Morning Light – February 16th, 2016

MLToday: [Nehemiah Thirteen] When the Move of God Stands the Test of Time. In this chapter the narrative of Nehemiah concludes. Nehemiah returns from 10 years back in Persia and finds many offenses and compromises have taken hold in his absence. Any move of God is tested by time and in this chapter we see the obstacles of mockery, compromise and corruption dealt with by Nehemiah as he seeks to have fruit that remains in his life’s work.

[Neh 13:1-31 KJV] 1 On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; 2 Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude. 4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, [was] allied unto Tobiah: 5 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 the 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. 6 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: 7 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. 8 And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

After the dedication of the temple recorded in chapter 12 Nehemiah discovers in the books of Moses that no Ammonite or Moabite was allowed to come into the assembly of the people. The problem with that is that the high priest was in relationship with Tobias – a very influential pagan. In fact the high priest had prepared special rooms for Tobias’ use in the temple itself.

Nehemiah discovers this after returning to Jerusalem having gone back to Persia for a time to answer to the king for the work he was doing in Judea. It is understood that Nehemiah was actually gone for as long as ten years. Here is the test of any move of the Spirit or revival of religion. What does it look like ten years on?

One thing the Father spoke to me about years ago was “the shelf life of the local church…” He asked me the question “how many churches or movements that you know of are as vibrant 20 years on as they were in their infancy?” The answer of course is obvious. It is our nature to build for longevity and solidity but we should also use wisdom in knowing sometimes a move of God wanes and we must be willing to move on instead of languishing in a dead work years after the Spirit of God has lifted and passed on to other people, groups and places. In Nehemiah’s case he returns after ten years and is not at all pleased with the condition of things spiritually.

10 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. 11 Then contended I 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 brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries. 13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries, 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 counted faithful, and their office [was] to distribute unto their brethren. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof. 15 In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing [is] this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and [some] of my servants set I at the gates, [that] there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.

After dealing with the problem of the high priest and Tobias Nehemiah discovers that the Levites were not serving full time in their offices. The princes and the people had stopped supporting them financially and as a result the Levites gave up serving in the temple and returned to what we would call secular employment.

One of the earmarks of revival is the liberality of the people. In this case the people decided it wasn’t needful or desirable to give of their substance to further the maintenance of the temple or the ministers therein. You can measure the depth of revival in the heart of the person by their attitude toward money and giving. The person who gives little, or loudly and insistently objects to ministers and ministries being blessed financially – this person has no revival in their soul. Jesus said:

[Mat 6:21 KJV] 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

This is an unequivocal statement. When Jesus is truly Lord of your heart – your purse strings will be at His disposal. Nehemiah brings the people together and reconstitutes again the first fruits and the tithe as prescribed by the law.

In the New Testament you would be hard pressed to find tithing in the first century church. Does that mean we are exempt? Actually Jesus said in Matthew:

[Mat 5:20 KJV] 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus spoke of money He often said “sell all… give all…” That isn’t talking about becoming a pauper for the kingdom. It simply means that in the new covenant we aren’t excused by giving just 10 percent. As believers we make everything we have and everything we are available to Him. The litmus test for us is if we are not at least giving 10 % then we are no better than the scribes and Pharisees.

20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do [so] again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no [more] on the sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and [that] they should come [and] keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, [concerning] this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. 23 In those days also saw I Jews [that] had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, [and] of Moab: 24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. 25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, [saying], Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. 27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? 28 And [one] of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, [was] son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. 30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; 31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

In the remainder of the chapter we see Nehemiah dealing with merchants that were profaning the Sabbath in the city. Now what does that speak to us concerning? The Sabbath for us – those of us in the New Covenant is much more than a day of the week. The Sabbath represents an end to striving to be righteous in our own right – leaning and trusting not in our works but in the righteousness afforded to us by the Savior.

The merchants that Nehemiah contended with are those who represent the performance based mentality of a religious spirit. The merchants of self righteousness tell us if we measure up to a religious standard that suits their agenda (being good little Christians and part of the religious machine) that we will get to go to heaven.

Nehemiah’s threat to the merchants who profane the Sabbath is to “lay hands” on them. The hand represents the 5 fold ministry – the hand of God typified by apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. All true ministry does not put the people to work in pursuit of self righteousness but puts them to rest in Christ that they might fulfill their purpose in God.

The chapter concludes as Nehemiah once and for all excludes the influence of Sanballat the mocker from the precincts of Jerusalem. Mockery, skepticism and pessimism runs deep in the culture of the church and must be expelled from our midst that we might as spiritual Levites (verse 30) be about the Father’s business without distraction.

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