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Godly Worship is constantly under attack by the enemy. Satan wants to obscure and corrupt the biblical model of worshiping the One True God in spirit and in truth. Despite impressive revival and dedication to obedience, God’s people quickly slip back into sinful patterns of behavior. Spiritual leaders need to be alert to the necessity of reforms when such spiritual slippage occurs.

Nehemiah had every reason to expect that Israel was serious about its rededication and commitment. Look at all they had been through together. Look at the victory God had given over all the challenges and obstacles they faced. Yet as a spiritual leader, Nehemiah understood the heart of people. He understood that we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we profess to love, prone to slip back into spiritual decline. The last chapter of the Book of Nehemiah deals with the necessary reforms due to such spiritual slippage. It would have been nice if there were a storybook ending and it could be reported that the nation of Israel lived happily ever after … but that was not the case. You know the history of Israel … that was never the case.

Cf. Circle Back training in the business world; you discover what process needs to be changed; you provide the training; you determine that behavior has changed; but you can never stop there; you must come back a month later . . . six months later and make sure that the change has stuck; Implementation is difficult; Making change stick is even more difficult; we are all creatures of habit; that old man is still with us

Two Images to keep in mind – from illustrations from other commentators:

1) Wiersbe: General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, once said to a group of new officers, “I want you young men always to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

2) Zeisler: moral failure and spiritual decline are a great deal like a flat tire. Most flat tires don’t occur as the result of a blowout. They occur because air leaks out over time, often imperceptibly. We’re not aware that they exist until perhaps the car is difficult to steer.

The decline of one’s spiritual life, the loss of one’s vitality for the things of God, may very well be the same. It may happen over a period of time, perhaps somewhat imperceptibly. We may not be aware of what’s happening.

Start with the Prayer Refrain (:14) that divides the three main sections of Chap. 13



Why would you ever invite the enemy inside the camp?

Why would you think it appropriate for light to fellowship with darkness? 2 Cor. 6

Is the church impacting the heathen world or is the heathen world impacting the church?

A. Catalyst of Scripture: Investigating God’s Standards

“On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of people;”

Def. of a Catalyst: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action; something that stimulates progress (could be positive or negative) – some type of movement; Listening to the Word of God should never be a static experience; something that causes an important event to happen

Things get moving in your life when you submit to the Word of God;

Didn’t waste any time – “on that day”

Every encounter with the Word of God should be significant

Went to the right source to evaluate their conduct

Look at the accountability factor here

– read aloud

– in the hearing of people

No confusion about the message – not some type of moral relativism – Oh, the passage might mean this to you and maybe it means something else to another person … NO … God said what He said and it applies to me

B. Conviction of Sin: Identifying Specific Neglected Requirement

1. Clear Command – Protect the Sanctity of the Temple Worship

“and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God,”

Kidner: We can identify the passage from the book of Moses, since verses 1 and 2 faithfully summarize Deuteronomy 23:3-5. True to the Old Testament’s style, the prohibition is stark and unqualified, to make the most powerful impact, but the reader knows that elsewhere there are balancing considerations. It is the Ammonite or Moabite in his native capacity as the embodiment of Israel’s inveterate enemy and corrupter who is in view: the son or ‘daughter of a foreign god’ (Mal. 2:11), burrowing into the life and even the language of Israel (verses 23ff). But let him come as a convert, like Ruth the Moabitess, and he will be entitled to a very different reception.

Wiersbe: Ammon and Moab were born from the incestuous union of Lot and two of his daughters (Gen. 19:30-38), and their descendants were the avowed enemies of the Jews. Somehow this “mixed multitude” had infiltrated the people of Israel in spite of previous purgings (9:2; 10:28). . . The “mixed multitude” is composed of unsaved people who want to belong to the fellowship of God’s people without trusting the Lord or submitting to His will. They want the blessings but not the obligations, and their appetite is still for the things of the world.

Not talking about individual salvation here; not saying that someone like Ruth cannot repent and be knit into the family of God; talking about the privilege of worship in the temple in Jerusalem

Might sound like a harsh judgment to us; but we must understand what was at stake and how these enemies of God opposed His purposes at such a strategic point in time

2. Righteous Reason: Harmful Obstruction with Evil Intentions

“because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them.”

