Category Archives: Nehemiah
Well, we have come to the end of Nehemiah, and in chapter 13, it seems as if Nehemiah himself had to take a trip back to Babylon to most likely report to the king. Unfortunately, while he was gone, the people got into some bad stuff.
Neh 13:4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
Neh 13:5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.
Basically, a guy who was supposed to be a priest turned a room in the temple that was meant for the worship of God into a room that was used for a feast. Beyond that, we find that a little bit later that the food that is mentioned here and was meant for the Levites never made it to the Levites.
Neh 13:10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.
Not only did he defile a room in the Temple, but he also broke the rules in regards to how the food was supposed to be used. The food was supposed to be for the people who had the duty of serving God in the Temple, but in this case, the system was being abused.
Nehemiah was not thrilled with this to say the least.
Neh 13:11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.
He disciplined the rulers, and then he made the situation better by bringing all the Levites back to the Temple like they should have been. He didn’t let the people off the hook for disobeying the law of God, but he also took productive steps to ultimately improve the situation.
This is what we need to do today. We live in a world that disobeys the word of God all the time (and I know that we are all guilty of doing that every now and then). We can’t just ignore the problem. We need forgiveness. However, we also need to take steps in a positive direction to continue growing nearer to God.
1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
1Jn 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1Jn 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1Jn 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1Jn 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
It is a two-part process. We might sin, and while that is not acceptable, Jesus died to bring us forgiveness. Then, we need to keep His commandments and continue growing closer. This will lead us toward spiritual maturity.
In Nehemiah 12, we find out that the people of Jerusalem are having another party to glorify God. This time they want to dedicate everything that had been done to God, so they brought everyone into make this celebration happen.
Neh 12:27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.
I like these people. They will have a party for any reason, but the great part is that they are not just throwing the party to praise themselves. They are throwing the parties to praise God.
Neh 12:43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
These were intricate celebrations, and I kind of wonder if we need to have a similar attitude of praise. I’m not necessarily saying that we need to get all of our friends together and have a giant party, but if you look at the people, they were simply excited to praise God whenever they had the opportunity.
What if we took this mindset into our lives every day? When I think about all the possible ways that we are blessed every day, we could be praising around the clock. How long then do you think that God wants us to be praising?
Heb 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
What a coincidence. God wants us to be praising at every opportunity kind of like it seems like the people of Jerusalem were throwing giant parties to praise God at every opportunity. He has done so much for all of us that it only makes sense to show our thankfulness through praise.
Nehemiah 11 is kind of interesting. We find out right away that the people of Israel cast lots so that 10% had to move into the city.
Neh 11:1 And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.
Neh 11:2 And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
It is not hard to understand why the people of Israel wanted plenty of people in the capital city. Obviously, they needed people there to run it, and if the rulers were living there, they could not do everything by themselves. It was also the center of worship, and that was obviously something that was vitally important to the people of Israel as we have been talking about Nehemiah.
The more interesting question is why people didn’t want to move into the city. After all, in society today, we tend to congregate in cities anyway. Was there some reason that people did not really want to live in cities back then?
One thing that comes to mind is the fact that land is power, and if you live in the city, you don’t have very much of it. I know that this kind of power system was prevalent under the Roman Empire, so even though we aren’t quite there yet historically, I guess it could be possible that these people were making a financial sacrifice to live in city.
Another thing that could potentially be happening here is the fact that the city may not have been as safe as the country. I read this one as I was reading John Gill’s commentary which is provided alongside my e-Sword Bible, and it does make quite a bit of sense. The people of Israel were under the threat of attack just a few chapters ago. Obviously, Jerusalem would be a prime target if the enemy came back.
Perhaps then, moving to Jerusalem made a lot of hassles for those who were chosen, but we have no record that anyone said that they would not go. They understood the importance of occupying Jerusalem. They knew that it was important from a physical perspective to actually have people occupying the city but also from the perspective of having people there to corporately worship God. They were willing to sacrifice possibly money and safety to make this happen.
I know that I have written multiple times about the seriousness of making a promise to God, and in Nehemiah 10, the people are making a promise that they would essentially be in the world but not of the world.
Neh 10:29 They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;
Neh 10:30 And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons:
Neh 10:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
I pulled out these two verses along with the one referring to the curse, which in Hebrew simply means an oath according to Strong’s numbers, because they highlight a few important things that went along with this promise.
