Backslidden People

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:22, Nehemiah 13:1-9, Deuteronomy 23:3-6
Date: 12/14/2019 
Lesson: 11
'The seventh-day Sabbath was, and remains, a powerful means of helping keep faith alive in those who by God’s grace seek to observe it and enjoy the physical and spiritual benefits it offers us.'

In God We Trust - Paper or PDF Download

In God We Trust - Paper or PDF Download
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Jean Ross: Hello, friends. We'd like to welcome all of you once again to "Sabbath School Study Hour," here at the Granite Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. I'd like to welcome those joining us, across the country and around the world, as well as our extended Sabbath School church members, our online members, very warm welcome to all of you. And as always, we'd like to welcome our regular Sabbath School members here, and those who are visiting with us today. As many of you know if you've been coming regularly, we've been studying through the two Old Testament books, Ezra and Nehemiah, and that's actually the title of this quarter's study. Today, we're going to be looking at lesson number 11, an important topic. It's called, "Backslidden People." As Christians we always need to be careful of what the Bible refers to as backsliding. We'll learn more about that as we study today. We do have a free offer we'd like to let you know about. It's one of the "Amazing Facts" Study Guides and one of the reasons why many people backslide is because of the things in this world, the love of money, so our lesson, or at least our free offer, goes along with this theme. It's called, "In God We Trust?" And we'll be happy to send this to anyone who calls and asks. The number is... and you want to ask for offer number 135 and we'll be happy to send this to anyone who calls and asks. Or you can get a digital copy of our lesson by simply texting the code "SH038" to the number "40544." You'll then be able to download a copy of the Study Guide and read about one of the dangers as Christians: how do we manage money? How do we avoid money causing us to lose our faith or our commitment to Christ, and you'll find that helpful. Well, before we get to our lesson this morning, I'd like to invite our song leaders to come and they'll be leading us in our worship song this morning and then, following that, we will get started with the study. female: We will be singing hymn number 373, "Seeking the Lost."


♪ Seeking the lost, yes, kindly entreating ♪

♪ Wanderers on the mountain astray; ♪

♪ Come unto Me, His message repeating, ♪

♪ Words of the Master speaking today. ♪

♪ Going afar upon the mountain ♪

♪ Bringing the wanderer back again into the fold. ♪

♪ Into the fold of my Redeemer. ♪

♪ Jesus the Lamb for sinners slain, ♪

♪ for sinners slain. ♪

♪ Seeking the lost and pointing to Jesus. ♪

♪ Souls that are weak and hearts that are sore, ♪

♪ Leading them forth in ways of salvation, ♪

♪ Showing the path to life evermore. ♪

♪ Going afar upon the mountain ♪

♪ Bringing the wanderer back again into the fold. ♪

♪ Into the fold of my Redeemer. ♪

♪ Jesus the Lamb for sinners slain, ♪

♪ for sinners slain. ♪

♪ Thus I would go on missions of mercy, ♪

♪ Following Christ from day unto day, ♪

♪ Cheering the faint and raising the fallen, ♪

♪ Pointing the lost to Jesus, the Way. ♪

♪ Going afar upon the mountain ♪

♪ Bringing the wanderer back again. ♪

♪ Into the fold of my Redeemer. ♪

♪ Jesus the Lamb for sinners slain, ♪

♪ for sinners slain. ♪♪

Jean: Dear Father in heaven, we thank You that we're able to gather in Your house to open up Your Word and study. Lord, we are grateful that You are our shepherd and that You're leading us but help us to follow close to You and not allowing things of this world to pull us back and so give us guidance and understanding as we look at this important subject today, for we ask this in Jesus's name, amen. Our lesson today is going to be brought to us by Pastor Doug.

Doug Batchelor: Happy Sabbath. It's good to see some of our young people home from college for Thanksgiving, singing. It's partly good, it's partly bad, because I remember when they were just teenagers and now they're adults which means I'm getting older. But otherwise it's good to see them prospering.

And you may, if you're tuning in online, notice that the background is a little different at Granite Bay and it will be a little different for a while because you may know we're building a new church right now. It's not quite finished. We sold this building to some dear people in another church and they're being kind enough to rent it back to us and so we're sharing the space on the platform and some construction is happening and so that's why you've got a little different fabric and something going on behind us right now. I may explain that again for our church family online for church.

To our lesson. We're continuing our study on "Ezra and Nehemiah." And we're in lesson number 11 today. And if you have your quarterlies, some of you have them in paper form and some are doing it online now. You'll notice we have a memory verse. Memory verse is from Nehemiah 13, verse 22, and this here is in the New King James Version. Nehemiah 13:22. I always like if you can say that with me. Are you ready? "And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!"

