God and the Covenant

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:38, Nehemiah 10:1-29, Genesis 4:8-19
Date: 11/23/2019 
Lesson: 8
'Covenant is a legal establishment of a relationship. We broke it with God, but He is always faithful to His part, even when we are not to ours.'
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Jean Ross: Hello again, friends, and welcome to "Sabbath School Study Hour" here at the Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. I'd like to welcome those who are joining us across the country and around the world. I know we have a number of online members, part of our church family here but not in person yet. They participate through the marvels of modern media to be a part of our church family and they tune in every week to participate in "Sabbath School Study Hour," so very warm welcome to you and also to our regular members that are here. And I know we do have some visitors who are joining us today. Glad that you are studying with us a very important lesson dealing with the two Old Testament books, Ezra and Nehemiah. But before we get to our study today, we do want to let our friends know who are joining us online and also those who are watching on the various networks, if you don't have a copy of the study, you can download the lesson for today at lesson.aftv.org. Again, that's lesson.aftv.org. We also have a free offer that we'd like to make available to those who are viewing the program. It is a book entitled "Hidden Eyes And Closed Ears." This is our free offer for today. The number to call is... or if you'd like you can download a free copy of this book. Just text the code SH036 to the number 40544, and you'll be able to read the book "Hidden Eyes And Closed Ears." That is our free offer for today. But before we get to our lesson study, we'd like to invite our song leaders to come and they'll be leading us in our Sabbath school song this morning.

Male: It's a privilege to sing to our Lord and Savior. We're going to sing a song this morning, number 528, "A Shelter In The Time Of Storm" and that shelter is Jesus. We're going to sing all four verses number 528, "A Shelter In The Time Of Storm."

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪

Male: Thank you for singing.

Jean: Let's bow our heads for prayer. Dear Father in heaven, we thank you once again that we're able to gather together in your house on this beautiful Sabbath that you've given us to open up your Word and study about this great covenant that you have made with us, first mentioned way back in the beginning the Bible repeated to your people Israel throughout the many years and fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. So, we do ask you bless us in our study time today, for we ask this in Jesus's name, amen. Our study today is entitled God And The Covenant, and Pastor Doug will be bringing us our study this morning.

Doug Batchelor: Good morning, everybody. I'm enjoying these studies in Ezra and Nehemiah talking about this renewal. You know, keep in mind that this story is taking place at a time when the nation of Israel had been conquered. The northern kingdom been conquered by Syria, the southern kingdom, Judah been conquered by Babylon. The people had been carried away, just the poorest were left to kind of take care of the vineyards and the produce of the land. Jerusalem was burned. The temple was burned. The palaces, the nice houses were burned. Nehemiah even says the stones were burned, and they had to start over.

And you know, I was just thinking this morning, Karen and I were talking about the paradise fire, which is about a year ago now. And they're still in just the infancy of trying to rebuild their lives up there. Fire totally swept through a community and took out the infrastructure, and many homes were burned, some were left.

But starting from scratch can be very difficult, but starting from scratch can present an opportunity. Nehemiah and Ezra recognized the whole nation had been carried off because of apostasy. The Lord in His mercy made it possible for us to come back. We're rebuilding the walls, rebuilding the streets, rebuilding the temple. If we rebuild all these things and we don't rebuild our faith, what good is it, right?

Now, this is very close to home for us because here at Granite Bay, we're building the church. Amazing Facts just moved into some new offices, and I find myself haunted a little bit. It's an expensive, timely process to build. And I think, what good is it to build it all if we don't have the spiritual aspect? For example, I think it's great to have Christian Schools, and Seventh Day Adventist Church has Christian schools all over the world. I think, if I'm not mistaken, we're second only to the Catholics as far as Christian Schools worldwide. And you need buildings, you need teachers, you need structure, but if you have all that if they lose the spiritual foundation, what do you have?

Education is important, academics are important, safe environment is important, but is our goal to have educated sinners? I think the health work is important. We've got hospitals all over the world, and it's a wonderful thing that way of hospitals. Not too many atheists build hospitals, did you know that? Have you ever seen Atheist Central Hospital or the First Atheist Hospital. They don't get First Baptist Methodist, you know, Christians build hospitals because it's part--but if you get a hospital and it's a Christian hospital and they lose the Christian component, it's great to help people heal people, but you're only healing them for another 20 years, 30 years. Even if it's you heal them for 90 years, what good is it if they lose on eternity? You're just making healthier sinners. And I think it's good to build churches, but if the church just becomes a social function, what good is it?