Moabites feared for their lives; chose not to support the Jews with even the basic necessities of life; instead King Balak sought out Balaam a false prophet to try to get him to curse Israel; Balaam wanted the money that would come from pleasing King Balak – but despite his attempts, God would not let him curse Israel

Steven Cole: The reason He did not want Israel accepting these foreigners into their midst was that they would corrupt Israel from following the Lord alone. The insidious counsel of Balaam (13:2) was for the king of Moab to get his people to intermarry with Israel, and pretty soon Israel would be just like the Moabites, following their gods. The same thing happened with King Solomon, whose foreign wives led him into idolatry (13:26). I should point out that repentant Moabites, like Ruth, were not only accepted into Israel, but even included in the genealogy of David and Jesus Christ. But those who would not give up their foreign gods would only serve to pollute Israel spiritually. They had to be excluded.

Practice of Deceit

Wiersbe: Balaam was a hireling prophet who tried to curse Israel but each time saw the curse turned into a blessing (Num. 22-24). Finally, however, he hit upon a scheme to defeat Israel: He encouraged the Moabites to be “neighborly” and invite the Jews to share in their religious feasts, which involved immorality and idolatry (Num. 25). Balaam knew that human nature would respond to the opportunity for sin and the Jews would disobey God. As a result of their sin, Israel was disciplined by God, and 24,000 people died.

3. Divine Reversal – Bringing Good out of Evil

“However, our God turned the curse into a blessing.”

But still those who did evil must suffer the consequences

Cf. Mal. 2:2 same God can turn blessing into a curse – written during same period of time; spells out how the people had slipped into mere external religion and were not honoring God

C. Correction of Separation: Implementing Required Behavior Change – Hear . . . Act

“So it came about, that when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.” Maybe they overdid it??

Who have we let into the tent of worship; into the assembly of believers without confronting them with their sin and making them uncomfortable?

1 Cor. 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, not the covetous, nor drunkards (Did you see any of these in the infield yesterday at the Preakness? How many of these are back in our churches this morning?), nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

We don’t want to offend unbelievers, so we have watered down the message; don’t talk directly about sin but about how you can have a fulfilling life. If you are a fornicator … God’s message to you is Repent. If you are covetous, God’s message to you is Repent.

For all believers, circle back training is needed. How are we doing in our commitment to follow and obey the Word? Where have we been getting sloppy in our spiritual life? Where do we hear the Word but fail to act on it and obey it?


A. Abuse of Stewardship Based on Family Connections

“Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils, and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.”

Why would Eliashib do this? Didn’t he know who Tobiah was??

Rich Cathers:

– He was one of the guys who opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

– He had accused Nehemiah of rebelling against the Persians (Neh. 2:19)

– He had ridiculed the work of the wall (Neh. 4:3)

– He had conspired to attack the city (Neh. 4:7-8)

– He had been part of the conspiracy to get Nehemiah out of the city so they could kill him (Neh. 6:1-2)

– He had hired false prophets to prophecy against Nehemiah and scare him (Neh. 6:12)

– He was connected to some of the Jewish leaders through marriage (Neh. 6:17-19)

– And now, he’s got this connection with the high priest and even moved into the Temple.

Obviously, Eliashib did not view Tobiah the same way that Nehemiah did.

– Did not want to be too harsh

– Driven by the ecumenical spirit – let’s see where we can benefit from this man of influence

– Saw advantages to the political connections and business connections of Tobiah

Leadership involves a very serious stewardship responsibility

Eliashib had become a traitor because one of his relatives was married to Sanballat’s daughter (13:28), and Sanballat and Tobiah were friends.

Nepotism often creeps into church leadership and corrupts God’s standards

Examples of ways we show favoritism . . . This was no small cubbyhole; a palatial suite where they catered to Tobiah’s lust for power and prominence

Zeisler: I think Eliashib was a practical man who knew he didn’t have the clout that Nehemiah had. He didn’t have the armies of the Persian Empire at his disposal. He realized that he was going to have to be neighbor to the Horonites of Sanballat and the Ammonites of Tobiah for years to come. It seemed much better to make an alliance with these enemies, to consolidate, to mollify and placate them, in order to go forward. “Let’s get them on our side. Let’s reduce the tensions. It’s good strategy.” I think he was more or less a good man who desired to do the right thing but who found himself making deals instead of drawing firm lines where they needed to be drawn.

B. Absentee Issues Impacting Effective Governance

“But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king. After some time, however, I asked leave from the king. And I came to Jerusalem”

Constable: Nehemiah could legitimately call Artaxerxes the king of Babylon in 539 B.C. Artaxerxes was, of course, a Persian king, not one of the kings of the Babylonian Empire. However in 539 B.C. Persia ruled Babylon.

