God’s people continue to live sinful lives. The men married godless women, their children could not understand the Scriptures because they were not taught Hebrew, and the fathers were giving their daughters to godless men and allowing their sons to marry godless women. In response, Nehemiah confronts and fights with the men, cleanses the church of unfit leaders, and holds the men accountable as covenant heads.
23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 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. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.
You’re listening to Nehemiah: Building a City within a City, a teaching series by Pastor Mark Driscoll. The following is a presentation of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. For more audio and video content, visit marshillchurch.org.
The hope of Mars Hill since the beginning is that Seattle is a great city, and what it needs is a great city within that city, a city that loves Jesus, a city that believes scripture, a city that lives for the good of the whole city, not just its own self-interest. And so Mars Hill started off as an experiment to see if we could build a city within the city that would love the city and seek the transformation of the city as the city meets Jesus.
(Applause) Good, good, good evening, Mars Hill. We’re gonna be in Nehemiah 13. We’ve spent most of the year studying the great Book of Nehemiah. If you’ve enjoyed it, that’s great. If not (Laughter), it’s now over. You’re welcome. So we’re gonna finish it tonight. My name is Mark. I’m the preaching pastor here at the church. And if you want to get ready for the next series, we’re gonna start Philippians next week. And if you go to the marshillchurch.org website, it has the list of what texts we’ll be covering on what Sundays and topics. I would encourage you to get reading and studying, and also join a community group where we can have you meet some folks and discuss those sections of scripture with some other people.
So I’m gonna go ahead and pray. Tonight is a great text. A guy beats up some members of his church, scalps one (Laughter). It really – I mean, it’s just – heartwarming is really what comes to mind (Laughter). So I’ll pray, and we’ll have fun with God’s word. Father, we begin by thanking you for the Book of Nehemiah. Personally, God, it’s been a huge help, encouragement, and point of instruction for me. God, it has helped our church to focus on being a city within our city, loving and serving our city so that our city would meet Jesus. Father, I thank you that you choose to speak to us. I ask now that you would send the Holy Spirit to enlighten us so that we might understand most clearly what it is you were trying to communicate when you inspired the writing of the scripture.
And so, God, tonight may we also have some deeper understanding of Nehemiah’s anger. May we have a right understanding of anger, and may it compel us to do things that honor you and serve others. And so we ask that the Lord Jesus would be the centerpiece of our instruction tonight, that we would learn to follow in his example and confess our sins to him and receive the new life that he gives. And so we ask this in your good name, Jesus. Amen.
I’ll tell ya what I’ll do. I’ll summarize Nehemiah for ya up to this point. It centers around a very strategically-important city called Jerusalem. God really has a keen sense of love for cities because people tend to live there in greater numbers and because cities tend to be the place from which information, people, goods, services expand out to the world. So if you want to touch the world, you need to first reach the city. And Jerusalem is a very important city in the Old Testament because that was the city that was to be prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ, our great God and his entrance into human history.
And what had happened tragically is that the city of Jerusalem had fallen into disrepair. God wasn’t being widely worshipped there, people had scattered. The walls, which encircled and fortified the city, ensuring the safety of its citizenry had been broken down. The gates had been burned. And for 141 years Jerusalem lay in a very desolate and desperate condition. What happens then is that God burdens a man named Nehemiah to move to that city from his hometown of Susa and to give his life to serving that city and planting a church as a city within that city, to love and serve the whole city, preparing that city for the coming of Jesus. And ultimately, in 52 short days he pulled off this amazing miracle of God, and the walls were rebuilt after laying in ruins for 141 years.
This man, Nehemiah, then gave the ensuing 12 years of his life, based upon 5:14, to serving that church and to serving that city. He’s a man who endured much. He was opposed from the very first day he entered into the city by two guys named Sanballat and Tobiah. They made death threats against him, they opposed him, they sent out false accusations. They were, in every way, opposed to him and the mission God had called him on. He didn’t collect a salary. He worked for free. He underwrote a lot of the ministry out of his own pocket. He was a man who suffered and gave a great deal of his finances, of his time, of his energy, of his health, and even to the degree that he risked his own life to serve God in this way.
And after serving in this capacity as governor of this town for 12 years, he was nearing an older age, perhaps 50 or 60, had decided he would hand off his responsibilities because things were going so well. Not only were the walls rebuilt and the gates rehung, 50,000 people, roughly, moved back into the city. More followed after them. There was a great revival. Ezra stepped up as the Bible teacher, the Billy Graham of that day. They had diligent study of the first five books of the Old Testament. It’s called the Pentateuch, the book in five parts. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, all penned by Moses. They studied the Bible. People are repenting of sin. Lives were being changed. They’re giving generously to the mission of their church. It looks like one of the greatest urban revivals in the history of the world.
Having gotten leaders and policies into place, Nehemiah feels that it’s time for him to move on, to return home, sort of a semi-retirement. So he hands things off. And he’s gone for anywhere from one to seven years. The commentators are divided on this point. The text is not clear. But what he does hear is that things in Jerusalem have already started falling apart, and those people who claim to worship the God of the Bible have fallen right back into the same sin, the same bad patterns of thinking and acting and living that had led to the demise of the city in the first place. And some of you may be able to relate on this point to where life is not going well, you come to Jesus, life starts going well, and pretty soon you ignore him again. And you find yourself in the same kinds of problems and sins and failures that you went to him in the first place to get you out of.
And so Nehemiah has a decision to make. Will he relocate back to Jerusalem and start over? Or will he just throw his hands up in defeat and say, “I’ve given my life to those people, and they’re not listening, and they’re not following, and they’re not obeying. I give up”? Well, he comes out of retirement, he moves back to Jerusalem, and he’s got quite a fight on his hand, quite a fight on his hands. But praise God that this man was willing to fight because ultimately the Lord Jesus did come. God entered human history, he came to Jerusalem. And right before he ascending back into heaven he told us to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. That the Gospel, the good news of the person in work of the life, death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus was to ring out from the epicenter of Jerusalem.
