God’s house”
10:35—“to the Lord’s house”
10:36—“to the house of our God”
10:36—“who serve in our God’s house”
10:37—“at the storerooms of the house of our God”
10:38—“in the house of our God”
10:39—“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Every statement in this section communicates the people’s commitment to support the work of the ministry at the temple. The whole point of the Mosaic law and the temple was that these things enabled Israel to enjoy the presence of God. 

As with the other obligations, wider obligations are implied: the marriage commitment sets a good trajectory for all familial issues; the Sabbath commitment addresses all seasonal observances; and the temple commitment facilitates everything that pertains to the worship of Yahweh.

What is at the heart of these three issues to which the Israelites have committed themselves?

Living for God. 

Living for God is the point of marriage: marriage exists to display the way God loves His people.

Living for God is the point of the Sabbath: old covenant Israel rested from their labor to declare that Yahweh was their provider. We rest from our works and take on the easy yoke Christ offers to proclaim that He saves us; He gives us rest.

Living for God is the point of temple worship: the point of that temple being beautiful, the point of those priests offering sacrifices, the point of the seasonal trips to Jerusalem to worship the Lord there—all that is about being with God, knowing Him, enjoying His presence.

What are YOU living for? 

We don’t live for that to which the Navy SEALs have committed themselves. 
What you live for is what gives meaning to everything else in your life. These old covenant Israelites are saying, “We live for the Lord.” That dictated who they married. That dictated what their calendar looked like. That dictated how they cared for the most sacred place in their society.

Can others tell what you live for: 
By your marriage
By your calendar
By your commitment to the Church?
Hopefully we live to know God. Our cause is not the way of life of the American people. We have something so much bigger and better than that. We have this good news that sinners can be reconciled to God by faith in Christ because Christ has satisfied the wrath of God, He paid the penalty for sin, and all who trust in Him are right with God.
What ARE you living for?

Let’s pray.