And so, when we're building I've been thinking, you know, Amazing Facts has a heritage of being faithful to the Word. And now don't get worried, I feel great but the day may come if the Lord tarries where someone else will take over and my fear would be that Amazing Facts would drift, that the church would drift from-- I mean, we want to go upwards. We don't want to go backwards like the culture. So, it's one thing to build but if you don't have covenants of renewing the covenants and saying, "This is who we are, this is what we believe, this is our mission." And you've got to keep that before the people that the Bible is our foundation, that doesn't change. And so, I think it's just important to renew that this is what's happening. So, I kind of I empathize with Ezra and Nehemiah what they were thinking.

So, when you get through chapter 10, by the way, we're in lesson 8. It's God And The Covenant, and when you get to chapter 10 of Nehemiah, our mission today, the whole lesson today is really based on Nehemiah chapter 10, and there's quite a few verses there. He's wanting to reestablish the covenant. He could see how quickly they were drifting back into the old ways. They got into trouble. God brought them out of Egypt, and they were going into the Promised Land. He said, "Now don't be marrying them pagans." That's my rough translation. He said, "You go marrying them pagans," he said, you marry your sons, their daughters and their daughters, your sons and you start doing that--" I said that the same way twice. "You start doing that, and pretty soon they're going to draw your hearts away after their gods." Had that happen to others? Did it happen to Solomon? Solomon loved many women, and they drew his heart away. Did it happen to Samson? It happened in many cases.

Now, it had began to happen again. Here, they had already come back from Babylon. They're trying to be faithful back in the days of Zerubbabel and Joshua, the people came back but you realize between that time and Ezra and Nehemiah, between the first group that came back during the time of Cyrus and Ezra and Nehemiah, you got 75 years that go by. You know, the culture starts to work on you in 75 years. And they started to compromise, they were trading with the nations around them, and they were making friendships, and little by little, their sons saw their daughters and said, "Hey, they're not bad looking." You know why the flood came? The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all they chose. And after the sons of God saw the daughters of man, says wickedness was great in the earth and the thoughts of men's hearts were only evil continually. Sons of God were the descendants of Seth who worshiped Jehovah, began to look at the daughters of Cain, and they intermarried. And then the wickedness spread everywhere. It all starts with a family unit has to be holy.

Anyway, that's a long introduction. We have a memory verse. Memory verse is a little strange. It's part of two different verses and two different chapters. I know why they did that, but it is unusual. So, if you want to read it and get it right with me, you got to do it kind of out of your lesson. It's from the New King James Version, it's Nehemiah 9, verse 38, and Nehemiah 10, verse 39B. How many times have you had a memory verse like that? So, we're going to try and do it together. You got your lesson quarterly? Let's try that. "And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it. We will not neglect the house of our God." And so, this is talking about them renewing a covenant in our study today.

So, our mission is to get through Nehemiah chapter 10, verse 1 through 39. So, go into your Bibles, please, in Nehemiah chapter 10. I want you to notice something right away. It says here in chapter 10, verse 1, "Now those who place their seal on the document," and here they renewed this covenant document. It's telling us who put their seal to it. "Were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur," and it starts to go through a long list. I'm not going to read them all because it would be embarrassing for both of us. One, because I'd probably say some wrong. Two, because you wouldn't know that I said them wrong.

So, then it's got a long list of the Hebrew names here. Only a couple of them stand out to us. Of course, Nehemiah we recognize. As you're going through the list, it also talks about you've got Seraiah, and he's mentioned also in Nehemiah 12, verse 1. So, "Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra," so it's talking about some of the priests that came, but this is years earlier so we don't know if this fellow was very young when he came, or he's very old at this point. And then also you read in Nehemiah chapter 10, verse 14, another one of the names that just is of note, it says, "The leaders of the people: Parosh," and Parosh is mentioned in Ezra chapter 2, verse 3. It says, "The people of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two."

