MAINTAINING THE STANDARD! - Nehemiah 13

Shabbat Shalom! What a joy for us to come and be together again, praise the Mighty Name of יהוה, aměn!

Yehuḏah/Jude 1:21 “keep yourselves in the love of Elohim, looking for the compassion of our Master יהושע Messiah unto everlasting life.

‘Keep yourselves in the love of Elohim’ – we know that love for Elohim is to guard His commands -

Yoḥanan/John 14:21 “He who possesses My commands and guards them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and manifest Myself to him.

In this world we face many struggles, temptations and battles that are often trying to wrestle us into settling for a compromised lifestyle, which sadly many are unable to win, and so to keep oneself in the love – that is to diligently hear, guard and do the instructions (Torah) of Elohim, often becomes too hard under the pressure of the flesh and outside influences that are constantly screaming at us for our time and attention in an attempt to lure us away from keeping ourselves in the love of Elohim. A walk of pure and devoted obedience is not easy, we know, but we also know that we are called to perfect our set-apartness and put on the Master יהושע Messiah, and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh.

In a message tonight called, “Maintaining the Standard”, I would like us to look at the last chapter, chapter 13 of Neḥemyah/Nehemiah, as we can learn some vital lessons for us today in making sure we maintain the standard of set-apart living. Please turn with me to Neḥemyah/Nehemiah 13 (Read).

Before uncovering the events in the chapter the background leading up to this is as follows: Neḥemyah was a cupbearer in the ‘Persian White House’ – he had to test all the drinks that were to be served to the king to make sure that they were not poisoned – pretty tough job! He got news that Yerushalayim’s walls were broken down and the gates were burned with fire and he prayed to יהוה, confessing the sins of both the children of Yisra’ĕl, his and his fathers, for not keeping the Torah, and asked יהוה for favour before the Persian king, who seeing Neḥemyah downcast (which he had never been before), granted him permission to go and rebuild the walls. Neḥemyah was appointed governor and served for 12 years in that position. He dealt with the enemies, organized the people, rebuilt the wall, set up the infrastructure for the repopulated city, and led a great celebration of dedication as they kept the Feast of Yom Teruah and Sukkot with exceeding joy and then after Sukkot fasted, perhaps because they had not kept Yom Kippur due to the preparations . When all the building was done and they had a great feast of dedication, he returned as a senior advisor to the king of Persia. After a period of time he asked the king of Persia if he could go back and when arriving in Yerushalayim he found that what he had left had become defiled – in other words they had not maintained the standards that had been established according to the Torah and according to their own vows and here in this chapter he makes some much needed reforms.

What Neḥemyah had discovered was that the ‘fire’ of devotion had seemingly gone out and here in this chapter we see 4 major problems that needed to be dealt with immediately, in order to get back to the standard they were to be living by as children of Elohim.

We too can learn from each of these problems as they still plague many believers today, and in our striving to maintain the right standard let us make sure that these do not have an effect on our lives today and if for any reason they do, then deal with it immediately.

1 – COMPROMISED COMPANIONSHIPS

Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be led astray, “Evil company corrupts good habits.

The first major problem that Neḥemyah found was just that – the good habits in the service of the Temple had been corrupted, and corrupted by evil company!

What we do know, as Scripture tells us clearly that faith comes by hearing the Word and here in the first 3 verses we see this: The Torah was clear that no Ammonite or Mo’aḇite was to come into the assembly of Elohim forever, because of the incident with Bilʽam who was hired by Balak to curse them, which יהוה turned into a blessing.

Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 23:3-4 “An Ammonite or Mo’aḇite does not enter the assembly of יהוה, even a tenth generation of them does not ever enter the assembly of יהוה, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and water on the way when you came out of Mitsrayim, and because they hired against you Bilʽam son of Be‘or from Pethor of Aram Naharayim, to curse you.

