Wed, Sep 26, 2018

Nehemiah 13

Like I shared last week. I wish the book of Nehemiah closed with chapter 12 with the Jews who had returned to the city at a great place in their relationship with God. But life doesn’t always finish on a high note. Though in chapter 12 we have the Jews rejoicing with singing and with instruments and even a choir that can be heard miles away. As the book of Nehemiah comes to a close a great question should be dominating our thoughts.How do I apply this book to my own life?
Duration:1 hr 35 mins 3 secs

Nehemiah 13


Like I shared last week. I wish the book of Nehemiah closed with chapter 12 with the Jews who had returned to the city at a great place in their relationship with God. But life doesn’t always finish on a high note. Though in chapter 12 we have the Jews rejoicing with singing and with instruments and even a choir that can be heard miles away.


As the book of Nehemiah comes to a close a great question should be dominating our thoughts.How do I apply this book to my own life?


Nehemiah was a layman, not a priest like Ezra nor a prophet like Malachi. He served the Persian king in a secular position before leading a group of Jews to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the city walls. “Nehemiah’s expertise in the king’s court equipped him adequately for the political and physical reconstruction necessary for the remnant to survive."


Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the Jews withstood opposition and came together to accomplish their goal of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city. Nehemiah led by example, giving up a respected position in a palace for hard labor in a politically insignificant district. He partnered with Ezra, who also appears in this book, to solidify the political and spiritual foundations of the people. Nehemiah’s humility before God (see his moving intercessory prayers in chapters 1 and 9) provided an example for the people. He did not claim glory for himself but always gave God the credit for his successes.


Nehemiah’s life provides a great study on leadership. He overcame opposition from outsiders as well as internal turmoil. He exercised his administrative skills in his strategy to use half the people for building the wall while the other half kept watch for the Samaritans who, under Sanballat, threatened to attack (Nehemiah 4–7).


As governor, Nehemiah negotiated peace among the Jews who were unhappy with Persian taxes. He exhibited a steadfast determination to complete his goals. Accomplishing those goals resulted in a people encouraged, renewed, and excited about their future. Do my accomplishments benefit others?


Church is not a spectator sport.  


The book of Nehemiah shows us the significant impact that one individual can have on an entire nation. Nehemiah served in secular positions, using his position to bring back to the Jews order, stability, and proper focus on God.


God uses all different kinds of people in all kinds of places doing all kinds of work to accomplish His will. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King and he used his position to learn the news of what was going on in Jerusalem.


You don’t need to be on a church staff in order to serve God? Be encouraged in that God is not limited by your vocation. The truth be told, God has placed you where you are right now for a purpose!


Have this attitude about your work: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17).

Nehemiah 13


1 On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people, and in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God,


After serving for 12 years in Jerusalem, in 433 B.C. Nehemiah returned to Babylon for an unspecified time. Then he obtained permission to visit Jerusalem again, a visit that dealt with the correcting of abuses. "On that day" (v. 1) may refer back to the last chapter, or it may refer to another day during Nehemiah's absence (v. 6).


2 because they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing.


Verse 2 tells us how they treated Israel when they came out of the wilderness.

”They had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them...” You can read about Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Balaam was an occult practitioner – an ancient witchdoctor. He conjured up demons to apply curses on people, and play havoc with their lives. That’s why the king of Moab hired Balaam to place a curse on Israel. Balaam wanted to cash in...


But verse 2 ends, “However, our God turned the curse into a blessing.”


4 times Balaam opened his mouth hoping to utter a curse on Israel, but each time God upped him – and he uttered a blessing instead of a curse. You remember the story of Balak the king of the Moabites who hired Balaam to curse Israel, to break the power that they have. God used Balaam’s donkey to speak to him and tell him what he was to do. Balaam spoke a blessing instead of a cursing… Balak hears it and says if you cant say something bad don’t say anything at all. Balaam told Balak that there is only one way you can defeat this country. Send your daughters down and have them entice the young men into adultery then bring out their idols and the men will worship them and then God will chasten them. 10’s of thousands die as a result of the peoples sins… This was happening in Nehemiah’s day. The Jews were once again sleeping with the enemy. They were associating with people who were an evil influence.