So, a lot of these names, they kind of drift into obscurity, except they're in four groups. The names that you find listed and, you know, your most of the chapters are names. Matter of fact, I don't know if you've noticed this, but these are some of the shortest verses in the Bible. You got three names in a verse. It's not like the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. You know, it's you just got here you go first 5, " Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah," that's one verse, and it goes on. So, you're getting through a lot of verses. By the time you get through the list of names, you're already in verse 27 with this list.

Now, there's four categories of people that are listed here. You've got firstly, you've got the governors, such as Nehemiah. And then secondly, you've got the priests. Thirdly, you have the Levites that are listed. Fourthly, the chiefs of the people. And one interesting name is missing. Who notices a very prominent name that should be in this list is not in this list? Ezra, someone did their lesson. Ezra's name's not here. Now, this is interesting because Ezra's name is in the chapters before, Ezra's name is in the chapters after. Why Ezra's name does not appear being a prominent priest, we can only surmise. There was one time when all this was transpiring, he had made a trip back to Persia, and he may have gone-- this may have been done during the time he was going back to Persia. He may have been sick. It happens in that day. So, we don't know but it's just it's something of an enigma.

Ezra is through the Book of Nehemiah, but he's not here when the covenant's listed. And it could be Ezra is the scribe, he is removing himself because he is the scribe writing it all and that also is not totally unheard of. Any of you ever read the gospel of John? I hope that's a rhetorical question. You know, in the gospel of John, John always refers to this disciple whom Jesus loved. Who is he talking about? Himself, but you notice he never names himself. And so, they were sometimes very self-effacing, and they recused themselves from the story. Nehemiah being the scribe, he may have written it all down and said, "Well, I'll be biased if I say I did it, too, because I'm the one writing it." I don't know, but he's not in the list so thought that was interesting.

Now, hopefully it makes sense that when you're making a covenant like this, it lists, you know, 27, 30 different leaders that are signing this covenant. Why not everybody? How many people were in the nation at the time? It could have had 100,000 people, we don't know how many Israelites were there. It was comparatively small to when they were taken captive by Babylon. When America had our Constitution, who signed the Declaration of Independence? We call them the Founding Fathers. Would it have been practical for every American to sign it? No, so we have representative leaders that sign in our behalf. And so, when they signed the covenant, they were signing for the nation because they were representative leaders through the priests, and through the government leader, and so forth. And so, they're speaking for all the people.

You remember in the previous chapters, all the people, men, women, children, families all came to hear the reading of the Word. They verbally made a commitment to follow the covenant, now they're having an official signing document, the leaders sign for the people who have verbally said, "We want to renew the covenant." Now, it's very important to have the covenants renewed. You get several covenants in history. The author of the lesson lists seven, I was looking, I thought there might even be more. You've got the covenant that Joshua renews in chapter 24 of Joshua. First covenant, you've got the covenant of Adam in Eden. That's Genesis 1 through 3. Then you've got a covenant with Noah. Maybe I ought to stop, what's a covenant? It's a contract. It's an agreement.

Oh, there's all kinds of different covenants. Anyone here get married? That's a covenant. It's a legal, it's usually declared publicly. There's witnesses. I made the mistake once, I married a brother and a sister, double wedding back in Tennessee, not to the same, not each other. No, that happened back in the days of Adam and Eve, but it doesn't happen now, that we know of. Anyway, but yeah, I married them to two different people and started heading to the airport and then they called me and they said, "You didn't sign the certificates." And I said, "Well, you better tell them. I'm about to board the plane, and they can't go on the honeymoon." Fortunately, there was another pastor there who participated in the service but to make it legal, he had to sign. And so, it's a contract.

If you buy a car. Have any of you ever bought a new car? There's like 16 pages that you -- you think you're buying a country for all the pages that you sign in buying a car. It's a covenant that you're making. And they try to, you know, protect themselves in that. If you buy a house, also, it's got just as many. And so, we got these covenants that we sign that have agreements and that are very important.

So, here's the covenant of Noah, Genesis 9, let's look at this together. "It shall be when I bring a cloud on the earth," this is after the flood. They've been rescued. "It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant." So, keep in mind God here has something physical to help Him remember.

Are there examples in the Bible where you have an object that-- or something that's not a person, that is a sign to remember a covenant? When we have the Lord's Supper, the bread is not alive. It does not think. The grape juice does not have a mind of its own, but these emblems are reminders of a covenant. Here it says the rainbow is an emblem. Now, I want you to-- let me finish this one, I'll go to the other one here. He said, "It's a reminder, the rainbow shall be in the cloud, I'll look on it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature." It's not between the Jews or even with humans, but every creature, of all flesh that is on the earth. "God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'" "I will not destroy the world again, with a global flood."

