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January 20, 2011 – Nehemiah 10

It’s interesting which of the ten commandments often gives us the most trouble. Even non-believers can agree that we shouldn’t murder, shouldn’t commit adultery, should honor our parents and put God before other Gods. But honoring the Sabbath seems to stick right in our freedom-craw.

Some of the ancient rabbis considered this the most important commandment (for realsies). John Wesley argued that this was the gateway commandment: easiest to break and it opens the door for all the other breakages in our life. It seems that absolutely committing this day to God is a difficult nut for even the mightiest of spiritual squirrels.


In Nehemiah 10:31, the people pledge not to buy any merchandise or grain from their heathen neighbors on the Sabbath or other holy days. Simply put, they won’t visit the butcher, baker or candlestick maker any on of God’s days. Sound easy?

Shall we make it hit close to home? Most of us can find some way of not working on Sundays (or Saturdays, if you prefer), but what about purchasing? Have you ever run to Walmart on Sunday just to grab a few things? Or run to the grocery store for doughnuts before Sunday School? Or what about going out to that holy buffet after church, or ordering pizza for the game?


Don’t worry, we’ll give you an out. Just because these guys took this oath, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily binding on us. True, we are to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, but there is considerable debate on what exactly that means. Does it necessarily preclude work? What about pastors? There’s even a fairly intense debate about which day is the Sabbath, Sunday or Saturday. So don’t panic that you’ll never be able to order Pizza Hut for the Superbowl again.

Jesus himself seemed to indicate that the rules governing the Sabbath weren’t completely inviolate. It’s difficult to say exactly what his point was when he pointed out that the Sabbath was made for man rather than the other way around, but that’s probably a debate for a different day. Enough to say it may not be so black and white.


It seems these people themselves weren’t too gung ho, so don’t feel too lonely if you have a hard time with this one. In 13:15, the people who made this pledge are already breaking their oath (if we assume the same people of Judah were involved in both instances here. ‘Spose we can give them the benefit of the doubt.) Perhaps they were a little hasty in making an oath that went beyond what the plain words of Scripture said?

Of course, just because they hard a hard time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  How about going a month without eating at a restaurant or ordering food or shopping on a Sunday? Could you make it? Do you dare to try?

Let’s try after the Superbowl. No reason to go nuts.

One thought on “January 20, 2011 – Nehemiah 10

  1. Jamorama i think you have a great site here… today was my first time coming here.. i just happened to find it doing a google search. anyway, great post.. i’ll be bookmarking this page for sure.

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