3 So it was, when they had heard the Law, that they separated all the mixed multitude from Israel.


It was at the reading the Law, God’s Word illuminates and brings things to light that once were hidden in the dark.


The Jews now realized that the Ammonites and Moabites were not to be a part of their congregation, so they sent them on their way.

4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah.


Through marriage, the priest was allied to Tobiah. Tobiah was an Ammonite.



5 And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.



6 But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king,


Nehemiah was on a leave of absence. As promised, he had returned to Babylon to talk to the king (2:6). In his absence, Eliashib, the priest, had given Tobiah a room in the temple. And we can find ourselves doing the same thing. That is, we experience renewal, excitement, and revival, and then slowly but surely, we find ourselves compromising, returning to our old ways, making room for sin.


The good news here. Upon his return it did not take Nehemiah long to remedy the situation. Other problems had also appeared in his absence, and Nehemiah was furious and worked to right the wrongs done.


7 and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.

8 And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.


Like Nehemiah, the Holy Spirit comes on the scene of our lives to convict us and save us from further disaster.


9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.


Nehemiah had them fumigate the place.


Notice that Nehemiah didn’t pray about this. He simply said, “This is wrong. We’re neither going to compromise with Tobiah nor seek to control him. We are not to try to win victory over sin or compromise with sin. As Ephesians 4:22 says, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,”


Do you remember how when you came to Christ you “put off” the things you formerly did. Have you noticed that many of the things that people once “put off”, they eventually “put back on…” Living a life of consecration is hard, there will always be temptation to turn back, to give in.


10 I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.

11 So I contended with the rulers, and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" And I gathered them together and set them in their place.

12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse.

13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren.


In response to Nehemiah’s question in verse 11, the people loosened their wallets so that the Levites could return to do the work they were called to do.


14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!


After dealing with the compromise and negligence of the people, here Nehemiah prays to remember… The good news is, God keeps great records, He remembers!  


15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.

16 Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.


The people had broken the promise they had made previously (Nehemiah 10:31, “if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year's produce and the exacting of every debt.”


They had violated the covenant by selling and working on the Sabbath.


17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?

18 Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath."

19 So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day.

20 Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice.


Nehemiah ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be shut before the Sabbath in order to keep it from being violated by the buying and selling of merchandise.


Flee temptation!


21 Then I warned them, and said to them, "Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!" From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath.


“I will lay hands on you”… He’s not saying I’’l pray for you…


We have to contend for the things of God. If we just let life take its course that our rest in the Lord will be crowded out. (The Frog in the Kettle… One degree at a time).


When the merchants set up camp right outside the city wall, Nehemiah addressed them as well because it wasn’t only what went on in the city, but what was taking place around the city that concerned him. We have an obligation concerning not only that which goes on within our own soul, but outside of the walls. It’s not just about me feeling good in my own walk with the Lord, but about helping others outside of myself to do better, to walk more closely to Him.


22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!


After dealing with the problem directly, Nehemiah delegated the care of it to the Levites.


As he moves from one fire to another, dealing with situations, doing what’s needed Nehemiah prays as if to say, “If I’m doing wrong, forgive me, Lord. You know my heart. I’m trying to see Your work carried out.”


Nehemiah had to rebuke the rulers who allowed the people to work on the Sabbath. The foreigners who lived among them tried to make the Sabbath a market day. But the Sabbath must be kept holy, by force if necessary. Men were sent to secure the gates, and the greedy merchants camping outside the city were run off under threat of violence. Forbidden activity came to a screeching halt. For this too Nehemiah asked to be remembered (v. 22).

23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.

24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people.


When you marry someone who doesn’t love the Lord at least as much as you do, your kids will speak a language that will ultimately grieve you. One day, the way they think will break your heart.