There is going to be different kind of flood when Jesus comes but it's not water. Peter tells us what is it next time, it's fire. It's going to be a flood of fire. So, then you got the third covenant, it's the Abrahamic Covenant. God made that covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, verse 1 to 3. Then there's a fourth covenant, it's the Mosaic Covenant, you find in Exodus 19 to 24. It's contained in the Ten Commandments and it's repeated in the Book of Deuteronomy. Joshua renews that covenant in Joshua Chapter 24.

So, now if you go to Joshua 24, this is in our lesson, I want you to notice something. I was talking about emblems of the covenant. So, this covenant is made after they fight a tremendous battle with five kings. I don't know if you remember the whole story, but the Gibeonites tricked them into not destroying them. Instead, they took them on as slaves, a nation of slaves, to serve the temple. And then the other kings found that the Gibeonites made peace with Israel. They went to attack Gibeah. Gibeah sends to Joshua and says, "We're your servants now, save us."

So, all of Israel has to gather to fight against these five kingdoms. And so, it's a major victory. They win the battle. Joshua prays, the sun stands still. It's an incredible story. They won this major battle. It was one of the biggest battles that they fought in the Promised Land to take the Promised Land. And after that, God brings them to Shechem, which is the very middle of the Promised Land. It's between Mount Gerizim and Mount, is it Nebo? No, it starts with an E. Come on, help me. Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, and it was in the middle of the land of Israel. By the way, that's where Jacob's well was where Jesus met the woman, and He reveals He's the Messiah.

So, Joshua, the other Jesus, makes the covenant there. And I'm not going to read the whole chapter to you, but this is the place where he says--he reviews how God has saved them. He brought them out of Egypt. Their fathers want to serve pagan gods on the other side of the Euphrates. And he says in verse 15, Joshua 24:15, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose yourselves this day who you will serve." Does this sound familiar? "Whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell." He said, "There's plenty of gods, you let me know which god you serve."

What did Elijah say on Mount Carmel? How long will you halt between two decisions? Make a decision, stick to it. If Jehovah's God, serve Him. If Baal's God, serve him. God gets--you can tell God gets annoyed with lukewarmness. People want to, you know, blow sunshine, and heat and cold at the same time. And he says, "Look, make up your mind. You say if you're going to serve me, serve me. Do you want to serve the other god, but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." The people answered and said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods. For the Lord our God, He is the one who brought up our fathers out of the land of Egypt and we will serve the Lord. He is our God."

And then finally, you go to verse 25, Joshua made a covenant. This is Joshua 24, verse 25, "Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak." I don't think that oak is still there. I don't know if the stone is there. That was by the sanctuary the tabernacle had been pitched nearby. "Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke. It shall therefore be a witness to you." Now, is the stone alive? Does a stone really see or hear? But he's just saying, "Look, we did all this in the presence of this stone. Whenever you see this stone, remember you made a covenant."

So, there's different signs God gives us as memorials of these covenants that are made. All right, so you've got the Joshua renews the covenant, fifth covenant, Phinehas. God makes a covenant with him and his house because of his zeal for God. The six covenant is a covenant God makes with David. He said that, "If you'll be faithful to follow Me that through your descendants, I will raise up a king after you and he will build me a house that will last forever, and there shall not fail to be one of your descendants that will sit on My throne. Until ultimately, the son of David came, who will reign forever and ever." So, God literally kept His promise to David that a son of David would rule forever. And so, you got the Davidic Covenant, and the seventh is the new covenant.

Now, where do you find the New Covenant? In the Old Testament. The New Covenant is also in the Book of Hebrews, but Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah chapter 31:31. That's easy to remember, like how many days in some of the months, 31? You got Jeremiah 31:31, it's where you find the covenant. Now, where is the covenant that God makes with the Gentiles? There is no covenant with Gentiles. The only covenant that saves us is a covenant made-- "I will make a covenant after those days, says the Lord, with the house of Israel." I think one place he says was with Judah and the house of Israel.