You'll find several times in the book of Nehemiah he says, "Remember me, remember me." Matter of fact, I think the last verses you'll find in the book of Nehemiah, he says, "Remember me." Almost makes me think about the thief on the cross. What did he say to Jesus? "Remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And, by the way, the lesson title is "Backslidden People." Now, is there a particular generation that we see in the Bible where they struggled with backsliding? Or do we see it happening a lot in the Bible? Well, let's talk about it. God makes Adam and Eve perfect and they backslide. And then He renews His covenant with them and says, you know, "Raise up your children that way," but Cain backslides. And then He tells Adam and Eve, "Well, just make sure the children of Seth don't get mixed up with the daughters of Cain," but they intermarry and they backslide. And then after the flood comes as a result, Noah plants a vineyard and he does a little backsliding. Then they build the tower of Babel and they backslide. Then He calls Abraham out and he goes to Egypt and lies and says, "She's not my wife; she's my sister."

And are you getting the point? God keeps calling out this remnant. He keeps seeking to call and to purify His people but there's a battle between good and evil that is going on from Genesis to Revelation in the Bible. And it's not really 'til you get to Revelation that the backsliding stops and that's not until you get to the last three chapters. But this struggle, this tug-of-war in the heart of man, between God and the devil is continually going on. Don't be discouraged by it; it's a fact of life. We must resist the backsliding that happens in our lives. There's a gravity. Sin is like this constant pull and you need to consistently resist it. If you don't, you'll backslide.

Now, the reason that backsliding is especially insidious is because notice it's not back hopping, jumping, or skipping. It's not back jogging or climbing, it slides. You know, you can slide in your sleep and it's something that can be imperceptible and I think I've told you that story before where I was hiking up the hill and I found--a buddy and I found a bottle of wine floating in this pool on--by a waterfall on our way up. Did I tell you this story? We were hiking, when I lived in the cave. I don't even remember the guy's name. We were hiking uphill and halfway up the mountain, we stopped. There's this pool called "Square Pool." It's one of the few places in the desert where you had clear water, you could actually get in and cool off, you could drink the water, and it was cold because some of the water came up from underground. And somebody had providentially, we thought, left an unopened bottle, like a half gallon of Chianti in the pool to keep it cold.

Well, there was no one in the canyon and so we thought, "Well, this is sent from heaven." And so my buddy and I thought, "Well, let's just take a sip or two," and we took a sip or two that turned into about drinking most of the bottle. And we realized as the sun went down that we probably were in no shape to hike the rest of the way up the canyon and--but there was a big flat rock. You didn't want to sleep on the pebbles and the sand and there was a smooth flat rock and it stayed warm during the night because the sun had hit it during the day. We thought, "We'll go up here above the waterfall and we'll just lay on the flat rock and get some sleep, and when the sun comes up we'll head to town."

Well, I went to sleep and I thought, "Now, I'll lie here and I want to make sure I'm plenty of distance from the waterfall because there's a, you know, 50-foot drop." So I laid down and when I woke up very early in the morning, it was still dark, I felt something odd was happening that I was, like, my bed had changed and all of a sudden there was a big slope underneath me. Well, I didn't realize there was just a little bit of a grade and every time, you know, you move in the night when you're--without thinking about it. And every time I shifted and moved during the night, because the rock was sloped downward, which way did I go? I was wiggling and moving downward and when I woke up in the morning, I was right at the edge of the waterfall. And I thought to myself, "Boy, I wasn't very far from that being the end of the story." And it was happening imperceptibly because there was a little grade, a little down bend and, in the world, everything is bending towards the downward spiral and unless we are constantly aware and resisting it, we will slide. And so you see that happening. And Nehemiah and Ezra are books of great reform and revival.

In the midst of the reform and revival and the commitments and the covenants we read about last week, they still managed to slide. And so we always have to be on our guard. Problem is, if you're on your guard too much you will be accused of being a legalist and Nehemiah was accused of that. But you've got to watch--you've got to watch or you tend to slip backwards. All right, so let's get into our study with that lengthy introduction, talking about His backsliding people.

Turn--now, our mission today is in the book of Nehemiah. We've got two lessons left and--but today we're going to be talking about Nehemiah 13, verses 1 through 22. So if we get 1 through 22, we'll have accomplished our mission. I want you to notice in Nehemiah chapter 13, verse--I'm going to read 1 to 3: "Now on that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people," and this is not the only time they did that. Sometimes, they did it half the day. "And it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God, because they had met the children of Israel--I'm sorry, because they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. So it was, then that we heard the Law, they separated all the mixed multitude from Israel."

Now, in their midst after the children of Israel had been carried off to Babylon, some of the surviving Moabites and Ammonites, and I don't know if there were any surviving Edomites, they had come and filtered back into the country and intermarried with the remaining Canaanites. And when the Israelites came back, you've already read in the books that they began to intermarry and not only do business with them but they were marrying with them and they were coming into their church. And you might be thinking, "Why did God say that? Is that being restrictive?"

