Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A MAN NOT TO MESS WITH

Nehemiah is the man!  Do not mess with him!  His zeal for the LORD is for real!  Evidently, in order to get some people back on track, including a city - Jerusalem and a nation - Israel, Nehemiah had to get a little rough.  Some of us call it tough love.  Consider the following verses from Nehemiah 13.

Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests. (verses 4-5)


Because the room Eliashib provided Tobiah was "formerly used to store..." that means it now stores something else that we can guess it probably should not.

Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God.  I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room.  I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. (7-9)



Hmmm, that sounds like another scene I know of found in John 2:13-16 - 


When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Nehemiah continues to see grave mistakes.  And gives them their first warning.
 
In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. (15)

These vendors were persistent but so was Nehemiah and the salespeople get a second warning followed by a threat!

Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem.  But I warned them and said, "Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you." From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. (20-21)

Next?!  Nehemiah did not have to wait long or look far to find the next major disobedience of the people.  God did not want His people to intermarry with other certain people that He had helped Israel conquer.  But what did Israel do?  You guessed it!  And Nehemiah had enough!  Plus, he followed through on his threat here for some of that tough love I mentioned earlier.

Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab.  Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah.  I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: "You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.  Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? (23-26)

So, Nehemiah sees a need to cleanse the Temple.  There is a disobedience of The Law of the Sabbath that needs to be corrected.  Finally, in this one chapter, Nehemiah has to deal with a re-occurring issue - marriage to the wrong sort.  Sounds like some serious Spring Cleaning by Nehemiah!  

Application:  I will not go into detail, but sometimes in my past God has played the part of Nehemiah and had to get physical with me in order to clean my temple, make me respect all days (including the Sabbath), and love my wife as Christ loved the church.  I encourage all of us, me included, to be the initiator of the Spring Cleaning.  My favorite Psalm of all is Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  If you pray this prayer first, God will reveal the things you need to discard.  I love the fact that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).  So, do it today before you get so filthy that nobody will be able to recognize you and God will not desire to use you.