The only covenant God makes is with the Jews, and we, as Christians, are grafted into the stock of Israel. We are partakers of all the fatness and sweetness of their covenant because we're adopted in. The Bible says, "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed." So, when you read all the promises God made to Abraham, they belong to you. He doesn't make a separate covenant with the Gentiles. The covenant He makes for the Gentiles is that you will flow to the house of the Lord. And so, they come. Says, "I'll bring them from the east and the west, and they will sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," isn't that right?

So, the covenant with the Gentiles is that they would be receiving all the promises God made to the Hebrews. And then, and it doesn't mean God saves you literally because you're a Hebrew. Are there conditional terms to a covenant? So, there's a lot of contracts that you sign, and the contract has all kinds of promises, but there's usually some fine print that says, "If any part of this document is violated, it is null and void, the whole thing doesn't apply.

So, keep that in mind. I want to read something to you. We're talking a little bit, we're already into the section talking about the structure of a covenant. And here the author of the lesson explains that Deuteronomy, which is really if you read the Book of Deuteronomy, it was all delivered in one sermon. I don't know how long it takes to read 32 chapters or so you're going to find there, but it, a couple hours. It's the last sermon of Moses, where Deuteronomy means the repeating of the law. He's basically reviewing before he dies, he gives this message.

All three times Jesus was tempted by the devil, He quotes from Scripture. What book did He quote from? Deuteronomy all three times. It's a book that contains a covenant. It's one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. In it you've got the, the whole book is a covenant, talk about a long covenant or long contract. And it basically says you got the preamble, verses, chapters 1 through 5. You get the historical prologue, it kind of gives a history, whereas this has happened and that's up through chapter 4. You get the stipulations of the law. That's chapter 4 on through 26. Of course, He repeats the Ten Commandments in chapter 5 of Deuteronomy. Finally gets special provisions. There's blessings and curses.

In the covenant we just read of Joshua, was there a curse pronounced? If you violate a contract, are there consequences? Contracts often say, "And if you don't make your payments, the bank has a right to repossess your car." I mean, there's usually penalties. And in the covenant that God made, there's penalties. But something I want you to notice, look here in Leviticus chapter 7, verse 34. "For the wave, breast and the heave shoulder," he's talking about parts of the offering. "That I've taken from the children of Israel from all their sacrifices and peace offerings, I've given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons by a statute forever."

Now, there are 22 times you're going to find in the Bible says, "a statute forever," a statute forever. Now, this is very important. Are you all with me? Have you met people before that say you need to keep the Jewish feasts? Because it says it's a statute forever. It is a statute forever based on that covenant. But was that covenant broken? Do you know the Bible says circumcision is a statute forever? It's an everlasting covenant that God made, but isn't Paul pretty clear? He says in 1 Corinthians 7:19, circumcision is nothing, an uncircumcision is nothing. If you read the Book of Galatians where he talks about the law, never meant for the Sabbath in Galatians. People use Galatians to try it and say you don't need to keep the Sabbath. The big issue mission mentioned in Galatians is these legalistic Jews were coming and telling the new converts you need to keep circumcision. They were already keeping the Sabbath.

And so, but it calls it an everlasting covenant. So, how can it say it's everlasting, and yet it says it doesn't matter anymore? It's sort of optional. But what about, what happens to a contract when it's violated? And by the way, here's Genesis 17:13. "He who is born in your house, he who is bought with your money, must be circumcised. And My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." You know what I think is the key? Go with me to Hebrews, we're talking about covenants. Go to Hebrews, chapter 8, "For if the first covenant--" I'm sorry, chapter 8, verse 7. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second."

All right, when you get a second covenant, what happens to the first one? You know, in our building process for the church and the office, you deal with a lot of contractors and you have agreements you make with the contractors. And sometimes as time progresses, you must revise those agreements because the building plan has changed a little bit. And so, whenever we're going through our contracts or covenants with the contractors, we say, "Which version of the contract is this?" And if you're on version four, version two, and three, and one are meaningless. You don't say, well, it says here in version one. You say that is cancelled out because we signed version five. And that precludes, it disqualifies all the other versions, otherwise, you've got all these conflicting contracts on the same subject, and you say which one do you go by? You always go by the newest one.