When they had heard this they separated themselves from any form of mixing with foreigners – the Torah had revealed their sin and they had obeyed, for as we know that hearing the Torah brings a call to obedience.

In verse 4 we see Elyashiḇ the priest, who had a relative who was an Ammonite, had made a room for him in the Temple. Elyashiḇ was responsible for the Temple, for all the supplies and the rooms etc. and here he empties out a large room where the grain offerings and utensils and tithes, wine and oil were kept to make a nice suite for Toḇiyah. Toḇiyah was related through marriage and he was an evil man – he was one of the men who were strongly opposed to the rebuilding of the wall – right through this book you find how Toḇiyah cursed the rebuilding, wrote letter to instil fear into Neḥemyah and sought any way he could to hinder the rebuilding process, and here Elyashiḇ makes a room for him in the Temple!

When Neḥemyah finds this out and sees that Elyashiḇ and Toḇiyah are ‘great buddies’ and very closely associated, he lets them have it! He threw Toḇiyah out – there was no notice period – he chucked him and all his stuff out, and ordered that the place be cleansed and purified – in other words he had the place fumigated so that there would not even be a smell or hint of Toḇiyah or his evil goods in the Temple. All through Scripture we are continually reminded that you cannot mix good with evil, and you cannot be unequally yoked or straddle the fence so to speak between two ideas. The world promotes this adopting a tolerance for evil for the sake of peace and leads many into compromised standards of living. We are either for יהוה and His Word or against Him! Sadly today we see this very thing happening in individual’s lives and then transpiring further into communities, as many are more concerned about pleasing others that they totally forget about pleasing יהוה! Through pleasing others above Elohim they compromise their beliefs through compromised companionship becoming very ‘wishy washy’ in their convictions of what is right and wrong!

In the application for us here today we must realise that we are the Temple of the Set-Apart Spirit of Elohim and there is no room for compromise! In other words we are to make no provision in our lives for the lusts of the flesh:

Romiyim/Romans 13:13-14 “Let us walk becomingly, as in the day, not in wild parties and drunkenness, not in living together and indecencies, not in fighting and envy, 14 but put on the Master יהושע Messiah, and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh.

What I saying here is simply this – do not make an apartment in the Temple for Toḇiyah! In other words – do not make room in your life for things that will trip you up. Romiyim/Romans 13 is a warning that Elyashib did not heed, but we must! Toḇiyah today can represent all that which occupies our life that is not of Elohim and on another scale it can also represent those who want to come into the Temple of Elohim and enjoy the benefits of living there while not submitting to the requirements of Elohim. In other words it can represent those who refuse to walk in the covenant of Elohim yet expect to claim all the blessings – like Christians who say that the Torah is done away with yet are claiming and inheritance and a right to be a part of the Temple. The law for an Ammonite or Mo’aḇite speaks of those who refuse to become a part of the Covenant family for we know that there is no distinction between Yehuḏim or Greek or slave or free in Messiah – but those who choose and say that they are in Messiah must walk as He did and walk according to the Torah – there is one Torah for the native born and for the foreigner. In Luqas/Luke 13:28 we see the words of יהושע straight after telling those lawless to depart from Him says this: There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Aḇraham and Yitsḥaq and Yaʽaqoḇ̱ and all the prophets in the reign of Elohim, and yourselves thrown outside.

What this is clearly telling us that the Tanak or known today as the ‘Old Testament’ counts and those who have entered into the Covenant relationship with Elohim and are grafted in to Yisra’ĕl will enter in.

What made Toḇiyah not welcome is that he was still an Ammonite and would not be grafted in by choice!

Compromised companionships – are there any in your life, be it with hobbies or habits that should not be tolerated and are taking up room in your life where you have kicked out that which should be there in your set-apart walk in Torah, or even relationships that are not equally yoked, be it personal or business partnerships etc. get rid of the evil company that will only destroy your good habits and take up residence in leading you to compromise!