Look in Deuteronomy 23, verse 3. This is probably what they were reading that day: "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you." Now, the story, you can actually find is in Deuteronomy chapter 2 and Moses is repeating this at the end of his book. You go to the beginning of Deuteronomy and it says: "So I sent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon."

Now, the children of Israel, they're done wandering 40 years. They're making their way towards the Jordan River. The most direct route means they have to go through the land of the Moabites. To not be able to go through the land of the Moabites would mean an extremely long, grueling trip north or south that was going to exhaust them and their resources and so just to make the direct line through their country and he said, "Look, let us go through." Notice what he says. "'Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road,'" me and my people. "'I'll turn neither to the right hand or the left. You'll sell me food,'" if we're along the way and if your merchants want us to sell food, "'we'll pay money for it, that I might eat and give water--and give me water for money,'" we'll pay for water, "'that I might drink; only let me pass through on foot.' But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass through." And you go to verse 32: "Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, and his sons, and his people."

So there was a curse pronounced on them because they had been so unhospitable to, really, their relatives. The Moabites, remember, are descendants of Lot who's related to Abraham. This was family and they said, "Look, we're just passing through. If we take anything, we'll pay for it. We're not going to take anything that's yours. We're not going to molest you, we're not going to bother you." A peaceful message. And instead of saying, "No," they not only said "No," they attacked them so there was a curse pronounced on them.

Now here's a question. How carefully did they enforce that? Not too carefully. Can you think of a Moabite that ended up going into Israel and--what was Ruth? Ruth was a Moabite, wasn't she? And this took place, of course, after Moses. But she was allowed to marry Boaz and probably Boaz was the son of Salmon, one of the spies we're suspecting. And they could enter the temple of the Lord. So when a person converted to God and if a man was circumcised, they usually waived this. But even to the time of Christ, notice this. Why did they want to kill Paul, do you remember? When you get to Acts chapter 21, verse 27: "Now when the seven days," Paul has finished a missionary tour. He comes to Jerusalem. He's wanting to celebrate the feast. Says--and during that time he shaved his head and he's going into the temple. "Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the people, the whole crowd, and they laid hands on him, crying out, 'Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, against the law, and this place; and furthermore he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.'"

So did they still have a law, even down to the time of Jesus that you were not supposed to bring Gentiles into the regular temple? They had a place called the Gentile Court and they even had a place called the Women's Court where the women would come in. But you were not supposed to bring a Gentile. If you go today, to the Wailing Wall, which is that-- they call it the Western Wall, that part of Israel is, you know, kept by the Jews. And they've got the barricade around it and you can't go in there, unless you cover your head. They got some strict laws. And there are very strict laws about anybody who would go up onto the place where the compound used to be. Orthodox Jews won't do it because they say it's holy ground. And so even to this day, there are some strict behavioral things. On the Sabbath, they stopped us. They didn't want you taking pictures once you're in there because you're making an image. Kind of interesting. And so, yeah, they had some laws.

They did not want the Gentiles entering into that place and so when they realized that, what did they do in the book of Nehemiah? They separated themselves from the Gentiles that were coming into the house of the Lord so they're trying to implement these revivals because they--supposedly, Paul had brought Gentiles in. Go to verse 4, Nehemiah 13, verse 4: "Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah."

All right, now, who is Tobiah? Do you remember reading about there was these three characters that were trying to stop them from building the walls when you read in the first four to six chapters of Nehemiah? You've got Tobiah, Sanballat, and the Arabian, and it says that he was mocking them. You can look in Nehemiah chapter 4, verse 3: "Now Tobiah the Ammonite," not only is he not a Jew, he's an Ammonite who they were already told to not have even the people in the temple. Says: "He was beside him, and he said, 'Whatever they build, even a fox goes up, he will break down their wall.'" He was trying to fight it.

Now, Nehemiah, he implemented these reforms but you remember, he got permission from the king of Persia to come and to do this work. He didn't get permission to quit and leave forever. He went back to Persia, took care of some business, and while Nehemiah was gone, somehow the church leaders had allowed this Ammonite to not only come into the courts of the temple, but they gave him a room. They turned the temple into an Airbnb. Not just for anybody, but their enemy. Maybe he thought, "Well, this will help us ingratiate ourselves to the Ammonites and can't we all just get along? And, you know, we need to make some compromises so we can all be one." And it would have been really interesting to hear the priests' arguments for this.

But it's kind of outrageous when you and I look at it today, that the man that you find consistently fighting them and trying to stop the temple and the walls from being built, suddenly has a first-class room in the temple itself that had been set aside for the articles of the temple and the things you needed to serve in the temple. It's really outrageous when you think about it. "He had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, and the frankincense, and the articles, and the tithe of grain, and the new wine and the oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and the singers and the gatekeepers, and the offerings and the priests."

