SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- As they continue to read from the books of law (most likely the first five books of the Bible), they discover that one of God's commands was to not intermarry with neighboring tribes.
- Later on, Nehemiah discovers that one of the priests had allowed part of the temple, a place that was supposed to be wholly devoted to God, to be used as a storage place by one of his relatives. This relative, however, was not an Israelite.
- Nehemiah hears about this and begins to clean house, literally and figuratively. He throws out all of this relative's possessions and returns the temple to it's natural state. He also learns that some of the temple workers weren't being paid what they were promised and as such had to go back to their day jobs. This was likely due to the greed of the people in charge of the "paychecks" (they were probably paid in grain, oil, or wine to be used as barter or food).
- Nehemiah also notices people were working on the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week, set apart by God as a special day). This was a big no no. God had given his people the Sabbath day for rest and yet people weren't paying attention to this law. Not only that, but merchants from other neighboring villages were entering Jerusalem to sell their goods on the Sabbath as well. Nehemiah puts a stop to all of it.
- Why didn't God want his people to marry people from other cultures? God knew that keeping the focus on him was the best thing for his people and if they began to marry into other cultures (who had other gods and religious practices) it would begin to divide the devotion of his people. Nehemiah explains this in verses 26-27.
- The same idea applied to the temple. When we begin to use a resource, given to us by God for a holy purpose, for something other than for him, our devotion begins to be divided.
- God's decree had been to create a people and location, set apart from the world, and yet the people were defiling it. Nehemiah stopped at nothing, even violence, to pursue holiness in the city.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- God wants you. Not part of you. Not just a little bit. But all of you. It can be easy to dismiss the ideas of an ancient story, but lets not miss the concept. God want to set you up for as intimate of a relationship with him as possible. If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn't share your morals, ideals, and spiritual practices, it is going to become increasingly more difficult to continue your path. If the situation is unchangeable, pray for your spouse, that they would find Jesus and come alongside you in your spiritual life. If you are dating someone who isn't a christians, consider what lengths you may need to go through to keep Jesus the number one priority in your life.
- The bible tells us that we are now the temple of God, the place where God dwells on earth. We are meant to be set apart and holy. It can be easy to disconnect a sinful habit from the totality of our spiritual selves, but the Bible teaches us they are all connected. Just like using even a small storage room in the ancient temple was destructive, so can clinging to even a small sin in our lives. God wants us to pursue him with every part of our being. God has given us our lives and our bodies as resources for reaching others for Jesus. Our devotion should be completely to him.