Drastic Action (Nehemiah 13:1-9)
A daily devotional for August 27th
1 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, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
4 Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, 5 and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.
6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room. 9 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.
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 13:8-9).
The high priest had allowed his grandson to marry the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, who was an ally of Tobiah the Ammonite. Both of these were vitriolic, bitter enemies of Nehemiah. This cozy alliance led to an invitation to Tobiah to actually move into the temple itself. To make room for him, the high priest took over the storeroom that was set apart for the grain, oil, and incense used by the Levites in their purification and ritual ceremonies. So there were two wrongs involved. An Ammonite and his family were actually living in the temple, contrary to the Law of Moses; and, they had deliberately defrauded the Levites of their rights of storage.
When Nehemiah returned he went into prompt and passionate action. He threw the baggage out, fumigated the room, and returned the oil, grain, and incense to their proper place. Many people feel that he overreacted. Today we do not get upset by the presence of evil and think it strange that a man should act like Nehemiah did. We have lost to a great degree our ability to express outrage and public indignation over things that are wrong.
We must remember, however, that this is similar to the incident in the New Testament when Jesus came into the temple and found it filled with moneychangers. Jesus reacted in a way similar to Nehemiah. He made a whip and went around the temple, upsetting tables and driving the moneychangers out. It indicates that there is a time for strong stands against the evils that others have indifferently accepted.
Evil invades us quietly. Before we are aware of it, we have compromised and gone along with standards widely accepted. We find the people of God have often been corrupted by this kind of thing. When it comes down to individuals, this is a picture of our struggle with our flesh. We must be prepared to be drastic and take often painful action to clear up the things that are wrong in our own affairs. Many Christians allow evil to take root in their own lives. This story pictures the way these false forces can invade our lives and take up rooms in the very temple of our spirit, polluting and destroying us in the process. Take action. Do not allow these evil things to remain. Even if it takes painful effort to do so, end it! That is what this great story teaches us.
Lord, forgive me for the ways in which I allow subtle compromises to creep into my thinking and my choices. Help me to be as ruthless in judging and dealing with my own sin.
Life Application: Do we have the requisite credibility, courage and wisdom for expressing outrage in our decadent culture? Are we blinded by tolerance so as not to see the wrongness?
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Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Stedman — This daily devotional is from the book The Power of His Presence: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.