And had Nehemiah not fought for the well being of the church and the city, there would not have been an opportunity for the Lord Jesus to come to that city. And that city would not have been in the condition that the good news of Jesus could have spread to the ends of the earth so that even you and I tonight would have an opportunity to be Christians. So we owe a great deal to this man. And what he tells us upon entering the city in 13:8 is this: “I was ‘very angry.’” We looked at how he was angry in a righteous way and reacted in a righteous way. And there are three ways that he reacted, each of which is recorded in Nehemiah 13 and then concludes with a prayer. We looked at the first two, and tonight we look at the third, beginning in Verse 23.
And let me tell ya what he’s angry about. We’ll get there in a moment. Maybe. I’ll tell ya what he’s very angry about. He’s very angry about the marriages and the families. That’s what he’s angry about this week. About the marriages and the families because the foundational unit for society and God’s economy is the family. God made a man and a woman, gave them children. On top of that has built the government of church and the government of state. But everything rises or falls with the well being of the families. And the families were not put together in a way that are of the God of the Bible. And what had happened was these people had been getting, we’ve been repeatedly told throughout Nehemiah, solid Bible teaching in the Old Testament in general, in the first five books of the Old Testament in particular.
So they had a Biblical understanding of how marriage and family is to be done by people who claim to know God. Now, the problem in Nehemiah’s day there were people who said that they believed in God, but they weren’t living in accordance with their convictions. They are, by definition, hypocrites. So let me do this for you. Let me give you sort of an overview theologically of marriage and sexuality and parenting. And then you can see why he’s so angry because they understood Biblically what they were supposed to be doing. And some of you may not understand Biblically what marriage, sexuality and parenting is to look like.
So to understand, we go back to the early pages of Genesis, the first two chapters, and God makes a man, God says that everything is good. The man, however, doesn’t have a wife. He’s all by himself. And though sin has not yet entered into the world, God says that one thing is not good and it is that it is not good for the man to be what?
Alone. All the men agree (Laughter). Right? All the men agree. And if you ever met a single man, you say, “Yes, now I understand. That’s a very wise insight. That guy needs help (Laughter).” Okay? So it’s not good for the man to be alone. So God then creates a woman to be his complimentary helper. The Bible says to be his helpmate, his helper. This does not mean that a women is lesser than a man. Both bear the image and likeness of God, so they have equality in terms of dignity, value and worth, but they are different. And they work together in a complimentary fashion, much like a right hand and a left hand work together. Each have certain skills, talents, abilities, and together they make a great team, and you need ‘em both.
So then God makes the women, and God serves sort of as the father figure, as it were, and literally brings the woman to the man, sort of like a dad walks his daughter down the aisle for her wedding day. And then God assumes the position essentially as the pastor and officiates the first wedding and introduces the man and the women to one another. And upon seeing the woman, the man speaks the first recorded words in human history, our father Adam does, and he sings, it is in Hebrew, a poetic love song to his wife Eve because chicks dig musicians, and they always have (Laughter). And now you know why. It’s Biblical. That’s how it is (Laughter). That’s why musicians have women who are interested. Even if they don’t have jobs, they still have interest because (Laughter) – so my admonition to all you single men is learn to sing at least one song. At least one. And when you meet her, sing it (Laughter).
So anyways, he sings this song, and she “Oh, yes, I’ll marry you (Laughter).” So they get married. And then God tells them to be fruitful, multiple, increase the number, fill the earth and subdue it. That’s baby making (Laughter). Okay? And in that God lays out – at the end of Genesis 2 he lays out a process, a threefold process for marriage. A man shall leave his mother and father, be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. See, we’ve totally inverted that in our culture. Hey, sleep with somebody, maybe live with ‘em, and perhaps someday marry them. We’ve absolutely inverted the process. Now, the language of the Bible, Old Testament to New, is that men take a wife, and women are given in marriage. That means that a man must initiate. He must risk. He must take the opportunity to engage with a women that he is interested in.
So some of you guys who are real cowardly and timid and passive will say things like “Well, I don’t want to have my feelings hurt. I don’t want to be shot down.” It’s like “You are a man (Laughter). So you put your cup on, and (Laughter) you find a shirt that you didn’t buy in the same place you got your automotive parts (Laughter), and you talk to her. Now, you don’t stalk her (Laughter), all right, but you initiate. And you take the risk. You may be turned down. You may be rejected, you may be laughed at, you may be blogged about (Laughter), but that’s part of your sanctification (Laughter).” And so a man is to take a wife, and a wife is to be loved and cared for. And her family and her church and her friends are to be there for her, and they need to sign off that “Yes, indeed, this is a man that is worthy of you.”
Now, that being said, the threefold process for the man is to first – what’s the first, gentlemen? Single guys, first thing? Leave your mother (Laughter). Right? Leave your – I mean, if mom’s still baking you cookies and your going to bed at night in Star Wars sheets, you know, look, you’re not ready to married, right (Laughter)? You’re just not. If mom’s still cleaning your underwear, waking you up, “Go to work, Johnny”, look. You really need to rethink your whole existence (Laughter). He must leave his father and mother because marriage is for men, not for boys. And too many church boys think “I’ll get married and make babies. That’ll make me a man.” No. That’ll make you a boy with a man’s responsibilities, which is a disaster.