2 – FINANCIAL FIASCO

The 2nd problem Neḥemyah encountered was neglect on financial priorities – he learned that there was a huge financial fiasco going on! Fiasco simply means a complete failure – the Lěwites were not being cared for and the House of Elohim had been forsaken! This quite frankly is the first thing that will happen when you chuck out obedience for compromise! The first rooms so to speak that are normally emptied for compromised living standards are in fact tithes and offerings. Here the people were robbing Elohim in keeping what was not theirs for themselves. What was the result – well we know that Toḇiyah had gotten himself a nice big room where the tithes were supposed to be kept and so the people in the Temple no longer had any support and as a result had to abandon their duties in order to try to make a living for their families, and the result of all this was simply that the worship in the Temple and the work of the Temple suffered! This ticked Neḥemyah off, and he immediately made reforms and got things back to the way they were supposed to be. He did call for a financial strategy meeting – he rebuked the officials and asked them ‘why was the work and service of the Temple neglected?’ and brought all who were supposed to be serving, back to service.

When people go ‘flat’ spiritually speaking, for whatever reason, and compromise sets in the first place it usually affects them is in their giving, which will only result in a fiasco financially and spiritually!

Where are you at in your support of giving tithes and offerings – have you set aside other priorities and allowed other needs to take precedence and residence in rooms that are supposed to have that which is required? Sha’ul says that you are to give as you purpose in your heart and not grudgingly and we know that which is to be upon our heart – His Torah. But if some of the chambers of the heart have been emptied of Torah for compromise then most likely the rooms that were emptied are the financial rooms – how is your heart?

3 – SECULARISED SABBATH

The 3rd major problem Neḥemyah saw was just how the Sabbath had been secularised – by this I mean that they were doing just as the world around them was doing – buying and selling and trading on the Sabbath!

The Sabbath day was no longer being set-apart, and was breaking the very commands of Elohim. We all have certainly learnt the importance of the Sabbath or should have by now. However, what we can see from this passage is that even after one knows and understands just what the Sabbath is, it is very easy to allow it to be compromised if the gates are not guarded! We must always be alert and watchful for those small leaks that try to appear. They, after all, like us were living among people who did not keep the Sabbath and may have slowly slipped into a total neglect. Traders would come and want to sell their merchandise or crops and vice versa – for many of the Yehuḏim it may have been an opportunity in their eyes to sell some goods that would have gone off if kept for sale on the 1st day and even try to get some bargains on sale on the Sabbath. This was not on and Neḥemyah made sure it was nipped in the bud straight away. He put guards on the gates that no burdens were brought in on the Sabbath and he shut the doors only to be opened after the Sabbath. What did the merchants do? They slept outside, just so they could be first in after the doors were opened and start selling – they did this once or twice and Neḥemyah warned them that if they did that he would come and ‘lay hands’ on them after which they never came and waited outside again! Listen when it says he would lay hands on them, I think he is being polite in his writing – this wasn’t a positive laying on of hands – this was a warning of a big… you know what! He then commanded the Lěwites to cleanse themselves and guard the gates. This is very important for us to learn from, as there can be no compromise whatsoever regarding Sabbath – I do not care if your milk ran out and you ‘just had to buy some’ – do without it – no buying or selling, period – some of us still need to learn this and let me tell you just as Neḥemyah warned the merchants – if we do not heed this we will learn the hard way! We must stand up and declare that we will not neglect the Sabbath as setting it apart unto Elohim – praise יהוה that we get to spend the evening of Shabbat together and then again the whole day as we obey the command to gather as a set-apart gathering unto יהוה. There are far too many today who are treating the Sabbath too casually – no buying or selling – no business! What we must also be warned about is not to have the mind-set of the merchants who camped outside the walls! What do I mean by this? Well, if you are ‘camping outside’ so to speak then it means you are simply looking for ways to get around the restrictions! They obviously could not trade, so they waited until the second after the doors would be opened with the hope of trading immediately. In other words they were focused on self and on what they could do after the Sabbath, and were obviously not gathered as a people unto Elohim. So many today sit at home alone, knowing that they are unable to trade or do any work as they know the letter of the law yet fail to engage the heart behind it and do not gather as commanded with the body and focus totally upon יהוה, His Torah and fellowship in His Word, as they anxiously wait for the Sabbath to finish so that they can go about their usual business!

