This past week we told the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Following Ezra the week prior this was a natural follow and fleshes out even more of the story of the return of the exiles and restoration or rebuilding of the temple.
We see some interesting things in Nehemiah, things very similar to Ezra, but with even more detail. The opposition of Sanballat and Tobiah continue, only we get more details of the effort and how the work stopped than in the Book of Ezra. Nehemiah really shows some smarts in his regular interactions with these two conniving fellows.
Money and taxes are a problem, crippling the efforts of the exiles to finish the wall and temple. Nehemiah develops some novel methods of dealing with these efforts and the physical threats of violence and they manage to finish the work. Ezra comes into the picture and reads the Law, which creates a divine model of leadership. A devout and holy man that trusted God provides civil leadership and the same type of man looks after their spiritual development. In both instances though the foundation of leadership is God, not man.
When we look at this story and Ezra, we see some real parallels to modern day life. The oppression of government weighs heavily and their is a constant threat of violence and religious persecution at the hands of government. Being faithful to God is not free. It costs in time, money, and resources and they were faithful. They did not look to God 1-2 hours per week and consider the rest of the week and time their own. With Ezra and Nehemiah at the helm God was first and foremost in all activities. The modern church and believers really struggle with this concept.
In the end, Nehemiah remained faithful. In so doing he witnessed God stay true and follow through with His promises, both the good and the bad.