Knee-high Miah

Just this Sunday, our pastor wrapped up preaching from the book written by the second-shortest man in the Bible (second only to Bildad the Shoe-Height). His overarching point (as hammered home here) was that you’re not supposed to turn to Nehemiah to learn about how to be a leader. You’re supposed to read Nehemiah and be pointed to Christ.

A couple other things popped out at me from the text (because they relate to ongoing debates with my favorite theological arguing buddies). See what you think:

Consider the covenant recapitulation in Neh 9: I can’t think of a clearer biblical illustration of the demarcation between the Abrahamic Covenant of Grace, and the Mosaic republication of the Covenant of Works. Verses 6-8 recall the Abrahamic Covenant, but they slice out the most important part (through your seed all nations shall be blessed), and focus on the part that is for national Israel only: “the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite.”

The rest of the chapter is a roller-coaster account of Israel’s general inability to maintain their national status within this framework of Law. They receive the law through Moses (13), but immediately forsake the promise of The Land for the security of slavery in Egypt (16-18). God brings them to the promised land (19-25), and they eventually “cast your law behind their back” (26). “Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies” (27a). And then they repent (27), and then they rebel (28a), and then they are conquered (28b), they repent (28c), they rebel (v29), they are conquered (v30), and the point of the chapter is that, currently, Israel is repenting (32-38, ch 10). But by the time we get to the end of the book (ch 13), we find Nehemiah kicking butt because the people have already turned back from their (9:38) “firm covenant in writing” to

  1. Not marry foreigners (10:28-30 vs. 13:23-29),
  2. Keep the Sabbath (10:31 vs. 13:15-22), and
  3. Tithe (10:32-39 vs. 13:10-14)

So goes the Law. How much clearer could the need for the Gospel be?

This first thing is long enough to be its own post, so I’ll post the other thing tomorrow.

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7 Responses

  1. Note also that Nehemiah leads the people as they (10:29)

    join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes.

    This is in radical opposition to the New Covenant, in which there is no curse.

  2. Contrast that sorry record with this:

    Exodus 24:1-8 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

    There is some strange idea going around that somehow today “after Christ” we will be able to be law keepers, that we will be able to keep our promises – which these guys who got splattered with the blood of the covenant weren’t able to do. Jesus said “If you love me you will _______________”. Don’t get too down even though the following follows: “Since you don’t ________________ I can only conclude that you don’t love me”. (I submit this tautology to our resident minder of the p’s and q’s.) Every week I am reminded in the covenant renewal ceremony that I don’t keep his commandments. But also every week I am reminded that not only are my sins imputed to Christ and forgiven but that Christ’s perfect obedience to the law (all this I will do – not “What Would Jesus Do”, but “What Did Jesus Do”) has been imputed to me. To any degree that baptism is supposed to be some kind of a ceremony or celebration that marks my commitment to follow Christ, to be obedient, to have faith or any such thing I recoil. The passage in Exodus 24 is why. A promise keeper I ain’t. You can ask just about anybody.

  3. Contrast Exodus 24 with this:

    1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.

    Doesn’t that just bring things into focus? Here we see the same story except that any possible eventual obedience to Jesus will come not by my promise or commitment to do so, but by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It’s his promise not mine.

  4. Of the three seminaries: Westminster California, MARS, and Westminster Philly, which one alone teaches the works principle in the Mosaic covenant consistently?

    So Rube, I say, you are not far from the kingdom, what with your explanation of the (obvious) works principle in Moses. Bravo, to the amateur theologian who is far less an amateur than so many professionals.

  5. […] Posts …and one of them was IshmaelKnee-high MiahFather Abraham Had Many Sons…Why can’t CCM have any good […]

  6. MA = MidAmerica?

    Thx Echo; everything I know I intuited from reading the Bible, and it has been made explicit by the paraclete, with the assistance of Michael Horton (White Horse Inn), Scott Clark (Heidelblog), and other WSCAL’ers like dad, you, etc. And from arguing with Theonomists, FVers and Arminians, oh my!

  7. Well, you are not only not far from the Kingdom, but not far from the Kingdom Prologue, which perhaps you ought to peruse when you’ve a chance, or just borrow your dad’s Pentateuch recordings. Unless he doesn’t have them. I have recordings of Kline’s lectures. If your dad were to slip me a flash drive at church…

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