Consecration, Paying Attention to the Up Arrow
Text: Nehemiah 10
Proposition: God calls people to consecrate themselves to Him, to set their lives apart from the ordinary as they intentionally live out holiness that declares Jesus.
Introduction: Consecration, it’s not a word we hear very much in daily conversation. The word literally means, ‘association with the sacred’. When the people of Israel in Nehemiah 9 heard the Law of Moses read out loud to them, the first five books of the Old Testament, their response was one of consecration. They create a document, a covenant that declares their willingness to be associated with the sacred. It’s signed by Nehemiah the governor, the Levites leaders, the priests and the other leaders of the 50,000 people that were in Israel. One thousand years earlier, Moses had spoken to the nation about a covenant that God was making with them as they were about enter the land of Israel. It’s a peculiar passage sometimes referred to as the Blessings and the Curses. It’s recorded twice, once in Deuteronomy 28 and then again in Leviticus 26. In essence it promises the blessing of God upon them in their farming, in their having families, in their prosperity, in their health and in their success as a nation over other nations if they will obey and follow after God’s Word and direction. If they don’t, it graphically depicts what the curses of God upon them as a nation will look like, curses that depict an utter defeat as a nation and a captivity to a foreign nation. Now here in Nehemiah 10, some 1000 years later when the curses had become reality, they are again newly returned to the land and again they consecrate themselves. Consecration is a Covenant with God that sees and agrees to the cost. It starts to detail this in Nehemiah 10:29, “these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:”. So what does that look like?
1. They consecrate themselves in marriage. They won’t marry those who are not Israelites. It was a consecration designed to keep their faith and obedience to God. The New Testament says the same thing, don’t date, don’t court and don’t marry people who are non-belivers in Christ. That will cost you and you need to see the why of it. Then you need to agree to accept that cost or it will bring struggle and defeat in your life. There is a cost, that’s what consecration sees and then it sees the blessing in agreeing with that cost.
2. They consecrate themselves in their business practices. They choose not to violate the Sabbath in order to gain personally. They even choose to observe the Sabbath of farming, to not plant or take in a crop on the seventh year. In addition they recognize a Sabbath for the forgiving of debt. Every seventh year they would release those who had a debt to them. Would you say there was a cost to this kind of covenant? What does it imply? Is it saying something about trusting God for the difference, is it saying something about the perfect way God supplies? Is it asking for an obedience that is faith based? Consecration does all that.
3. They consecrate themselves in the support of God’s design in worship. From verse 32 to 39 it describes how they do this. They would choose to pay one third of a shekel once a year for the upkeep of the Temple, for the sin offerings, for the showbread and other holy things. They would choose to each share by lots in who would bring the wood needed for the burnt offerings. They choose to bring the first fruits of their herds, their crops and their families to the Temple. That would mean the first born of all creatures including their own first born sons. Consecration sees the cost and agrees that it is just. The New Testament teaching has less structure to it but the principle is the same, that it would be consecrated or planned on giving that is done cheerfully and without compulsion. Consider 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 and especially 2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” The practice of giving in whatever amount when done from a cheerful heart is a measure of faith, trust, obedience, worship and blessing. Consecration sees the cost and agrees that it is just and acceptable and glorifying to God.
So that is what their consecration looked like in Nehemiah 10. It has all sorts of implications for what our consecration ought to look like, in our relationships with the opposite sex, in the everyday way to make a living and in the way we agree with God’s design of the church for His worship. So let’s take this up to a higher level… are we also to consecrate ourselves because Christ consecrated Himself? Was He willing to become one in marriage with the humanity that would be called His bride, the church? Was he willing to give Himself completely to all who would come to Him in faith? Was there a cost to that and did He see it and agree to it? Did Jesus consecrate Himself to the Father’s will in a way that would accomplish the business of the Father in forgiving debt, in honoring the Covenant of grace? The Father sent Him to bring forgiveness of sin to all who would ask for and receive it. Did Jesus come as the first born of God, the pre-eminent first born, the first born above all others? Was this a planned giving, was it done by the Father and with Son cheerfully and without compulsion? Is the very consecration Jesus experienced and demonstrated the consecration that we are now called to evidence in this day of our time on earth? This is the consecration that sees the cost given for us and now required of us. It calls us to agree that He is just and acceptable and glorifying to the Father and we now willingly give our very selves to Him.