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Divided Loyalty

“Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.” Nehemiah 13:4-5

It’s one thing to lead in the reconstruction of a city wall but it’s an entirely different thing to lead those same people in returning their lives and loyalties to God. Moving stones and arranging them so that they become a wall is easy; getting people to change their hearts requires a miracle of God.

When we collect tithes and offerings today most people in the world bring to God their offering in the form of money but in ancient times people most often returned their offerings to God as grain, or oil, or wine or whatever else their increase might have been. One could imagine that, under such a circumstance, it was necessary to construct large storerooms to hold the tithes and offerings collected following times of harvest.

One of these storerooms was part of the focus of an incident that Nehemiah had to deal with on one occasion when he returned to Israel from a trip to the Persian capital.

Eliashib, one of the priests, was allied to Tobiah, an Ammonite and one of the three Canaanite leaders that had opposed Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the wall, and he had emptied all the tithes and offerings from one of the storerooms and had turned it into an apartment for the pagan leader.

Eliashib’s actions were wrong for so many reasons the chief among them being that this room was part of the house of God and had been dedicated for sacred use.

Nehemiah was, of course, angered by this situation and had Tobiah’s belongs thrown out and the room cleansed and return to the use it had been sanctified for.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 the apostle Paul commands us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. When you read this passage, and hear him refer to us as the Temple of God, it’s easy to imagine that he’s thinking about this event in Nehemiah’s life when the divided loyalties of a priest of God had caused him to defile God’s house and serve an enemy of God’s people rather than God.

Life in this sinful world will, without our help, challenge our devotion to God and create situations where our loyalty to him is strained by other connections and commitments in our lives. As far as possible we should only permit ourselves to commit ourselves to people that will help us in our walk with God.

We have this one life to learn to love God and give our loyalty to only him. This task is the most important one we will ever do. In the midst of everything else we will do in this life we will be accomplishing this work of learning loving devotion for our creator. With such an important labor before us it’s vital that we not desecrate ourselves and divide our dedication to seeing it through.

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