It has been a great learning experience studying the book of Nehemiah. In the previous nine sharings, we have found several Biblical principles which are applicable to building our community.
- Identify the problem and get involved to be the solution.
- While waiting for God’s timing, exercise our faith in planning and equipping ourselves for His work.
- Good work is a combination of thorough planning and committed collaboration.
- Face harassment and opposition through prayer and persistence.
- Overcome discouragement through rest, vision renewal, and supportive relationships.
- Confront wrongdoings and model Godly behaviors and attitudes.
- Seek wisdom in God’s Word.
- Set Godly priorities at home, at work, and with spiritual growth.
- Serve the community with gladness.
The tenth and last sharing of this series focuses on the important qualities of courage and vigilance in upkeeping our community from backsliding.
As Nehemiah promised, he left Jerusalem after the completion of the wall and returned to the King of Babylon. Sometime later Nehemiah asked for the King’s permission to revisit Jerusalem. However, he was greatly disappointed with the latest developments of the city. Nehemiah was convicted to do the right thing although this may have caused him to lose his popularity. Through prayers, God provided Nehemiah with reassurance and strength.
As we read earlier, Tobiah was one of the enemies who mocked, intimidated and threatened to kill the Jews for rebuilding the wall. However, Eliashib, the priest, who was closely associated with Tobiah, gave Tobiah a room in the house of God! The room was used to store grain, new wine, oil, incense and temple articles. (Neh 13:4-5) “I (Nehemiah) was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I (he) gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I (he) put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.” (13:8-9)
Nehemiah also found that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service at the house of God had gone back to their own fields because they were not paid for their work. Once Nehemiah learned of this problem, he “rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?”” (13:11). Then, Nehemiah put trustworthy priests, scribes, Levites, and other assistants to be in charge of the storerooms for grain, new wine and oil. They were responsible to distribute the supplies to their brothers (13:13). Nehemiah called back the Levites and singers and reinstated the service at the house of God (13:11).
Some men in Judah did not observe the Sabbath but were busy with their trading and building up of their wealth. Nehemiah “rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing – desecrating the Sabbath day?”” (13:17) “Then I (Nehemiah) commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.” (13:22)
Furthermore, other men of Judah married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab and their children were unable to speak the language of Judah. This implied that they would be unable to read, hear nor understand the words of God. “I (Nehemiah) rebuked them and called curses down on them.” (13:25)
It is not a case of disrespect for intercultural inclusion nor ignorance of individual right. Nehemiah desired for the community to love God with all their heart (I.e.: not to put their wealth ahead of keeping the Sabbath), their mind (I.e.: able to study and understand the Word of God), and their strength (I.e.: serve Him diligently in the house of God). Anything which leads us away from God can be a form of idolatry.
The last chapter of Nehemiah records hard sayings and unpleasant confrontations. It is certainly not how a Disney movie would portray as the ending of a fantasy story. Nehemiah desired for his people to be courageous and vigilant in upkeeping Godly principles at home, at work, and with spiritual growth. Community building and community living take daily renewal and commitment. Hard work! Deep work! Focused work! Faithful work! Let us keep up the good work!
Lastly, I would like to state that Nehemiah is an example of one who lives out our school’s mission. Nehemiah is characterized with knowledge, skills, integrity, and discernment. Nehemiah loved God wholeheartedly and served the people in his community selflessly.