Sin, the Reason for Destruction – Nehemiah 1:4-11

I. Introduction:
A. I have said a couple of times in our first three messages that the theme of Nehemiah’s book is “restoration.”
1. Nehemiah said to King Artaxerxes that he was intensely sad because, “the place of my father’s sepulchres
lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire.”
2. He was told by Hanani – “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great
affliction and reproach.”
3. God lay on Nehemiah’s heart to do something about the terrible state of Jerusalem.
4. Earlier, under Zerubbabel, God’s temple had been rebuilt – but without its original glory.
5. And after 50 years it was, once again, not being given the honor it deserved.
6. Later, under Ezra the walls of the city had been rebuilt, but they had not been maintained and God’s
enemies had torn them down again.
7. The people of God, the house of God, the worship and service of God needed more restoration.
B. Although the names have changed, the geography is different and we have technology which was unimagined
in Nehemiah’s day, the same need exists today – revival – restoration.
1. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that my last statement may be true.
2. Are there enough other similarities for us to continue this study? Do birds fly and fish swim?
C. Why was Judah in the need of revival?
1. Because the nation had fallen into SPIRITUAL disrepair.
2. And what had brought about that disreputable state? Israel and Judah had sinned against God.
3. Nehemiah had expressed part of it, Lord “thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I
will scatter you abroad among the nations.”
a. Israel had chosen to worship like the heathen, rejecting the pure and holy service of Jehovah.
b. So after patiently pleading with her to return, God finally sent the Chaldean King, Nebuchadnezzar and
his Babylonian hoards to destroy the land and take most of Judah into foreign captivity.
4. The Lord had made this warning over and over again before ordaining its fulfilment.
5. In his reference, Nehemiah may have been referring to any of a number of scriptures – Leviticus 26:33-
46; Deuteronomy 4:25-27, Deuteronomy 28:64 or Deuteronomy 32:26-28.
D. Israel had been adequately warned. And, now, so has America.
1. More specifically, you and I have been warned.
2. Remember, at the time, Israel was “the nation of God” – in a sense much as you are “the people of God.”
3. If God’s chastisement it can fall on them it can fall on us – on you.
E. But it must be remembered that God has many ways to bring his people into captivity.
1. For example, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been captivated by European cemeteries during
two world wars. Multitudes of those were born again Christians.
2. Millions today are enslaved by drugs and alcohol, and even more by addiction to socialism – including
many professed Christians.
3. God permits economic terrorists, educational terrorists, informational terrorists and medical terrorists – to
frighten both the sheep and goats into slavery.
4. Have we not been somewhat enslaved for the past 6 weeks?
5. We may be 2½ centuries removed from Nehemiah, but captivity remains a threat and its causes are
essentially still the same.
F. In the course of his broken-hearted prayer, Nehemiah refers to the cause of the cause of Israel’s problems.
1. And that cause is still rife and rampant today. It can be summarized with one word – “sin.”
2. I had intended to move on to chapter two by this time in our study, but Nehemiah’s multiple references to
the cause of Israel’s captivity has forced me to dwell on this rather unhappy, but important, subject.
II. Sin was the reason Judah had been sent into Babylonian captivity & sin is still the cause of captivity today
A. Nehemiah prayed and said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great & terrible God, that keepeth covenant & mercy
for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open…
a. (I) confess the SINS of the children of Israel, which we have SINNED against thee: both I and my
father’s house have sinned. We have dealt VERY CORRUPTLY against thee, and have NOT KEPT
the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
b. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye
transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations…”
2. Nehemiah uses a couple of Hebrew words and a couple of descriptions for sin.
3. You and I need to understand what he said; we need to understand the nature of sin.
4. We need to be able to explain to our neighbors why they have been brought into captivity.
5. But more importantly, we, ourselves, need to be reminded about the sinfulness of sin.
6. Even the people of God, Daniel, Jeremiah, Haggai, can be sent into captivity.
B. In verse 6 Nehemiah says, “We have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.”
1. What is it that he and his father’s house had done? Literally, by definition, they had “missed the mark.“
2. This is the most common word for sin in both testaments.
a. In Greek the word is “harmartia” – and the theology of sin is “Harmartiology.”
b. But let’s lay aside the Greek today. Let’s try to stick with what the Old Testament and Nehemiah say.
C. I would not be displeased if you remembered this basic definition of sin – it is “to miss the mark.”
1. Some of you might remember that the Israelite tribe of Benjamin had two characteristics which set them
apart from the rest of the nation.
2. First, they were experts with slinging stones which often caught the enemy off guard because they were
fired from the opposite hand – from the left.
3. In Judges 20:16 we read – “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded;
every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.”
4. “And not miss” uses the most common Hebrew word for “sin” – “chata (khaw-taw).”
5. In battle, hitting the target was often a matter of life and death; to miss was a sin against ones’ self.
6. “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at
an hair breadth, and not SIN in missing their mark.”
