In Nehemiah, we often hear about this fellow Tobiah, who was an Ammonite. The Ammonites were people who descended from the sin of Lot and his daughter. The other group were the Moabites (see Genesis 19:37-38). These groups were the ones responsible for denying the Israelites bread when in need (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The Moabites led Israel to worship Baal (Numbers 25:1-3). Both the Moabites and Ammonites were the ones who tried to get Balaam to curse God’s people (Numbers 22). There was a lot of trouble with these groups of people.
Tobiah is mentioned numerous times in the Book of Nehemiah. We read that Tobiah was mocking Nehemiah when the great work was discovered (2:19). Later in Nehemiah 4, we read that Tobiah was ridiculing the work done for the wall (v. 3). Tobiah was angry as the work on the wall continued (4:7). We read in Nehemiah 6, that he was sending letters to try and intimidate Nehemiah from finishing the work God called him to complete (v. 19). Even so, we read in Chapter 13, that Eliashib the high priest allowed Tobiah to reside in the Temple in a storeroom, due to intermarriage.
All of this is a long history of trouble between these groups; however, in Nehemiah 13, we read that the group infiltrated the Temple of God. The sin that occurred back with Lot and his daughters, has now invaded the Temple of God. It was not something that just happened. It reminds me that as we shut the door so the devil cannot sneak through, he so often sneaks through the cracks. Here we have Tobiah desecrating the Temple and no one seems to blink an eye until Nehemiah returns and sees what has happened.
Today, let us remind ourselves that sin can slowly creep in and we may not always see so clearly what is happening until we have a great desecration. Be reminded of the importance to be in God’s Word. Cling to the Truth. Don’t allow yourself to be closely aligned with those who are deeply involved in the things of the world, or you may find yourself becoming involved in the world, rather than working on the Kingdom God has for you. Remember, your body is a Temple. Don’t allow the Tobiahs to reside in your storeroom. Instead, allow the Spirit of God to be the ever-present force within you.
In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah finds that the Israelites are still surrounding themselves with foreigners and involved with intermarriage. This was something that God spoke against many times in the Bible. Today, people seem to not grasp what this means, and take it as something of discrimination. The truth is, intermarriage, has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with Who you worship. When we look at the concept of intermarriage today, we look at it as a relationship between believers and non-believers.
The Bible tells us that if we are involved in a relationship with a non-believer (someone who does not believe in God as the One True God), then we the believer, may be led astray. The Bible warns us to therefore not become seriously involved with a non-believer so we do not tread on this unsteady ground. For us, this means we as Christians should not date or marry someone who is not a Christian. Even if we have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, if we marry or date someone who is not a Christian, we could be in danger of being derailed from our walk. As a Christian, we should not even desire to be seeking someone who is not seeking Jesus first.
I speak of this from a personal perspective. I have been there and have done that—and it was a road that was certainly off course, but thankfully God has used it for His glory. In my case, it wasn’t a matter of someone not professing Jesus, but someone not living for Jesus. We do not simply need to look for someone who has the lip confession, but the life confession. There’s a difference. In Nehemiah 13, we see that Nehemiah mentions Solomon to the people. King Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. He succumbed to being led astray by foreign relationships. Nehemiah basically asks the people why they think they could be wiser than him. Today, understand the importance of a good, godly relationship. If you are not yet married, remember that there is a proper way. God must be first in your life. Then when the time is proper, the one you seek should be seeking God first, even before you. That is the relationship that will be blessed and honored. May you find the one, who first seeks the One.
“Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.” – Nehemiah 13:26 [ESV]
In Nehemiah 13, we read that the people were once again not keeping the Sabbath. Today, people do not understand the importance of the Sabbath. Many people consider that since most places are open on Sundays, that we need not celebrate the Sabbath. Some people may consider the Sabbath something people celebrated during “the time of the Bible,” but not something that we need continue nowadays.
I love the Sabbath and thank God for this great gift. The Sabbath was instituted since Creation. It is something that is part of Creation. Consider the rhythms of the world that God has created. Part of the Creation was active, but then there was rest. This is how we were created, as we are part of Creation. We need to have a rhythm of life, where there is an active working part, and then a time of rest. I typically celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, but there are moments when I preach or teach, that I celebrate another day. Understand the Sabbath is about having that day of rest with God.
God gave us the Sabbath as a gift. We should show gratitude for this gift, and we should also want to celebrate the gift. This is a time we can get ourselves realigned with the Father. This is a time we can get ourselves refueled for the next week. This is a time we can grow closer to God. This is a time when we can fellowship with the Lord without distractions. This is a time of rest, reconnection, and renewal. Be sure that you take a day this week, and celebrate the Sabbath! Continue this rhythm in your life each week. You will come to realize the importance of this special, holy day.
“They must realize that the Sabbath is the LORD’s gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place. Do not go out to pick up food on the seventh day” – Exodus 16:29 [NLT]
Tithing is always a sore topic to bring up. It seems whenever the “T” word is mentioned, people grab hold of their wallets, slide down in their seats, and contemplate why they should not open up their wallet because they don’t want anyone to catch a glimpse of what is inside. Many times the “T” word causes people to consider the church always “wants more of my money.” Some people might consider on what the church is using the tithed money.
In Nehemiah 13, we read about what happened to the Levites and the singers who did not receive the portion commanded by God. When Nehemiah returned to his duties for the king as cupbearer, the Israelites no longer gave the commanded portion and the Levites had to return back to their fields. This basically meant that the Levites, who were supposed to care for the Temple, had to leave their duties to take care of themselves. This is not how God designed everything to work out.
This saddens me. God commanded the people to take care of the Levites as they serve the Temple of God. The people dropped the ball and left the Levites to fend for themselves. There is great importance in taking care of God’s house. For us, things are different. We don’t have a Temple like back in Nehemiah’s days. Instead we have two very important items of great significance of which need provisions and care. We have our bodies, which is what houses the Holy Spirit. We also have our local church. It is important that we care for both; treat your body as a temple of God and remember that yes, God doesn’t need your tithe, but you need your tithe. Why? Because by tithing, you are giving God back what He has given you. You are worshiping Him rather than worshiping things. You are fixing your eyes on the Creator and King, rather than on temporary. It is a joy to give. It is a blessing to give. Give abundantly and watch what happens.
“I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.” – Nehemiah 13:10 [ESV]
Organization is often a problem in life—or should I say disorganization is the problem? For a family to function, for a workplace to function, for a ministry or church to function, organization is very important. Along with this is communication. If you look at struggling relationships, struggling marriages and struggling churches, many times one of the top problems is a lack of communication or a problem with disorganization.
When Nehemiah was leading the people back to godly living, he got everything organized. From the very beginning, he walked around and made notes. I think his organization is one reason I’ve always been drawn to him for I am a bit OCD at times. One of the items he organized included the list for the priests and Levites. He wanted to be sure everyone knew what their job was so they could be focused and get the job done.
In your home, does everyone know their responsibilities and stick to them or is one person carrying the ship? At your work, does everyone understand their job description and requirements or are people micromanaging or slacking off? At church, do you know what area to serve or are you spread out thin like scraping the last out of the butter tub? Nehemiah made sure each man knew his job. Today, write down your job for work, home, church, etc. Make a list and if unsure, ask questions. When you do this, you can find out if you are doing too much, if you are spread thin, and what areas you could put forth more effort. You can do this!
“All in all I cleansed them from everything foreign. I organized the orders of service for the priests and Levites so that each man knew his job. I arranged for a regular supply of altar wood at the appointed times and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.”
-Nehemiah 13:30-31 [MSG]