Well, how is it with a will? Isn't a will a contract? Which will makes the most sense in law, the first one or the last one? It's the last one. You know, when Howard Hughes died, someone produced a handwritten will and gave everything to these people. And they looked at it and realized it was a forgery. But it was the last one. They said, well, you got to give everything to this family. Just out of obscurity, somehow they produced this will of Howard Hughes, it was a forgery. But they said you always go by the last will.

And so, if there's a first covenant, then you say there's a second covenant, which one are we governed by, the first or the second? The second covenant, okay. It says they went into no place to find a second. But finding fault with them, that's the fault with the covenant. The covenant's the Ten Commandments, is there a fault in the Ten Commandments? No, the fault is with one of the covenant makers. The nation said, "All the Lord said, we will do." The agreed to the covenant and they didn't do it. Finding fault with them. The Lord says, "Behold, the days are coming. I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their father." So, he said, it's not according to that covenant.

So, does God have two separate covenants or just the one now? There's one. "Not according to that covenant that I made with the house of Israel when I took their fathers to lead them by the hand out of land of Egypt. Because they did not continue in my covenant, I disregarded them. It's voided, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their mind." And the law is not a problem. Still, the law is part of that covenant. "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Notice verse 13, Hebrews chapter 8, verse 13, "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away."

If the feast days, keeping the literal feast days on those dates are not obsolete, when the veil rent in the temple showing that the whole purpose for the sacrificial system had been fulfilled in Jesus, then what was made obsolete? Do we still need to sacrifice lambs? No, obviously something radical changed. Now, are there still spiritual things we learn from the feasts? In the plan of salvation, we learn about Jesus. There's wonderful things to learn, but you can learn spiritual things about what was the meaning of circumcision, and living by the Spirit and not by the flesh, and the promised seed would come through Abraham. There's wonderful things to learn, but the Bible says you're going backwards if you're telling people you have to keep those things.

So, a covenant can be notified also by, not only the violation of the covenant, marriage is a covenant. Does Jesus say there's grounds to tear up that agreement? It's very, very restricted. Jesus said you cannot get divorced for any reason. By the time of Christ, they had laws and said that if your wife put too much salt in the soup, you could divorce her. I mean, there's all kinds of reasons to divorce. But Jesus said that was not God's plan. He said, "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder." And He made it very clear, saving for the cause of fornication.

Now, that would mean when two people get married, and I've done a lot of weddings and you see them and they're full of hope and promise. And you'll say to the guy, "Are you willing to forsake all others and keep yourself only unto her? Are you willing to forsake all of others and keep yourself only unto him? "Yes," that's a covenant. Now, one of them breaks the covenant, then they have grounds for divorce, right? That doesn't mean that you have an argument and yell. "She hurt my feelings, I'm going to divorce her." So, you know, there's all kinds of petty things that people try to use and they say, "I've been emotionally abused." Now, I'm not saying these things aren't serious, they are, don't misunderstand. But I think you got to be very careful about not widening the loophole in the covenant. It's supposed to be a solid-- if covenants don't matter, if organization doesn't matter, if you don't follow the rules, pretty soon it becomes irrelevant. So, you got to be a little strict about some of these things.

Now, you look in Romans chapter 7, verse 2 and it says here, "For a woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives," because they're living under a covenant. Hopefully, it's a good marriage. "But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if while her husband lives she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man." And so, this is another thing is sometimes covenants only enforce while the person that the covenant is related to is alive, otherwise and it's nullified.

So, now we go into the section of pledges they're making. If you look in, go back to Nehemiah chapter 10. And I told you, you've got nothing but names for the first 27 verses. So, it's about half of the chapter is the names of those who signed the covenant. And when you get down to the pledges, you look, for instance, in Nehemiah chapter 10, verse 30 it says, "We would not give our daughters as wives to the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons. If the people of the land--"

Can I just pause? This is written with the understanding that the sons and daughters could not get married without parental consent. That day is kind of passed in our culture. Very rarely do you have parents arrange weddings in North America. Every now and then, I'll meet people who come from some other country. I've known a few from India where they still, parents have to sign off on marriages. It's very steep, but they've kind of broken away from that. And even people that live in Indian communities in North America, boy, even some Korean communities if you don't marry another Korean, I have Korean people tell me this. The families go, "What are you doing?" You know, they want to be, you've got to be approved.

