On that same day, as the Book of Moses was being read to the people, the passage was found that said no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be permitted to enter the assembly of God. 2 For they had not provided the Israelites with food and water in the wilderness. Instead, they hired Balaam to curse them, though our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 When this passage of the Law was read, all those of foreign descent were immediately excluded from the assembly. 4 Before this had happened, Eliashib the priest, who had been appointed as supervisor of the storerooms of the Temple of our God and who was also a relative of Tobiah, 5 had converted a large storage room and placed it at Tobiah’s disposal. The room had previously been used for storing the grain offerings, the frankincense, various articles for the Temple, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil (which were prescribed for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers), as well as the offerings for the priests. 6 I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign, though I later asked his permission to return. 7 When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. 8 I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. 9 Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.
It’s here in chapter 13 that we see God’s people breaking all 4 of the promises that they made in chapter 10, the first of which was the:
- Submission Promise
In chapter 10 they had promised to submit to scripture, verse 29: “…to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our God.” Yet in verse 1 of chapter 13 we read a description of Israel’s carelessness concerning God’s clear command given in the Book of Moses concerning the purity of their worship: “On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God…” As the Scripture was read publicly those present realized how sloppy they had been about their submission to God’s Word. Instead of obeying the Word and setting themselves apart for God’s service they had surrounded themselves with people who polluted praise. You see when they listened to the words of Moses they remembered what had happened to their ancestors when they were on the brink of the Promised Land. The Ammonites refused to give the Israelites food and water and the Moabites had hired Balaam to call a curse down on the Israelites. Both the Moabites and Ammonites were notorious for infiltrating Israel and causing their worship to become worldly. While they had become lax in their love for God’s Word the good news here is that as soon as the Israelites heard what God’s Word had to say, they obeyed it. The application for us is that as soon as we realize we are being disobedient to God’s word we need to repent and obey. No matter how disobedient we are we can always repent and return to God. This is why God’s people need to be in His Word, so that we will not only see sin but so that we will stop submitting to it. What about you, is there anything you need to stop doing, any sin that is preventing you from submission to God’s Word? The second broken promise that we see is the:
- Separation Promise
In verses 4-9, we discover that one of these Ammonites was actually living in the Jewish temple. Nehemiah was horrified to find that not only was there a fox in the hen house but that the high priest was the one who had prepared a place in the temple for Tobiah the enemy. In order to make room for Tobiah they had to remove the tithes. Worship was displaced by wickedness. Here was an archenemy of God’s people who was allowed access to the very heart of worship. From this position he could influence everyone. What about you, are you letting a traitor into the Temple? Are you leaving a door open to the devil? Verse 4 reveals the reason why the High Priest had replace the tithes with a traitor, Tobiah was now a relative. When we cultivate wrong relationships, we set ourselves up for an infiltration of sin. As a result Nehemiah’s nemesis, the one who had opposed God’s work was now living in God’s house. Nehemiah responds with righteous rage and rightly so. They are some things we need to get angry over, look we can’t be passive when it comes to purity. Nehemiah teaches us that when sin takes up residence it’s time for a spring cleaning. Nehemiah righteous anger leads him to do three things. First he throws out the putrid, second he purifies, and third he replaces what has been removed with what should be filling the space, worship. I have watched so many Christians make the mistake of stopping short of removing sin but never replacing it. When we don’t replace it we end up with a void and it’s only a matter of time before some other sin slips in. Now Nehemiah is not alone when it comes to spring-cleaning and removing the rancid and replacing it with what is right. A few hundred years later, Jesus tossed the money changers out of the temple. We need to be reminded of both Nehemiah and Jesus reaction of righteous anger. Because it is a reminder to us of how infrequently we express outrage over evil. There are times when evil must be confronted, yet too often we allow sin to fester and compromise our faith. When we tolerate trash we end up in trouble. Where did the mess start, mixed marriages. Today some of you are toying with trouble by dating an unbeliever. The problem is they are influencing you more than you are influencing them, and they are causing you to compromise your Christian beliefs. There are others of you that are being seduced by sin, you are swallowing sin hook line and sinker. So how did Nehemiah respond to their rebellion, he called curses down, he slapped them silly and pulled out their hair. This may seem strange and even inappropriate behavior for a man of God but you need to realize that this sin was the primary reason the people were taken into Babylonian captivity. Sin always leads to slavery and we need to take it seriously. Some of us need to be slapped today because we have not only been seduced by sin, we are shacking up with sin. We are not just messing around with sin it’s become our mistress. I would rather be slapped by a righteous man and come to my senses, than be a slave to sin. Look God didn’t call us to marry sin he called us to murder sin, to put it to death not to date it. What about you are you married to your mistress, are you fooling around with fire?