What was happening here during the time of Neḥemyah is still happening today – where too many are ‘secularising’ the Sabbath – they are trying to fit the Sabbath into their needs and compromises and as a result the sanctity of the Sabbath gets lost and results in many who do not realise just how important the Sabbath is. Without going into detail tonight, what we must realise is that the Sabbath is our ‘mark’ or ‘sign’ of worship, and to disregard the seriousness of this set-apart day each week that we are to remember to keep, will cause many to receive the mark of the beast. Whose mark do you want? We cannot neglect the Sabbath or compromise it in any way and we are to delight in the Sabbath having our hearts truly engaged in keeping the day as instructed and not as those who are like the merchants just biding the time waiting and counting the minutes until the end of the Sabbath.

We today must guard the gates of the Sabbath so to speak – that is that we must not let in any form of compromise to creep in, for it will cause you to slowly lose the reverence we are to have for this day!

4 – DOMESTIC DISOBEDIENCE

The 4th major problem Neḥemyah encountered on his return was the intermarriage that had taken place with the women of Ashdoḏ, Ammon, and Mo’aḇ. As a result half of the children spoke the language of Ashdoḏ or the other nations and could not speak the language of Yehuḏah! They couldn’t even speak Hebrew – in other words they could not even speak the language of Elohim’s called out people. What this means for us here is that they did not know the Torah or commands of Elohim, and this is what happens in a mixed marriage, and I am not speaking racially here but between a believer and an unbeliever, that the Torah is neglected in the home. The Torah is clear that children are to be brought up in the ways of יהוה and parents are to impress upon the children His Torah which is to be upon our hearts! This is of vital importance as the Torah is be spoken when we sit, when we walk, when we lie down and when we get up – it is our life and when there is a mixed marriage this will not happen and children will grow up not knowing the love language of the Creator, Saviour, Father  and Husband of Yisra’ĕl. The consequences of this has far reaching effects as a man who does not know how to rule his own house, how shall he look after the assembly of Elohim?

Qorintiyim Bet/2 Corinthians 6:14-17 “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? And what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 And what agreement has Messiah with Beliya’al? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? 16 And what union has the Dwelling Place of Elohim with idols? For you are a Dwelling Place of the living Elohim, as Elohim has said, “I shall dwell in them and walk among them, and I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says יהוה, and do not touch what is unclean, and I shall receive you.

Neḥemyah contended with them and cursed them – what he did was bear witness of the Torah to them and he then went and pulled out the hair of some of the men’s beards! Then he told them to swear not to give their daughters as wives to the foreigners or take the foreigners sons for their daughters. It was time to stop the mixed worship style of living as we said earlier that bad company corrupts good character! Neḥemyah drove away a relative of Elyashib the high priest, who was a son-in-law of Sanballat who was one of the enemies who along with Toḇiyah tried to stop the rebuilding process. This was a cleanup of the priesthood – for we are a royal priesthood, a set-apart people, chosen for a possession. Today there are many false priests, who do not submit to the Torah, so to speak that need to be driven from the Temple or any form of service in the Temple – that is the body of Messiah!

If our homes are not in order how do we think that we can be a part of building the community of family of Elohim – we must get rid of all the foreign influences that we may have attached ourselves to. Often in Scripture adulterating after the pagan traditions and worship practices is seen as adultery and having taken foreign wives and so too today we hear the terms like, ‘he is married to his job’. What marriages, so to speak, with compromised living have you engaged in – do not intermarry with the world and its luring lusts! It is time to get our homes in order that there is domestic obedience and not disturbance!

