Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 13.26-27
Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”*
*When reading condemnations of relationships with “foreigners,” such as Nehemiah’s, it is easy to be confused or shocked. Verses like these have been misused to defend White supremacist principles against mixed marriages and to support anti-miscegenation laws.
However, Nehemiah is concerned, not with racial purity, but with purity of worship and being fully committed to God, forsaking all others, clinging only to him. Other passages in the scriptures help us to understand this truth by showing us God’s compassion for all people, including the “foreign women” in the genealogy of Christ. The point here is that the people were being unfaithful to God, not being unfaithful to their race or country.
Reflection: Tobiahs and Little Foxes
By John Tillman
Nehemiah, after a whirlwind campaign to successfully rebuild the wall in only 52 days, returns to his post with the king, but the story isn’t over. When Nehemiah comes back to Jerusalem later, he has to clean house. In a pre-visualization of Christ’s cleansing of the Temple, Nehemiah has to literally throw out the old baggage of the past (Tobiah and his belongings, Nehemiah 13.4-9) that had somehow crept back into the city and the very walls of the Temple itself.
Many times we stop reading Nehemiah’s story once we see the joyous celebrations of the newly dedicated Temple and the dedication of the wall. It is a great place to stop the story and be happy about the near miraculous pace of reconstruction. We like happy endings. Nehemiah doesn’t quite have one.
Nehemiah leaves us with a note of doubt that the people can ever be faithful. It shows us that after the echoes of the emotional celebrations and worship services faded, many of the people went right back to living the same compromised, religiously ambiguous lives they had been living.
Tobiah had teased Nehemiah and the Israelites that their wall would be toppled by a fox running on top of it. (Nehemiah 4.3) He may have been wrong about the literal wall, but he was right about the emotional commitments the people made. Those crumbled under the “little foxes” of life. (Song of Songs 2.15)
That should feel very familiar to us. How many times have we been swept up emotionally in a religious experience on Sunday, or at a camp or a retreat, but then when Monday rolls around we can’t find the will to live up to the change we longed for. Normality crushes out of us the new-life that Christ wants to build in us. Our wall crumbles when the foxes jump up on it.
The ending of Nehemiah shows us the limits of human moralism and the law. We need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to truly rebuild on a firm foundation of Christ.
When we celebrate emotionally, may we then respond practically and tangibly with action.
May we not allow Tobiahs, who opposed our repentance, to move into our lives to places of influence and comfort.
May we throw out the old baggage, and maintain our walls so that the little foxes do not wreck the spiritual life we cultivate before God.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. — Psalm 96.2-4
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Nehemiah 13 (Listen -5:57)
Acts 23 (Listen -5:15)
Read more about Repair What Is At Your Door
May God’s church—men, women, youth, children, leaders, laborers, the wealthy, and the poor—join in the work of God that he is calling you to in your community.
Read more about Moving Into the City
Jerusalem wasn’t a glittering capital, even with its restored Temple and rebuilt wall. Being chosen to move there was more like being drafted into military service.