4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5 prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
There was a period of time that had passed from Nehemiah 12 to 13. During that time, Nehemiah had to return to the king. When Nehemiah made his way back to Jerusalem, he saw how much the people of God had disobeyed God’s commands to guard his worship and to protect the purity of the people of God. The people had actually allowed Tobiah, an Ammonite, to move into a room in the temple of God.
This should cause you to gasp with horror. An enemy of God was this Tobiah. He was one of the two men, along with Sanballat, who most vehemently opposed Nehemiah in his work to rebuild the walls. Tobiah was not a child of God. He was not a convert to the faith. Yet the people thought so little of the holiness of God or the importance of his worship that they actually gave him an apartment in one of the temple’s storerooms.
When Nehemiah made it back to Jerusalem, he threw all of Tobiah’s stuff out of his little apartment and cleansed it. He fumigated the room, and then had it put back into proper temple service.
Is there a lesson here? Dear me yes. Even though we are not Jews; even though we have no ethnic distinctions of who is allowed into God’s kingdom; even though we are not serving God in a temple like in the Old Covenant; we can learn that the holiness of God and the purity of our worship is greatly important.
You might be someone who does not yet know God. Maybe you have never confessed your sin to God and asked Jesus to be your Savior. If so, you cannot truly worship God. You have only two things that you can do. You can either sin against God and ultimately receive his wrath for your sin, or you can come to him, look to Jesus, and ask him to save your soul. But do not deceive yourself, you cannot worship God or please God without first placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
But Christians, you too need to protect your purity in worship. Your church building is not the temple of God. We, the people of God, are temples of the Holy Spirit. So, are you allowing things into your heart, into your life, into your soul that dishonor God? Are you entertained by things that Christ died to forgive? Are you wasting your time on things that do not edify you at all? Do you embrace what God hates? This will hinder your worship. Your life will be fruitless. Your faith will feel empty. Your worship will feel hollow if you continue to allow into your life things that God says to get out of your life.
Christians, let me urge you right now, ask God if there is anything in your life that is a foreigner in the temple. Ask God to show you if there are places you go, people you admire, shows you watch, or music you listen to that should not be in your life. Ask God if your thoughts, your actions, your words make him look big or look small to the world around you. Then, ask God to help you to fight with all you’ve got to clean those things out of your life so that you can worship the Lord in holiness.