Now how does--how does Nehemiah feel about that? Go to the book of Nehemiah and I want to read this to you. And it says: "But doing all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the 32nd year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. And after certain days I obtained leave from the king, I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw out all the household goods of Tobiah."

You ever been driving down the road in a suburb and you see a bunch of furniture kind of being thrown out in the streets? And you figure that there might have been a marital squabble or some girlfriend got tired of her boyfriend and--or the other way around, and this is what's going on here. Nehemiah, he doesn't wait for Bekins Movers or Mayflower or anything. He says, "Throw this stuff out of here." He wouldn't even wait. He thought, "This is sacrilegious." "Therefore, I threw all of the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. And I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into the rooms the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense."

So how does that apply to us today? Do we ever invite the wrong people into the temple of the Lord, into holy places? Have you ever seen an occasion where unbelievers, even people who under normal circumstances would be seen as the enemies of our message, are invited into the pulpit to speak? And you think, "What are they doing there? These are people that scoff at what we believe. And we've invited them in?" Now, let me read something to you and this is from the SDA Church Manual 2019 Edition, page 120: "Under no circumstances should a pastor, elder, or other officer invite strangers or any unauthorized persons to conduct services. Individuals who have been removed from the ministry or have been removed from membership in other places or designing persons who have no authority from the church should not be given access to the pulpit. Those worthy of confidence will be able to identify themselves by producing proper credentials. At times, it is acceptable for government officials or civic leaders to address a congregation but all others should be excluded from the pulpit unless permission is granted by the conference. Every pastor, elder, and conference president must enforce this rule."

Why is that so important? You've seen it, I've seen it. And it's one of those things, it's a very slippery slope if you're not careful. An area that where backsliding can happen. Now, we're getting ready, God willing, this coming year, we're hoping in April we're going to have 30 days of praise. We'll be dedicating the new Word Center, the church, and the offices, and we're going to have a whole month of special services. And one of those weeks, we're going to invite people who helped us put the church together and we're going to have them stand and we're going to thank them and some of the builders and others who have helped this all happen. We may invite someone from the community and so, you know, we are here to serve the community and if you'd like to say a word of thanks to the local Adventists, we might invite them up to say, "Thank you for coming. We look forward to seeing how this building can serve the community." See what I'm saying? That's what I'm talking about, a civic situation. We might thank the fire marshal for his help, I don't know.

You know, you do stuff like that, that's one thing. But to say, you know, we're going to bring a pastor of another denomination and he's going to preach because he's a specialist in this special category. And you know that in his other services he mocks those that believe in the three angels message, that's not appropriate. They shouldn't be put in positions of teaching. Yeah, anyone who wants to say, "Amen," I welcome that. This is what they happen--had happened in the time of Nehemiah. He came back absolutely incredulous. He is outraged that this fella Tobiah, who had been openly fighting against their work, now has a large room in the temple. "We should not be giving place to the devil," the Bible says. "Oh, but Pastor Doug, you are being a legalist. And shouldn't we all just--John 17. Let's just all love each other." Well, I can love people fine but when a person stands in the sacred desk to teach or to preach, they need to be rooted and grounded in the message. They--we shouldn't be inviting people in to take a sacred position.

I know I was presented with a little bit of a moral dilemma. A pastor from another--I'm being very open and honest with you now, I hope you don't mind. Pastor from another denomination said, "Brother Doug, would you be willing to preach to us in our church one day?" I thought about it and I said, "You bet you." And then he says, "And we might even exchange pulpits." I said, "Oh." I said, "That could be a problem." I didn't know you were going to say, "Well, you think you're good enough to preach to them but they're not good enough to preach you?" Well, I think we've got the truth. And I don't think they've got the truth and I'm--if they don't think they've got the truth, then they ought to come and sit and listen with us.

But every pastor--I'm surprised another pastor would let me do that but they have and I've done it. I've spoken in other denominations and it was really amazing in China. You know, China's a little different animal. They sort of got the government-approved Christian churches and they push them all together. And when we did our evangelistic meetings in China, they had us preaching in this Three Self Church which is sort of their Protestant church, and all the Protestant pastors brought all of their people to our meeting. And I asked my local pastors through the translator, I said, "Now, these are all the Sunday members and these are their pastors here and I'm--you want me to preach? I'm going to preach mark of the beast, Sabbath, you want me--" "Yeah, yeah, yeah." "State of the dead, punishment of the wicked?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah." I said, "Okay," and I did.

