Vol.5, No. 36 – September 20, 2020
Effectively handling the Problems Life Brings — Nehemiah 13:15-22
In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain, and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.. –Nehemiah 13:15
I worked for a major employer that took the stance of profit-at-any-price. When I started, Sunday work was optional; in fact, employees received pay at overtime rate, for working on Sunday. A couple of years later, the rate went back to normal pay, and then employees were informed that Sunday work was required. Therefore, the Sabbath Day was just another business day, but a day that produced the second largest amount of dollars for the week.
The day of “rest” became big bucks day. That business has gone through several bankruptcies over the last years and has closed thousands of retail units.
In Nehemiah’s day, the Holy Day was a short cut to participating in the economy with the First Jewish Bank of Jerusalem.
Business as usual on the Sabbath is a direct contradiction to the writings of Moses: Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. The ancient Rabbi position taught that one does not fill his purse with unholy revenue. However, here, the ones Nehemiah is observing are not Jews. They are foreign merchants; however, they were sabbatising the ghetto.
Next to circumcision, Sabbath keeping is the principal mark of the Jew. These two elements take on the role of being highly prized in the ancient faith. In 430 B.C., one of the bulwarks of separation (a national distinction) is up for loss on the list of good things to please God. Did anyone care? Was there a voice crying out to hold against such change?
One Sabbath morning (remember this is Saturday), Nehemiah is out in the countryside. I wonder if he was further out than permitted. He saw the owners of the new Liberal California Wineries on the front porch of their wine processing business. They were plugging their wine, their product. Grape farmers were bagging their fruit for a big day in the market place. Slaves were loading donkeys with fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. They headed to the local markets.
Amazingly, there were also fishmongers from the seaside villages around Tyre and Sidon. They came to Jerusalem to sell “tins” of sardines, and bulk shrimp and tuna. Now we need to be reasonable here, do we not? There is peril in perishables. If you catch fish on Friday, you just have to sell it within twenty-four hours, or they will raise a stink. [!]
However, Nehemiah throws down the gauntlet.
- I saw (15). He saw the cancer cells at work against worship; if surgery did not take place quickly, there is going to be death in the nation
- I opposed (17). He applies the knife. The verb used in the passage is extremely strong—it is the picture of contending with a red face and white knuckles. The Hebrew word tells us Nehemiah’s emotions. Rebuke, clash, and scold in a sharp manner.
- I commanded (19). Shut the gates! Nehemiah writes out the prescription loud and clear. Knock it off! This is it! (Do you remember when Jesus cleaned out the Temple saying, My house is not a place for merchandising (John 2:16)?
- Do this again; I will lay hands on you (21). Nehemiah indicated that if they did this again they would go to prison (not a very nice place in those days). Do you think it worked? From that time on, they did not come on the Sabbath (21). Guess they found another place to sell their stuff. In addition, Nehemiah is a one-man gatekeeper of God’s Law.
There is a need in our hour. We need people with enough backbone to call the shots. Believers are generally passive. Passivity and apathy is a horrendous enemy of the cross.
Laxity leads to tolerance, which empties into indifference. What quickly follows is ignorance; then sensitivity to reality fades, and situational ethics follows. The biblical basis for living life begins to sweep away. In addition, any semblance of commitment goes to the curb.
It is easy to just go along to get along; even a dead fish easily goes with the flow.
How are we doing?
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. –Ephesians 6:13 [Read about the suit of armor of the believer in Ephesians 6]
Handling effectively the problems and opportunities, that life brings!