Nehemiah 13:10-22; 30-31
10 I also discovered that the Levites had not been given their prescribed portions of food, so they and the singers who were to conduct the worship services had all returned to work their fields. 11 I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, “Why has the Temple of God been neglected?” Then I called all the Levites back again and restored them to their proper duties. 12 And once more all the people of Judah began bringing their tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the Temple storerooms. 13 I assigned supervisors for the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites. And I appointed Hanan son of Zaccur and grandson of Mattaniah as their assistant. These men had an excellent reputation, and it was their job to make honest distributions to their fellow Levites. 14 Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services. 15 In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16 Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that! 17 So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18 “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!” 19 Then I commanded that the gates of Jerusalem should be shut as darkness fell every Friday evening, not to be opened until the Sabbath ended. I sent some of my own servants to guard the gates so that no merchandise could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 The merchants and tradesmen with a variety of wares camped outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I spoke sharply to them and said, “What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!” And that was the last time they came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and to guard the gates in order to preserve the holiness of the Sabbath. Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.
30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.
After confronting the people over breaking the submission and separation promises the third broken promise that we see is the:
- Support Promise
At the end of Nehemiah 10, the people say, “We will not neglect the house of God.” But in verse 11 of chapter 13 Nehemiah askes the question, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” It’s here that we discover that those who were supposed to be ministering were out in the fields working instead of leading worship, and the temple storerooms were empty because the people had stopped tithing. The lack of tithes explains why the rooms were available for Tobiah to live in. The tough truth here is that if the people had been putting God first with their finances there would not have been room in the Temple for Tobiah. Nehemiah responds by rebuking the leaders, for they are the ones who set the spiritual temperature and teach others the truth. What you model will mold those you are mentoring. So let me challenge us as parents, what precedence are we setting for our families when it comes to finances. Do your kids see you putting God first or furthest? Nehemiah didn’t just rebuke, he also recruited reputable men to collect, count and care for God’s money. What about your reputation when it comes to God’s riches, how responsible are you? Are you putting God first with your finances? When the people got stingy with their giving the first thing to happen was that the singers were silenced. There is a correlation between our pennies and our praise, between our money and our mouths. When we withhold wealth it’s not long before our worship wanes. You see when it comes to worshipping you can’t separate your words and your wealth. The problem is that if we are not careful with our cash it won’t be long before we end up worshipping our wealth instead of using our wealth to worship. Not only did they neglect supporting God’s work but they also neglected the:
- Sabbath Promise
The Israelites had promised not to do business on the Sabbath yet here they were so wrapped up in wealth that they didn’t have time for worship. When money becomes an idol, you can ill afford to take a day off. This describes a lot of our lives, we have become busy believers who trade rest for riches. They had secularizing the Sabbath, instead of making it about the Master they made it about money. Nehemiah was serious about the Sabbath, and so should we be when it comes to the concept of rest. Nehemiah reminds them that one of the reasons for their slavery was because they rejected the Sabbath. Today many of us are experiencing the problems that come from placing riches above our relationship with God. We were not built for 24/7 living, when you burn the candle at both ends you will melt in the middle. Today many of us are letting money melting down our marriages. We are so busy running after riches that we are ruining our relationships. How many of us as husbands spend more time pursuing our work that we do our wife? The greatest danger to pastors is not worldliness it’s our work, because we can become so busy working that we forget to worship. When that happens, ministry become our mistress and we are in danger of leaving our first love, the Lord. To combat this carelessness Nehemiah ordered that the city gates be shut on the Sabbath. So let me ask you, what gates need to be closed in your life so that Christ not cash becomes your priority? Because if you don’t close the gates you will end up in the bondage of busyness. Whatever you worship will become your witness. One of the reasons we need to take a time out to rest is because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we are really at. So take some time to ponder these questions concerning the four promises:
Submission – Are you living in Submission to Scripture? Is scripture or the secular your standard? What’s your authority the Word or the world?
Separation – Are you sensitive to sin or are you surrendering to sin? It’s time to stop dabble with sin and start put it to death.
Support – Are you giving to God or are you giving in to greed?
Sabbath – Are you resting or running?
Nehemiah desired that God’s people would have a holy ambition that demonstrated an exclusive commitment to God and an undeniable consistent lifestyle that was pleasing to Him. I wonder today do we have that same desire?