Nehemiah 13:1-9 ;23-30
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.
23 About the same time I realized that some of the men of Judah had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Furthermore, half their children spoke the language of Ashdod or of some other people and could not speak the language of Judah at all. 25 So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them swear in the name of God that they would not let their children intermarry with the pagan people of the land.26 “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives. 27 How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?” 28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite, so I banished him from my presence. 29 Remember them, O my God, for they have defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.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.
Because chapter 13 is best understood in light of chapter 10, I am going to follow the same outline as I did in chapter 10 as we see in detail each of the four broken promises:
- 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.” But 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 diluted. 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. Which is why you need to be in the bible, so that you can see sin and stop submitting to it. Is there anything you need to stop doing, any sin that is preventing you from submission to God’s Word? Second, we see 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? Verse 4 reveals the reason why the High Priest had replaced 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 does 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 at just 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 take note of both the reaction of Nehemiah and Jesus. 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 are shacking up with sin. We are not just messing around with sin it’s become our mistress. 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?