Daily Bible Radio

Cleaning House

Nehemiah 13:4-9 :

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the rooms of the house of our God, being allied to Tobiah, had prepared for him a great room, where before they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers; and the wave offerings for the priests. But in all this, I was not at Jerusalem; for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king; and after some days I asked leave of the king, and I came to Jerusalem, and understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a room in the courts of God’s house. It grieved me severely. Therefore I threw all Tobiah’s household stuff out of the room. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the rooms. I brought into them the vessels of God’s house, with the meal offerings and the frankincense again.

Nehemiah is a hands-on manager who takes his job very seriously. It is true that he was working for the emperor, but far more important than that, He was serving the God of Israel. Here we read that after he left to go back to the king of Persia, things started going bad again. When he got back to Israel, none other than Tobiah, the one who mocked them as they built the wall, was given a room inside the wall, and not just any room. He was give a room in the temple compound! It is no wonder that Nehemiah threw Tobiah's household goods out of the room personally. Nehemiah is quoted as saying that "it grieved me severely." That may have been a bit understated in this translation.

He immediately had the room purged, ceremonially cleaned and refilled with God's things. I would not be surprised if Nehemiah was more fearful than angry. He was still a slave to the king of Persia as a result of the last time that Israel had misbehaved. Nehemiah was right to be afraid and angry. There is no better reason to be fearful than when we do something against God, and it is good to be angry when men dare to challenge God's authority when you are acting as a civil magistrate like Nehemiah was. The job of a civil magistrate can be summed up as making sure that people who challenge God's authority are put in their place and that those who obey are protected and supported. When a civil magistrate takes a strong stand against evil, it is blessing to those who are doing what is right, but it is especially necessary that the magistrate make sure that God is not being dishonored.

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