So ladies, if a man comes up to you and says, “Hi”, you say, “Where do you live?” If he says, “With my mom”, laugh loudly (Laughter) and run quickly. That’s my encouragement to you (Laughter). I recently had this. Throughout the story I’ll intersect mocking stories of single men. This will be the first of many examples (Laughter). I recently had a conversation with a young man in his 20s, mid 20s. He’s applying to be a church planter. “Pastor Mark, I feel called to be a church planter. I would like to start a church.” I look at his finger. There’s no ring on it. I said, “Well, tell me about your wife.” “I don’t have a wife.” “Where do you live?” “With my parents.” “And you want to start a church?” “Yes.” I said, “What are you gonna do? You gonna tell all the other men in the church ‘If you would like to be a godly man, a responsible man, a noble man, a good husband and a good father, come over to my house, and my mom and I will help you with that’? Like what – how are you gonna do this (Laughter)? Who’s gonna follow you? Any guy who does follow you has got something wrong with him.”
I told this kid you got to move. First, leave mother and father. Second, get a wife. Third, make some babies. Then fill out the church planter form. First thing’s first. A guy’s got to leave mother and father. This means physically he gets his own place to live, financially he pays his own bills, spiritually he has his own relationship with God. Theologically he has his own doctrinal convictions. He has his own church, his own ministry. He’s a guy. He’s a guy. Paul says it this way in First Corinthians 13: “When I was a boy, I thought like a boy, acted like a boy and spoke like a boy. And when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Leave his mother and father. Second, get married. Be united to his wife. Right? Courtship, premarital counseling, honor her family, become married, and then you get the benefits of marriage, which is intimacy and the physical relationship. The two shall become one flesh.
Too many guys want all the benefits of manhood, and they want to get there in a sinful, wicked, immature fashion. So that’s God’s understanding and instruction for marriage. And out of that is to come children. It’s God’s intent. Now, in this as well, what we see Biblically is that marriage is described by the word covenant in Proverbs 2 and Malachi 2, that our view of marriage as Christians is very different. And by marriage I mean one man and one woman. It is Seattle. I got to footnote everything (Laughter). One man, one woman. Okay? It’s covenantal, meaning that we have a view of marriage that is based upon the teaching of scripture that is different than the world in which we live and the culture which we swim. That the covenantal view of marriage is that ultimately we take an oath. That’s what our vows are doing for us, in addition to the teaching of scripture in our wedding ceremony.
And a covenantal marriage means that we are now bound together as one. We’re no longer individuals. We’re one flesh. We’re one. That’s exactly what it means. And it means that over us is God who is the divine head of our covenant relationship. And that humanly speaking, the man is appointed by God as the human leader of the family and the human head of the marriage. That’s why throughout the New Testament it says such things as “The husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church.” Now, this does not mean that the man gets to be a bully or a thug or a jerk, that he gets to intimidate, be mean spirited, to boss his wife and children around. What it does mean is he needs to love and serve like Jesus. That’s what it means. To sacrifice, to care for, to serve, to protect, to lay down his life and his desires and his own well being for the welfare of his wife and children. That’s what it means to be the head.
And it means that God holds men and women, adults and children responsible for their sin, but he puts an extra measure of responsibility on the husband and father. Theologically we call this the doctrine of federal headship. The doctrine of federal headship. And we see this, for example, with Adam, our first father. He and Eve are together, Satan comes, she participates in his life, partakes of his fruit. Adam sits there quietly, silently, passively, doing nothing, which is the sin of many men, doing nothing and being passive, silent cowards. And what happens then, God comes looking for them. And who does he cry out to, the woman who sinned first or the man who is held responsible? The man who is held responsible. “Adam, where are you?” Eve sinned first, but God came looking for Adam, holding him accountable and responsible for the welfare of his family. He was a poor leader.
Now, many men reject this. Now, feminists reject this because they think like Eve does who was deceived. And many men reject this because they don’t like that additional responsibility. Here’s what it means for you men. If you are a husband and/or father or are motivated to be a husband father, you are taking upon yourself responsibility for more than just yourself. You’re taking upon yourself responsibility for the well being of your wife and your children. That’s what you’re doing. And some men will push back and say things like “But it’s not my fault.” Perhaps the wife and/or children did something sinful. And the husband often responds “It’s not my fault.” And my answer is “It may be. You may not have been a great husband or father. You may be implicated in this to some degree. But additionally, even if you’re altogether innocent, whether or not it’s your fault, it still is your responsibility.”
If my wife for some reason walks away from God – she loves Jesus, and praise God for that – if my kids somehow should go into a season of rebellion, I could not say, “It’s not my fault.” What I would have to say is “Whether or not it’s my fault, it’s my responsibility. And if I love them, I need to get involved, relationally connected, invest in them, love them, serve them, teach them, walk with them, bring them back to Jesus and their senses.” Because the view of covenant marriage and covenant family is absolutely contradictory to our narcissistic, self-loathing, individualist culture, which says, “You’re an individual, I’m an individual, your life and my life they don’t bump into each other. I don’t have any responsibility for you, and you don’t have any responsibility for me.” The issue of covenant flies in the face of that because a covenant is about love. A covenant is about love.
Let me explain how this then practically works itself out. If you are a husband and father, even if it is not your fault, you take responsibility in doing that, you are showing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s what I mean. Okay. Am I a sinner?
Yes. You’ve been here long enough to know that. Okay? Is Jesus at fault for any of my sin?
No. Does Jesus take responsibility for my sin?
He does. He comes, he lives without sin in my place, he dies for my sin in my place, he rises for my salvation. Though Jesus is not in any way at fault for my sin, he takes responsibility for me because, as a Christian, I’m in a covenant relationship with him. That’s what a covenant relationship looks like. Not “I’m an individual, you’re an individual, you made your mess, pick it up.” “We’re in a covenant relationship, we are one, I love you, and I take responsibility, even if it’s not my fault. And I will invest and involve myself because I care for you. And we’re together as one.” Okay? Now, having said that, the people that had been taught Biblically in Nehemiah, they had been instructed in this for many years. This was not new teaching. They understood this. Furthermore, they had Old Testament examples of federal headship. I’ll give ya three.
