“It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to ‘dishonor God and to flatter man.'”
Something to think about on a Wednesday afternoon.
Nehemiah’s final reforms are found in the final chapter of this great book. Nehemiah had returned to King Artaxerxes 12 years after having left to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. After some time, possibly years, he asked to return to Jerusalem. Upon his return, he was welcomed by a most troubling situation: The people had once again intermarried with the surrounding nations, and many of their children could not even speak the Hebrew language—their entire religious culture was being lost. To compound the situation further, Tobiah, Nehemiah’s old foe, had been given the chamber where “they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.” (v. 5). Tobiah was living in the court of the temple! He saw that the people of Judah were working on the Sabbath, treading winepresses. The Levites were neglected and had fled to their own fields to take care of themselves, and the house of God was forsaken.
What was Nehemiah’s response?
He got angry. He got really, really angry.
He had Tobiah and all his furniture thrown out of the chamber, and had it cleansed & returned to its proper use.
He confronted the officials and demanded that they not forsake the house of God—he brought everyone together, appointed reliable treasurers over the storehouses, and the people gave their offerings.
He shut down all commerce on the Sabbath day, commanding that the doors of the gates be closed until after it had passed. He saw merchants and sellers camped outside Jerusalem, waiting for the doors to open, but he told them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” And in case you were wondering, “laying hands” is a euphemism for “beat down.” And they left.
He confronted the men who had intermarried with the surrounding nations and he shamed them—He cursed them, pulled their hair and beat some of them! He even chased off the son of Elishiab the high priest, who had married into Sanballat’s family.
And after all this, Nehemiah prays, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (v. 31).
Nehemiah, in this final chapter, shows us the importance of righteous anger.
Nehemiah chapters 11-12 presents a list naming the people who would live in Jerusalem, those who would remain in the surrounding villages, & the dedication of the wall; this passage serves as a conclusion to the story of the repopulation of Jerusalem.
The dedication ceremony described is the culmination of everything that’s taken place over the course of the book; the wall is complete, the people have repented and turned to God, their Savior. There is much celebration and rejoicing. But as I was reading, I was left with a question…
Why are the lists of names important? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire them to be written, not just here, but throughout Scripture?
Now, we could potentially over-spiritualize it and say that these lists are representative of the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3; Revelations 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27), in which the names of all God’s people, past, present & future, are found.
And maybe that’s the reason… but maybe there’s another, practical reason for the existence of lists like we find in Nehemiah 11 & 12.
They serve to show us the fruit of obedience.
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