2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?


25 So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.


Faithful are the wounds of a friend… Can you imagine Nehemiah pastoring in our day and age? How many people do you think would attend the church he’s leading…


26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.

27 Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?"


Jon Courson writes, “When Nehemiah saw that the people of God had married the heathens surrounding them, he pulled the hair of some of them to make his point. Interestingly, when Ezra saw this same situation, he didn’t pull the hair of the people, but pulled the hair of his own beard (Ezra 9:3).


I call this to your attention to remind you that leadership works out differently in different individuals. God puts different personalities in us to work out different kinds of influences through us. This is so freeing. You can be so patient with people, so generous, so giving if you realize we’re all made and used differently. Thus, I respect Nehemiah for his authority and Ezra for his humility.”


Hunt down the people we love. Be vigilant in our love for them and desire for them to walk in the ways of God.



28 And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me.


This happened in the home of the High Priest. Joiada, the son of the high priest, had married Sanballat’s daughter. Considering the grief Sanballat had brought the people of God, it is no wonder Nehemiah responded the way he did.


29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.

30 Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan. I also assigned duties to the priests and the Levites, each to his service,


It’s interesting to note the 3 sins Nehemiah radically opposed... 1. intermingling Jews with pagans, 2. neglecting to pay tithes and 3. irreverence for the Sabbath.

Nehemiah was so successful in creating a disdain among the Jews for these three offenses they went overboard. They became self-righteous and legalistic.


By the time of Jesus these were the primary preoccupations of the Pharisees. They hated gentiles - stringently paid tithes – and constructed a rigid system of observing the Sabbath. Jesus continually had to correct them regarding all three.


31 and to bringing the wood offering and the firstfruits at appointed times. Remember me, O my God, for good!


After dealing with the sinful situations before him, in Nehemiah’s prayer, We hear the words of humility, as if he’s saying, “Don’t forget me Lord, You know my heart”


It’s no wonder that Nehemiah is remembered throughout as a wonderful example of what biblical leadership is to look like.


Several years earlier the foreign wives had been put away at the command of Ezra (Ezra 10). The people had since then made a covenant to separate themselves from the heathen (chap. 10) and had done so to a certain extent. But in time the practice of Jews marrying women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab flourished once more, even in the priesthood. Some of the malefactors were physically punished; others were excommunicated. A grandson of the high priest was sent away. The heathen were driven away and the Lord was asked to deal with those who had defiled their holy offices. Once more Nehemiah asked the Lord that he be remembered (v. 31).


In the church there is no ban on marriage between different ethnic groups, because Christianity is a faith embracing all peoples and tribes. But even in OT times the main reason for the ban was no doubt the corrupt, false religions of the Gentile nations. Campbell comments on the type of mixed marriages that are destructive to Christianity: The New Testament adds its consistent witness against marriages between believers and unbelievers. Paul directed believers to marry "only in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:39). Yet today as in previous ages, some believers rationalize that they will lead the unsaved to the Lord—but it rarely works that way and children more often than not follow the ways of the unregenerate parent.


Throughout his rule Nehemiah was a man of action. Nowhere is that more evident than here, as zeal for the things of God consumed him Psalm 69:9, “Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”


Because he was no respecter of persons, his anger was felt equally by all who transgressed the law of the Lord. He warned, admonished, reprimanded, contended, struck, pulled out hair, and generally made things difficult for the ungodly! He was a courageous man and a tenacious general in the front lines of the fight against evil. He was a tireless worker and a great builder for God. This chapter brings OT history to a close.


Charles Swindoll closes his commentary on Nehemiah, Hand Me Another Brick, with a challenge to us all: I think it is significant that the final scene in Nehemiah's book portrays him on his knees asking God for grace. He had fought hard for the right, but he had kept his heart soft before the Lord. What a magnificent model of leadership! He was a man of honesty, conviction, and devotion. Can you handle another brick?



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