Focus: Neh. 10:27-39
The Jews knew how to honor a king. You bowed to the king because he held your life in his hands. Americans think that the President must bow to them. They elect the president and tell him what to do in polls and with protests. They slander him in newscasts and on late night talk shows. No wonder we struggle with God as our king. We want to treat him the way we do a president. We expect that our prayers will be answered in the way that we want God to work. If God doesn’t do so, God is discarded and mocked. That is dangerous. God is wiser and stronger than any Persian king that the Jews faced. Those who do not bow down to God and listen to Him do so at their own peril.
The danger of mixed marriages and families. v. 30 The Jews had intermarried with the surrounding nations. They began to worship the gods of the other nations along with the true God. Slowly, the values of Israel eroded as people ignored the laws of God and grew distant from their faith. A Christian brings blessings on a non-Christian spouse. A non-Christian spouse makes it harder for the Christian to worship or to give generously. A non-Christian makes it more difficult to raise Godly children. Families that have non-Christians in them should do all in their power to witness to the non-Christian. Their lives impact us more than we think.
The danger of no time set apart for God. v. 31 The gentiles around Jerusalem treated the Sabbath like any other day. It was a time to socialize and to do business. It was easy for the Jews to rationalize that they needed this business because they were poor. Our world sees Sunday as just another day. Children are encouraged to be at soccer games and Boy Scout campouts. Parents are taught to help at Sunday charity events instead of spending time with the Lord. This busyness keeps us from God. Satan loves to keep Christians busy with good things that keep us from better time with God. Soon we are running on empty and distant from God.
The danger of giving God second best v. 35 Malachi, a contemporary of Nehemiah, complained that the people gave blemished animals to the Lord and robbed the Lord of the full tithe. They gave God the leftovers instead of giving Him the best. No one would have dared do such a thing to a Persian King, but somehow God was not as important. Churches struggle to do the ministry and are falling into disrepair as God is not seen to be worth the bother. Malachi’s words of God getting the leftovers are still appropriate. People in Nehemiah’s day and our own expect God to give the "good life" while they allow His house and worship to fall into decay.
For the Jews, it was a time to start over. The past was forgiven but not forgotten. They had learned the lesson that life is better in God’s kingdom and they wanted to live in that kingdom and enjoy the blessings of a relationship with God. They wanted to have what their ancestors had missed. It was a time to begin under God’s grace. It is time for the church to begin to live under God’s grace. Our God is a God of second chances and new life. It is time to live as subjects of the kingdom and listen to our God and obey His will so that we might prosper.