Summary: The people returned to the sin of intermarriages with the foreigners. Nehemiah rebuked and corrected them. We see the need to guard our faith and pass on our faith. Nehemiah left a lasting legacy.
As mentioned, the final chapter of Nehemiah did not end as most would have liked, as in fairy tales: “And the Israelites lived happily ever after.”
• On his return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah was not only saddened, but for most parts, very angry at seeing his people returning to their old sinful ways.
• The religious leaders were corrupt and did not set good examples. The people did not bring in the tithes and observe the Sabbath rest to honour God.
• And in today’s passage, they had again intermarried with unbelieving foreigners from the surrounding nations.
This was not a new problem. We saw that in Ezra 9-10 when Ezra the priest wept bitterly and confessed this sin, and led the people to repent.
• When Nehemiah returns, he saw the same problem resurfaced. Neh 13:1-3, 23-31.
Being tempted to stray from God’s ways is not a problem that plague only the people in Nehemiah’s time, we have to admit. It is a problem for every generations.
• We need to be on guard because we are prone to stray from God’s ways.
• As long as we live on earth and in this flesh, we are susceptible to temptations that cam come from this world, our fleshly desires and the evil one, Satan.
• We can pretend that they are not there but they won’t go away. No one is immune.
Yet we do not need to feel defeated. Look at Nehemiah. He set us a good example.
• By God’s grace, we can remain faithful. We can make the choice to obey God and do His will.
• We honour Him and God will enable us “to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Phil 2:13)
THE NEED TO GUARD OUR FAITH
The men of Jerusalem had taken wives from Ashdod (capital city of the Philistines), Ammon and Moab.
• They had befriended and married foreigners who were previously enemies of Judah.
• As mentioned before, the issue has nothing to do with race, culture or their status. It has to do with God. It is spiritual. The foreigners do not worship God.
The Lord said through Moses in Deut 12:29-31.
29The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." 31You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
The Lord says “be careful (take care ESV) not to be ensnared”. They will trap you into their mould and influence you into following their ways.
• Do not even inquire, the Lord says. You do not want to know. You do not have to know. You will be influenced to copy their ways.
• Their ways are detestable to God. It is an abomination to God. God puts out a warning sign!
Read the intention. It’s for their good. It is God’s protection for His people!
• A warning against idolatry. Keep a distance, mentally (don’t inquire) and physically (don’t intermarry idolaters).
• Co-existing under one roof is too close not to be influenced.
Parents understand this. We set boundaries for our kids. Not to harm or restrict them, but to protect them.
• We want them to keep a distance from any bad company that can potentially harm them. Don’t get too close to these people.
• Children, you understand this, I hope. When parents set rules or boundaries they are not being strict and demanding. They are just concerned for you.
• I know, some children might say, “Well, they are overly protective.” That’s why we need to communicate and listen to each other more.
• We need to know and understand where parents are coming from.
Do we understand where God is coming from?
God set these firm boundaries (Law of Moses) even before the Israelites step into Canaan. He forewarns His people. So learn to appreciate God’s commands.
• We read the Word to understand His heart and His intentions for us.
And Nehemiah highlighted TWO incidents, one from history, from the royalty.
13:26 “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.”
• No one expected a greatly blessed and wise king like Solomon to fall into temptation like this. You see, no one is immune.