Nehemiah 10-13 part 6

 

Last week we looked at chapter 8 and 9 in which Ezra was back on the scene and he reads from the Law of Moses at the water gate. All the Jews listened carefully and they kept the feast of the booths and after the feast the wept and mourned because of the sins. Then the Levites cried out to God and they reviewed part of their history and how God is supreme, merciful and in control. At the end of their crying out to God, they made a written covenant that they would keep the Law of Moses and in Chapter 10 verses 1 Ė 27 all the prominent men of the Jews that sealed this covenant are listed.

 

The rest of the chapter 10 and chapter 11 teach us how these Jews were starting to live by the Law of Moses. Part of this I am going to read the rest of it I will summarize what they have done.

 

Nehemiah 10:28 Now the rest of the people -- the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding --29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God's Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:30 We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons;31 if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year's produce and the exacting of every debt.

 

In these verses we can observe 4 different parts to their covenant they made with God.

 

1. They agreed to keep all the Laws found in the Law of Moses and if they didnít they agreed to be cursed.

2. They were going to separate themselves from foreigners and they were not going to allow marriages to take place between them. Ezra had already dealt with the problem in Ezra 9 and 10, but these Jews were still trying to do this even though they said they would not.

3. They were going to start honoring the Sabbath, which including not trading or working on that day. Jeremiah 17:21-22 and Amos 8:5 teach that the Jews were not supposed to trade on the Sabbath day.

4. They were going to honor the Sabbatical year, which happened ever 7th year, which was when they would cancel out any debts that were owed them and they would let the fields rest during that year. This can be seen Deut. 15 and Lev. 25.

 

Nehemiah 10:32 Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:33 for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.

In this instance, they were reviving what Moses taught in Exodus 30: 13-16 except Moses had all that were 20 pay half a shekel and this was only done on the rare occasion when a census was done. Even though the amount is less they were going to pay was less it work out to be more because it was done every year. In fact this tax continued on until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. By the first century it had increased to half a shekel every year. This can be seen in Mat. 17:24-27 when Jesus had Peter go catch a fish and get a coin worth on shekel to pay the temple tax for both of them even though Jesus was exempt. This tax was used for all things connected to the things used in the house of God.

 

Now in verses 34 Ė 39 we are told about more of the regulations they put into place. They drew lots for which priests would gather wood for the temple. The people were to bring their first fruits of various crops and herds to the temple for God. They started the tithing process again for the Levites. One thing different here is that a priest had to present when a Levite was taking the tithe from someone, which was probably done to keep the Levite from taking more than he was supposed to.

 

Nehemiah 11:1 Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities.2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

 

One commentator said that the wall around Jerusalem was about 4 miles long. This would take a great deal of men to be able to keep an eye out for the city. This is why they were casting lots for those that would live in Jerusalem and the rest would live in other cites. Casting lots was a common practice in the O.T. and it was used in the N.T. to choose who would take Judas place. This was not like dice where any possibility can be thrown, the outcome of the lot was determined by God as,

 

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

 

God would have a hand in who stayed in Jerusalem. In verses 3 Ė 24 it gives us a list of those that were chosen and what some of their duties were. In verses 25 Ė 36 it tells us where some of the people went in the other cities outside of Jerusalem.

 

In Chapter 12: 1-26 we are given information about the priest and the Levites with a list of their names. These verses can be broken up in this way:

 

  • Verses 1-9 talks about the chief priestís and Levitical families who returned with Zerubbabel
  • Verses10-11 name 6 of the high priest from Jesuha to Jaddua (Jad-u-uh)
  • Verses 12 - 21 it goes back in time and list the heads of the priestly families during Joiakimís rein, which was before Jerusalemís captivity.
  • Verses 22 -26 list the chief Levitical families of Nehemiah's time.

 

Next we are given some more details about the dedication of the rebuilt wall.

Nehemiah 12:27 Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps.28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the countryside around Jerusalem, from the villages of the Netophathites, ne-tof-ah-thites 29 from the house of Gilgal, and from the fields of Geba and Azmaveth; az-ma- veth for the singers had built themselves villages all around Jerusalem.30 Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, the gates, and the wall.

 

When the wall was complete, there was a cause of celebration because they had accomplished their task and Nehemiah was ready to dedicate the wall, so the Levites were called and they purified themselves, the people and the walls and gates. They also got all the singers and musical instrument players so they could celebrate this great event.

 

Verse 31 Ė 42 tell how Nehemiah took the leaders of Judah on top of the wall and how had two thanksgiving choirs set up to sin. These verses tell us some of the various people that were involved with singing and playing instruments and,

 

Nehemiah 12:43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.

 

Anytime you accomplish something great in the name of God, it certainly worth rejoicing over and we can see that these Jews were so happy they finished the wall that you could hear their rejoicing from a great distance away. It is not mentioned, but I wonder if their enemies were close enough to hear all their rejoicing. If they were it would have made them even more discouraged to see that the Jews so confident and happy from their success.

 

In verses 44 Ė 47, we learn that some had been appointed to collect tithes for the storehouses in Jerusalem. This had been neglected for a long time, and it made the Jews happy to start doing what God had commanded. Also it talks about how the singers and gate keepers were given a portion of good from the Jews as well. Now letsí move on to our last chapter, chapter 13.

 

Chapter 13 is sad chapter because it shows how quickly the Jews could move away from God just because Nehemiah was gone for a little while. This reminds of how Moses left to go up the mountain to receive the Law of God and while he was gone the people started worshipping a golden calf. Lets begin in verse 1.

