Ten years passed after the dedication of the city of Jerusalem. For the past decade Nehemiah had been fulfilling his duty in the palace of Artexerxes.
When we arrive at Nehemiah 13, we find Nehemiah taking a vacation back to Jerusalem to see how things had been going.
No doubt, he longed to see God’s people thriving, and worshipping. He looked forward to arriving at the temple to hear the singers proclaiming God’s glory. He longed to hear the bustle and braying of the busy city, as people moved inside the walls of God’s protection that he himself had labored on.
When Nehemiah arrived back at the city, everything seemed as normal. The people hurriedly scurried about the city taking care of their daily business. All seemed well.
But the honeymoon phase didn’t last very long. As he explored the city, it came to his attention that the enemy of God had moved into one of the warehouse rooms on the back of the temple.
Tobiah, the Ammonite scorner from the beginning of the story, had found his way into the city. The worst part of his coming into the city wasn’t that he had sneaked into the city unawares of the priests, rather, the high priest, Eliashib, had invited him in. In “good ole boy” fashion, the scorner had even been allowed to enter the holy temple property. But why? Why would the one whose express job was to maintain the holiness and purity of the property allow someone to come and live there, when not even common Israelites were allowed to live there?
One song writer called it the “slow fade,” – that gradual regressive movement from doing what is right to that place some time later where you realize you haven’t been doing what’s right any more. Often we can find ourselves doing the exact thing that Eliashib did here in the temple property.
We know what is right. As a matter of fact, we have seasons of excited fervor, where we meditate on and celebrate God’s goodness. It doesn’t take too long, and we slowly lose our zeal. The new complacency becomes acceptance, and acceptance is followed by folly. We wouldn’t have dreamed of making the foolish decision in the midst of our God-driven zeal, but after dropping a couple of ice-cubes in the spiritual coffee, that bad decision just felt normal.
But we cannot accept the new normal. We must fight and war for what is right in our lives. With the fervor of Nehemiah, we must drive the spiritual enemies of indifference and complacency from our lives. We must daily with a spiritual vigor strive to purify ourselves and dedicate our lives to God. We cannot afford to become casualties of the “slow fade.”
Food For Thought: In what ways can we find ourselves slowly fading into what is wrong?