Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nehemiah and Opposing those who Oppose the Church

Nehemiah is downright fiery and aggressive when dealing with the enemies of the people of God. He prays that they be juedged and their sin not be forgiven (4:4-5). He beat some and pulled out their hair (13:25), and he chased away a false priest (13:28). Much can be said about this, but Packer makes some significant, searching points. Packer notes that we need not expect that every action of Nehemiah was exactly right, but he pushes our assumptions as well. The second quote is especially powerful.

  • Nehemiah is not expressing personal vindictiveness against Sanballat and Tobiah so much as zeal for God to vindicate himself against them because they have opposed him. . . .
    Difficulty is felt today with biblical prayers that God will take vengeance, partly because of their oriental exuberance of expression . . . but mainly because the pure zeal for God’s glory that those prayers express is foreign to our spiritually sluggish hearts. …
    What we are being shown here is that when Christians get to heaven, with their sanctification complete and their minds as fully conformed to the mind of Christ as the angels’ minds are, they will forever rejoice not only in the mercies by which God has glorified himself in their own lives, but also in the judgments by which he vindicates himself against those who defy him. (p. 101-102)
  • Any embarrassment we might feel at Nehemiah’s forthrightness could be a sign of our own spiritual and moral limitations rather than his. Was it a weakness that in Nehemiah’s code of conduct the modern shibboleth, ‘thou shalt be nice’ seems to have had no place, while ‘thou shalt be faithful to God and zealous for God’ was evidently basic to it? . . . . The assumption, so common today, that niceness is of the essence of goodness needs to be exploded. Nehemiah should not be criticized for thinking that there are more important things in life than being nice. …And if Nehemiah upsets us by seeming to be a judgmental egoist, we should remember that he believed in the absolutes of divine revelation and the reality of God’s judgments with a robustness that few nowadays match. Belief in absolutes is out of fashion in the West; relativism and pluralism have become ‘politically correct’ pollutions of the cultural air we breathe, and any affirmation of what purports to be universal truth is thought of as bad manners, if not worse. (p.182-183)

A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah

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