Read: Nehemiah 13
The closing chapter of Nehemiah exposes Eliashib’s character and the problems caused by his association with Tobiah. Way back when I was a young child, my parents used to tell me they knew who I was playing with by my attitude when I came home. Nothing new here. The Tobiah/Eliashib relationship runs deep. I’m only surprised that Nehemiah didn’t do something about this when he was in town in the first place. Is it possible that he didn’t pick up on the association? That seems unlikely, but in any case, Nehemiah’s coming back to town to set things right again!
“Some time later” Nehemiah probably heard rumors about Jerusalem, so he asks the king for permission to go and see for himself.
Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. Nehemiah 13:7-9
The issue may have started with Eliashib and Tobiah, but it didn’t end there, the officials appointed to take care of the Levites and musicians were not doing their jobs well either:
I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. Nehemiah 13:10-11
Nehemiah put trustworthy people in charge of these key areas as a start to getting things back in order. He’s not done yet!
Dear God, remember me…
Four times in this chapter Nehemiah asks God to remember him for the good things he did.
Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services. Nehemiah 13:14
How many things have you started in good faith and with great effort only to find them far off track when you return “some time later?” I say “things” because this applies to ministry, programs, projects, churches, business, etc. Somewhat selfishly, I take comfort in seeing the problems Nehemiah had to deal with.
His reaction is pretty amazing:
- rebuked officials of Jerusalem
- rebuked the nobles of Judah
- replaced key personnel in leadership
- threatened to arrest merchants and sellers of goods violating the Sabbath
- beat some of the men and pulled out their hair
- drove away one of Eliashib’s grandsons, son-in-law to Sanballat
- purified the priests and the Levites; assigned them duties
These are no doubt just the highlights of the things Nehemiah did to clean house in Jerusalem. Seriously, what was going on in these years when Nehemiah was not carefully watching over Jerusalem? What lessons do we draw from this?
To begin with, I would conclude that we must not shy away from the foreign concept of rebuking our brothers and sisters. In our politically correct, no spanking allowed, everyone is right, blah, blah, blah, world, we need to stand out as an example for others to follow. Rebuking will only be effective if we approach each issue, every case, with care and concern for our fellow Christ-follower. Hear the words of Jesus:
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:2-4
There is so much to learn from Jesus here. Lord, help me to rebuke appropriately and accept the rebuke from others who point out the obvious sin in my life. May I repent gracefully and accept the words from my brothers and sisters who ask me for forgiveness. May all of those who call themselves followers of Jesus be willing to rebuke and accept rebuke for the building up of the church and for the body of Christ. Rid us of our selfish motivations and desires. Light the fire within us to be your light in this day and in this place.