Jump Start # 2801
Nehemiah 9:38 “Now because of this we are making an agreement in writing; and on the sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites and our priests.”
Our Sunday video study of Nehemiah has taken us recently through the great assembly and reading of God’s word found in chapter eight. Then followed the powerful prayer of confession in the ninth chapter. As that chapter ends, it leads to some action. Prayer should do just that. Saying, “Amen,” isn’t the end. It may cause us to open our eyes and raise our heads, but it’s not the end of the story. After “amen,” comes action, action on our part.
So, as this ninth chapter ends, the leaders put their names to a document. They are serious about the changes they are making and the commitment to God. Signing your name is official. A check isn’t good without a signature. You can’t buy a house or get a car without putting your name on some papers. This commitments you. This is your obligation. If you don’t keep up your end of the bargain, you could be taken to court and usually trouble follows.
As the tenth chapter of Nehemiah begins, we find 27 verses of names. Lots of names. More than 80 names. Nehemiah is the first. He heads the list. But these names are making that commitment to keep the promises that they have learned through the reading of God’s word and have confessed in prayer.
There are several things that we ought to see here:
First, this showed how serious these leaders were with what they were doing. Talk is often shallow, cheap and easy to break. Putting your name on a document puts more weight to what you are doing. I’ve heard of folks coming to the Lord, but no sooner do they come, they leave. Little commitment. No dedication. No worshipping regularly. No connecting to the church family. I wonder if they think they have checked off a box and now they are ok. I wonder if they think that’s all there is. Imagine someone going through all the preparation of a wedding, but as soon as the ceremony is over, the groom hops in his car, by himself and zooms away. People would rightly question how serious he was about getting married. Here in Nehemiah’s day, names were put on paper.
Second, we see the value of Nehemiah’s name at the top of the list. Leaders are to lead. Every time a person picked up that pen to write his name, there at the top, first name visible, was the leader, Nehemiah. It’s hard to get others to do things if the leaders won’t. In our times, shepherds are to be examples to the flock. If the leaders are expecting the members to do certain things, the members need to see the shepherds doing them first. Follow the leader is the idea. If the leader won’t put his name on the paper, why should anyone else? It’s easy to be bossy. But showing people and leading them by example, that’s always God’s way.
Third, there was a sense of accountability with names on the paper. That’s the way it works when we sign legal documents. We are now legally bound to what we signed. We are committing to pay a loan back. And, God has preserved these individual names for us. How easily the Spirit could have lumped these all together and said, the priests and Levites signed. That would have been true. But with the names on this inspired word, generations later, people would have made connections. After the passing of my father, I inherited two very large pictures of my great-great grandparents. They were N.T. Christians. Their pictures hang in my home office. I look at them and am reminded of a legacy of faithfulness. Names on a paper would do the same thing.
Also, after the days of this signed document, had one started to drift from his commitment, others could remind him. Others could point out that his name was on the document. Others could show him that he was in the company of more than eighty that had made that promise to follow the Lord. Maybe that would be just the very thing to encourage one to draw closer to the Lord.
Fourth, I wonder how many of us would be willing to put our names on a document committing to faithfulness to the Lord? Would you sign a pledge, a promise to follow the Lord? This would not be a statement of what we believe. That’s a creed. We don’t need a creed when we have the word of God. Anything more than the Bible is too much and anything less than the Bible is too little and anything just like the Bible is not necessary. I promise to keep my commitment to the Lord. Would you put your name to that? Would that help you stay true? Would that help us be accountable?
Names on a paper…signed and sealed.