“When the cat is away, the mice will play.” How true this was in the experience of Nehemiah, as it had been for Moses (Exodus 32) and would be for the Apostle Paul (Acts 20.) For upon his return from Susa to Jerusalem he discovered a people who had spiritually drifted and failed miserably to keep the promises of the covenant that they had earlier so enthusiastically embraced. So with grit and determination Nehemiah revisited some of the earlier promises that had been made and set about prayerfully inspired (v 14, 22, 29 & 31) reform in the areas of:-
1 – SEPARATION (v 1 – 9 & 23 – 31.)
Previously the people had promised to separate themselves from the surrounding nations and not to engage in mixed marriages. But this promise had been broken in three areas:-
Liaison – The enemies of Israel, the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2 v 24 – 27) and Moabites (Numbers 22 – 24) had been “admitted into the assembly of God” (v 1) and so Nehemiah excluded them.
Location – Tobiah, an Ammonite was living in a spacious room within the temple courts, and so Nehemiah evicted him and all his possessions.
Language – Mixed marriages had been taking place, with the children of such relationships speaking the foreign languages of their mothers, and so Nehemiah rebuked, cursed, pulled their hair, preached the covenant breakers a sermon (1 Kings 11 v 4 – 8) and got them to promise not to do such a thing again.
Challenge – Do not compromise with the world.
2 – SUPPORT (v 10 – 14.)
Previously the people had promised to support the ministry of the Levites at the temple by bringing the required tithes and offerings. But this promise too had been broken, resulting in the Levites having to find alternative employment in order to support themselves.
So Nehemiah rebuked the officials, restored the Levites to their temple ministries and appointed four trustworthy men to supervise the reception and distribution of all the gifts.
Challenge – Do not neglect to give generously in support of God’s work.
3 – SABBATH (v 15 – 22.)
Previously the people had promised not to work or trade on the Sabbath, but when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem he found a total disregard for the holiness of the Sabbath, it being just the same as any other day with its emphasis on business and making money.
So Nehemiah warned and rebuked those responsible, and put a stop to their Sabbath trading by shutting the city gates, thus excluding all foreign merchants.
Challenge – Do not allow materialism to supplant God from the throne of your life.
Theme: “The nature of fire is to go out!”
Reading: Nehemiah 13
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Bev Sills