I’m pretty sure that a survey of church members regarding the theme of the book of Nehemiah would elicit many responses along the lines of “Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem“. That’s a reasonable answer, but demonstrates that the church has done a poor job of really teaching the book. Yes, the walls do get rebuilt, but that project wraps up in chapter 6 with 7 chapters still to go.
I contend that the true message of the book revolves around the rebuilding of God’s people, the nation of Israel. Rebuilding the wall is only one component of this project, albeit a significant one. The rest of the book addresses the questions, “Can God rebuild his relationship with Israel?”
In Nehemiah chapters 12 & 13 the word purify occurs 5 times. In chapter 10 God’s people “bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God“. Nehemiah subsequently returns to his old job serving King Artexerxes. After an unspecified period of time Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem. If he left Jerusalem on a high and believing that Israel had firmly reestablished their relationship with God, then his return must have filled him with sadness. After he witnessed the people pledge to follow God’s Law and participated in the Spirit-filled dedication of the wall (chap 12) he must have felt gutted to observe the nation directly violating the terms of its pledge to God (cf chap’s 10 & 13).
As the book of Nehemiah closes we see him taking decisive action to purify Israel: to restore Israel’s relationship with God. The application for us seems fairly straightforward. It’s easy to make a commitment to God. It’s easy for us to dedicate our lives to his service. It’s easy to say we’ll make Jesus a priority above all else in our lives. It’s easy to say we’ll live holy lives in submission to God’s laws. BUT it’s also VERY EASY to let all that slide. We quickly accumulate bad habits and interests that pollute our relationship with God. We gradually allow other relationships to take priority over our relationship with Christ. We forget the details of our commitment, and we find ourselves distant from God.
How do you battle spiritual complacency?
- Do you have a Nehemiah in your life who “slaps” you when you start letting things slide? How do they get your attention?
- Do you have a favorite method or routine for examining your life for impurity?
- How can we best measure our “level” of holiness or purity?