This is it - the last chapter of Nehemiah. Interestingly enough, the last chapter once again reiterates the importance of good leadership. Toward the beginning of the chapter we learn that Nehemiah, in the 32nd year of King Artexerxes, returned to the king. If you look back at chapter 1, you can see that 12 years have passed since Nehemiah set out to rebuild the wall and re-establish Jeruselum.
Based on the first few verses, it seems that Nehemiah was gone for a while. But his heart remained with the remnant in Jeruselum because he once again asks the king to leave. The king once again grants Nehemiah his request.
When Nehemiah returns, he finds that the Jews in Jeruselum have not kept up their end of the covenant with God. We also see the names Tobiah and Sanballat again. Let's look at the four ways that Israel failed to fulfill their portion of the covenant.
First, while Nehemiah was gone, the Eliashib, the priest who had been appointed over the chambers of the house of God, cleared outthe room where the grain offerings, incenses and utensils were kept so Tobiah could live there. Why? Because Tobiah was related to him in some way. Despite the notion that blood is thicker than water - it is obvious from Nehemiah's response that blood is NOT thicker than our ties to God. God's laws and commands come even before family. Nehemiah when he arrived and saw what was going on, threw all of Tobiah's goods out of God's house. Then he had the rooms cleansed and returned what needed to be in there.
The second thing that Nehemiah found was that the Levites' portions had not been given to them so they had to go out in the fields to get enough to live on. Nehemiah took care of this by reprimanding the officials and gathering the Levites up and restoring them to their posts. I think it is interesting that Nehemiah's harsh words were not directed at the Levites, but at the people who had promised to care provide for them so they could serve in God's house. I do wonder how many times I've missed opportunities to care for God's servants.
The third thing was that the Jews were allowing merchants and traders to come into Jeruselum on the sabbath day to trade and do business. Nehemiah had harsh words for the nobles. He shut the gates so that the traders could not enter on the sabbath. Some traders came again a few times, but Nehemiah didn't ignore them - he told them to stop coming on the sabbath or he would use force against them. Nehemiah took all of God's laws very seriously. He was unwilling to compromise on any area that God had specifically given commands about.
The fourth thing was an age old problem for Israel - they married foreign women. In this case, they had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Interestingly, Ammon and Moab were some of Israel's great enemies. Nehemiah was upset to learn of this and also to see that the children from these unions spoke only in their mother's native tongue and were obviously not being taught according to God's law.
Maybe I have a warped sense of humor but I found Nehemiah's response in verse 25, somewhat funny. Can you imagine if a pastor today reacted to someone's willful sin in this way? Keep in mind, I am not advocating we react to people's sin this way, but obviously, we can take away from this that sin is to be regarded seriously. "So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear to God, 'You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves."
Then Nehemiah makes a great point about the fact that Solomon who was very wise and one of the great kings of Israel - even he was led away by foreign women. It is so important who we choose for our inner circle - this includes not just romantic interests but close friends too. They wield a big influence in our lives, sometimes more than we realize.
Then we see Sanballat make another appearance as Nehemiah notes that because Israel took foreign wives, Sanballat was now the father-in-law of one of Joiada's (a high priest) son. Nehemiah drives this man away because of that.
As we come to the very end of Nehemiah, it closes with Nehemiah's prayer, "Remember me, O my God, for good."
From Nehemiah's life we can see some great principles of leadership - praying before acting; being confident in what God has called you to do; recognizing the enemy's fear tactics; knowing God's Word; being serious about God's Word; the importance of worship individually and corporately; the importance of a leader's own character and integrity. I'm not sure if Nehemiah was all that easy to live with, but he is definitely someone we can learn a lot from when we lead ourselves or decide who to follow.
~ Blessings, Bronte