Backslidden People (2019, Quarter 4, Lesson 11)

by Tim Rumsey December 07, 2019

Backslidden People (2019, Quarter 4, Lesson 11)

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Sabbath (December 7): Backslidden People

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem after some time back at home serving the king, he was met with a discouraging situation. In spite of his best efforts at establishing a just and God-fearing leadership in Jerusalem, the leaders and the people had, in many ways, fallen from obedience to God. In this week’s lesson we will look at the reforms that Nehemiah found necessary to carry out, and, as always, seek to apply these stories to today.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read 2 Corinthians 4:3,4. What effect does sin have on us? (It blinds us.) Do you think the people, and especially the leaders, living in Jerusalem when Nehemiah returned realized their deep level of apostasy? Why or why not? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Nehemiah 13:22. Is it significant that Nehemiah told the Levites to first “cleanse themselves,” and then after that to “keep the gates”? Why or why not? (Spiritually speaking, we cannot fulfill the role that God wants us to until we have cooperated with Him in allowing Him to cleanse and purify us from the sinful things that would keep us from accomplishing that mission. Nehemiah had the order correct.) Note that this cleansing and gate keeping was all done in reference to sanctifying the Sabbath day. What additional lessons might we learn from this verse that apply to us today? (True Sabbath keeping is about more than external activities, or “keeping the gate.” It springs from a heart that has been cleansed and now rests by faith in Jesus Christ.)

  • Read 2 Corinthians 3:14. Although this verse is especially referring to the passing away of the ceremonial system and laws at the death of Christ, what general spiritual principle is also revealed in this verse? How can we be truly freed from the blindness of sin? (Jesus Christ takes the “veil” of sin away so that we see our true condition, and accept the forgiveness and cleansing that He offers.)

Sunday (December 8): Tainted Temple Leadership

Nehemiah must have been shocked and saddened upon his return to Jerusalem to discover what was happening with the leaders in Jerusalem. At the very highest level—that of high priest—there was apostasy, corruption, and a flagrant disregard for the commands of God. In today’s lesson we will compare this sad episode in Judah’s history with some prophetic warnings and advice given by the apostle Paul.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Nehemiah 13:4,5. During Nehemiah’s absence in Jerusalem, whom did Eliashib invite to live in the temple? (Tobiah.) Who was Tobiah? (An enemy of Israel!) Who was Eliashib? (The high priest! [See Nehemiah 3:1])

  • Read 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4. What parallels, if any, do you find between this prophecy of what would happen within Christianity, and Tobiah’s presence in the temple at Jerusalem? (In both instances, an enemy of God and of Israel ends up “sitting” or holding a position of influence and power within the church.)

  • Read 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. What resulted within Christianity through the influence of this “man of sin” sitting in the temple? (Signs and lying wonders, truth neither preached nor taught nor appreciated, spiritual delusions and lies are believed, pleasure in unrighteousness.) What do you think would have happened in Nehemiah’s time had Nehemiah not intervened in the situation? (Probably the same thing.)

  • Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. What advice did Paul give his readers about standing firm when the church is being attacked from within? (Believe the truth, allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of sanctification, stand fast and hold to the traditions taught by the Word, don’t give up hope, and establish the Word in your heart by doing it.)

Monday (December 9): The Levites in the Fields

Another challenge Nehemiah faced when he returned to Jerusalem was that of tithes and offerings. The people, perhaps discouraged by the corrupt leadership of Eliashib, had stopped giving their money to the temple and its services, and as a result many of the Levites—those responsible for the upkeep and care of the temple—had “fled every one to his field” (Nehemiah 13:10) in order to earn a living.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Nehemiah 13:10. What problem did Nehemiah face here? (The Levites and singers had quit their work for God in the temple and had returned to their secular trades.) Do you think this was a wise decision on their part? Did it show a lack of faith, or was it entirely a pragmatic decision? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Nehemiah 13:11. What had happened to the house of God when the Levites and singers returned home? Does it appear that any of them continued to work on a volunteer basis? (Apparently not.) Given these facts, would you say that money was the biggest problem, or something else? (It seems that the biggest problem was one of apathy and disregard for God’s temple and His work.)

  • Read Luke 9:62. What do you think Jesus meant in this verse by putting our “hand to the plough”? (Jesus is speaking here of becoming a disciple of Christ and of accepting His call to work for Him.) What do you think Jesus meant by “looking back”? (This must refer to giving up the sacred duties that God has called us to, and focusing instead on the ordinary secular duties and pursuits of life.) ” Why would this disqualify someone for the kingdom of God? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read 2 Timothy 2:4. What does it mean for a Christian to be “entangled with the affairs of this life”? How can we avoid this pitfall? (Answers will vary.)

Tuesday (December 10): Tithes and Offerings

While many important points could be brought out in regards to the importance of faithfully paying tithes and offerings, we will focus instead today on an interesting statement made in the lesson regarding tithing and evangelism.

Discussion Questions:

  • The lesson study makes the following statement: “Most important, though, without tithes and offerings evangelism would be nonexistent.” What do you think of this statement? Do you agree with it or not, and why? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Ephesians 4:11. Who calls and equips a person to be an evangelist? (The Holy Spirit.) Do you think the Holy Spirit only gives the gift of evangelism to people who are on the conference payroll? (This seems very unlikely!) While it is a great blessing to have full-time evangelists working for the church, what might happen to the spiritual condition of the church members if we become content to let the “professionals” do all the work of evangelism? (No doubt many opportunities for witnessing would be overlooked and souls may remain lost that otherwise would have come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.)