My parents, my grandparents were upset that I married a non-Jewish girl, parental involvement. When Abraham went to find a wife for Isaac, did he say to Isaac, "Can you get online and tell me what you're looking for?" No, he didn't consult Isaac at all. Matter of fact, he sent his servant out. And you went what was the main criteria Abraham wanted in a wife for Isaac? "She has to be a worshiper of Jehovah. Get her from our family that still worships Jehovah back in Heron." And so, that was very important. So, they're assuming here, that the parents are still involved in helping the children decide who they're getting married. Did you catch that? And they said, "We would not give our daughters as wives."

You know, when I do a wedding, they don't do it all the time, but it's kind of a holdover. I'll say, "Who gives this woman to this man?" That point the father, if they have a father, it might be an uncle or someone, will stand up and say, "I do." And he then leads her down to the altar. He kind of puts her hand in the hand of the groom. It's kind of like saying, "Look, I've been watching out for her, you're now responsible." And how many of you seen this at a wedding? And that's sort of what's implied there is at one time that she was under the protection and authority of her father, and now that's being transferred to the husband. So, this is more than you asked for in the lesson, I know.

If the people of the land, now, it's not only not to intermarry with unbelievers, "But if the people of the land bought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath or a holy day, and we would forego the seven years produce and exacting every debt." Now, this is one of the places-- you notice in the Mosaic law, it tells us some particulars about Sabbath keeping. It was a holy day. It was sort of understood when they were going through the wilderness, they would not be buying and selling on the Sabbath because they were all Sabbath keepers. The pagans were not at their gates in the wilderness trying to sell them things. But it became more of a problem and God had to get more specific that no, you don't do buying and selling.

I think it's not right for Sabbath keeping Christians, not only to go shopping, but I don't think you ought to be eating out. I believe that, why would you pay or buy your food? I mean, can't you prepare at home? There are rare occasions missionaries are traveling because you're going overseas, you're on a boat or something, and the only way you're in an airport that you can eat is to do that. I don't want to be too dogmatic and say it's a sin if you ever have to do it because of some extenuating circumstances. But when Christians say, "Oh, let's all go out to this restaurant on Sabbath and hire other people to cook our food for us," because you don't want to do it yourself, prepare, the Bible says you shouldn't be buying and selling. It says bake what you're going to bake, seed what you're going to see on the preparation day. Isn't that what the law says? You know, prepare. So, it's called the preparation day.

So, but Nehemiah also reminded them you shouldn't be buying and selling on that day as well. And if you look, for instance, Nehemiah 13. I'm jumping ahead. I'll cover this again later. I don't know who's teaching this lesson, it might be me. In Nehemiah 13, "In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath," so they weren't just buying, they were harvesting grapes. They're stomping out their winepresses on Sabbath. "Bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day," first he gave a warning, "on which they were selling provisions. Men of Tyre--" These are not, it's the Phoenicians, but not Jews. "Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem." Evidently, they're buying it. "Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, I said, 'What evil thing is this that you do, in which you profane the Sabbath?" It's the commandment of God, they were to keep the day holy. And one of the ways you show it's holy is you don't do your regular business, amen?

And then he said, another part of this covenant, it said that they were going to respect the annual Sabbath, that we would forego the seven years produce. Now, this was a hard one for them to keep. That meant they were to farm their land six years. Let me read it to you Leviticus 25, "Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants." Whatever came up, volunteer. "your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land-- all its produce shall be for food." Why did God say that?

You know, I remember reading a book when I was a kid about George Washington Carver and how in many ways he saved the South, because they had farmed their land growing cotton, and cotton draws a lot of nitrogen out of the soil. And they had so over-farmed it with cotton, nothing would grow there. And Carver, who was a genius in botany and agriculture, he said peanuts put nitrogen back into the soil You need to grow peanuts. And it took a while for him to convince. And he demonstrated that if he would, first of all, you can, one way you can help return the nitrogen is you leave the land fallow, leave it alone for a year, the weeds and stuff grow, it decomposes, it puts nitrogen back in. But they wanted to make money. They kept farming, farming, farming until they bleached the land and it wouldn't produce. And George Washington Carver said, "Well, if you grow peanuts, it'll put something back in the land.

