Are we still bound to the Law and its practices? (Nehemiah 6:15 – 7:4)

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Our text for today is from Nehemiah 6:15 – 7:4, but before getting there I want to share something important that will help us process what’s been preached from this book.

Even though the book of Nehemiah is actually the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall, you must have noticed that we often link it to Jesus & the Gospel. One might argue why is that so? Can’t we just talk about Nehemiah, his courage, his leadership ability, his perseverance etc?

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The reason we do not look at the OT passages in its literal sense is because the bible tells us that everything in the Old Testament passages are a mere shadow of the new covenant in Christ which means all the stories – whether Creation, Exodus, the Great Flood, Job, Esther, Nehemiah – all the people Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, David, Samuel etc – all the OT ordinances  Passover, Tabernacle, 10 commandments etc — they all point to the fulfillment of Gods promises in Jesus.

In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul while addressing to the church with regards to complaints from some believers on following the old testament commands about food, drink, Sabbath etc says these words

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Christ is the fulfillment & completion of God’s redemptive work for every human being and therefore when we read and study any passage from the OT we have to see it in the light of the Gospel, the finished work of God or else we will make an error and pick up ideas & thoughts that are not really relevant or applicable to us.

In John 5:46 Jesus himself says these words For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”

The truth is without Christ and his finished work on the cross there is no other way humanity can find fulfillment in Life.

In the same way the story of Nehemiah is a reflection of Jesus. Jesus, as the better Nehemiah also bore the burden of temptation on behalf of the people (Nehemiah for the Jews & Christ, fully & completely for us).

Nehemiah goes and prepares a place for the exiles to return home to Jerusalem. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. Just as the Jews were living as exiles in a place that was not their home, so are we living as sojourners / exiles in this place. Can you see the connection?

With that thought in mind now let’s read our passage. Nehemiah 6:15 – 7:4

We will divide the passage in 3 parts

Part 1 (v15-16) – Completion of the wall

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.  And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Part 2 (v17-19) – The nobles bounded to Tobiah by an oath

Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife.  Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

Part 3 (7v1 – 4) – Nehemiah guarding what God accomplished

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

Part 1: Completion of the wall

Now, finally we read that the wall is complete. The task for which Nehemiah was sent is done. And the most amazing thing is that it was completed in 52 days. This wall is said to have been 4.5 miles long, 24 ft at the base and just over 26 ft. tall. It was made using hands. No power tools. No machinery.

It was a humongous and an impossible task. The verses say when the enemies heard the news about the walls been completed, they were filled with fear.

Why would they be filled with fear? Because they perceived that the work had been accomplished with the help of God.

Part 2: The nobles bounded to Tobiah by an oath

The second part of the story tells us that even after the walls were completed with the help of God, the nobles in Judah were bound by an oath to Tobiah, an Ammonite. He was the one who conspired against Nehemiah and wanted to stop the re-building of the wall, which we read in the previous chapters.

How were the nobles bounded to Tobiah?

You see, Tobiah married a daughter of Shecaniah, a Judahite leader, and had given his son, Jehohanan, in marriage to the daughter of Meshullam, another Judahite leader which appears to be done for political reasons, which is why the nobles found themselves bound by some oath.

Tobiah because of his association with the nobles must have promised these Judahites that he will deliver them and give them a good future under his leadership. Maybe that was the reason why the nobles regularly sent letters to Tobiah to keep him updated with the work that was happening and vice versa, they would also speak praises of Tobiah in the presence of Nehemiah.

After receiving news from the nobles, Tobiah in return would send threatening letters to Nehemiah.

The truth which the nobles failed to understand was that Tobiah was not God’s plan for the redemption of His people. It was Nehemiah.

Part 3: Nehemiah guards what God accomplished

In verses 7:1-4, regardless of what was happening with the nobles, Nehemiah guards what God accomplished for them. He appoints gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites.

He appoints his brother Hanani the governor of the castle, a faithful and God-fearing person. Nehemiah even gives instructions on how the gates should be guarded.


How does this passage point us to Christ and give us a picture of the Gospel?

Completion of the walls (Application)

The completion of the wall is what God accomplished for us through Salvation by sending His only son to die for us. The words of Jesus on the cross “It is finished” speaks of the finished work of God in us. Salvation through Christ is the completion of the redemptive work of God in all our lives.

Was it a humongous and an impossible task? Yes it was.

Could it be accomplished by human efforts? No, it couldn’t.

Jesus accomplished it in 3 days (through His death, burial & resurrection) just as he promised to build the temple in 3 days which was a confusing statement for the people then but we know that he was referencing his body.

The work that God did in our lives is often shocking and cause of concern to our unbelieving family members, relatives & friends. They will even fail to believe that a man/women like us can change to this extent.

They have to admit that it is only God who can do this amazing work.

The nobles bounded to Tobiah under an oath (Application)

After reading about the nobles being bound to Tobiah, I was drawn to the passage in Romans 7:1-6, in which Paul is writing to the church in Rome.

Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Even after what God accomplished for us through Christ by GRACE we can still be bound to the Law and its practices (just like the women bound to her dead husband or like the nobles bound to Tobiah)  in a way that we feel obligated to do things and say things that are unpleasant to God.

Romans 7:4 says “we have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

In Jesus the law has been fulfilled and we are released from it, having died to that which held us captive.

Matthew 5:17-18: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness, Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness.

Romans 10:4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

And therefore we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:24 – So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Just like how Tobiah was not Gods plan for the redemption of his people, it was Nehemiah. In the same way the Law was never Gods plan of redemption, it was Jesus.

The Law produces Religion & God hates religion.

Timothy Keller in his book “Center Church” says there are in fact 2 ways to reject God.

“You can reject God by rejecting his law and living any way you see fit. And you can also reject God by embracing and obeying God’s law so as to earn your salvation. The problem is that people in the last group – who reject the gospel in favour of moralism – look as if they are trying to do God’s will.”

If you’ve seen our FB page last week you will see 9 posts on Religion vs Gospel which I picked up from Timothy Keller’s book. You will see how the Gospel is so different from Religion and the kind of response it expects from us. I would encourage you to read it as often as possible.

One of my favorite is the first one which is Religion says “I obey, therefore I’m accepted” but Gospel says “I’m accepted, therefore I obey”

Nehemiah appoints Guards (Application)

In the light of what has been shared so far what do we do?

1. Guard what God has accomplished

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you,let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Just like Nehemiah we have to guard what God has accomplished for us. Not to let false teachings and doctrines turn our hearts from the truth.

2. Cherish the truth of the Gospel

Galatians 2:15-16

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;  yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

We should remind ourselves of who we are in Christ. Because Christ redeemed us from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are adopted sons and daughters of the Most High (Romans 8:15). God loves us like he loves his Son (John 17:23). God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Christ, we are now the heirs of his Kingdom (1 Peter 1:4).

3. Apply & Preach the Gospel to your everyday life

Paul Tripp quote:

Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a spiritual discipline that is both proactive and reactive. It’s reactive as we encounter temptation and frustration and seek to restock in the moment, or as we reflect back on our sin and circumstances and try to evaluate them with a gospel lens.

But it’s also proactive — it goes on the offensive — when we feed our souls in some regular rhythm before the events and tasks and disappointments of daily life begin streaming our way. Make it a daily practice to 1) gaze on the beauty of Christ, 2) remember who we are as a child of God, 3)rest in his power and provision, and then 4) act in reliance upon him.

Are we still bound to the Law- (3)

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