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.
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]
God wants to be your God. Isn’t that awesome? God offers us the greatest blessing—Himself! How great is our God? How blessed are we?
In the Old Testament we read about the Tabernacle. It was God’s way of creating a way for His presence to dwell on earth in the midst of His people. Later Solomon built the Temple and God’s glory went into the Temple. Disobedience caused God’s glory to depart from the Temple (see Ezekiel 10), but God had other plans.
In John 1, we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (ESV). Once again God sent up a tent. The Tabernacle was back. Jesus walked the earth. After Jesus was crucified and rose again, He sent us the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit—to dwell within us. We became the temple. And one day Revelation promises that God’s glory will fill the entire earth. He wants to be your God. How awesome is that?
“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 [NIV]
When we are babies, we are focused only on ourselves. When we get older, we start saying things are “MINE.” There comes a time in life when we will start agreeing that everything is from God – that He created everything, that He gave us everything. We thank Him for His provision. We thank Him for providing all we need. For some of us, this we learn in Sunday School; for others, it is something we learn later in life.
As David delivers this prayer, praising God and saying, “But who am I?” we should consider this as well. We live in a culture that expects things; we say, “I am ENTITLED” or “I have RIGHTS.” David recognized, whether he was hiding out from Saul or whether he was gathering materials for Solomon to one day build the Temple, that God created everything and God gave us everything.
We need to remind ourselves of this daily. We need to remember that everything came from God. We need to also remember that everything we give, we were given by God. It was never ours. Remind yourself today—“It all belongs to (God).” Let us continue to praise Him for Who He is and give Him the honor that He alone deserves.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! O LORD our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you!” – 1 Chronicles 29:14, 16 [NLT]
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’” – Haggai 1:7 [NIV]
Haggai is a very short book but in two chapters we read four times that we should “give careful thought” (1:5, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18). Something repeated that often certainly cannot go overlooked. It is such a simple command, but one that we cannot hear enough. At that time, the people had no argument with rebuilding the Temple, but they had chosen to do other things before undertaking the task of rebuilding the Lord’s house. They had skewed priorities.
We also need to give careful thought to our ways. We need to constantly be evaluating our own lives to make sure that we do not have our priorities skewed. It is so easy to be turned toward worldly items like the people of this time period. It is easy to allow our focus to shift gears.
The Lord declared that he was with the people (1:13, 2:4). The Lord is also with us. We do not do life alone. Today be sure to give careful thought to your ways, but don’t forget this promise—that he is with us. May that promise bring you peace.
“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace.” – 1 Kings 14:25-27 [NIV]
We read that “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (v. 21). Then the passage mentions high places, sacred stones, Asherah poles, and even male shrine prostitutes. The people were engaged in horrible, sinful acts. The people were committing idolatry. Then the judgment for their actions followed. The king of Egypt attacked and the treasures were taken. The gold shields that Solomon had made were carried away, and Solomon’s son has them replaced with bronze shields.
When we look at this replacement of the shields, it reminds me of something that a criminal does, replacing something real with something fake to pretend that the fake item is the real thing. At the end of the day, the deception is deception and can never be truth. Even if the shields were replaced, it was easy to see that they were not the original gold shields. Solomon made those gold shields when he was doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The shields were just one of many things that pointed to the splendor of Israel when following the Lord.
Today let this be a reminder of what truth is and what is not considered the truth. Let us remember that we have the option of having a true, real relationship with God. We can attempt to fake it by having a Bible on our bookshelf or attending church on Sunday, but there is no replacement for the real thing.
I was reading Zechariah yesterday and when I came upon a verse, I noticed a word that jumped out. In Zechariah 8:13, the verse says to “fear not” or “do not be afraid” Then it continues with “but LET your hands be strong” [ESV, NASB, KJV, ASV]. Let my hands be strong? How can I let my hands be strong? I was reading from the NASB translation so I decided to look at other translations to see if there was a difference. God’s Word says, “let your hands work hard.” The NLT says “get on with rebuilding the Temple.” The Message translation says to “keep a firm grip on what I’m doing.”
At this time, they were rebuilding the Temple but they were facing some problems. God was telling them to stay focused and press forward with His work. He provides all we need to get His work accomplished. I love the Douay-Rheims translation which says “let your hands be strengthened.” We are weak alone, but if we allow God to work with us, we are strong. We are not to work alone; we cannot do it alone. The word “let” is used, because we need to openly accept the help from God. He loves us and does not force Himself upon us.
The Message says that we are to “keep a firm grip” on God’s work through the situation. We are to focus on God and what He can do instead of looking at what we can do alone. The people who were rebuilding the Temple were being told they couldn’t do it. They were facing hardships. They were having the devil whisper in their ears.
God says we are to focus on what He can do through us. We still need to press forward. We still need to be building whatever God called us to build; however, we need to focus on what He is doing with the building process. When things look like they won’t work, when people are telling you that they won’t work, we are not to get deterred from doing what God called us to do in life. We are to keep a strong grip on God’s Truth. Whatever is not God’s Truth is not truth at all. If there is something going on in your life and you are feeling deterred from doing what God has called you to do, “let your hands be strong.” God can do anything! Keep a firm grip on Him and His promises for your life.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
– Philippians 4:13 [NLT]
Most people have heard the phrase, “We don’t live in a barn” growing up. As a little girl, I will admit I left the door open as I would rush into the house for a quick drink, allowing the cool air to send a chill through the home. We are told to keep our doors closed so the heat stays inside. However, when we look at doors from a church perspective, things are the opposite.
In Acts 21, Paul was at the temple, a place where he would often preach the Good News. As was so common, the Jewish leadership was trying to find fault with Paul to arrest him, because He was sharing Christ and people were believing. Upon another accusation, they grabbed Paul to arrest him. The Bible says in verse 30, that “they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut” (NASB). The Jewish leadership did not want Paul telling people the Truth. To keep the Truth from people, they had to rid the temple of Paul and they closed the doors to keep him out.
Sadly in many churches today, we close the doors. I am not talking about the fact that the doors are closed during the service hours, but rather, I am talking about how we as the body of Christ accept others. Instead of having an open door policy, where we are welcoming people to attend, we are judgmental. Instead of going out of the church to follow the Great Commission, and bring people to know Christ, we close ourselves up within the walls of the church and have fellowship amongst each other.
It’s great to break bread with fellow believers, to have Bible study, to gather together for encouragement and edification purposes. At the same time, a question that must be posed is, are the doors of your church open? Do non-believers feel welcome to come through the doors? When Jesus had His ministry on earth, He ate with sinners. He sat down with tax collectors, people despised by everyone, and looked past the fact. He spoke with a woman at a well that most would have shunned. Are the doors open or are they closed?
Today is a great day to open the doors, step outside for some fresh air, and see what is going on in your community. The Gospel isn’t meant to be all closed up.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 [NASB]