Job 1:5, which was written previous to the people in Nehemiah, so I’m assuming they were well aware of it. Job 1:5 tells a story where his adult children go out and have a party, and he is worried that perhaps they sinned against God, so he, in prayer, intercedes for his children, confessing their sin, taking responsibility. Not that his children are not also responsible, but he wants to pray and intercede for them as well. Another example is given in Numbers Chapter 30, which is a text they would have studied as they studied the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. And therein the story is told that if a young woman is proposed to by a young man for marriage and she says yes and dad doesn’t like the guy, dad has line-item veto responsibility, and he can dump the guy (Laughter), which means if a girl says yes and if dad says no, it’s no.
Now, some of you will freak out. “How could that be?” What it’s not saying is that a father is to impose himself on his daughter and to disrespect her. What it is showing is that if a daddy really loves his daughter and does like I do with my girls – and this is not to boast, but I’m a snuggle, crying, Bible study, go-for-walks daddy. That’s me. Okay? With my girls I’m real – I’m a tender daddy. I love my sons too. I’m talking about my girls at this point. My oldest daughter’s ten. I love her with – I mean, I adore her. She’s wonderful. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she knows her Bible, she loves Jesus, she’s very responsible. There’s no one who loves her more than me. There’s no one who knows her better than me. I’m raising her, I’m praying over her, I’m reading Bible with her, I’m snuggling with her, I’m investing in her, as is her mom.
What that means is the first boy who comes along and says, “Can I have you?”, if in the moment she’s emotional or flattered or makes a foolish decision or maybe the boy has fooled her, as a father I can’t stand back and say, “He’s a bad guy, but, you know, who am I?” I’m the daddy. I would sit down with my girl and say, “Honey, I love ya. That boy is not – he’s not up to the task of being a good husband and father. He’s just not ready spiritually, emotionally, whatever it might be. He’s just not ready. Guard your heart, sweetheart. It’s the wellspring of life.” So what we’re talking about here is a daddy who so knows and loves his daughter that he’s not willing to just let her go off with the first boy who proposes, but to make sure that she loves the Lord and that the boy that she ends up giving her heart and her life and her body to loves the Lord too. I’ve heard some – I’ve had some women push back and say, “That’s so chauvinist.” I said, “You know what? There is a world filled with ladies who wish they had a daddy who cared, that just cared.” And that’s an example in Numbers 30.
The third is in Deuteronomy 22 where example of federal headship is given. The story is told of a young woman who goes off, unmarried, commits adultery, sleeps with a married man. If she is then sentenced to death by stoning, they stone her to death on the doorsteps of her father’s home because who is responsible? The father. The father. When I teach this doctrine two people bristle most violently (Laughter). Feminists. We will use that F word (Laughter). And irresponsible, lazy men. Okay? Women who have been abused by those kind of men are scared of all men, and men who want to avoid, abandon or abuse responsibility they bristle as well because they don’t want to be those kind of responsible men.
Now, in the days of Nehemiah that’s why he is so angry. This has been taught, and the men have been instructed. And the majority of his anger is with the husbands and the fathers because they are simply defying God. And their wives and their children are suffering because of their folly. Now, in this the root issue under it all is an absolute disrespect for authority, something that began with Satan when he rebelled against God in heaven, something that continued with our first parents in the garden, and something that is today marked as a virtue and not a vice. Some of you even when I say the word authority, you bristle. “Does that mean someone can tell me what to do?” That’s exactly what it means. And if they love you and are wiser than you, you should listen; otherwise, it’s to your own destruction.
Jesus says, after his resurrection, “All authority has been given to me.” If you have an issue with authority, you have an issue with Jesus. If you reject authority, you’re rejecting Jesus. Some of you even here today the scriptures are not an authority for you. You say, “I disagree with those parts. I think Paul was wrong. I don’t think that applies today. That doesn’t apply to me. I have my own opinions.” That is, at its root, satanic. It is like Satan saying, “I know what God has said. I disagree. He’s wrong. I’m also a little god, and I have my own kingdom and my own opinions, and I judge myself by my own standards.”
Scripture says in places like Hebrews 13:17 to “Submit to your leaders, obey their authorities, spiritually speaking. To make their work a joy and not a burden.” What Nehemiah’s experiencing is a hardhearted, stiff-necked, rebellious group of men whose wives and children are following in their example. The result is that it is a total burden to lead them, it is not a joy. And Nehemiah doesn’t hate them. He loves them, and he’s concerned about them. And because they’re not listening, he sees what is happening. As some spiritual leaders are defying the scriptures in God, then some men are defying the scriptures in God. And then some wives are disobeying spiritual authority, and children are disobeying. And it’s just an attitude of absolute anarchy, and everything is falling apart very quickly.
I would ask you parents to model for your children a right respect for authority, spiritual authority included. Some of you will then push back and say, “But I’ve seen spiritual authority abused.” And I would say, “So have I. And what we do is not abandon authority. We appeal to higher authority.” If a man is being a bad husband and father, he’s not the highest authority. You could call the cops, you could bring him in for church discipline. We’ll pull up some other authority. We’ll pull up another authority of scripture, and we’ll bring God into the equation. If a leader in a church or an elder or a pastor is not acting in accordance with scripture, then we appeal to scripture, and they get disciplined as well. No one, myself included, is above spiritual authority. We all need to be submissive and humble.
