NEHEMIAH 12:1 – 13:31 and ACTS 25:1–27
We have a listing of the priests that went up with Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel from Babylon to Jerusalem listed in verses 1-7. Ezra is listed among them (vs 1) seeing that he went up and back on a few occasions. In verses 10-47 the listing of the succession of high priests is given. This reckoning is important due to its determining of a particular priest’s purity of descent. This would be in contrast to that of the kings as seen in the Chronicles. We saw the different courses of the order of priests as established by David before he died. There were 24 courses and each was subordinate to one another. This order remained in place up until the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. There were designated roles for the priests in their respective functions. There were those who were responsible for praise and giving thanks (vs 24). There were those who were given the roles of being singers of the good things of God (vs 27-29). You find that singing often took place while the work was in progress. The song of the Lord can bring strength and encouragement; it can lift the spirits of those who may be in a downcast state. I think we all are acquainted with the power of singing an anointed song. It is so important to maintain a constant attitude of prayer, thanksgiving and joy whenever possible. I called to mind an old charismatic song when reading verse 43:
Neh 12:43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
(“We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord; we bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord; and we offer unto you the sacrifices of thanksgiving; and we offer unto to you; the sacrifices of praise.” )
The joy and rejoicing that came forth from the people resounded throughout Jerusalem and beyond. It is a far cry from what it was like prior to Nehemiah and the restorer’s return to the city. This is what the message of Restoration can do. It is accompanied with great joy. This helps us to understand how heaven can rejoice when a sinner comes back to the fold.
Luk 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Nehemiah was very particular in keeping the ordinances that David had put in place years before. All of this was done before Solomon built the temple which paved the way for the glory of the Lord to come and fill that house. The same is true for this period and especially true for the latter day house. The message of holiness and the keeping of God’s standards will always hold true. May we be likened to those who follow their lead.
There is a passage of some time since the rebuilding of the wall where the priests were publicly reading from the Book of Moses which had become the custom since Ezra. The portion of the Law that is highlighted here is when the Ammonite and Moabite should not be able to come into the congregation of the Lord (Deu 23:3-4, 31:11-12). This is what should have been done on a regular basis since the days of Moses. If this would have been done by faithful priests there would not have been the deterioration of Israel as a nation in its lead up to Babylon. Is it possible that we are just as guilty today? Are we going forward in our churches at the expense of reminders from God’s Laws as to what we should guard ourselves against?
Pro 6:20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Pro 6:21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
These were the warnings that David and Bathsheba were seeking to instil into the life of Solomon. We need to be diligent in always looking to lay hold and fast to the Book of Moses (Deuteronomy) in helping to ensure that we are kept in the mercies of God in the midst of evil. When this portion of the law was read it resulted in the people separating themselves from the mixed multitude. In other words, it appears that they were already slipping back into their old practices.
What is interesting to note is that Nehemiah was away for a time in the land of Artaxerxes. Remember he had a set time he gave to the king when he initially left for Jerusalem (Neh 2:6). It seems that the people weakened in lieu of his absence. Further evidence of this lapse is seen in Eliashib’s (the high priest) housing and aligning with Tobiah. You may recall that Tobiah was one of the enemies that was allied with Sanballat during the rebuilding of the walls. How could this happen; where was the discernment of Eliashib the priest? It appears that intermarriage was the reason why Eliashib and Tobiah are linked. This has its roots in the sin of Balaam back in the days before Israel crossed the Jordan. It also points out the danger of mixed marriages. To understand its danger we only need to see trace what Balaam put into motion. He introduced Baal worship and a method whereby the enemy could gain access into the godly line. This is also why we are warned against the sin of Balaam in Rev 2:14. We must never forget that Balaam helped to shape the sin of Jezebel who is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev 2:20). Things in Jerusalem are already beginning to deteriorate in Nehemiah’s absence. How is this situation remedied?
