Archive for March 22nd, 2014

Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah 13 has this faithful servant and leader cleaning up the mess that has returned to the people in the city of Jerusalem.  They’ve worked hard together to rebuild the city, but now sin has crept back in along with their old ways, and Nehemiah has to deal with it.  The people still “read from the Book” and were hearing truth, which is so important to staying the course.  And God was still convicting them of sin because “as soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent”.  They had reverted back to their old sinful ways, and now it was time to clean their lives up.

Nehemaih had returned to king Artaxerxes for a bit, but has now come back and discovered that “Eliashib the priest….prepared for Tobiah a large chamber”.  You’ll remember that Tobiah was one of the enemies of God’s people who spent much time trying to derail the rebuilding of the wall.  And now they have made a place for Him and his things in the very temple he tried to prevent.  Nehemiah “was very angry, and threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God”.  How short our memories are.  Not that long ago this man was an enemy, and already they have allowed the fox into the henhouse.  Nehemiah changes that.

He has to confront the leaders on another level as “the portions of the Levites had not been given to them….so I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?”   The leaders weren’t taking care of those who were serving so Nehemiah “gathered them together and set them in their stations….appointed as treasurers over the storehouses….for they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers”.  He had to put a layer of accountability over those who were to be gathering the food and supplies to support the Levites who served in the temple.  He didn’t throw out those who were not doing their job, he put accountability in place to verify they did what they were supposed to.  Trust, but verify, a very powerful leadership approach.

Nehemiah has to deal with yet another problem so “I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?”  They had fallen back to treating the Sabbath just like any other day bringing wares and produce to the city and selling it and doing business.  He kyboshes that and “as soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates”.  He makes sure that does not happen and the Sabbath returns to a holy day of rest.

Ah, but there is more.  It seems that there were marriages being consummated with foreigners so “I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair…I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves”.  This was obviously a hot button for Nehemiah as God strictly forbid this.  And history had a long record of showing the negative damage done to God’s people because they allowed sin to infiltrate their lives through this all the way back to Solomon.  Nehemiah “cleansed them from everything foreign, and established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work”.  Nehemiah could have easily felt that his job was done when the wall was finished, but he didn’t.  He stayed engaged and led the people to address the sin that had crept back in, and confronted the people responsible and cleaned it up.  This is true leadership, and what it looks like to stay focused and finish strong!

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