  • Read the statement below and discuss its implications for every church member. Is this kind of evangelism dependent on tithes and offerings?

The Lord is calling upon His people to take up different lines of work. Those in the highways and byways of life are to hear the gospel message. Church members are to do evangelistic work in the homes of their neighbors who have not yet received full evidence of the truth for this time. {9T 33.1}

God calls for Christian families to go into communities that are in darkness and error, and work wisely and perseveringly for the Master. To answer this call requires self-sacrifice. While many are waiting to have every obstacle removed, souls are dying without hope and without God in the world. Many, very many, for the sake of worldly advantage, for the sake of acquiring scientific knowledge, will venture into pestilential regions and endure hardship and privation. Where are those who are willing to do this for the sake of telling others of the Saviour? Where are the men and women who will move into regions that are in need of the gospel, that they may point those in darkness to the Redeemer? {9T 33.2}

Wednesday (December 11): Treading the Winepresses on Sabbath

Adding to the troubles in Jerusalem was the fact that the Sabbath was being lightly regarded—or even completely ignored—by many of the Jews (see Nehemiah 13:15,16.) True to form, Nehemiah tackled the issue of Sabbath observance head on, and effected yet another set of reforms.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Nehemiah 13:17,18. What argument did Nehemiah make regarding the Sabbath? (God had allowed their fathers to be taken captive because of their disregard for the Sabbath, so why would they be making the same mistake?)

  • Read 2 Chronicles 36:21. Did Nehemiah have his history correct? (It appears that he did.) What warning and lesson might we learn regarding problems and troubles facing the church today? How many of these might be connected to a similar disregard for God’s law today? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read 2 Chronicles 36:14-16. In addition to their failure to keep the Sabbath, what other mistakes did the Jews make leading up to their captivity? (They mocked the messengers of God, despised His Word, and misused his prophets.) In what ways are these things connected with Sabbath observance? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read and discuss the following statement. Do you believe this is true? What does it suggest for us today? (Answers will vary.)

When the foundations of the earth were laid, then was also laid the foundation of the Sabbath. I was shown that if the true Sabbath had been kept, there would never have been an infidel or an atheist. The observance of the Sabbath would have preserved the world from idolatry. {1T 77 - CET 86.1}

Thursday (December 12): Did Not Your Fathers Do Thus?

In today’s lesson we will look at several statements from the book Prophets and Kings pertaining to the situation in Jerusalem at this time. As we repeatedly see, the lessons learned from this history have an important application for our time.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read the passage below. What reason is given for why the Sabbath was not being kept in Jerusalem? Do you think the same dangers exist for God’s people today? If so, what might the “merchants and traders” from heathen lands represent today? (Answers will vary.)

Another result of intercourse with idolaters was a disregard of the Sabbath, the sign distinguishing the Israelites from all other nations as worshipers of the true God. Nehemiah found that heathen merchants and traders from the surrounding country, coming to Jerusalem, had induced many among the Israelites to engage in traffic on the Sabbath. There were some who could not be persuaded to sacrifice principle, but others transgressed and joined with the heathen in their efforts to overcome the scruples of the more conscientious. Many dared openly to violate the Sabbath. “In those days,” Nehemiah writes, “saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.... There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah.” {PK 671.1}

  • Read the passage below. Who could have prevented the Jews’ slide into apostasy, and why didn’t they put a check on the growing rebellion? How can we avoid making the same mistake that Jerusalem’s leaders did?

This state of things might have been prevented had the rulers exercised their authority; but a desire to advance their own interests had led them to favor the ungodly. Nehemiah fearlessly rebuked them for their neglect of duty. “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?” he sternly demanded. “Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” He then gave command that “when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath,” they should be shut, and not opened again till the Sabbath was past; and having more confidence in his own servants than in those that the magistrates of Jerusalem might appoint, he stationed them at the gates to see that his orders were enforced. {PK 671.2}

  • Read the following passage. What additional lessons and encouragement can we glean from Nehemiah’s life?

The success attending Nehemiah’s efforts shows what prayer, faith, and wise, energetic action will accomplish. Nehemiah was not a priest; he was not a prophet; he made no pretension to high title. He was a reformer raised up for an important time. It was his aim to set his people right with God. Inspired with a great purpose, he bent every energy of his being to its accomplishment. High, unbending integrity marked his efforts. As he came into contact with evil and opposition to right he took so determined a stand that the people were roused to labor with fresh zeal and courage. They could not but recognize his loyalty, his patriotism, and his deep love for God; and, seeing this, they were willing to follow where he led. {PK 675.3

Friday (December 13): The Greatest Want of the World

Nehemiah’s dedication to God should serve as an inspiring role model for us today. He is a wonderful example of the kind of person described in the book Education, page 57:

The greatest want of the world is the want of men,—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read the following passage. What additional lessons and encouragement can we glean from Nehemiah’s life? (Answers will vary.)

The success attending Nehemiah’s efforts shows what prayer, faith, and wise, energetic action will accomplish. Nehemiah was not a priest; he was not a prophet; he made no pretension to high title. He was a reformer raised up for an important time. It was his aim to set his people right with God. Inspired with a great purpose, he bent every energy of his being to its accomplishment. High, unbending integrity marked his efforts. As he came into contact with evil and opposition to right he took so determined a stand that the people were roused to labor with fresh zeal and courage. They could not but recognize his loyalty, his patriotism, and his deep love for God; and, seeing this, they were willing to follow where he led. {PK 675.3}   

 

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Tim Rumsey
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