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Monday, September 26, 2016

A Rat in the Temple (Nehemiah 13:4-5a)

"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 . . . "

While Nehemiah was carrying out his duties back in Babylon the priest allowed Tobiah a room in the temple to carry out his business. Tobiah couldn't prove his Jewishness but his marriage to a Jewish woman and his son's marriage to a Jewish woman gave him strong ties to the leaders of Jerusalem. He used those ties to establish a business within the storerooms of the house of God. What were those circumstances in Jerusalem that allowed him to take up residence in the temple?
  • Nehemiah, who provided spiritual oversight, was "out of the country" therefore there was no accountability among the priests to protect the temple from outside influence
  • The nobles of Judah desecrated the Sabbath day
  • The city gates were unguarded
  • The men of Judah married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab, as a result their children were pagan.
Upon his return Nehemiah rebuked the priests, kicked Tobiah out of the temple, and closed the city gates on the Sabbath. He effectively removed Tobiah from his place of influence. The enemy sets up shop in believer's lives today. Lack of accountability, disobedience, and engagement with the world permits the enemy to camp out in our lives. He only leaves when he is forced out, when the gates are shut, and man repents of his disobedience.

Paul warns believers about giving the enemy a "room" or "place" from which to work in one's life with the words, "nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27). The word "place" in the Greek means "room" or "opportunity". Tobiah captures this picture well. Circumstances in Jerusalem allowed him to sneak in unaware and establish his influence from within the temple. Just as Nehemiah had to take strong measures to rid the temple of this rat and re-establish true worship so believers may need to take strong measures to rid their lives and churches of rooms of opportunity for rats to enter their temple.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Nehemiah 13:1-31; Joel 1:1-2:32
  • What do the people discover about themselves as they hear the Word being read?
  • What does this tell you about the reading of God's Word?
  • What do they do with what they hear?
  • What happens while Nehemiah returns to Babylon?
  • What is Tobiah's relationship with Eliashib the priest? What does this tell you about the priest?
  • Who are the people who are desecrating the Sabbath and how are they desecrating the Sabbath?
  • What is Nehemiah's response to the men of Judah who married foreign women?
  • Why is Nehemiah so harsh with the men? What does this tell you about Nehemiah?
  • Who is Sanballat and what is his relationship with Tobiah and the priest? (see also 4:1-2)
Joel 1:1-2:32
  • What event is described at the beginning of Joel?
  • What response does the Lord demand from the drunkards? farmers? priests?
  • How is the Day of the Lord described?
  • What kind of response should this warning bring from the people?
  • What attributes of God are described that should encourage the people to repent?
  • How will the Lord respond to people who cry out to Him and repent?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal areas in your life where the enemy has moved in to set up an operation in your life. God promises imminent judgment upon those who refuse to repent but He promises restoration and blessing upon those who turn to Him. Ask the Lord to use the shaky financial situation in American to bring about repentance toward God for our depending upon our institutions and government instead upon Him.