And Nehemiah’s frustration is with a bunch of men who will not respect scripture, they will not respect God, they won’t respect Nehemiah, their leader, they won’t respect Ezra, their pastor, and he’s very angry about that because he sees the devastation to the wives and to the children. We’ll pick it up, Nehemiah Chapter 13. Now that you have mentally the categories to understand what they have been taught, then you’ll understand why what they are doing is so grievous. Beginning in 13:23. “In those days also I saw the Jews, God’s people in the Old Testament, who were awaiting the coming of their Messiah.” His name? Jesus. These are people who are living by faith in Jesus as we are. “Who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon and Moab.” Those are not just different racial groupings. Those are different religions. That would be a kin today of at Mars Hill you men who are members of our church claiming to be Christians start marrying Mormon women, Muslim women, Buddhists, Hindu women. This is a crisis. This is a crisis.
Now, at the top of a family you have two gods and two religions. Good luck trying to raise children that love God and have a clear understanding of why allegiance to one God is important. “And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people.” The Bible was in Hebrew at that time. In order to read and know the Bible, you had to learn Hebrew. Yet there’s a bunch of kids who are members of the church and their dads are technically members of this equivalent of an Old Testament church, and the kids don’t even know the language of the Bible. They don’t know any Bible, but some of ‘em know the equivalent of modern day Arabic so they could read the Koran.
You say, “But isn’t that just pluralism?” It’s evil. “But isn’t that postmodern, you know, multiperspectivalism (Laughter)? Don’t they just have an alternative, epistemological approach (Laughter)?” No. They’re in sin. I don’t care if they went to college. It’s still wrong. Verse 25. So what’s he gonna do? “I confronted them.” Some of you guys need to underline that verse. Some of you guys are cowards, you’re like your father Adam. You don’t say or do anything. All right? In a church of our size there’s no way possible that the leaders can track down every knucklehead. We’re outnumbered and surrounded. We’re outgunned. But if you’ve got a buddy who’s sleeping with his girlfriend and nobody else knows or you got a buddy who says he’s a Christian and he’s running around on his wife, you need to be the one to put your finger in his chest and confront him. You say, “But isn’t that mean?” No. That’s loving.
You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there’s not confrontation, then you better enjoy sin because that’s what’s going to happen. “Then I confronted them, and I cursed them.” He’s just cussing guys out (Laughter). “And beat some of them (Laughter).” I’ll read that again. “And beat some of them.” Now, he’s an older guy. And he’s beating up members of his church (Laughter).
Now, in this Nehemiah gets so angry that he can’t make these guys stop, and so he physically assaults them. Now, this week in your community group you can dialogue whether or not you think that was godly. That would be something fun to talk about (Laughter). Okay? You can debate the merits of this all day. But I’ll tell you this: I’m not saying it’s okay to beat people up, but I understand (Laughter). That’s what I am saying. I’ll tell ya another story. There’s a guy I met. He’s a mixed martial artist and ultimate fighter. Good guy. Loves Jesus. He was at church recently. And he coaches a lot of young fighters. All right?
And so I coach a lot of pastors, so I asked him, I said, “What do you do with a guy who just doesn’t submit to authority, doesn’t obey the chain of command, doesn’t listen, doesn’t do what he’s told, just rebellious, stiff-necked, hardhearted and stupid?” I said, “What do you do with those guys?” His answer was brilliant. He said, “I break their nose (Laughter).” That was his answer. I said, “Wow! Please explain.” Here’s what he says: “If I get one of these guys in my fighter camp where I’m training guys and he won’t play by the rules, he won’t listen or respect authority, if I let him get away with it, I have anarchy on my whole team and next thing you know no one is doing what they’re told, and everything falls apart.” That’s exactly what’s happening in Nehemiah’s day.
“So I warn ‘em. ‘You knock it off or I’m gonna put you in the ring, I’m gonna take you down, and I’m gonna bust your nose.’ And if they disobey, disrespect or disregard me, I put ‘em in the octagon, I take ‘em down, and I bust their nose (Laughter).” Okay? He said, “So you’ll notice on the guys on my team they all have a crooked nose and a good attitude (Laughter) (Applause).” I thought “Wow!” I mean, it’s heartwarming (Laughter). I just thought “That is – that makes so much sense to me.” And that’s what Nehemiah is doing. Now, you can debate the merits all day, but I understand (Laughter). “I beat some of them.” And the next one is a little disappointing. “And I pulled out their hair”, which sounds like a girls’ fight, doesn’t it (Laughter)? That’s a little disappointing. “Pulled out their hair?” I’m like “Hmm.”
So let’s do this. Let’s read into the story just a little bit. Let’s say that maybe it was self-defense, they attacked him, so he had to defend himself. Okay. And somehow the hair-pulling thing I don’t know. I don’t know what happened there. Generally speaking, most men don’t respect other men who pull men’s hair (Laughter). So I’m not – maybe he scalped him (Laughter). Maybe they attacked him, he beat ‘em up and scalped ‘em. I’m gonna go with that ‘cause I can respect that a lot more (Laughter). And then he goes on, “And I made them take an oath.” You think? “Repeat after me.” “Okie-dokie”, you know (Laughter). “Now that I’m bald and bloody (Laughter).” There’s just certain parts of the Bible that ___ – when I talked to the ultimate fighter guy, I said, “You know, you probably never had a verse for it.” And I actually took him to Nehemiah 13. I said, “Here you go. You got a verse. Quote it to your boys when you bust their nose (Laughter).”
