June 20 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.” ~Nehemiah 13:22

Nehemiah keeps his word to the king and returns to Persia after the wall has been rebuilt. When he later makes a visit the city of Jerusalem, he finds the people sliding back into a state of apostasy (they’re turning away from God). Nehemiah is mad. One of his archenemies, Tobiah, has been given an honorary position on the ministry staff and living quarters in the newly refurbished temple. Nehemiah physically throws his stuff out on the streets! What is more, the people, who had earlier promised, “We will not neglect the house of the Lord” (v. 10:39), refuse to give their tithes and offerings, so many of the ministers must head to the fields because they receive no paychecks. Nehemiah reprimands the people and tells them to return the tithe to the Lord. The ministers he orders back to work—to sing, to preach, and to offer sacrifices.

Nehemiah isn’t finished yet. He spares no words in bringing to heel the merchants, who have turned the Sabbath, day of rest and worship, into another workday. “If you do this again, I will lay hands on you, “he warns (v. 13:21). He sees God-worshippers married to idol-worshippers, proudly displaying their families in the city. The whole scene enrages him: “I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair” (v. 13:25). Wow! And does Nehemiah feel bad that he has acted in this way? Not the slightest bit. In fact, he asks God to never forget the good that he has “so faithfully done for the house of my God” so that he will be rewarded forever (vv. 13:14, 22)! Again, wow!

Nehemiah would never last as a leader today, which probably says something about our modern world. His display of temper would get him summarily dismissed from his duties. Perhaps then we modern Christians have become too soft, too “postmodern”, too accommodating! We’ve decided that leaders, especially spiritual leaders, are never supposed to be upset. We’re uncomfortable with displays like Nehemiah’s or like Jesus’ with the moneychangers! However, those are moments when righteous anger is called for!

The things that should bother us as God-worshippers are when evil men are tolerated, when the worship of God is neglected, and when divisive people are countenanced. When marriage is trampled under foot, children are abused, and the poor are abandoned, that should bother us. I do not recommend mimicking Nehemiah (can you imagine?), but I think there is something wrong with us if we are never troubled by the evil in our communities. May God help us to occasionally get mad as Nehemiah did. For the right reasons, in the right way, and for His glory and the good of His people!

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.