D. A study of that word “chata (khaw-taw)” throughout the Old Testament brings out some special nuances.
1. As in the case of these Benjamites, to sin is to miss the mark; to miss one’s target; one’s aim.
2. Spiritually speaking, of course, the mark has been set by the infinitely holy God.
3. King Ahab, in the days of Elijah, was cursed by God – he was declared “anathema” – because he
deliberately made Israel to miss His mark.
a. He had married outside the nations’ faith, bringing Jezebel and her Zidonian idolatries into the land.
b. By the time of the famous battle on Mt. Carmel, there were more than a thousand false priests in Israel.
c. And the commission of every one of them was to teach Israel to worship the gods of the heathen.
d. Sadly, they were high effective.
4. So in I Kings 21:22 God said to Ahab, I will “make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of
Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast
provoked me to anger, and made Israel to SIN.”
5. Ahab and his priests were intentionally making Israel to miss Jehovah’s mark of holiness and worship.
E. But I ask you. How difficult is it to make sin blinded hearts & curse corrupted minds to miss God’s perfection?
1. 80 years after Ezra lead a number of good-hearted people back to Jerusalem to serve the Lord – four
generations later – most were once again not serving God. Why?
2. Because we all have a propensity to miss. “There is none righteous there is none that seeketh after God.”
3. You, me and Israel have a hard time seeing God’s target and an even hard time even wanting to look for it.
4. You are a sinner. God tells us so; Christ tells us; nature proclaims it, and history proves it.
5. 80 years of life in this sinful, Satan-controlled world, and there is not a mark-hitting person in the land.
F. Wednesday after the service, several of us had a friendly little debate about the spiritual condition of King Saul
1. Bro. Fulton has been teaching us about David and about King Saul’s fall from grace.
2. One key step to that fall – that sin – was Israel’s battle with Agag King of Amalek.
3. Saul had orders from God which specifically included the command to kill the king, but Saul decided to
make a living trophy out of him instead, displaying him at a great festival full of joy and thank offerings.
4. I Samuel 15:22 – “And Samuel said (to Saul), Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken
than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.“
5. Saul had Agag in his sights – his arrow was notched and ready to fly – but he deliberately pulled away and
missed the mark – he sinned.
6. And how many times have you done exactly the same thing missing God’s mark. You are a sinner.
G. But missing is not just a matter of not hitting, or not wanting, to hit God’s mark.
1. To sin might be illustrated by missing one’s step and to trip and fall.
2. Proverbs 19:1 – “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a
3. Remember our lesson on Hebrew poetry a few weeks ago – their use of parallelism.
4. Verse 2 parallels verse 1 adding, “Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that
hasteth with his feet SINNETH.”
H. A couple years ago I was walking back after leaving my car with my mechanic, and I was walking too fast.
1. In my haste I missed my step, hit an upraised section of sidewalk and made a glorious somersault, nearly
breaking my hand.
2. It would be accurate in Hebrew to say that I “sinned” with my foot, which caused me to stumble.
I. There is another Hebrew word translated “sin” which moves us from missing the mark to missing the step.
1. The day that I tripped there was a man following me about half a block behind.
2. I assure you that I did not make the somersault in an attempt to impress him with my gymnastics skill.
3. It was an accident, and yet in the Hebrew, it might still have been the word “chata (khaw-taw)” – “sin.”
4. There is the deliberate missing of God’s mark, & there is the accidental misstep which sends us tumbling.
J. “Asam” is a word which speaks of the sin of not obeying – not doing what God commands us to do.
1. A man’s ignorance of an offence against God does not absolve him from its guilt.
2. Leviticus 5:17 – “If a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the
commandments of the LORD; though he wist (or knows) it not, yet is he guilty, & shall bear his iniquity.”
3. As inevitable, through gravity, as was my fall, so is God’s judgment on those who miss-step His will.
4. In Psalm 19 – David confessed to understanding his lack of understanding.
5. He said, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
6. Brethren, we all have sins which are unknown to us, but they are all real to God, and we are responsible for
K. This was undoubtedly a part of Nehemiah’s confession.
1. He was sure there was sin involved in the judgment on Israel, but at least, on his part, he couldn’t identify it
2. You and I, in our native wickedness, might not think much of these unknown sins and our sins of omission,
but remember the Bible uses the same words to describe all of them.
3. And God’s judgments for them are exactly the same.
L. In fact there have been some really serious judgments handed out against those who sin negligently.
1. Judges 5:33 – “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof;
because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.”
2. Borrowing from the New Testament there is I Corinthians 16:22 – “If any man love not the Lord Jesus
Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” – cursed at Christ’s coming. Do you love the Lord Jesus?
3. Simply by not putting faith in Christ for salvation our sin of omission means eternal damnation.
4. Christ will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel
our Lord Jesus Christ.”
M. We could apply “chata” several other ways, and one would be the sin of missing God’s intended JOY.
1. When Zerubbabel led that first group of returnees to Judah, with the intention of rebuilding their lives and
rebuilding the temple, every step of that 1,600 mile journey was taken with joy.