 

Nehemiah 13:1  On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people, and in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God,2 because they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing.3 So it was, when they had heard the Law, that they separated all the mixed multitude from Israel.

 

One of the major problems the Jews had was when they would make friends with the world. When they allowed foreigners to come in with their teachings about other Godís and other ways, they caused the Jews to start following after their false way. This is why God wanted the Jews to remain pure and separate themselves from the world. Some of these foreigners like the Ammonites and Moabites were specifically named. Instead of greeting the children of Israel and treating them kindly, they decided to hire Balaam to curse them, but that did not work because God intervened and turned that curse into a blessing.

 

When bad things happens to us and we put our trust in God, if we look hard enough, we will be able to see how God will bring about good from that situation. When these Jews heard the Law read about separating themselves from the foreigners, they did it.

 

But before this happened, we are told what took place earlier as we start in,

 

Nehemiah 13:4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah.5 And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.6 But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king,7 and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.8 And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

 

Nehemiah left and went back Persia to see the King. How long he was gone is not stated, but some believe that he was only gone for a about year. This shows you how fast people can move away from God if good leaders are not in place. Eliashib was the high priest, but he had strong connection with Tobiah, which was against the Law. Because of this relationship, he had defiled the house of God by taking over a room that used to store things according to Godís Law and made it a room for Tobiah.

 

This shows us what can happen if you have leader in place that is friends with the world. They have no problem turning the hearts of the people against Godís way or implementing things that will make them look more like the world. When Nehemiah found out about this, he didnít just shake his head and go on. No, he dealt with the problem and he had all the things in that room that we set up for Tobiah thrown out, and he had room purified and then all the things that were supposed to be in there were restored.

 

As we examine ourselves today, if we find that we are doing to make ourselves look more like the world or other denomination, we need to do some house cleaning and remove those practices, and only do those things that God has commanded us.

 

Nehemiah 13:10 I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.11 So I contended with the rulers, and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" And I gathered them together and set them in their place.12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse.13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren.14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!

 

Not only had the house of God been defiled by the high priest, the rulers and the people had stopped paying their tithes and Nehemiah didnít ignore this problem and hope that it would go away, no, he asked them why they had neglected the house of the Lord. Once again Nehemiah got the back on track on the giving of their tithes. No doubt Nehemiah was frustrated and sad that his people had undone everything he worked so hard to put in place, and this why we see him praying to God to remember all that he done to make the people get back right with God. Now if you put yourself in his shoes, you can imagine how disappointed you would be to see all that you worked hard for in the name of God falling a part because of the weak of faith of the people.

 

Nehemiah 13:15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.16 Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?18 "Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath."19 So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day.20 Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice.21 Then I warned them, and said to them, "Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!" From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath.22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!

 

Again, we can see that the Jews who had swore to keep the Sabbath Holy were doing just the opposite. They were working on the day of rest and trading with foreigners. Once again, Nehemiah got the people on tract and he had them close the gates so no one could go in or out to trade on that day. This was a practice the Jews continued to do until A.D. 70. This is why Jesus told His disciples in Mat. 24:20 that they should pray that when the destruction of Jerusalem comes that it doesnít happen in the winter or on the Sabbath. If the Romans had come on the Sabbath all the Christians would have been trapped in the city because the gates would be closed.

 

Again Nehemiah prays to God to spare him from what the Jews were doing.

 

Nehemiah 13:23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people.25 So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.26 "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.27 "Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?"

 

These Jews had married these foreigners and some of their children couldnít even speak the language of Judah. Again, Nehemiah didnít sit by idly and do nothing. In fact, he took a hands on approach to this matter. He fought with them, beat them and even pulled their hair out until they would swear by God that they would not intermarry with the foreigners any more.

 

Then he gave them the example of Solomon and how he sinned against God because he married all those foreign women and he allowed them to influence him to set up buildings and alters for their various false Gods.

 

One basic principle we should learn from this is that we should never think that we can handle the temptation of a sin without allowing it to influence us. Some Christians think they continue to hang around with sinful friends and not engage in the sinful activities even though itís all around them. Now, you might hold out for awhile, but eventually, your will power will give in, this why we are taught to avoid the evil way and keep it away from us.

 

Nehemiah 13:28 And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me.29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.30 Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan. I also assigned duties to the priests and the Levites, each to his service,31 and to bringing the wood offering and the firstfruits at appointed times. Remember me, O my God, for good!

 

The prophet Malachi prophesied about this corruption of the priesthood in Malachi 2. These priests had intermarried with their enemy and had made them their ally. Nehemiah ran Joiada off because of this unlawful practice. Once again, Nehemiah prays to God that he will remember these men who had corrupted the priesthood. He made all the priests get rid of any foreign mates from their families, and he got the priesthood back to what it was supposed to be doing.

 

Then one last time Nehemiah prays to God that He will remember the good that he had done. Even though Nehemiah got the Jews back on track it didnít take long for the priesthood to become corrupt again and for the Jews to move away from Godís Laws. By the time Jesus came to earth, the Jews were divided in different groups and they were not keeping the Law as they should.

 

As we come to the end of Nehemiah, I think we can all agree that it teaches us a strong message of how important it is that we have a strong leadership and that Godís people must have mind to work. We have learned how important it that we listen to Godís Word and live by it and we should never let the world influence us to compromise Godís truth.