So Nehemiah goes on, “I made them take an oath in the name of God saying, ‘You shall not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.’” He goes on. He gives an Old Testament example from King Solomon who had a ton of wives and a bunch of girlfriends and ended up worshipping false gods and doing all kinds of horrific sin. “Did not Solomon, king of Israel, sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all of Israel.” What he’s saying is “God was really, really, really good to Solomon as God has been really, really good to us. Nevertheless, foreign women made him even – even him to sin. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act torturously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
He’s saying, “Guys, don’t you read your Bible? You sin against God, it goes bad.” But there’s always a few people who think “I’m the exception to the rule. God knows my heart. He’s not looking. Today’s his day off.” Whatever it is. There’s always people who “I know what the Bible says, and I know what the pattern of history is, but look. I’m the exception to the rule.” He says, “No, you’re not. You disobey God, it’s gonna go bad for ya because God’s a good God, and he set up the world a certain way. And you work against that, there’s consequence, chastisement, discipline, correction, hardship, pain.” That’s the way it’s gonna go ‘cause God’s not gonna bless sin. God doesn’t bless sin. That would only encourage sin.
And some of you guys are here today, and you need to really heed this warning. Some of you guys are here, and you are actually dating, seeing, flirting with, talking to non-Christian women. And I get it all the time from young guys. And usually the answer is “She’s hot.” And my response is always “So is hell. What do you think of your position (Laughter)?” Too many guys are idiots, thinking about a good time, not a good legacy. These men have lost sight of the fact that we’re gonna have children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. They’ve lost the perspective of a man like Jonathan Edwards who prayed daily for five generations of his family. Twenty-something-year-old guys are stupid often times when it comes to women. And what they’re looking for is the hottest, easiest girl they could find rather than the holiest woman they can find who will not just be a good time, but a good legacy.
Let me ask you men this: Why would you marry a woman that you don’t want your daughter’s to be like? Why would you marry a woman that you don’t want your sons to marry? Because the truth is your daughters will be like your wife, and your sons will marry a woman like her because that is what you have lifted up as the standard. You ladies, why in the world would you marry a man that you don’t want your sons to be like? Why would you marry a man that you wouldn’t want your daughters to marry? And so why in the world would you date, sleep with or even flirt with someone that is not fit to be the kind of person to give your life to? It’s a waste of time and energy, and it’s a sin. And it leads to nothing but heartbreak and devastation.
He goes on to say – he names name, Verse 28. “And one of the sons of Jehoidah, the son of Eliashib, the high priest – ” what had happened was there was a spiritual leader who didn’t do a good job leading his family. He allowed a godless man to marry into his family. And no one dealt with it. There was no church discipline, there was no consequence. As a result, this disrespect for God and disregard of God’s word was tolerated. And the other men in the church looking at the pastoral leadership said, “Well, if the pastor gets to be a godless man and lets his children do godless things, then I guess it’s okay.” It’s amazing, as the scripture says, that how a little bit of leaven works through the whole loaf, how one exception to God’s rule ultimately gives permission to others to follow in suit. “This man was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite, a godless man. Therefore, I chased him from me.” Nehemiah says, “I was gonna beat him up, but he was fast (Laughter).” Some guys are like that (Laughter).
Nehemiah’s a little old. This guy’s good timing the 40, and he got away. So he prays that God would track ‘em down. “Remember them, oh, my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus, I cleanse them from everything foreign, and I establish the duties of the priests and the Levites, each in his work, and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times and for the first fruits.” He restored order. The book opens with a prayer, it here ends with a prayer. It is threaded throughout with prayer. He says, “Remember me, oh, my God, for good.” What he is here doing is he is in his journal crying out to God saying, “I know that in this life I’m not going to get a lot of accolades and thank-yous, but I believe that what I am doing is the best” because what had happened was the city had fallen into sin, God had done a wonderful thing, and now they were in the process of ignoring him again and falling back into the same patterns. How many of you that makes sense of your life? You are bad, God does good, you get strong enough to disobey him again, and then things go bad.
And so the reasons that Nehemiah is angry are most justified. First, he is angry because God’s men are marrying godless women. I beg you, single men, do not be unequally yoked. That is not just a woman who is a Christian. It is also a woman who loves God as much as you do, who agrees with your theological convictions, who agrees with your view of marriage and family and children, who agrees with the life that you see Biblically God has laid out before you. Otherwise, that kind of conflict in your marriage will invariably split your family, it will confuse your children, and you will have a legacy of destruction. You men, I don’t care if you’re 20 years old, you’ve got to think 5 generations into the future. If you want to counteract all of the folly and the culture that we live in, you have to think about legacy.
I asked my kids this last night – we were Bible-studying this section of scripture – I said, “Kids, what would it be like if your mommy didn’t love Jesus?” My five little kids looked like dogs with their high-pitched whistles. They were like “What?” Like they had never thought of that (Laughter). And they all said, “That would be terrible (Laughter).” Yeah. Because when we want to know something, we go to the Bible. When we want to resolve a disagreement, we go to the Bible. When we sin, we pray to Jesus. When the children are being rebellious, we take them to scripture in Jesus. My son, Gideon, was up all night puking. We prayed over him together to Jesus. If my wife doesn’t know Jesus, everything is different. Everything is different in our marriage. I can’t say to her “Honey, we disagree on this. Let’s search the scriptures and see what God would say, and we’ll both submit to his authority.” I can’t say, “Honey, let’s worship God together in our life, let’s live for the glory of Jesus, when we sin, let’s ask Jesus to forgive us” because if she doesn’t believe in Jesus, we have no way to deal with sin, we have nothing to hold our marriage together, we have no way to raise our children.
And I know that in hearing that some of you were are non-Christian, you married a non-Christian, maybe you became a Christian, now you’re the only Christian. Okay? We pray for you, we love you, we know you’re in a hard place. We pray for the salvation of your spouse. But for those of you who are single, they would tell you “Marry someone who loves Jesus if you love Jesus.” The second reason he is angry is the fathers and husbands are not spiritually investing in their children. Their kids don’t even know the language of the Bible, they don’t know the God of the Bible, they don’t know any Bible. Ultimately, whether you home school, private school or public school, it is ultimately the responsibility of the parents, particularly the father, to spiritually invest in his children. They need to see us reading the Bible, praying. They need us to be talking about Jesus with them, instructing them in Jesus. If not, we are not setting an example, and we’re not connecting spiritually with the hearts of our children.
