Summary: Our motivation (why we do what we do...who we do it for) is examined. Nehemiah shows us the courage and power of doing things for God’s approval rather than the applause of men.
This is the last message in our series on Nehemiah
-It has been a Book full of practical instruction and hope
-It has reminded us of the consequences of SIN…
-It reminds us of the difference that ONE PERSON can make if they are committed to glorifying God.
-It has shown us that God LOVES and CARES FOR His people and DOES NOT give up on them.
-The last 5 chapters of the Book are all about the HOLINESS of God and what He wants His people to be like.
That last point...about the Holiness of God and how the WORLD, our FLESH and the DEVIL war against His righteous requirements can be OVERWHELMING to us at times.
***Tony Campolo tells of a meeting where a man, apparently repentant before God, cried out at the church alter, “Fill me Lord! Fill me!” But a woman in the church who apparently knew of the man’s repeated attempts to follow God and the always following failure shouted out, “Don’t do it Lord...he leaks!”
I can say with a high degree of certainty that there is at least ONE struggle in your life that seems like a MOUNTAIN to you. Its an area that you struggle and fall and struggle and fall and whenever you think about that “next step” of obedience or growth or commitment in your life...Satan puts that right in your face and says, “You’ll NEVER overcome that...why even try?”
“You’re an ANGRY person…
“A LUSTFUL person…
“A BITTER person…
“A PROUD person
“A LYING person...whatever...you’ll never change!” That, in part, is why I included the poem you’ll find at the top of your outline:
“One step and then another and the longest walk is ended.
One stitch and then another and the longest tear is mended.
One brick upon another and the tallest wall is made.
One flake upon another and the deepest snow is laid.
Do not look downhearted on the work you have to do,
And never say that such a task you never can get through;
Just endeavor day by day God’s vantage point to gain,
Soon the mountain that you feared will prove to be a plain.”
-- Author unknown
I’m going to resist the temptation to dwell on the failings of the Israelites in this passage as, once again, they are failing to fulfill the commitments they’ve made to God (they make such a convenient target and I think sometimes we point at their inconsistencies to avoid facing our own struggles). Instead, we are going to look for connections between their failures and our own...and focus in on TWO ATTITUDES and ONE ACTION that can help us be more consistent in our walk with God.
IMPORTANT: After almost 12 years in Jerusalem, acting as the governor and one of the spiritual leaders, Nehemiah returned to King Artexerxes (Nehemiah 13:6-7a)
We are not told exactly how long he was gone, but we do see that in that span of time, things began to decline in Jerusalem…UPON RETURNING...Nehemiah found that the people had begun to compromise…
1.) They gave SACRED SPACE to God’s enemy. (vs. 4-9)
Eliashib let Tobiah move into one of the large storerooms of the temple. Tobiah, who threatened to KILL Nehemiah and was willing to do anything to keep Jerusalem from being secure is given a place to live in one of the most sacred areas in all Jerusalem. Here is an UNHOLY man...a VIOLENT man...an ENEMY of God, and the priest gives him a key to the front door of the temple and puts a welcome mat out for him. OUTRAGEOUS!!
· It would be, in a sense, like finding out that to make a little extra money, we let some well-known CON MAN use space in our church for his criminal activities.
· Or let something immoral happen on our property, and just looked the other way.
· EXCEPT THAT these buildings are not the modern day equivalent of the Temple...what is? We are!! Our HEARTS are the temple of the Spirit of God. This ROOM is not holy...WE are to be holy!
· Nehemiah, when he discovers that a sinful man has been allowed to live in the temple rooms, gets in there and THROWS OUT all of Tobiah’s belongings and he has that space purified…AND moves the right things BACK IN. (Important detail)
· When we take this concept to heart...we won’t be “scolding kids” for running around or being noisy in the building...we will remove anything from our LIVES (what we see, hear, do, any habit, any relationship) that keeps us from being pure before God...then we allow God to purify it (forgiveness and cleansing)...then we put the RIGHT things back there!
2.) They STOPPED GIVING to God’s work. (vs. 10-13)
Part of the reason why it was even possible to fit Tobiah and his belongings into the temple was that the people had stopped bringing their tithes and offerings in as they promised they would. (see Nehemiah 10:35-39)