Nehemiah 13, Hebrews 12
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. – Hebrews 12:7, 10 NLT
Nehemiah had served as governor of Judah for 12 years; then, as he had promised the king, he had returned to Susa. He would remain in Babylon for a period of 3 years before returning to Judah again. And when he arrived he found things had deteriorated once again. The people had violated the covenant they had made with God. They still had not separated themselves from the Ammonites and Moabites. They had continued to marry outsiders and make alliances with their enemies. Eliashib, the high priest, had allowed Tobiah the Ammonite to marry into his family. Not only that, he had provided Tobiah, a proven enemy of Judah, with his own private quarters inside the temple itself. This was in direct violation of God's word found in Deuteronomy 23:3-4. The high priest had put friendship with the world ahead of obedience to God and had desecrated the temple in the meantime. But there was more. The people had not paid the temple tax or provided for the Levites, leading Nehemiah to accuse them of forsaking the house of God. They were violating the Sabbath by buying and selling goods on the holy day. Things seemed to be about as bad as they had ever been. But Nehemiah took action. Rather than walk away in disgust and return to his life in Babylon, he once again took it upon himself to make a difference.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God was going to use Nehemiah yet again to bring repentance and revival among His people. God is always looking for a man that He can use to speak His truth and call His people to repentance. Over in the book of Ezekiel we find these sobering words: “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30 NLT). God isn't looking for extraordinary men. He isn't looking for perfect men. He is simply looking for obedient men like Nehemiah. Men who are willing to rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. And God's search is not relegated to men. He is looking for men and women who, in spite of their flaws, will remain faithful to Him and stand in the gap on behalf of His people.
What does this passage reveal about man?
We live in a day much like that of Nehemiah's. The spiritual walls are in need of repair. The people of God are in a weakened, vulnerable state. God is looking for men and women who will be difference-makers. The apostle Paul warned Timothy of days like this: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT). In the book of Isaiah, we read about God's assessment of the people of Israel and it is NOT a pretty picture. “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me” (Isaiah 58:1-2 NLT). There comes a time when someone has to step up and speak out, so God raises up a Nehemiah. to say the difficult things that need to be said and do the hard things that no one else wants to do.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God loves His people. But He will not allow them to live in ongoing sin and open rebellion to His Word. He will bring discipline. But He will also at time bring an individual along who will act as His instrument to bring healing to His people. Over in Isaiah 58 we read these encouraging words: “Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes” (Isaiah 58:12 NLT). As bad as things may get, there is always hope that God will bring about His loving discipline and correction. There is also the assurance that He will use men and women like us to bring it about. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “lay aside every, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1 ESV). We have work to do. It may be that God wants to use us to bring about healing and restoration to His people. The question is whether or not we will be ready and willing when that time comes. So the writer of Hebrews challenges us, “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong” (Hebrews 12:12 NLT).
Father, help me remain faithful and ready so that I can be used by You when the time comes. And help me recognize the need when necessary and be ready to step into it boldly and confidently, knowing that You will be with me. I want to be a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. Let me be the Nehemiah of my day. Amen