8. Nehemiah: Setting Priorities

Nehemiah 8 recorded Ezra reading the Book of the Law to the people, and they listened and studied attentively to the Word.  There was so much joy when they lived out God’s Word and celebrated the Feast of Booth, a festival of thanksgiving of God’s blessings.

Nehemiah 9 recorded the Israelites’ confession of their sins and their assurance of God’s mercy and faithfulness.  Thereafter, Nehemiah and the people made a binding agreement, putting in writing and affixing their seals “to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our God” (Neh 9:38-10:29).  They were serious in setting priorities in their community.

First, they promised to obey God in their homes, not giving their children in marriage to peoples around them (10:30).  Next, they committed not to conduct business on the Sabbath or any holy day.  Every seventh year, they would forgo working the land as well as cancel others’ debts (10:31).  Most importantly, they emphasized multiple times in different ways that they honoured and cared for the house of God (10:32-39).  Nehemiah and the rest of the people deliberately declared how they “separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God” (10: 28).  The list of dos and don’ts, based on Godly principles, helped them not to compromise their home, their work, and their spiritual lives.

Likewise, what are our priorities in our home, our work, and our spiritual lives?  We may recall the analogy of filling a jar with rock, pebbles, and sand.  The rocks are the most important things of one’s life.  The rocks should go into the jar first.  When one does this, there is always room for pebbles and sand.  If the order is reversed (i.e., first filling our life with things that are trivial and insignificant), there will be no room for the essential matters.

Many of us know the importance of setting priorities in life.  It is not a matter of what, but how to do it.  Nehemiah and his people showed us their approach.  They began with investing time in God’s Word and living in obedience to His teaching, followed by repentance of their wrongdoings and assurance of His faithfulness in their midst.  As a result, their hearts were aligned to God’s will for their home, their work, and their spiritual growth.

Putting our priorities in writing is deep work.  Furthermore, it is crucial to pick the right rocks.  Let us seek Biblical guidance at home, at work, and with our spiritual growth.

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