Views from the Pew – The Mess We Made

What did you learn from last week’s sermon?

Q1: Chronologically, what is the next book of the Old Testament after Nehemiah?

Q2: How many years was God silent (between the Old and New Testament)?

Q3: Who ruled over the Jews in Nehemiah’s time? Who ruled over the Jews in Jesus’ time?

Q4: Why did Nehemiah throw Tobiah out of the temple and fumigate the place?

Q5: Did Eliashib keep his job of protecting the worship provisions?

Q6: Does Jesus suggest that true faith will be rare when He comes again?

Sermon Summary & Answers

We’ve finally reached the end of Nehemiah, which incidentally is the chronological end of the story as it concerns the people of Israel (living under Persian rule) in the Old Testament. Yes, the Old Testament books are out of order. Esther’s story actually happened before Nehemiah. The Gospels in the New Testament would be the next starting place chronologically after God’s 400 years of silence. Jesus would arrive at a time when men’s hearts were far from God, and they worshiped man’s traditions over God’s commandments. During Jesus’ time, there were two groups of leaders within the Sanhedrin (the official ruling body of Jerusalem). There were scribes (lawyers who knew God’s word inside and out) and the Pharisees (not present in Nehemiah’s time). To add to this NT bureaucracy, the people were now living under Roman rule by 146 BC. Simply put, the Jews continued to live in bondage to one empire or another throughout their history because they continued to make a mess of God’s design for them. Ultimately, they put their own savior to death.

The story of Nehemiah lets us drop in on one of the Jew’s more triumphant historical moments of obeying God. The Jerusalem wall was rebuilt, the city was restored, and a people set apart for God were re-established in 444 BC. They had even declared a communal separation from certain foreigners because of those peoples’ hatred for God’s people. So, now that the Jews have settled into a new normal, Nehemiah does what he promised his Persian king (Artaxerxes) and goes back home to Babylon for a time.

When Nehemiah returns (13:6) to Jerusalem, he finds that the head priest over the temple had done an evil thing. The priest (Eliashib) had gotten rid of all of the material provisions (food, money) for the priests and worship leaders so that they had to move away to survive. There was no worship happening in God’s house. Then he allowed one of the Jew’s most contemptuous enemies (his relative Tobiah) to move into the temple. Nehemiah lost it! He threw Tobiah and all his stuff clean out of the temple. Then he basically had the Jewish equivalent of a hazmat team come in and fumigate the temple of Tobiah and his evil-germs. After this was done, Nehemiah re-established all of the provisions and put five other men in charge so that this would never happen again.

Unfortunately, Nehemiah was just getting started with the clean-up. He looked around, and he saw market trade and work being done on the Sabbath as though it was perfectly okay to do so. It wasn’t. The people had just finished recommitting themselves and their activities to God a few chapters back. They were definitely putting themselves at significant risk for more wrath from God by profaning the Sabbath. Nehemiah ordered the city gates closed on Friday nights and threatened the foreign merchants with physical violence if they continued to lurk and linger at the gates overnight. Then he saw that some of the Jews had married into inter-faith marriages with tribes that God had forbidden them to marry with. Nehemiah confronted them, cursed them, pulled out their hair, and even chased one of them away who had married into Sanballat’s family. This intense passion for God and His commands is an expressive, active, and engaging love for TRUTH!

Pastor Wilson contrasts this inter-faith marriage issue with the story of Ruth, who was a Moabite. Ruth accepted God. She wholeheartedly came to God in faith, unlike her tribe as a whole, which hated God. The forbidden tribes that were now intermarrying with the Jews weren’t even teaching their kids the language or the faith. This was abhorrent to God. If they could not speak the language, they could not speak the truth of God. We see this today in our churches – people can’t speak the word and work of God because they don’t know it.

Dr. John MacArthur said: “it’s time to close the front doors and open the back door and clean house!”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t want unbelievers to feel welcome in our worship – we hope they do, and work hard that they do – – but it does mean that unbelievers should never feel COMFORTABLE here – – the gospel message is a confrontational message – – it should move them to an uncomfortable place, a place of conviction – – a place of repentance … and then, a place of forgiveness that makes them a part of the family of God, by faith.”

Pastor Steve Wilson

Jesus asks, “when the Son of Man comes [again], will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) This suggests true faith will be a rarity, like in Noah’s day. This is because of the mess we’ve made, just like the Jews. Nehemiah called for a strong response to defend the house of the Lord for the Lord. We are truly blessed to have those leaders at GCC who do just that. Pray for them! May God remember them (as Nehemiah kept saying of himself) for their deeds and motives and judge them rightly.

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Melissa Strautman

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  1. There isn’t one. This is the end of the story as it concerns the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Chronologically, the gospels would be next. Esther’s story actually happened before Nehemiah.
  2. 400 years
  3. Persia – in Nehemiah’s time. Rome – in Jesus’ time.
  4. Because God forbid men of his tribe to enter the temple.
  5. No, Nehemiah appointed 5 other men to guard and distribute the provisions.
  6. Yes.