Summary: They were now facing 4 major problems, & Nehemiah had to deal with them decisively before they destroyed everything that God was seeking to do through His people. (Powerpoints available - #325)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the eleventh of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #325.)
ILL. Ludwig Von Beethoven had a life marked with both triumph & tragedy. By age 5 he was playing the violin. By age 13 he was a concert organist. He became a prolific composer, composing 9 magnificent symphonies, 5 concertos, countless pieces of chamber music, & music for the piano & the violin.
But his life was marked with tragedy. By age 20 he was starting to lose his hearing. By 40, his hearing was almost gone. By 50, he was stone deaf. One day in his study he was heard pounding the piano & saying over & again, "I will take life by the throat & I’ll never let go!"
Those who knew him said that he was the most persistent man they had ever met & that he accomplished far beyond normal human ability because he faced up to his difficulty & was determined to do something about it.
PROP. This is a quality that is greatly needed today. Too often, when problems come our way, many of us try to ignore them & hope they will go away. There are only a few who are willing to take problems by the throat & do something about them. Nehemiah had that quality. When something was wrong Nehemiah would do something about it.
That is exactly what we find in the 13th chapter of Nehemiah. During the past few weeks we have seen the completion of the wall around the city of Jerusalem. We have seen Ezra & Nehemiah lead out in a revival among the people. We have also seen the people start moving back inside the walls to repopulate the city.
Evidently, around that time, Nehemiah left Jerusalem & went back to Babylon for a rather long stay. Vs. 6 says, "But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, King of Babylon, I had returned to the king.” Nehemiah had promised the King that he would return, & he kept his promise.
But Nehemiah is still the governor of Judah, so as vs. 6 continues we learn, “Some time later I asked his permission & came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done…”
When he returned to Jerusalem he found that some things had gone wrong. Even then I guess that it was true that "When the cat is away, the mice will play."
And as a result they were now facing 4 major problems, & Nehemiah had to deal with them, & deal with them decisively before they destroyed everything that God was seeking to do through His people.
I. COMPROMISING COMPANIONSHIP
The first problem is seen in vs’s 4 9. I call it "Compromising Companionship."
Listen to vs’s 4 5, “Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, & he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings & incense & temple articles, & also the tithes of grain, new wine & oil prescribed for the Levites, singers & gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.”
A. Basically, here is what had happened. Two men are mentioned in vs. 4. One is Eliashib, the High Priest. As the High Priest he has the responsibility of the temple & therefore is in charge of all the rooms in the Temple complex - in charge of all the grain & food stored there - & responsible also for the welfare of the people who lived in the Temple complex & participated in the services there.
The 2nd man is Tobiah. Do you remember Tobiah? He was not a Jew. He was a pagan & was one of those who strongly opposed the rebuilding of the wall. He was the one who said that the wall was so pitiful & weak that a fox jumping on it would knock it down. He, along with Sanballat & Geshum & others, made fun of the Jews & even threatened them while they were rebuilding it.
He was an enemy of God, seeking to hinder God’s people in every way he could.
But when Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem he finds that Eliashib, the High Priest, & Tobiah are “closely associated”. And while Nehemiah was gone Eliashib had prepared an apartment for Tobiah right inside the Temple complex.
He had moved out the grain & everything else from a large storeroom to make a nice suite for Tobiah. Tobiah, who had opposed everything that God commanded, had been invited to make his home right inside the Temple, in the House of God.