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My Sunday school class has been studying Nehemiah for some time, which has been great. My old testament knowledge is even further behind than that of the New - which is nothing to write home about. Anyway, last week was an epiphany for me, and its been on my mind ever since. Here's the passage that has me buzzing:
10 One day I went to Shemaiah's house. He was the son of Delaiah. Delaiah was the son of Mehetabel. Shemaiah had shut himself up in his home. He said, "Let's go to God's house. Let's meet inside the temple. Let's close the temple doors. Some people want to kill you. They will come at night."
11 But I said, "Should a man like me run away? Should someone like me go into the temple just to save his life? No! I won't go!"
12 I realized that God hadn't sent Shemaiah. Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. That's why he had prophesied lies about me. 13 They had hired him to scare me. They wanted me to commit a sin by doing what he said. That would give me a bad name in the community. People would find fault with me and my work.
14 You are my God. Remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done. Also remember the prophet Noadiah. She and the rest of the prophets have been trying to scare me.
Here's the thing (because it's probably not obvious): Someone was trying to trick N into entering the temple - the holy of holies - to save himself from (nonexistent) assassins. For most people (including me) this would have been pretty tempting. In fact, I think that I would have been great at rationalizing it. "I am the governor of Jerusalem - and the people are in a delicate state. Our enemies are literally at the gates. If I were to fall now, all of our work would have been for nought. The people need me - more than God needs me to keep his commandments about the temple."
But N didn't even think about it. He obeyed first; knowing that once you've disobeyed once, it's too late to go back. And when you obey, God always shows you that there was some really good reason to do so.
So what's it mean to me? Put God first. Don't rationalize in order to be able to follow my own will or the expedient course. It takes courage to obey - and I have been praying for it every day.