Every Part Committed
A wonderful celebration followed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. That celebration included a revival and a renewing of the vows that the Jews had made to follow God. Three areas of weakness were identified: intermarriage, the commercialization of the Lord's Day, and the neglect of the house of the the Lord.
As the book of Nehemiah comes to an end, Nehemiah gives us some insights into the forms that these three weaknesses took.
The intermarriage problem is describes in Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-28. It is interesting to note that Nehemiah uses Solomon as an example of the consequences of marrying an nonbeliever. He writes: "Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women" (13:26, NIV).
The commerce of the Lord's Day is described in Nehemiah 13:15-22. The evil included working on that day and selling to others during the Sabbath. "What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath Day? Didn't your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon the city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath" (13:17, 18, NIV).
The story behind the neglect of God's house takes an interesting twist. It begins with using the temple rooms as a warehouse for household goods belonging to Tobiah, one of the leading instigators of the opposition against the rebuilding project (4:3; 6:1, 14, 19). The Levites hadn't been looked after and had returned to their homes so that they could earn a living and feed their families, leaving the worship and service of the temple in shambles. Nehemiah "…called them together and stationed them at their posts…purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task" (13:11, 30, NIV) and made provision for their upkeep.
It isn't hard to see the parallels between this story and our story. While each illustration has spiritual implications, each one also covers a particular aspect of our lives. The emphasis on the emotional (human relationships), the physical (commerce) and the spiritual (the service of the Lord) reminds us that every part of our lives needs to come under His ownership, His Lordship if we expect to enjoy a full measure of God's blessing on our lives.
In the end the rebuilding of the wall was not nearly as important as the rebuilding of the lives of the people.