Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah 13

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Nehemiah 13 Commentary

by Hank Workman

As the saying goes, “While the cats away…”

The book of Nehemiah ends with quite a flurry of activity that is not only surprising but shocking.  As promised to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah had stated he would return and he did.  It’s unknown of when this happened or how long even he stayed back in Persia but he kept to his word.  He had completed the task set before him.

While he was gone it didn’t take long for things to go south.  First, the enemies and relatives of his enemies got to work.  The priest decided on his own to make a guest room in the temple itself for the Number One Agitator of Nehemiah’s work.  Word got back to Nehemiah and asking leave again, he returned to Jerusalem where it got ugly.  Going into the temple he not only deconstructed the room, but he also took all the belongings within and tossed them out.  Learning that the rulers had not been giving their tithe and designated portions of harvest, he took these to task next.  He is no coward and hits things head-on.

It doesn’t stop there.  Appalled that the Sabbath has been broken, selling of items also taking place; he confronts the offenders, institutes the gates to be shut up on that day and posts watchmen.  When the merchants still try to do what they do, he strongly reprimands them and warns if they do this one more time he will personally lay hands on them and they’ll regret it.  Whatever that looked like, they didn’t try it again.

As word comes that the men are re-entering into mixed marriages, some being relatives and priests of the troublemakers, he takes the strongest action yet.  He confronts verbally and physically.  In essence, he beats the tar out of them and then banishes several from being physically there again.

This is a holy righteousness like none other.

Throughout this entire process, we read Nehemiah praying and asking God to remember him.

In light of the amazing worship services and reforms that took place, this final chapter shows how if people aren’t committed to their God, they will return and act in their own human nature. It didn’t take long for the memory of their commitment to God to fall along the wayside.  Without our own diligence in such matters, we too can slip back so easily.

But the life and book of Nehemiah also show good God-fearing leadership.  He continued to have a clear purpose to his calling and task and sought God throughout.  He was faced with obstacle after obstacle and yet hit things head-on.  He never scooted away from the challenges.  Nothing prevented him from staying on track.  He was also straightforward in all he did.  He was honest in his leadership.  There was no second-guessing where Nehemiah stood or how he would react and respond. Throughout the process, he lived above reproach.  Although people came against him with accusations they didn’t have a leg to stand on.  Most importantly, he was a man of prayer throughout. This was where he received his wisdom, his actions,  command strength to complete the task again and again.

Nehemiah’s commitment to God is what brought success for the task laid before him.  It cost him personally and he was more than likely unpopular, but these things didn’t matter.  The grace of God sustained him throughout it all.

Sometimes it takes a Nehemiah type character to bring us back.  It takes a Nehemiah to keep us on track.  Are you in need of one?  Are you a Nehemiah?

Nehemiah 13 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

So, remember that guy Tobiah? Back in Nehemiah 6 he was one of Israel’s enemies who formulated a smear campaign against Nehemiah to stop the construction of the walls. Now we read that while Nehemiah is gone, Eliashib not only furnishes a room for Tobiah but also gives him access to several rooms of the Temple!

“Incidentally, Tobiah was an Ammonite (Neh 2:10) – one of the very mixed multitude that had been put out of the assembly of God’s people some 10 years before. At this point in the record of Nehemiah, Tobiah was not only present among the assembly, he actually rented rooms in the temple courts.”

David Guzik

Nehemiah was furious… and rightly so. This was not only his personal enemy but an enemy of God who was dwelling in the house of the Lord! Many comparisons have been made between Nehemiah cleansing the chamber and Jesus cleansing the Temple. Both men possessed an anger focused on God’s righteousness. Both men did not sin in their anger. Instead, they were emboldened to draw lines of accountability among their peers. Their love was not merely expressed in their politeness but in their passion to see the Name of God respected and honored.

Then comes the real shocker. Nehemiah finds out that others among the community have intermarried yet again with foreign women. It was a sin that continually plagued the Jewish people. So what did Nehemiah do? He beat them and ripped off their beards!

I reprimanded the men, called down curses on them, beat them, and pulled out their hair. Then I made them take an oath in God’s name that never again would they or their children intermarry with foreigners.

Nehemiah 13:25 GNB

To Nehemiah, this particular sin was the worst of all. He knew that all this angered God and would undoubtedly lead to another exile. This beating he gave them would be only a fraction of what the people would experience if they continued down this path. Of course, I am not recommending it, but I certainly understand his motives. They were only 10-12 years removed from their revival and the people were already beginning to backslide. They were engaged in the same sins they had sworn to eradicate from their lives!

Nehemiah was passionate. He had discipline and he was a gifted leader. But most of all, he had zero tolerance for compromise and excuses. He made up his mind to follow God, and he did it. The relevance of this mentality in our current culture is entirely appropriate.

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