It's very unusual but sometimes I've been invited to, like, share my testimony in another church and you want to be sensitive not to say things that would be offensive. And--but when I travel with the Heritage Singers, for years I--we were in all different churches, a lot of Adventist churches as well as Methodist and Nazarene, Assembly of God, Foursquare, non-denominational. And, you know, night after night I'd get up and I'd share my testimony. You want to be respectful of, you know, where they are and share things that would encourage them without offending their beliefs. I think as a Christian, you need to be sensitive to those things. But I don't believe and I know you may think this is pretty rigid, I don't believe we should be inviting people to our pulpits that do not in their heart believe what we believe. It can send the wrong message.

Tell you one reason. Let me give you an example. There's a pastor, has a good marriage ministry, and someone said, "Well, yeah, I know, he doesn't believe exactly like us but let's have him come and he'll talk Sabbath morning about marriage." Now, if he wants to do a seminar, it's a different thing. And people come and they hear him and they see his name and say, "Oh, that was really good." And then they realize, "He's got a whole series of books out on the 'Secret Rapture.' I think I'll get his books." You see how one thing can lead to another? It kind of--it's almost like you are endorsing the other things they say. So you've got to be careful about that. I know I'm going to get letters on this. Anyway, Nehemiah got letters too so I'm okay. So he said Tobiah had to go and you just wonder how in the world the priest had decided to give him a room. Here, they're kicking all the foreigners out and they give Tobiah a room in the sanctuary. So he threw it all out.

Then you go on to verse 10, the Levites in the fields. Nehemiah 13, verse 10. I talked a little bit about this last week. Says: "I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given to them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field. So I contended with the rulers, and I said, 'Why--'"

By the way, you know, one of the things the Bible tells us is that part of teaching is called reproof and exhortation. When there's reproof and exhortation, that might mean that you're challenging why someone is believing or teaching or doing what they're doing. That is biblically healthy. Every now and then we've got to keep each other accountable so Nehemiah's going to them. Nehemiah's not a priest. He's a governor but he said, "Look, I need you to explain this to me. I contended with the rulers, and said, 'Why is the house of God forsaken?' And I gathered them together and I set them in their place. Then all of Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. And I appointed as treasurers them over the storehouse."

So, you know, God has a design and there's a lot of Scriptures we've got here that kind of outline this. You look, for instance, 1 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 13: "Do you not know that those who minister of the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings at the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."

Now before I became an ordained pastor, I was a lay pastor and I was self-supporting. And at that time I already had three kids and I was doing construction work, I was doing mechanic work, I was doing--selling firewood, just whatever you could do, and preaching and doing evangelism. And you know, let me tell you in case you didn't know, that's hard. I remember I had a friend in a small town where I worked and he was pastor of the Baptist Church. And he had a full-time job. It was a small church. They just did not have the money to support him. They also did not have the tithing system that we have. And he would try to live on whatever offerings there were but they needed the offerings to fix up the building and to pay the electric bill and stuff. There was almost nothing left for him. So he had a full-time job, a very hard job, all week long, working at, like, the lumber mill and then in that time he'd have to try and take care of his own home, his family, and take care of the household of God.

That poor guy, he'd fall asleep during his own sermons. It's not easy. If you want to have a pastor who's really involved in ministry--my father used to tease me all the time. He said, "Ah, you just work one day a week. You're a preacher. You just--you just get up and you preach one day a week." And if you talk to the people at "Amazing Facts" and they'll tell you that Pastor Ross and I, man, it's like seven days a week. And you know, you got the radio program on Sunday. There's weddings sometimes on Sunday. In the evening, there's board meetings. There's all kinds of different council meetings and there's visitation and, you know, all week long we've got office work. There's writing, there's studying that goes into it. And, boy, you've got to plan your day really careful. If I had another full-time job besides ministry, you just can't do it. I couldn't do what I'm doing now. And so God designed a method so that those who preach the gospel are supported of the gospel.

Now, here at Granite Bay, again, I may be giving you more information but nothing secret, we have a little bit of a unique situation. Pastor Ross and I are ordained Adventist pastors credentialed by the conference but we get no tithe money from this church. We're paid by "Amazing Facts." Our other pastors, Pastor Luccas and Pastor Shawn, are paid from the regular conference tithe. And--but it's a system where those that are paying a faithful tithe helps to support the missionaries and pastors and teachers that are doing the work around the world. When that's neglected, what do they end up doing? "We've got to go find other work to feed our families and take care of their practical needs." And that's what was happening.

Let me read this verse, Matthew chapter 10, verse 9 and 10: "Provide neither gold--" Jesus sent out the apostles and what did he tell them as they were preaching? He said, "Provide neither gold nor silver or copper in your money belts, nor bags for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals," meaning no extra sandals, "nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food." Now that's in red-letter edition. That, once again, was Matthew chapter 10, verse 9 and 10.