And he is so angry because not only are the men not going to church, they’re just working all the time, they’re ignoring their children. And the same thing happens today. Sixty percent of all Christians are female. The least likely person to go to church is a young, single man in his 20s. And the assumption is when you’re a kid, if you’re a boy, mom drags you to church. When you’re a man, married, your wife drags you to church. In the middle you sin like crazy because there’s no woman to drag you to church. Okay? If you’re here and you’re in your 20s and you’re a dude, praise be to God. You’re a miracle. Right? Right now you’ve been given a great opportunity to get your life together, to walk with Jesus so that when God would bring along the woman that he has for you, you can love her, and you can serve her, and your life can be built with her in a good way.
And he’s so angry because these men are not thinking that way, and they’re not informing their children at all. Too many men think “Well, we put ‘em in Christian school and dropped ‘em off at Sunday School and dumped ‘em off at Mars Hill for the Wednesday night midweek”, all of which could be perfectly fine and good, but if it is not also primarily the father’s investment in the child spiritually, then it could all be perhaps in vain. Don’t pour off your responsibilities, men, to the school and the church and the wife. Make sure that you are a father who invests in his kids. Prays over ‘em, loves ‘em, serves ‘em, cares for ‘em. And the third reason he is so very angry is they allow – these men allow their daughters to marry godless men, and they allow their sons to marry godless women. And the reason they’re doing that is that the spiritual leadership is corrupt, and the men have married godless women. And when you are in unrepentance sin – and this is what’s going on. When you are in unrepentance sin, you have lost your spiritual authority to call anyone else to repentance. All right?
If you’re a guy here sleeping with your girlfriend, if you’re a gal here sleeping with your boyfriend, whatever your friends are doing, you’re not going to say anything because you don’t have any spiritual integrity. And so it’s good for you and I to repent of sin, and then we can lovingly point out sin in the lives of others and call them to repentance. And these men, rather than repenting of their sin, are letting their children go into the same sin. And so rather than repenting, as an example, they get permission for sin, as an example, and they’re destroying legacy and lineage. So what does he do? Well, he fights with the men who won’t fight for their families. It’s a godly and noble thing to do.
Some men need to be confronted. Some men need to be rebuked. Some men need to be dealt with because of that stubborn, obstinate, stiff-necked attitude that “I’m a man, and I’m the highest authority, and I do whatever I want.” No. You do what is best for Jesus, you do what is best for your wife, you do what is best for your children, you do what is best for your church, you do what is best for the city because we’re covenantal, not individual. We’re Christian, not non-Christian. We’re selfless, we’re not selfish. And we’re humble, and we’re not proud because pride is satanic and it leads to death. And some men don’t get that, and so they need to be dealt with in a very strong manner. He fires some spiritual leaders, certain guys lose jobs. “You’re not a pastor her anymore. You’re out of work. “ Furthermore, this is an incredible important issue for our day. This is an incredibly important issue for our church.
Do you know that nationally one out of three kids is aborted? It’s an issue where people don’t even want their kids. They want to have sex, but not kids. One-third of kids who are born have no name listed in the father’s box on the birth certificate. They don’t know who their dad is. Sometimes the woman isn’t even sure which guy it was. Okay? Furthermore, tonight 40% of kids go to bed with no father, no dad. Okay? What I’m telling you is this: If we are covenantal Christians, we live differently not because we’re better than anyone else, but because we’ve been saved from some bad things. And we have been saved from those things to show that there’s a new way of life through Jesus, that is a whole lot better for us and our families and our children and our legacy. And this is a pressing issue in our city.
The cohabitation rate in our city is 250% higher than the national average. Many people walk in here, living and sleeping together with no intensions of marriage. We have less Christians and less children than dogs. We send our dogs to doggy daycare and we abort our children. If you and I started an abort the dogs campaign, there would be an outcry. Furthermore, if you have kids, you are looked at like an alien freak in this city. If in the church children are not considered a blessing and marriage is not honored, then there is nowhere to go for support. When I go with my five kids to the grocery store, I mean, I swear people are looking out in the parking lot for the UFO (Laughter), wondering what planet we landed from. I’ve had people come up to me, “Are these all your children?” “No, I just pick up extra. No. Yeah. Of course they are (Laughter).” I’ve had people with my children there that are saying, “Do you need all these children?” My response is “Well, if the population of the planet is too much, you can go (Laughter), you know, I mean, we could free up some space, you know.”
I’ve had people come up to me, “Is this a blended family? Are you divorced?” Like “Hi. Nice to meet you too (Laughter).” I mean, it’s unbelievable. I’ve had people come up and rebuke me and my wife for having so many children. And my answer is always “You know what? They’re a blessing. The Bible says they’re my blessing. My babies are my blessing. You know what, man, if you knew Jesus, you would see babies in a different way. You would just see ‘em different, you know (Applause).” I had one lady, since I’m on it, she came up to me, she says, “I can’t believe you have all those kids. Do you know what causes it?” I think I told you the story before (Laughter). I said, “Yeah, but you don’t have to worry about it (Laughter).” It’s just like “Look, man (Applause).” You know (Laughter), I’m just sick of it.
But when it gets to the point where you walk into the church and all of a sudden God’s people don’t respect marriage, God’s people don’t respect sex, God’s people don’t consider children a blessing, husbands and fathers don’t want to take any responsibility or be inconvenienced, all they want to do is work full time, skip Bible study and church, abdicate, abuse or abandon their responsibilities, at some point somebody’s got to get mad. Nehemiah’s that guy. Nehemiah is that guy. And at our church this is hugely important because over half our church is single, and statistically 90% of you will marry. So this is the issue. Things have gone pretty good at Mars Hill. We’re seeing people worship Jesus, we’re seeing lives being changed, we’re seeing people pass from death to life. It’s awesome. What we learn from Nehemiah is everything can change in one generation if the marriages are not Biblical and if the parents are not loving God with their children. Everything can fall apart as quickly as it has been gained.
