I began this series to address the reality that almost all of us, if not all of us, those we know and even those with whom we come into casual contact have experienced some form of trauma and brokenness within our lives.
That reality of trauma seems to be growing into a common occurrence in our world.
Brokenness is that fracturing of our being due in part to our own sinful choices as well as the sinful choices of others that affect us that’s caused our trauma.
We’ve all experienced that state of emotional, psychological, social, physical, and spiritual distress that results from living in a fallen, broken world ruined by sin.
Moreover, salvation from sin and good the ology doesn’t automatically cure all the physical, emotional, social, and psychological wounds of trauma and brokenness.
The book of Nehemiah is the account of the profound sense of traumatic brokenness God’s people experienced and God’s direct intervention to bring healing to their trauma. He did so by sending a young man named Nehemiah, whose name means YHWH has comforted to redeem, restore and rebuild His people so they could indeed rejoice in His loving care.
The broken walls weren’t a matter of safety as God’s people lived under the protection of the Medo-Persian empire. The wall’s broken rubble came to symbolize their broken relationship with God and perhaps their feeling that though God kept His promise to end their exile, He no longer really loved them. And maybe that’s how some of us and some in our communities feel. We may have suffered through so much trauma and brokenness that we question if God really loves us really wants us and is really for us.
Consequently, for some of us, the journey toward healing our trauma must begin with believing God is present with us and committed to healing us. But that can be hard since we genuinely wonder why He allowed our trauma in the first place. It’s why we must realize that though the Lord allowed our trauma, He did not endorse our trauma.
Believing God hasn’t rejected us and is, or us is one of the keys to following Him fully. Doing so will mean we trust God for our eternity and our here and now.
I believe the renewal lead by Nehemiah can provide us a model of following the Lord fully even as we look to Him for healing from trauma and brokenness.
With that in mind, what can we learn from the covenant renewal led by Nehemiah?
We purpose to follow our God fully.
We prize our identity as God’s people.
We prioritize God’s worship.
We provide for God’s mission.
We purpose to follow God fully. Nehemiah vss. 28-29."The rest of the people--priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand-- all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands ,regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.
During this time, God’s people had at least three different groups of leaders; political, economic, and spiritual. Vss. 28-29 refer to the spiritual leaders who were charged with leading the people in the Lord’s worship and teaching. Soon after the exodus led by Moses, God designated chose the tribe of Levi for His exclusive service. Some of the Levites served as priests, while others served in other ways connected with the temple. Under Nehemiah, the Levites now joined the political and economic leaders in this act of covenant renewal. Imagine if our political, business, academic, and religious leaders decided to make this commitment during the next election date?
Following the Lord fully in our life context simply means aligning every area of our regular lives according to God’s word. We do so with the belief that God made us, knows us, knows what’s best for us, and loves to the extent that when we disobeyed His word, He sent Christ to pay the price of our rebellion. That is, Christ took the curse we earned for our disobedience. Following the Lord fully is the simple yet Spirit-dependent life of worshiping God wholeheartedly, walking before God obediently, and witnessing of Christ’s full redemption as an end in and of itself.
In some ways, their pledge to follow the Lord was similar to the pledge a man and a woman make to enter marriage. Children, ask your parents how they felt making their marriage vows.
Purposing to follow God fully will inevitably affect the way we view our primary identity.
We prize our identity as God’s people. Vs. 30."We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons. Why this kind of marriage prohibition? In ancient times marriage wasn’t just a union between a man and a women. It was the joining of two families and, in many cases the attempt to join two groups of people. Doing so also meant embracing each other’s idols and system of morality. God forbade his people from intermarrying to prevent the loss of their identity and witness. He also did so to ensure the preservation of the Jewish people as a people and the people through whom God would bring the worldwide messiah. The preservation of the Jewish people is one of the main reasons we can trust God’s word for full and final salvation.
Refusing to continue the practice of intermarriage meant they’d retain their distinct identity as God’s people with the holy culture and promises of God’s word.
The same is true of us, but not in terms of what we’d call interracial marriage since God’s people are no longer mainly confined to one ethnic group.
Instead, we’re careful to prize our identity as God’s people who populate Christ’s new society even though we live in America as Americans. One of the main ways we prize our identity is by embodying the character of our King, Jesus Christ, in ways that demonstrate respect, care, and compassion to everyone. Moreover, following the lead of our King, we focus on the needs, issues, and interests of the poor, less powerful ,and marginalized.
Children, have any of you ever been a ringbearer at a wedding? A ring is a symbol that identifies a married person. So when you get married, you take on a new identity. Prayerfully, the way we treat each other, those who oppose us, and the poor and less powerful will reveal that we belong to and identify with our King Jesus Christ.
It’s why I’m thankful to work with a grouplike Uplift People of Elk Grove and look forward to a potential partnership with World Relief of Sacramento.
We prioritize worship. Vs. 31. "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. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.
The Sabbath was the way God built a day of rest and worship into the culture of His people. Prioritizing worship goes back to our creation. Gen. 2. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Prioritizing worship consistently reminds and reinforces the reason for our creation and redemption. Worship reminds us that while work and economics are a significant part of our lives, they aren’t the core substance of our lives.
Our Sunday or Lord’s Day is a celebration of our full redemption in Christ, a redemption that includes the guaranteed promise of complete healing from all our trauma. It’s why I encourage all of us to prioritize our corporate worship experience.
Children, do any of you have a family night? Years ago, our family prioritized watching the Survivor series.
We provide for God’s mission. Vss. 32-33. "We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moon festivals and appointed feasts; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
Since God set apart the Levites to lead God’s people in worship and take care of the temple, they didn’t inherit any land like the rest of the tribes. It was the responsibility of the rest of the tribes to support the Levites and their work through regular tithes and offerings.
Generally, tithes and offerings served two main purposes. First to support the Levites in their work. Second, to provide for the needs of the poor.
God gave the tithing system to show the connection between His provision, what it meant to enjoy His full redemption, our gratitude for His redemption, and His deep compassion for the poor and less powerful.
These are the same reasons we give joyfully give to God’s work now. In Scripture giving part of your income also symbolized the giving of your whole self.
And when we give it speaks to what Christ gave for us.
Ultimately Christ is the one and only one who answered the call to follow God’s law perfectly. He purposed to follow God fully by obeying His word and then going to the cross for those like us who didn’t and couldn’t. Christ prized His identity as our king who died for us so we could be identified as one of His people. Christ prioritized God’s worship to the extent that He died to bring multiple billions into the new heaven and new earth top our out our worship to the triune God. Christ provided for God’s mission by offering His entire life up to the cross.
Why are we willing to follow God fully even through our trauma? We do so since Christ willingly walked into trauma since that was the only way to fully and finally heal our trauma.
Christ’s cross and resurrection means that though we may carry our trauma to our grave, it will remain there, but we won’t.