When Jesus sent out the apostles, how did he expect they would be sustained? By the people they were preaching to. They said, "You are worthy of your hire. You are out there doing the work of the Lord and you should trust in the hospitality of people to help sustain you as you do your work." Now that's a--again, that's a fine line because I was living in a small town in Texas one time and this guy showed up. He lived in a school bus with his family and he said, you know, "Do you want to study the Bible?" I said, "Sure, let's study the Bible." And I had a Bible study with him and he said, "Now you need to support me and my family 'cause it says here that I'm working for the Lord and you need to support us." I said, "Wait." I said, "I didn't send you." [laughing] I think we did help him a little bit but he just went everywhere kind of counting on everybody to pay all his bills and I guess, you know, if the Lord moves you to do that, but some people kind of exploit that principle, you know what I'm talking about? They kind of just move in and mooch off people. And you can't have it that way.

But the disciples when they were involved in full-time itinerate preaching, he said, "A worker is worthy of his food." In Luke chapter 10, verse 7, Jesus said it a little different: "And remain in that house," they trusted in people's hospitality. You remember the story of Lydia. She went to Paul and Silas and said, "Please stay with me," and as Paul and his people traveled, sometimes they'd stay at an inn, sometimes they'd sleep on the road. They often were brought into people's homes. I heard this week there were no churches until probably 200 years after Christ when the Christians actually had their own church buildings. And that was after the severe persecution that happened during that period. He said, "Remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things that they give, for a laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house." Don't be bouncing from house to house. Once you find a house, you can use it as a staging point for your mission work, you travel around.

How many remember the Shunammite woman as Elisha went on his circuit teaching? She said, "This is a man of God. Let's build a little upper room for him." And she said, "Let all of your needs be upon me." She took care of him. And another woman took care of Elijah. And they were both thankful because both of them had boys resurrected in connection with that. If you read in the book, "Prophets and Kings," page 670, "Not only had the temple been profaned," speaking about the time of Nehemiah, but the offerings had been misapplied. This had tended to discourage the liberalities of the people. They lost their zeal and fervor and they were reluctant to pay their tithes because the work of their Lord was being neglected. "The treasury of the Lord's house was poorly supplied, many of the singers and others employed in the temple service were not receiving sufficient support. They had left the work of God to labor elsewhere."

Now here's a point that I thought I should make. Many of the what? Not only the Levites who are doing the teaching and offering the sacrifices. It said the singers. Do you think there's a good Bible argument for ministries--for music ministry being part of the church? I think so. Not all churches can do that. I remember when I first joined this conference, we had four conference evangelists and one or two that were involved in doing just music. And I remember when Dale Galusha who is now with Pacific Press and Gary Vinden, they were music evangelists in the conference. And I could go through a list of - the King's Heralds. A lot of the evangelists went on the road, they took several musicians with them. And Heritage Singers, I think, just got done doing a meeting where they did an evangelistic meeting with Jean in Southern California.

Part of the budget: bring a team of singers. Music is part of preaching the message. It's very powerful but it seems like it's been neglected and funds have just not been there for that. And then, of course, I think we all know Malachi chapter 3, but I'd be remiss if I did not read that. Malachi 3, verse 8: "'Will a man rob God? Yet you've robbed Me! But you say, "In what way have we robbed You?" In tithes and offerings. You're cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there might be food in My house, and try Me,'" or prove Me, "'now with this,'" test Me, "says the Lord, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour you out such a blessing there will not be room enough to receive it.'"

Notice, He says, "There's a curse when you don't; there's a blessing when you do." It's just that simple. It's a very clear verse. He says, "Not only will I bless you," He says, "'I will rebuke the devourer,'" things that are threatening to consume what you do have. "'I'll rebuke the devourer for your sake, and he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,' says the Lord; 'and all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,' says the Lord of hosts."

You know, I do believe God has blessed America. It's hard to deny that there's a degree of prosperity here you don't see in every country. And I sometimes wonder if it's connected with the fact that more charity is sent by North America globally than any other country per capita. It's, I mean, I forget what the numbers are but, I mean, it's a phenomenal amount. Americans are a very generous people in charity that is sent overseas around the world. And mission work. More missions are supplied by North America than any other country. And so I think that in spite of all our problems, God has blessed us materially because we're generous in that way. And it's also still true in the church, amen?

1 Corinthians 9:3: "My defense to those who examine me is this." Paul is being criticized as he travels and preaches with Silas or Barnabas, and they're saying, you know, you need to support yourself. You need to do your own work. Paul says, "My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord," meaning James and Cephas or Peter? They evidently took their wives with them. You know, our evangelists at Amazing Facts, we pay the wife because these evangelists, when they're doing a meeting out of town for six weeks, we want their wives with them. You know, causes problems if they don't travel with their wife. We want their wives with them and the wives often help with the meetings and they can't do other work because they're traveling with their husbands and we believe that's fair. I'm so thankful Amazing Facts, not every trip, but they'll often cover the expenses for me to take my wife. Years I couldn't do it because the kids were at home and now I can, I will. And so it's kind of nice.

