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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2004-07-25

Text:

Nehemiah was a God-fearing Israelite who lived at the time when the Jews were returning back to Israel to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and re-establish the old order of godly administration and godly life that had existed before. The first 12 chapters of his book describes how he organised the rebuilding of the city walls of Jerusalem, and accomplished that feat with God's help in just 52 days, despite all kinds of opposition. 

In the midst of all these amazing developments, a great revival and reformation came about among the people through the preaching efforts of Ezra. Their spiritual lives were built up through the Word of God. Together with Nehemiah, Ezra was able to institute many reforms which the people gladly covenanted to perform. 

By the time the day came for them to dedicate the newly-built walls, the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants had at last attained their highest point of development. Except for the lack of a king, they had succeeded in restoring the old order and glory of the godly administration and life that they had when David ruled as king in Jerusalem. The city was restored and inhabited once more, since there was now a wall to protect them. The ordinances of worship at the Temple were restored and kept faithfully: the needs of the priests and Levites were met so that they could devote themselves fully to serving God in the Temple. The final verses of chapter 12 and first few verses of chapter 13 paint a bright picture of this restored order.

What the Israelites had now become can be likened to any church today that has succeeded in becoming everything that a church should be: where the Word of God is preached faithfully and every member is fully committed to the Lord, and where the various ministries of the church are growing well and reaping much fruit for God's Kingdom. Unfortunately with the passage of time, things often lose their original lustre and freshness, and signs of corruption begin to appear. 

"And before this Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of corn the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests." (Nehemiah 13:4,5)

All this happened during the time when Nehemiah had to be away from Jerusalem, to fulfill some official duties he had to the Persian king. A few years had passed by the time he was able to obtain permission to return to Jerusalem. When he came back, he was horrified to find that one of the big halls in the side of the Holy Temple had now been converted into a warehouse. And worse than that, it was a warehouse for storing household junk belonging to an idol-worshipping enemy of the Jews - an Ammonite named Tobiah, who had earlier tried to stop Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem!

The Causes of Corruption

Corruption had crept in, and it was all because of a friendship that had developed between Tobiah and the priest who had been put in charge of the halls of God's Temple. Today we find a similar phenomenon when churches and seminaries are gradually led into compromising with the world and with unbelief, through those within their own ranks who develop a friendly and welcome attitude toward them. What should remain outside the church finds its way into it through someone who is within it. When corruption creeps in unnoticed because of a friendly compromise, it begins to eat away the strength and vitality of the church until it becomes an empty shell. How sad it is to see this happen to any church. 

Besides compromise, there is another way in which corruption may come to the House of God: Through neglect. This was another thing that Nehemiah found when he returned to Jerusalem: "And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field." (Nehemiah 13:10)

After all the initial excitement and fervour had died down and people had settled into the routine of life, they began to neglect the support of those who ministered at the Temple. When the Levites saw that their income was greatly affected, they naturally sought to find other sources of income by growing their own crops. Perhaps they adopted a noble attitude, "Well, if the people are not able to support us to do the Lord's work, then we will support ourselves, and continue to do the Lord's work at the same time." But the farming work gradually demanded more and more of their time, until they too began to neglect the Lord's work. And as the people saw the Levites becoming less and less involved in the Lord's work, they gave even less for their support. The situation became a vicious circle.

Neglect has probably crippled more church ministries, paralyzed more missions, and closed down more outreaches, than any other cause. There are two principle causes of neglect, and there are strong warnings against both of them in God�s Word. The first is plain forgetfulness, and the second is weariness. As the years of our lives come and go, we tend to forget the goodness God has shown to us, the blessings we have received from Him, and the deliverances He has effected for us. And as we serve the Lord constantly, there is always the danger of growing weary of service. We get tired of fighting against sin, because of battle-weariness. We get tired of doing good to others because we feel drained of strength to love them. Instead of seeing the need to recharge our strength and resolve to press on by looking to the Lord, we take the easy way out and just allow weariness to immobilize us: "How nice it is to rest and do nothing." But the Word of God says, "...let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

The Need for Genuine Concern

Having looked at the corruption of God's House and its causes, let us now consider the remedy for it: Develop a concern for God's House. We should become as concerned as Nehemiah was when he returned to Jerusalem and saw what had happened while he was away. "But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: and I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber." (Nehemiah 13:6-8)

The first indication of Nehemiah's concern was his desire to make the long, arduous trip back to Jerusalem, which took three months of travel. The second indication was his reaction to the news that one of the rooms in the Temple had now become Tobiah's storeroom. Nehemiah was so disturbed by this news that he went to the Temple and cleared out the junk from the chamber. 

Some of us may feel that Nehemiah's act was a little too extreme. Perhaps he should have confronted the priest in charge of the Temple chambers and made him correct his error. Shouldn't he have exercised more diplomacy in handling this situation? After all, why should one get so upset over some household stuff dumped in the Temple? Perhaps he should have restrained himself.

All too often, God's people fail to be moved about things that should move them to action. What Nehemiah did was in fact done again in the Temple about 400 years later, but this time by One whose life and temperament was perfectly without blemish or sin: our Lord Jesus Christ. When Christ saw the money-changers and animal-sellers doing business in the Temple courts, he drove them out with a whip (John 2:13-17). Scripture records that He did this because He was consumed with zeal for God's House.

Dear Reader, how much concern do you have for God�s House? Can your concern be described as a consuming zeal? Does it matter to you if some danger comes along and threatens the life and testimony of the Church? Does it matter to you if church ministries are suffering from a lack of members who are willing to serve? Does it matter to you if the church treasuries are being depleted because the weekly offerings have dropped? Or are you just content to sit by and watch God's House being hurt, damaged and even destroyed?

Unless we have a true and genuine concern for the welfare of the Church which Christ purchased with His own life-blood, we would not at all be bothered to take needful steps to maintain its integrity and life. But if we really love the Lord Jesus Christ and His church, we would be more than willing to keep on maintaining its work, its witness, its ministry, and its fellowship with a dedicated spirit. 

The Desired Response

The account of Nehemiah's zeal for God's house ends on a happy note, with the things that were done for God's House. He caused the people to bring in their tithes so that the Levites would not need to grow their own crops any more. He also appointed faithful men to take charge of the treasuries, the Levites, and the distribution of gifts. All that was needed must be supplied. The House of God and the Work of God should not be made to suffer because of a lack of resources. 

In the same way, the needs of the Church and her ministries should be adequately supplied. Is there a lack of funds for the Lord's work to be done? Those who have the capacity to give, can give. Those who do not have this capacity can pray for the needs to be met. Is there a lack of faithful men and women to serve in the ministries of the Church? Let those who can offer themselves to serve delay no further.

Brethren, let us do all we can, while we are able, to maintain the Church and her God-given ministries, by preventing compromise and neglect from creeping in, and by having a true concern for God's House.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25