יהוה is a Jealous Elohim and will not share us with another!

What we must realise here is that all the problems that Neḥemyah dealt with in this chapter were the very things that they had vowed not to do in Chapter 10:30-33:

And that we would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons, 31 and that if the peoples of the land bring wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a set-apart day, and we would forego the seventh year and the interest of every hand. 32 And we imposed commands on ourselves, to give from ourselves yearly one-third of a sheqel for the service of the House of our Elohim: 33 for the showbread, and for the continual grain offering, and for the continual burnt offering of the Sabbaths, of the New Moons, for the appointed times, and for the set-apart offerings, and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Yisra’ĕl, and all the work of the House of our Elohim.

So often people make commitments only to break them because their hearts are not in it – as the Word says that the people worship Elohim with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. They vowed to: 1 – Follow the Torah 2 – not intermarry with idol worship 3 – observe the Sabbath 4 – faithfully give – and all of these they broke!!!

What part of ‘We will do’ did they not understand? For when we call upon the Name of יהוה and are delivered and we say yes to walk in Him our Saviour and Husband we declare that we will guard to do all He commands us. May we truly realise the necessity of the Torah and walking in the fullness of it.

Perhaps this passage is a wakeup call in certain areas for some, and yes it certainly is a wakeup call for us all to stand up and be diligent in destroying all forms of compromise in and around our lives. Neḥemyah means “יהוה comforts” and we must realise that we are not to seek the comfort of the world and its pleasures, but rather seek the One who truly comforts, aměn!

We must make sure that we do not allow, what I like to call ‘Toḇiyah’s junk’ in our lives – Toḇiyah means ‘יהוה is good’, yet his life certainly didn’t portray it – so many today will quickly proclaim just how good Elohim is while their lives do not line up with their confession and so this character can represent for us a whitewashed worship that puts on an appearance of worship and seeks the benefits of the Word while they have chucked out the Truth for a lie and have brought in their own personal junk into their adapted form of worship. Toḇiyah’s junk is a metaphor for why we often break our vows – it is not that we always break vows because we willingly decide to but rather it is when we get so crowded out by the junk of life that the world throws at us that the decision to allow the junk to take residence over the Truth becomes a seemingly easier option to get by with. Let me ask you – what junk is causing you to break your promises – that is your ‘I do’ that you have made to יהוה and to others? Have you got junky relationships or junky finances, perhaps a junky calendar or a junky living standard at home? Neglect/compromise and disobedience are the result of a junky lifestyle – and this is a call to reform that which has been neglected and maintain the True standard! The 4 compromises that get in the way of righteous living need to be dealt with in a serious manner and destroyed and they are: 1- defiling the set-apart 2 – neglecting the help/support 3 – ignoring the rhythm 4 – breaking the promise. We must embrace the courage to expect righteousness from ourselves and others. יהושע asked that when He comes again will He find faith – that is a working faith of obedience to the good works prepared in advance for us to do – and that is to walk in His Torah!

As we close let us each consider carefully our lifestyle – is it in line with the Word or has any form of compromise set in. I see in the life of Neḥemyah a picture of יהושע, for when יהושע came He too dealt with these issues – He turned the tables of the money changers who had taken up residence in the Temple courts and chased them out; He revealed their corruption of the Sabbath by breaking all their man-made laws; He called for set-apartness as He called out His twelve as He laid down the foundations of set-apart living; and He addressed what true family is – those who keep the commands!

יהושע is coming again, may He not find that these very same areas have again been compromised – this is a call in the rebuilding process to maintain the standard of pure righteous living, aměn!

Hear – Guard – Do! As we recognise that the Messiah took upon the curse of our sin and too had His beard plucked out – so now let us not forsake that which He has given us and walk in the pure sound ways He has shown us as we walk in Him. If there is any compromise in your walk – deal with it immediately and get cleaned up that we can all be maintaining the Standard!  Shalom

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