But the apostles, it says they had a right. So the church already had a policy that they'd not only supply Peter, they said, "You can bring your wife." They'd not only supply James and Jude, they said, "You can bring your wives." And they would help sustain their wives. And Paul said, "And here, you're saying that I've got to go make tents? I can't support--be supported?" He said, "The other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?" In other--when he says, "No right to refrain from working," they're saying you have to work. "Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock, even the poorest of shepherds get to drink the milk of the flock." You read on, again in 2 Corinthians 9, verse 6: "But this I say: He that sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully."

So here's my question for you. How would you like to reap, bountifully or sparingly? So how must you sow? That will determine how you reap. Isn't that what it says? "And not grudgingly or of necessity." You know, the ideal is that you're giving no matter what's in it for you, but because you love the Lord. "Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." God doesn't just approve of it, He loves it when we give from a cheerful heart. But if you're not going to give cheerfully, God will take it from a grouch. 1 Timothy 5:18: "For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'A laborer is worthy of his wages.'" Now here, Paul is quoting--he's quoting what we just read that Jesus said earlier.

Now go to Nehemiah 15, verse--Nehemiah 13, verse 15: "In those days," here's another area of a little backsliding. "In those days I saw the people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath," and that's--now that's, I mean, it's not like you're picking a grape. When you get out there, take off your shoes, and you're tromping up and down making--boy, that's plain old work. They're treading wine--and these are not just the pagans, it's the people of Judah, on the Sabbath day. Do you think that all happened in one day? Or did it happen little by little? They started saying, "Well, you know, the sun's going down, I can maybe tread a couple more clusters," Friday afternoon. And then they got easy enough to do it even after the sun went down and then they said, "Well, I'll do a couple more in the morning just to make sure the harvest is almost done and I don't want to waste these grapes." And they started to rationalize it until pretty soon--isn't that how the devil works?

Little by little they begin to rationalize until pretty soon not guarding the edges of the Sabbath, they were just plain old harvesting grapes and stomping out the grape juice on the Sabbath day. "And they're loading donkeys with wine, and grapes, and figs, and all kinds of burdens, that they brought to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions." He said, "You know, speak to them verbally. Maybe they forgot." "And men of Tyre," these are Phoenicians, they're not even Israelites, "who dwelt there also, they brought in their fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them."

Are we supposed to be buying and selling on the Sabbath? Huh? No. Are we supposed to be doing our heavy cooking on the Sabbath or does the Bible say: "Bake what you're going to bake and boil what you're going to boil. Get everything done that you can get done ahead of time"? Now, if you've got one of those time-sensitive things that will nuke things for you that's great but the principle is get all the cooking and preparation done that you can get done. Don't be going out and buying and shopping and paying other people to cook for you at a restaurant. Now, some people on the road, that might be unavoidable but a lot of people do it because they're plain lazy. And Christians ought to treat the day as holy, amen?

Backsliding happens little by little through compromise. He says, "I contended with the nobles at Judah, and said, 'What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring down all this disaster on us and on this city?'" So is there judgment that comes from breaking his law? "'Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.' So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded the gates to be shut, and I charged they must not be opened 'til after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day." We've got to guard our gates sometimes. "Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice." They just waited outside hoping that they'd open the gates for them. "And I warned them, and said, 'Why do you spend the night around the wall?'" It's a Sabbath. "'If you do this again, I'll lay hands on you!'" Meaning we'll arrest you. "From that time they came no more on the Sabbath." He had to take some drastic measures to get the people to take it seriously. And he said, "Then I commanded the Levites to cleanse themselves, and they should go and guard the gates, and sanctify the Sabbath day."

You know, you'll be called a legalist if you guard the gates, but every now and then you've got to speak up. And everybody in our day and age is so afraid of offending anybody that we don't say anything and pretty soon the backsliding becomes chronic and I think every now and then you've got to just cry aloud and spare not. And then Nehemiah says in the last verse we're going to consider here, Nehemiah 13:22: "Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!"

Now does God say, "Remember," somewhere in His law? Says, "Remember the Sabbath day." And Nehemiah says, "I'm going to remember the Sabbath day, Lord. Please remember me." How many of you want God to remember you? Then you need to remember Him and the things and the times and the ways and the means He calls holy.

Well, we are out of time for our study today. I want to remind you we have a good lesson on Christian finances. We touched on the Sabbath truth today and we will send it to you free. It's called, "In God We Trust." Has a great series of studies on tithes and offerings and what the Bible says about that. And ask for offer 135 when you call in. You can also get this--you can download it right now by simply texting SH038 to 40544 or you can call... God bless you, friends. Lord willing, we'll study His Word together again next week.

