Today’s reading: Nehemiah 12-13.
Tobiah was an enemy. Let’s be clear about that. He wrote the book on intimidation, hounding Nehemiah and the Israelites at every step of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Yet here he is, not only inside the walls of Jerusalem, but living in the temple itself.
Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests. Nehemiah 13:4-5
The high priest provided a room for Tobiah. Nehemiah had been back in Persia serving the king, but when he returned about twelve years later, this is the terrible situation he discovered. He wasted no time in kicking Tobiah out. The question is, how did things get so bad? The clues are in the text.
There were forbidden ties. Eliashib was “closely associated” with Tobiah. To be specific, Tobiah, though a pagan, had married the daughter of a priest, and his son had married the daughter of another priest. Very likely Eliashib was a relative of these priests.
There was a failure of devotion. The room should have been used for storing the offerings. The offerings had stopped, though whether before or after Tobiah’s arrival isn’t clear. We know they had stopped because Nehemiah took action to restore them.
There was no worship of God. This is implied, not stated, but if the temple was being used as intended for worship it is hard to imagine a forbidden person being housed there, regularly, as if it were an apartment and not a holy place.
And so it goes with our failures that allow the enemy to take up residence in our life.
- We fail to worship. We don’t elevate God above all else in terms of our time, energy, and money. We don’t praise him regularly. We don’t gather with other believers. The vacuum that we leave makes an easy place for the enemy to enter.
- We don’t obey God, either in giving or in other areas. This creates a need for discipline that may force God to send us out of fellowship with him. We become a target for the enemy.
- We make associations with the enemy that trap us. We may idolize work or money. It could be we don’t conquer a sin such as selfishness or greed. It might be a hurtful habit such as TV or pornography. We become chained to the enemy.
Nehemiah showed that we don’t have to stay chained. Take away the enemy’s key. Start worshiping again. Start obeying. Clean house, starting with that room you never clean, the one where you know who lives.
Image by Martinak 15 on Flickr, CC by 2.0