For one thing, they weren’t going to intermarry with the people of the land. This is not because of nationality or race whatsoever, but it is most likely a matter of religion. You can see a similar message in the New Testament encouraging Christians to marry Christians.
2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
The other main point was that they were not going to violate their belief system in order to do business. They weren’t going to buy from these other people on Sunday. For them, following God was more important than doing business.
I pull out these two points because I think that human love and money are two of the most common idols in the world today. We assume that love transcends all. We assume that it is some kind of emotion that ought to be our ultimate pursuit in life. This even can be a discussion that goes beyond just marriage. We idolize the love and acceptance of others in our social circles more than we desire the love of God at times. It can definitely become a hindrance.
Money hardly needs discussion. We see people who are willing to cut ethical corners to make a little bit more money. They don’t realize that it is more important to do business the way that God would want us to. When money becomes a top priority, many bad things can follow.
The people of Jerusalem behind the leadership of Nehemiah very interestingly but I think appropriately named these problems first as things that they were going to avoid.
Some people would argue that the Bible is outdated or is not relevant to today, but as I have been going through it, I have seen that people then had a sin nature just like people now. Human love and money are still idols that need to be put in the right place. They are both great things, but they are definitely not God.
Nehemiah 9 is a very nice recap of the history of the nation of Israel. The people are worshiping God, and they are talking about all that He had done for the people starting with Abraham. Most of this content is a review, but there was one part that was particularly interesting to me.
Neh 9:26 Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.
Neh 9:27 Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.
Neh 9:28 But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;
I think that these verses explain the role of God in everyday life. For years, He had been the protector of Israel and was quite frankly the only reason they survived and thrived in the way that they did. The wandering in the desert would have probably killed them off without manna. I highly doubt that the desert would be able to produce enough food to help them.
However, even with all of this protection, the people of Israel rebelled and God delivered them into the hands of their enemies. The word for delivered is a very broad word in Hebrew, nathan, which can also be translated as gave or assigned.
The same thing happens again in the next verse where God left them in the hands of their enemies.
The point is that we need the protection of God in our lives. When the people of Israel rebelled and ran away from God, they were in trouble because God basically let them have what they wanted. They didn’t want to follow God, so God let them be on their own. Obviously, as an omnipresent God, He was technically present, but He allowed things to happen to Israel. He allowed them to have the consequences that were coming to them.
It is kind of strange. People try to put God out of their lives. Biblically, it never worked out too well for the people of Israel when they tried to ignore God, so why would we expect anything different today?
Nehemiah becomes even a better book in chapter 8. If you recall, the wall has just been completed, and now the people are beginning to build houses and internal structures.
However, they also had some other things going on while they were building.
Neh 8:2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
Neh 8:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
These people were committed to a learning about the Bible (at least as much of the Old Testament as they had at that time). They knew that the Bible wasn’t meant to be something that was hidden away from the people. The leadership spoke about it in public so that all the people could understand.
I think that is something that we all need to really take seriously. The Bible is meant to be read by all of us on a daily basis if possible. We can’t expect our pastors to do all the Bible reading for us and then simply have us soak it in on a Sunday morning. Like I have told you before, that is part of the reason I started writing here. It held me accountable for getting in the Bible every day. It provides value.
Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
These people were considered more noble by the early church because they were in the Bible every day. They were putting in the effort outside of the traditional church services. They were listening to the world and actively engaging it with Scripture to discern truth.
We need to be like the people in Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Berea. They were engaged with Scripture. Remember, we don’t call it the Good Book for nothing.
In Nehemiah 7, Jerusalem is beginning to come together, but there is still work to be done.
Neh 7:4 Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
Building the wall was the priority, and that is obviously what the people had focused on. They needed the defenses up given all of the outside threats, and they knew that the internal development would happen next.
I think that this is an interesting picture of the role of apologetics in the Christian life. In a sense, our defenses are our reasons for our faith which we are called to have.
1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
1Pe 3:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
When you put together those basics to be our wall, we are ready to build up the inside. I think about that as kind of the mission toward spiritual maturity. Your inside becomes more sophisticated like the city became more sophisticated.
At the beginning, we have the basics. We have our faith in God, and we have whatever reasons we had for coming to that faith. However, once we have that in place, then we need to develop the inside. We don’t necessarily build houses, but we do become more mature and bear spiritual fruit.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
We still have our wall there that helps us hold firm in our belief and helps us to not be swayed by competing ideologies or belief systems, but we have development on the inside that helps us get more out of our Christian life and become better workers for Christ.