And here’s why it matters so much, and I’ve said it before. I get picketed, protested, blogged, whatever. The bottom line is this: We need the men. We need the men. And we need the women. Not to discourage, dismiss, or diminish the women, but we need the men. We need the men who are still single, who still have to choose their wife, who still have to choose their career, who still will get to raise their children. We need those men to be about repentance and humility and Jesus before it’s at a point of utter desolation and destruction. And I’ll tell ya, men, why this is so important.
In regards to your children, your children are going to call you father, and that’s the same thing that they will call God. I want you men to feel that. Now, I know I’m not the same quality of father as God. I get that. I’m a sinner and imperfect. But when I tell my kids “God is a father”, I want them to see some correlation between me as an imperfect representative and their heavenly – “My daddy loves me, cares for me, is involved in my life, instructs me, corrects me, adores me, protects me, provides for me.” God’s a father, but a perfect father. I got an idea of what that’s like. Men, that God would share with us his own title is a very sober thing. Father.
Secondly, our marriages with our wives are reflective of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus because Jesus, though he was not married on the earth, he does have a bride. That is the church. And scripture says that “Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.” And so in marriage we are showing the world the Gospel. “I am seeking to love her in the way that Jesus has loved me. I’m seeking to care for her in the way that Jesus has cared for me.” And if we don’t love our wives, we are telling the world a false Gospel, we’re lying to them about Jesus. History ends with a wedding feast of the lamb in Revelation 19 where the church is the bride and Jesus is the groom, and there’s a big party. And when we get married, we are showing that the way Jesus has treated us as his people is the same way that we as men are to treat our wives. And the same way that the church is to respect Jesus, so wives are to respect their husbands. And when a woman is disrespectful or a man is ungodly in his marriage, we may be declaring one thing theologically, but we are hypocrites and undermining all of our credibility and witness to our children and our city by virtue of how we are conducting ourselves.
Sol all of this ultimately is reflective of the character of God. That’s why it’s so important. That’s why he uses words like dishonored and desecrated in speaking about this kind of conduct. Now, in this some of you will want to debate the merits of should Nehemiah have been angry? Let’s punt. Should you be angry with yourself? How many of you guys you should just go home and punch yourself in the mouth, save us all the trouble and litigation (Laughter), just, you know, free up my schedule, just go home and punch yourself in the mouth? “I’m an idiot. I got to stop this.” How many of you should be angry with yourself because of who you’re dating, sleeping with, flirting with, because of how you’re treating your spouse, because of what you’re not investing in your children? How many of you should be angry with someone else, and you need to confront them as Nehemiah confronted people, lovingly? But some of you ladies need to go to your friends and say, “Look. The gossip, the backbiting, the disrespect, the way you speak about your husband, the way you yell at your children, that’s a sin. Don’t blame it on your personality, don’t blame it on your upbringing. It’s a sin. You need to stop.”
How many of you men need to go to your buddies, “Look. You’re dating that girl. She’s not a Christian. I know you’re sleeping with that girl and you’re not married. Look. I know you’re not going home to have dinner with your family after you’re done with work. I know you’re going to the bar and flirting with chicks or doing something evil. This has to stop if you claim to be a Christian because that kind of hypocrisy is confusing to the next generation, and it’s confusing to the watching world”? Are you ready to pray like Nehemiah prayed, “Remember me for good, oh, my God”? Can you say that? Or tonight do you have some things to repent of to God, saying, “God, I can’t say ‘
Remember what I’ve done.’” First you must say, “God, I repent of what I’ve done.” And come to Jesus for the empowering grace to do differently, the forgiveness of sin to do differently.
Next week Mars Hill has its eleventh anniversary. Next week we continue to add campuses and services. In this church every year there are hundreds of weddings and hundreds of babies born. If we respect God’s authority and legitimate authority, we could see the transformation of the least churched city in America. If we adopt the posture of the people in the day of Nehemiah, we will take all of that opportunity and squander it, and we will see our children go to hell, and we will see their children go to hell, and we will see our great grandchildren go to hell, and we’ll see the city right back to where it was when we started this effort eleven years ago. I want you all to feel the weight of responsibility, especially the men. Especially the men.
I’ll pray, and you can get some time in repentance. When you’re ready, you can come forward for communion to tell Jesus you’re sorry for your sin and ask for a fresh start through is broken body and shed blood. If you’re here and you’re sleeping with someone and you’re not married to them, you repent to them before you take communion. If you’re here to someone and you shouldn’t be in a relationship with them, you break up with them before you take communion. Otherwise, you drink judgment on yourself, and you’re in a dangerous position. We’ll give of our tithes and offerings, and we’ll celebrate the goodness of God who’s a loving father and who has cared for us in a perfect way. Lord Jesus, I thank you for the great Book of Nehemiah. It’s wonderful.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for the man Nehemiah. He’s not perfect, but he is wholeheartedly devoted to you in a passionate way. God, I thank you for his courage to deal with sin in his life and the lives of others around him. God, I thank you that he cared for you and your people. I thank you that he gave his life to one church and one city. God, I thank you that I have the wonderful honor of doing something similar, though not nearly as important. God, it is my prayer for our people that they would not take your grace and abuse it, that they would not take your love and disregard it, that they would not take your new life and reject it. I pray, Lord God, that our marriages would reflect the Gospel, that our parenting would reflect the Gospel, that our great, great, great grandchildren would love and serve you and join us in your kingdom. And, Lord God, I pray for a spirit of humility -