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Announcer: Amazing Facts: Changed Lives.

Kip Johnston: I was raised very spoiled and very lucky, very blessed. I was raised in the church, actually. As a child, God was presented to me as vindictive so it didn't interest me very much. When I got much older I was told by a friend of mine that I wasn't even a Christian. I said, "I'm a good person, I don't steal, I don't cheat, I don't kill." And it was told to me that, no, in order to be a Christian you must be born again. The next day I went and appropriated a Bible. I read the New Testament. I just set the Bible down and said, "God, if You're real deal me in."

I went to a Christian college to study theology and about God. But when I left college, I took a job selling Christian literature and Bibles door to door. And I went flat broke. I stopped in to play poker in a place in L.A. I was an instant success. My life became poker and I got books and I read poker books. I had my Bible in one hand, a poker book in the other. I was a Christian poker player. I thought the Lord was blessing me. The amount of money that I made playing poker was so big it would scare you. I was very self-indulgent. I did not deny myself anything that I thought would make me happy but I was still empty. I went to all the Christian churches, gave them all a fair shot. Some of them three months, some of them two years.

Unimpressed, Saturday morning, I happened to be traveling from one poker place to another, I just happened to have a little TV in my truck and Doug Batchelor came up on there and I was, like, "This guy makes sense." I knew Doug Batchelor was in Sacramento so I came to meet him. I told him, I said, "I am a Christian doing God's work and I make a living playing poker. And I am giving away Great Controversies to players, I go to church and help the community. And don't tell me that I'm not doing what's right." And he said, "No, you've got to get out of that casino, period." I said, "I'm making good money." And he says, "I know that you know what I'm telling you is right." And I did.

I recognized through it all I wasn't happy. I said, "Lord, my life is a disaster. I'm selfish, I'm empty. I've tried to do what You wanted me to do so many times and I've always failed. Why do I always fail? Why do I always lose my way?" And the Lord spoke to me. Says, "You've got to be involved. You've got to be involved in My work." And that's when I said, "I need to dedicate my life fully to God's work." I, by the grace of God, and my wife, we went to India. Until the Lord tells me otherwise, we're going to build orphanages in India so that children can grow up and hear about Jesus and they can go tell the 1.3 billion people in their country. God had a plan for me and now I just want to be fully dedicated to the Lord's cause. I am Kip Johnston and God used Amazing Facts to change my life.

Doug: Friends, have you ever heard of the bowhead whale? This enormous leviathan is the second largest creature in the world. Dark and stocky, it roams the fertile Arctic northern waters. These massive creatures can be more than 65 feet long and weigh more than 75 tons. That's heavier than the space shuttle. Yet, in spite of their titanic size, they're able to leap entirely out of the water. Can you say "belly flop"? The bowhead whale gets its name from its bow-shaped skull and they've got one ginormous noggin. Matter of fact, their heads are about 40% of their body size, which comes in handy when you find out how they use their heads. They've got very thick skulls. Sometimes they get trapped under the surface and they use their heads to ram the ice. They can break a breathing hole in the ice that is a foot and a half thick.

Friends, you have to just imagine what it would be like to be walking around on the Arctic ice and all of a sudden have the ground beneath you crack and split and rise as one of these sea monsters pushes its head up to breathe for the first time in 90 minutes. Because bowheads make their home in the coldest part of our world, they have the thickest blubber of any whale. But this, plus their friendly and curious nature, made them prime targets when the European whalers discovered the bowheads. They hunted them nearly to extinction. Fortunately, because of conservation efforts, we've slowly seen their numbers begin to increase since the '60s.

One of the most amazing facts about the bowhead whale is its longevity. Scientists have discovered by evaluating harpoon tips found in their skull and examining their eye tissue, there are bowhead whales out there that are probably over 200 years old. You realize that means there are bowhead whales swimming the oceans right now that were alive before Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Can you imagine that? Among the other amazing megafacts about the bowhead whale is its megamouth. They have the largest mouth of any in the animal kingdom. And when they open their pie hole full extended, it's large enough to park a medium-sized SUV inside. [car honking] Yet, in spite of the fact they've got such big mouths, they survive by eating the very smallest creatures in the ocean: plankton, krill, and other microscopic animals.

Friends, I'm always amazed by the creatures God has made. This bowhead whale is able to dive to the deepest oceans. They can break through the ice and move mountains with their head and completely leave the water and fly through the air. And yet, they do all that by gaining strength from almost microscopic organisms. Helps us remember that we survive through the little promises in God's Word. Jesus, when tempted by the devil, He quoted just a few little verses and He sent the enemy running. You can also have that same durability and long life as the bowhead whale by trusting in God's Word and His promises.

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