2. The young children in that huge caravan could probably sense the excitement which lay in the hearts of
their parents, so they often shared in it.
3. But by the third generation, those born in the land – those born under the privation which persecution
created – there was less and less joy – until there was none at all.
4. Then from the fourth generation came the report that Hanani brought back to Nehemiah.
N. And what robbed that generation of their happiness and joy? Wasn’t it their return to sin?
1. The struggle to put food on the table in the midst of man-caused famine, sapped away their love for God.
2. “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” –
Deuteronomy 6:5.
3. Without becoming open idolaters, many had descended into to worshiping the Lord out of habit & ritual.
4. They were living in unbelief, discouragement & criticism. They were Israel; it was in the blood to murmur.
5. In the process they were sinning against themselves as well as the Lord.
6. God has intended good for His people, even if it sometimes flows through the sewer of tribulation.
7. But when we choose to step over or around those blessings, we can be pretty sure to step on some really
ugly, slippery, sticky, stinky stuff.
O. There are other things I could say about “chata” and missing the mark set by the Lord, but let’s move on.
1. Nehemiah confessed Israel’s lack of obedience.
2. Specifically, we have “not kept the commandments, nor the statutes nor the judgments which thou
commandest thy servant Moses.”
3. What do you make of those three “misses” – “commandments, statutes and judgments?”
4. They are obviously things about which God ordered obedience from Israel.
5. We can summarize the first two as His moral laws and His ceremonial laws.
6. The ceremonial laws of Israel do not, for the most part, apply to us – things like the maintenance of feast
days, rules about clothing, Sabbath rituals.
7. But God’s moral laws, encapsulated in “the Ten Commandments,” were all instituted long before Moses.
a. “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me” – that is not a law to Israel; that is a law for all humanity.
b. “Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not covet,” and so on – these are eternal moral laws.
c. You are bound by the creator to keep a day of rest in which to worship and honor him.
d. You have no right to murder that unborn baby which your fornication has produced.
e. Those are sins against two of God’s moral laws.
8. Nehemiah acknowledged that he & his people had missed the mark of God’s commandments & statutes.
P. But there was one more point in Nehemiah’s trinity of transgressions – sins against God’s judgments.
1. This is perhaps the most heinous, or at least the most foolish, of the three.
2. When we see that God has judged sins in Saul, David, Agag and Ahab, then it is beyond foolish for us to
miss God’s mark ourselves.
3. The Lord exposed, revealed and judged the sins of these men, declaring their sinfulness, and then He
further judged them by bring punishment upon the sinners themselves.
Q. Why had Judah been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon? Because of sin.
1. Israel had been judged by God through the Assyrians and Chaldeans.
2. And yet, now she is self destructing once again. Sinning against God’s earlier judgments.
3. Don’t sneer or jeer – because the truth is, after 6,000 years of human existence and divine government,
there is no sin we might commit which isn’t against both commandment AND judgment.
4. Satan has not come up with any new sins; there are no new laws to transgress in the world.
5. Every “miss step” you make today has already been exposed and judged by God.
6. What fools we are to sin against the holy, omniscient and sovereign God.
R. Finally, Nehemiah uses one more word to speak about Israel’s sins – “we have death very corruptly against
1. This Hebrew word suggests using a rope to bind something, tightening and synching it down more & more.
2. Are you familiar with the cute little verse from Song of Solomon 2:15 which speaks about “the foxes, the
little foxes, that spoil the vines…?
3. The word “spoil” is this form of corrupting sin – squeezing, ruining the vine of God’s blessing.
4. Some people, especially those of a Pharisaical nature, abuse the law of God by squeezing it into situations
and places where God never intended it to go.
5. And the rest of us often try to squeeze ourselves through a prohibition by making excuses and misapplying
God’s Word.
6. “We have dealt very corruptly against thee.”
7. But reality we have slipped a noose around our necks and started pulling.
III. Is there a solution?
A. In the midst of this condemnation and self-condemnation, remember that Nehemiah is in the midst of prayer.
1. It is to the Lord that he says, “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant
Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
a. But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out
unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the
place that I have chosen to set my name there.”
2. Remember that the Lord is gracious and merciful.
3. Remember – “the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.“
B. Nehemiah was not praying blindly or without any hope.
1. As I suggested last week, this man knew the Lord pretty well.
2. He may not have had the privilege to know about the incarnation of the Son of God and His sacrifice on the
3. He may have not had the opportunity to the study the theology of Paul, coming to understand the doctrine
of justification.
4. But he did know that the Lord is gracious, and he could feel the moving of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.
5. He knew there was hope as he threw himself down before the merciful God.
C. When God’s people humble themselves and pray – and by faith reach out to the God of grace, miracles take
1. Souls can be born again; stony hearts can be regenerated and made soft again.
2. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and
turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their souls.”
D. I urge you to repent before God and believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.