But the Bible doesn't talk about peanuts, as much as I like peanut butter. It says you're to let the land rest. They did not do it. Do you know this is one of the only times in all the history from the exodus where it talks about the annual Sabbath, or the seven-year Sabbath. They neglected it many, many years. In fact, because of their neglect, notice the last words in 2 Chronicles, this is after they'd been conquered by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Look in 2 Chronicles 36, "And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah. Until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths as long as she laid desolate, she kept Sabbath to fulfill 70 years."

Now, why did God say they'd be there 70 years? Because He was making them keep 490 years of neglected Sabbaths. He said, "If you're not going to let the land rest, I'm going to let it rest for 70 years." So, was the fallow Sabbath important to God? It was. So, this was all part of the covenant that they were renewing to the Lord. And then the final one, of course, is in the temple, they wanted to make sure they had part of the covenant to provide the tithes and to pay for the wood. They had people that would be assigned to collect wood for burning the sanctuary, tithe for the oil, for the Levites, and that they'd be able to continue sustaining this temple they just built. What good is it if you don't fund it, right? And so, they had that covenant.

Well, I think we covered most of our lesson today. I want to thank you for joining us, friends. I want to remind you we have a free offer called "Hidden Eyes And Closed Ears." You can find out right there on the screen how you can receive that via text, or you can call... and you can request Offer Number 726. That's... God bless you. We look forward to studying His Word with you again next week.

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Doug Batchelor: Friends, we're out here in the Pacific Ocean, not too far from the island of Fiji and we're getting ready to look at some wonders in the deep. The Bible says God made the heaven, the earth, and the sea. And there are things under the sea that are beautiful that many people have never seen. Some folks might just skim along, snorkel on the surface. But if you want to see the real majesty of the ocean, you've gotta go deeper.

Because people don't have gills like fish, we have to do something extraordinary to be able to breathe below the surface. And because you have to breathe all the time, we need this special equipment. In the same way, the Bible says a Christian needs to pray without ceasing. We need to always be breathing the atmosphere of heaven if we're going to live a Christian life in this world below. Wow, what a wonderful world.

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Male: My greatest wish is that my children will see me the way I see my own father. He's a very devoted man and that kind of framed my childhood going forward from there where I was always involved in church work. And I had a very rich experience with the Lord at a young age, all the way up through college. Then after I got married, I got in a company called Comcast, and I spent the past roughly 8 1/2 years, 9 years at Comcast. And I was actually watching television with my son, and a Comcast commercial came on the air. And he said, "Oh, Daddy, that's Comcast. That's where you work, Daddy."

And most fathers would be proud of something like that, but it really struck me that, you know, my son's getting older, and he does not see me as a servant of the Lord. He sees me as a servant of my company. And I knew that I would have to make some changes because I wanted him to know me as a man of God. I never thought I would be a preacher or anything like that, but I knew that there was room in the work for me and for my talents. And I wanted my son to see me operating in the work.

That's when I knew that my time there was coming to an end. I was sitting in my office one day, and I was kneeling in prayer. I said, "God, you know, show me what You want me to do because it seems like a big move here and everyone's thinking I'm crazy. And I don't know exactly how, you know, things aren't going to go, if they don't go well." I know the crazy thought when you're, you know, thinking about God. And I lifted my head up to prayer, and just like a flock of, I don't maybe 300 birds that were just flying, and they were swooping down over the water, and they would fly back up, and then they would chase each other around.

And you know, I was just looking at the pattern of the giant flock and the promise of the Lord came to me where He says that He takes care of the sparrows, and you don't see them worrying about how they are going to be taken care of from day to day. They don't, you know, wring their hands, wondering, you know, will there be any worms to eat tomorrow? And that promise really stood out to me. He said, "How much more do I love? You know, I'm not going to send you on a mission to do My work and leave you high and dry because you claim to be My child, you claim to be My son and everyone knows that." That assurance allows me to know that whatever happens here, whatever happens after here, we're sons of God and there are certain things that we shouldn't worry about.

From the day we arrived at AFCOE, it's been obvious that God has blessed the Amazing Facts Ministry, the AFCOE program, and I will be using my AFCOE experience no matter where I go to reach people to because the personal touch of face-to-face evangelism, speaking and sharing the Word of God out of your own mouth, there's no replacement for that. And Amazing Facts has been very instrumental in helping me find the area of the work of God, and shown me how large and how broad it is. It's been a tremendous blessing to be in a place where we're around people seeking to do God's will and listening for His voice in their life. And that's very, very important today.

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