Probably Eliashib was none too happy to discover that Nehemiah was back in town; the gig was up; was he so foolish to think that he could get away with such compromising back scratching?

C. Angry Intervention in Order to Cleanse God’s Holy Temple – Bold, Direct Action

“and learned about the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, by preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. Then I gave an order and they cleansed the rooms;”

Nehemiah was so upset, he handled the eviction on his own

Illustration: Dumpster Day in our neighborhood – once a year event –

My motto: “When in Doubt, Pitch it Out” – I don’t live very consistently with that motto . . .

Best part of hiring a contractor to renovate our kitchen – we had our own dumpster in the driveway – Jenny has one at her condo location – love dumpsters

Illustration: Christ’s cleansing of the temple; Bookends in His ministry: Beginning: John 2; End: Matt. 21; throws their tables over and drives them out; righteous indignation; hating evil and taking a stand for righteousness; nothing out of line here with this sudden eviction; didn’t serve notice; didn’t worry about hurting Tobiah’s feelings

Evil creates quite a stink; complete fumigation required

God’s governing hierarchy should operate in the fashion illustrated here: order is given and it is immediately carried out

D. Appropriate Corrective Measures to Restore Proper Worship Procedures and Priorities

“and I returned there the utensils of the house of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense.”

Wiersbe: Eliashib is the first one named in the list of workers (3:1), and yet he had become a traitor. Why? Because one of his relatives was married to Sanballat’s daughter (13:28), and Sanballat and Tobiah were friends. They were all a part of the secret faction in Jerusalem that was fraternizing with the enemy (6:17-19).

Swindoll: Having Tobiah in the house of God was a violation of the worst kind. His questionable heritage cast doubt on his being a Jew, to say nothing of being a Levite. He was an Ammonite who married into the community and had numerous political connections, including the royal house in Babylon. . . He made it sound as though they fumigated the place. Nehemiah didn’t want even the smell of Tobiah hanging in the air of God’s house. . . In so many words, Nehemiah said, “Leadership is not a popularity contest. I won’t pander to political pressure from the nobles, and I’m not afraid to face Artaxerxes. My priority is cleansing God’s house of evil’s contamination.”

Kidner: Tobiah never lacked audacity. Where even a toe-hold in the temple would have been a conquest, he obtains a room the size of a small warehouse, and has it cleared for him by the religious authorities themselves (7). It was doubtless a special satisfaction to see his personal belongings take precedence over the very frankincense for God and the tithes for His ministers; but best of all he was at the nerve-centre of Jerusalem, ideally placed for influence and intrigue.

Today might be your Spiritual Dumpster Day. Are you being conformed to this world or transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you are making progress in your spiritual life? Where are you adopting the world’s value system? Treasuring what the world treasures? What sins are holding you back? What compromising friendships or connections do you have with the flesh and with the world?

Heb 12:1-2 “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”


Spiritual decline often reflected in our checkbook; where our heart is there our treasure will be also

A. Lack of Financial Support Impacts Availability for Ministry Leadership and Service

“I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field.”

B. Lack of Financial Support Reflects a Low View of God’s Kingdom Purposes

“So I reprimanded the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?’”

What is really important to you?

Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?

C. Spiritual Ministry Takes Priority Over Financial Support for the Leadership Roles

“Then I gathered them together and restored them to their posts.”

Notice he did not pay them first; he had them recommit to their proper roles for spiritual leadership and ministry; then he had the people perform their financial obligations

D. Financial Support Depends on Faithful Giving on the Part of All of God’s People

“All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.”

E. Financial Support Requires Reliable Administration

“And in charge of the storehouses I appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and in addition to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered reliable, and it was their task to distribute to their kinsmen.”

Looking for faithful men who could be trusted


“Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services.”

“Remember me” – this refrain occurs at the end of each of the three rebukes in Chap. 13 (v. 22, 31) = basis for outlining the chapter

Appropriate to expect God to show favor and reward such faithful behavior; not expressing any pride here; Nehemiah has put his life on the line in many situations and taken decisive action to further God’s kingdom purposes

[Ruth 2:12 – encouraging verses]


Do you have a tire going flat in your Christian life? Is the air of your passion and love and devotion leaking out slowly”

Is the fire burning lower? Is your life cluttered with ashes and with the furniture of Tobiah?

Do you need a spiritual Dumpster Day?

– Purifying the Worship Participants

– Purifying the Priestly Politics

– Purifying the Giving