by Patte Smith on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 9:09am ·
I was greatly displeased
and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room.
I gave orders to purify the rooms,
and then I put back into them
the equipment of the house of God,
with the grain offerings and the incense.
~ Nehemiah 13:8-9
The high priest had allowed his grandson to marry the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, who was an ally of Tobiah the Ammonite. Both of these were vitriolic, bitter enemies of Nehemiah. This cozy alliance led to an invitation to Tobiah to actually move into the temple itself. To make room for him, the high priest took over the storeroom that was set apart for the grain, oil, and incense used by the Levites in their purification and ritual ceremonies. So there were two wrongs involved.
An Ammonite and his family were actually living in the temple, contrary to the Law of Moses;
and, they had deliberately defrauded the Levites of their rights of storage.
When Nehemiah returned he went into prompt and passionate action. He threw the baggage out, fumigated the room, and returned the oil, grain, and incense to their proper place. Many people feel that he overreacted. Today we do not get upset by the presence of evil and think it strange that a man should act like Nehemiah did. We have lost to a great degree our ability to express outrage and public indignation over things that are wrong.
We must remember, however, that this is similar to the incident in the New Testament when Jesus came into the temple and found it filled with moneychangers. Jesus reacted in a way similar to Nehemiah. He made a whip and went around the temple, upsetting tables and driving the moneychangers out. It indicates that there is a time for strong stands against the evils that others have indifferently accepted.
Evil invades us quietly. Before we are aware of it, we have compromised and gone along with standards widely accepted. We find the people of God have often been corrupted by this kind of thing.
When it comes down to individuals, this is a picture of our struggle with our flesh. We must be prepared to be drastic and take often painful action to clear up the things that are wrong in our own affairs. Many Christians allow evil to take root in their own lives. This story pictures the way these false forces can invade our lives and take up rooms in the very temple of our spirit, polluting and destroying us in the process. Take action. Do not allow these evil things to remain. Even if it takes painful effort to do so, end it! That is what this great story teaches us.
Lord, forgive me for the ways in which I allow subtle compromises to creep into my thinking and my choices. Help me to be as ruthless in judging and dealing with my own sin.
Do we have the requisite credibility, courage and wisdom for expressing outrage in our decadent culture? Are we blinded by tolerance so as not to see the wrongness?
~ Ray Stedman