I know that this is not directly related to Nehemiah, but when I saw the imagery, I saw the application of that approach in our lives. Our spiritual lives are outlined by our faith and the reasons for that faith, but once we have that in place, I would hope that our development continues and we become even better servants for God.
There is something about the fact that Nehemiah was writing in the first person that really makes it that much more interesting for me. In Nehemiah 6, I think that the appeal mainly comes from the fact that he was a rather ordinary guy on some level, but he was still able to serve God where he was placed. I can identify with that.
To address my first point, Nehemiah was not a priest. He was not a pastor, a missionary, a prophet, an evangelist or even a Sunday School teacher. He was a governor. He worked in a non-ministry job.
Nevertheless, he was willing to serve God where he was at. For example, his enemies sent a false prophet to try to mess with him. Here was his response.
Neh 6:12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
Neh 6:13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
He was able to perceive sin. That is an important skill for any believer even today, and I believe that it is a direct gift from God. As He helps us grow nearer to Him, we become more sensitive to sin.
Nehemiah was constantly applying this mindset to his seemingly secular job. He knew that you didn’t need to be in ministry to listen to God or to use these gifts that came from God.
This is encouraging to me and probably most of you who read this. I work for an insurance company. I am not in any type of active ministry job. However, I need to be like Nehemiah. I need to bring God and His commandments to my job every day. Sometimes I feel like people get into the mindset that we can go to church on Sunday and then do our own thing at work for the rest of the week.
That is not how it works. God belongs with us at our jobs just like was with Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a good leader. In Nehemiah 5, we see the poor people coming to him because times are tough. We find out there is a shortage of corn, and naturally the people are not too happy about that.
As governor of the area, Nehemiah certainly had the power to make life even worse on all of these people by imposing a heavy tax. Then he would be able to live comfortably, and the world would say that that is a good thing. After all, taking care of yourself is taking care of number one.
However, here is what Nehemiah said.
Neh 5:15 But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
He is basically saying that because he feared God, he did not want to put a heavy burden on the people. He wanted to be fair and generous. He wanted to care about the poor. He didn’t put his own priorities first. He worried about others because he knew that was what God would want and feared Him.
These traits are still desirable today.
I think that we all want to be financially comfortable, but I think that we need to remember that there are things that are more important. If the only way we can make money is by directly depriving someone else, we have a problem.
We need to remember that the love of money is the root of all evil. The money itself is not necessarily evil; it is just an inanimate object, but it is incredibly easy to turn money into an idol. However, Nehemiah is a good example of what we need to be doing. There are things that are more important than money, and we need to make sure that we are living like we believe that.
Nehemiah 4 portrays what must have been a stressful time for the people of Jerusalem. Some of the area kings decided that they didn’t like the fact that Jerusalem was being rebuilt. They conspired together to go down and interfere with the building of the wall.
Here is how Nehemiah ordered the people to respond.
Neh 4:9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
I highlight this verse because I think that it illustrates a very important truth that I somewhat touched on when I talked about whether or not Christians should go to the doctor.
The people first decided to pray. That needs to be the first step. We need to put the situation into God’s hands and recognize that we can’t do it on our own. Jerusalem did not have their complete wall built yet, so they had very little to rely on in that regard. Their army was probably smaller than the one that was potentially coming up to challenge them. Things were not looking so good, but they knew that they needed to pray.
However, I emphasize this verse because the people did something. Did they do it because they doubted that God would actually come through? I don’t think so. If they did, they would not have prayed in the first place.
I think that God calls us to use our minds as well.
Jas 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
God allows us to have the gift of wisdom and to use that intelligence to do things. In this case, the people of Jerusalem decided that it would be good idea to have group of watchmen.
Yes, we need to have faith in God, and we cannot do anything without God. That is why the prayer being first was important. They were willing to listen to God if He had a further command about the situation. However, in this situation, it is not as if God explicitly ordered them not to make any preparations. If He had, it would have been an entirely different situation because then we would be dealing with disobedience.
This is one of those times where people were using a gift that God had given them, in this case wisdom, to do something that was neither ordered nor forbidden by God. God has blessed us with intelligence, and it is not a problem to use it as long as we go to God first and it does not interfere with what God has commanded.