By J.D. Davis
Senior Pastor, Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, OH
Focal Passage: Nehemiah 10:28-39
This week’s lesson marks the end of our study in Nehemiah. We have seen Nehemiah handle opposition and call the Jewish people to obey the Old Testament law. This week’s lesson focuses upon the Jewish people making a commitment to keep the commands of God. Together, the people make a sworn oath to follow the Law. It is an intense time of commitment and obedience.
The text lists various groups that gathered together to make this commitment. In Nehemiah 10:28 we read that the “temple servants” were one of the groups gathered on that day. The lesson points out how the KJV transliterates “temple servants” to “Nethinims.” The word “nethinims” comes from the Hebrew verb “to give” and seems to refer to the service given at the temple. These temple servants are not part of the priestly Levite clan and might even be slaves brought back to Jerusalem.
When we think about the work of the church or ministries that occur in our communities, we are tempted to think that the “professional ministers” need to handle those things. We may think that we do not have the training, the experience, or the talent to do such things. However, here is a group that is not part of the “professional priestly” clan doing work in the temple.
God used all kinds of people in the Bible to do His work. Some were leaders and professionals, some were farmers and fishermen, some were educated and some are not. When it comes to those that God uses, He is more concerned with commitment than qualifications. When Paul writes his epistles, he is fond of referring to himself as a servant, bond servant, and even prisoner of Jesus Christ and the gospel. One thing that unifies servants and prisoners is the loss of personal rights.
Paul chooses such titles because he has given up his personal freedoms and desires for service to Christ and the cause of the gospel. Paul is no longer living for himself and his wants but for what Jesus wants and how the Spirit leads. These temple servants in Nehemiah may have been slaves, but Paul willingly became a slave for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What rights and freedoms are you willing to give up so you can serve Christ better? I know that is a hard and penetrating question but it is the essential question of a servant. It is also a question that is not answered once but numerous times as we mature in Christ. We continually sacrifice more of ourselves for the cause of Christ.
Notice that the individuals listed in Nehemiah 10:28 separate themselves in verse 29. The act of separation is a step of setting something or someone apart. In other words, these leaders do not want to live for themselves or for the world anymore. They are ready to make a commitment to keep the law and to do so means giving up freedoms and rights.
When Paul writes his great work to the Romans he comes to a pinnacle point in chapter twelve. There he writes, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Notice how separation is a vital part of worship.
Your worship of Jesus is not confined to one hour on Sunday. It is reflected in how you live. Your commitment to service, sacrifice, and separation defines a life of worship and commitment. Therefore, let us give up our freedoms and rights for the sake of the gospel and become servants for the cause of Christ.
— Davis is senior pastor of Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, Ohio.