For this final week of devotionals that follows the last of our six sermons in the For Our City series, we will be focusing on the idea of a legacy. And a major idea flowing out of this emphasis is that in order to leave a legacy, we must live a legacy worthy of passing along to those who follow us.
A legacy is not just something you can will yourself into possessing. It is all about a long walk in the same direction. In an instant-gratification world, living a legacy will also mean sustaining a long walk against the flow.
There is no such thing as a legacy participation trophy. You don’t get this (or, more truthfully, “give” this away) simply for showing up and making it to the end of life’s season. Cal Ripken was a model of daily routine faithfulness and dedication, but he didn’t set the all-time record for consecutive games just because he came to work every day. He had to commit to playing well, producing according to the rules. Unlike many players who never changed the way they do things, Ripken was famous for making adjustments in his batting stance and swing, always having as a goal to be his best for the success of the team.
The masses of people today seem to do what they want to do, regardless of how it affects future generations, rarely asking if what they’re doing and living is actually according to God’s design or desire.
Most people make little difference and leave little behind. Their lives have minimal impact. The plan and decision is to play it safe, take no risks, minimize failure and maximize comfort, and like mindless lemmings, casually and comfortably go with the flow toward an impending cliff called “death.”
In Christ we can do better than that. We can live a legacy – one that can be left to others to follow.
As we turn to chapter 10 in Nehemiah, we see that the people made a commitment to follow the Lord and his law. And here are three overarching, God-revealed, timeless, objective truths for a life that is bigger than existing for mere convenience and comfort…
- We need to maximize relationships with common values and worldviews that are eternal.
10:28 – “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.
30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.
At first glance this would seem to fly in the face of our view of a God who has a heart for the lost peoples of the world. It was God’s desire that the nation of Israel be a witness to the rest of the world of the one true God. But they were to do that from a position of strength and connection with one another. Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see the Israelites being more often drawn into the ways of surrounding nations than we see them being a light-giving, life-giving witness.
Our intimate relationships need to be primarily with those of a common faith and worldview. It creates a strength and interdependence that can be a dynamic and compelling vision to a watching world.
- Our priorities need to be about honoring God over accumulating material gains.
12:31 – “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.
The constant flow of commerce on the Sabbath was a persistent problem faced by Nehemiah at several points in the narrative of the whole book. As governor, he had to make a stand against this. The issue was that this commerce took away from a focus upon God and dependence upon him. It was an attitude that the people had that if there was nothing better or more profitable to do on a Sabbath, then they would honor it. Though we don’t have the constraints of Sabbatical laws and requirements in this church age of grace, there remains a similar pattern in the lives of people relative to attendance and church commitment. Having many other (mostly nice and good) things to draw them away to other activities, before long it becomes a pattern to be absent, with a concurrent drift away from relationship with God as a priority.
There was a part of the Law that said the people were to honor a Sabbath year every seventh time around the sun. The people were to trust God that he would provide enough for them in advance that they should leave the ground untilled for a seventh year.
How would you feel about quitting your job every seventh year and believing that God would give you enough in advance to cover your financial needs? That would take some serious faith and dependence. But God can be trusted; he is ever faithful.
- We must prioritize giving to God and supporting his ongoing work.
12:32 – “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
34 “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.
35 “We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
36 “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.
37 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept.
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
In Old Testament times after the giving of the Law to Moses, the people were to express their dependence upon God and the support of his worship and work by giving of the first and best of everything they had. It was not a matter of giving to God what might have been left over after every other life contingency was met.
Consider what it was like for the Jewish worshipper to give up his best animals and crops. It was giving away his future – the genetics that could be passed on, and the seeds for a future harvest. But doing this placed the Old Testament saint fully into an honored position of caring about bigger and eternal things, rather than being merely consumed with substance.
And the principle applies to this day that God can be trusted. Trusting him daily, day after day after week after month after year after year … it all adds up to a long walk that we might even call “living a legacy.”