We see a picture of the Lord cleansing the temple as Nehemiah comes to know of the evil of Eliashib (vs 6-9). He wasted no time in repenting and cleansing of the chamber in the court of God’s house. Nehemiah expressed great indignation for what was taking place. It is a picture as to how we should be viewing our own bodily temple. Do we make allowances for Tobiah related evils in our inner chambers? If so, the remedy for our condition is what worked in Nehemiah’s day. The reading and reflecting upon God’s Word, His Law and His commandments. If faithful in doing this it will shine a light on our “related Tobiah issues”. We then have the choice to exercise judgement upon them, as Nehemiah did, so that our temples would be honourable and pleasing to God.
Nehemiah came to know that the Levites and related ministries were not being given their proper portions which resulted in them being scattered about (vs 10). This would explain some of the reasons why there is this issue with Tobiah and Eliashib. Perhaps the tithes and offerings were not being utilized properly and were being channelled into non-productive or non-spiritual areas. This would develop resentment among those who are observing these matters as well as discourage those who are appointed to the work of the house of the Lord. This is also one of the sins seen during the ministry of Eli the priest and his sons:
1Sa 2:17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
The people were also in violation of the Sabbath day (vs 16-22). He saw the deplorable matter of where Jews were marrying wives of Ashdod, Ammon and Moab whereby the people began speaking in native languages at the expense of the language of the Jews. Nehemiah reminded them about the greatness of Solomon and yet how outlandish women from foreign lands caused him to be involved in many sins (vs 26). We then see a linkage by marriage that connects Eliashib the high priest with Sanballat the primary enemy of Nehemiah. Eliashib’s grandson married the daughter of Sanballat. It is amazing in seeing how all of this happened over such a short period of time after the glorious restoration of the city of Jerusalem and its walls. Do we need any further evidence for the importance of having a teaching priest like Ezra and a devoted secular type leader of Nehemiah’s stature at the helm? If these men and their related ministries are not functioning the nation of Israel would still be rotting.
What was it that helped to make these men great? It was a devotion to God, His Laws and His ways coupled with the ability to teach and lead accordingly. In short, the kingdom of God cannot mix nor be married to the things of the world. Sad to say the doctrines of Balaam are alive and thriving in many of our churches today; put another way we have modern day Eliashib’s connecting with the Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s of this age. May the Ezra’s and Nehemiah quickly come back home to bring the needed Restoration and order to the church.
The situation involving Paul’s case continues to become more interesting with each passing day. Festus is now the governor of the region and now has to determine what he will do with Paul. The chief priests and accusers of Paul make their case to Festus in desiring that he be brought back to Jerusalem. After about 10 days Festus calls Paul and a similar trial takes place as before in the days of Felix. It became clear to Festus that Paul was being delivered up for charges that could not be proven. At the same time he sought to court favor with the Jews so as to maintain a semblance of stability in his appointed region. He is no different than Felix. Paul would have none of it knowing the fate that would await him in Jerusalem. He made his appeal unto Caesar which was his right to do as a Roman.
We see the sovereignty of God at work here. It was Paul’s way of putting the governor on the spot. The Romans prided themselves on protocols and Paul takes advantage of one such protocol here. At the same time it neutralized the priests and chief accusers for the time being. After a few days King Agrippa happened to pass by. He was the son of Herod Agrippa who killed James the brother of John who became the first martyr of the early church. Festus reviewed the case concerning Paul which stoked his interest in hearing more about him. It was settled that Paul would be brought before King Agrippa and his wife with great pomp and ceremony. It is interesting in seeing how Paul is being used even during a period of captivity. We also see the wisdom of God expressed through Paul as he makes his various appeals through the realms of Roman leadership. Each of the appeals allows for Paul to have a greater platform for his testimony to be brought forth. From this time forward Paul will have limited liberties in his journey through life. What will not be limited is his ability to express the gospel in great power and authority. It will have impact for his day and beyond. Paul will give one of his greatest testimonies before Agrippa as seen in the next chapter. Paul’s greatness however was his ability to seize the initiative with each given opportunity. True, his freedom and liberties will be greatly curtailed from this time forward; his written words and testimonies of the Lord will have no such limits. We all are the beneficiaries of his bonds.
2Ti 2:9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.