It Might Be Time
Several hundred years before Nehemiah, Solomon wrote this:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
But, the Byrds made it famous in 1965.
Early ballad rock ‘n roll.
King Solomon wrote it, it’s in the bible. But, is there really a time for all this?
I get a time to be born and a time to die.
Most of this nobody would have any issues w/.
Weep/laugh, tear down/build up.
A lot of this is real, sober, but mostly uplifting.
A time to live, die, plant, harvest
These all seem like progress. Hard but good.
Are there really times to hate, times for war, and time to kill?
These seem harsh.
Yes, it’s poetic language, maybe not t/b taken literally.
Okay, ya, maybe. But, it’s hard to think in these terms.
We have a problem just being angry. Is anger ever okay?
A legit emotion.
Typically, we get angry at the wrong things or at nothing.
We stay angry or we’re too passive.
At the other end of the musical spectrum: Beethoven. His life was filled w/ a lot of good things. But, there were some real difficulties, too.
By 5 he was playing the violin. At 13, he was a concert organist. In his 20’s he was studying under Haydn and Mozart.
He was a prolific composer; 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, sonatas, and numerous pieces of chamber music.
However, also during his 20’s he began to lose his hearing. He said his fingers also became “thick”.
As his hearing went, he relied on feeling the music. But then, in time, this feeling began to fail him.
By the time he was in his 50s he was stone deaf.
Early on as he began to lose his hearing someone quoted him, shouting at the top of his voice, out of anger and frustration while slamming both fists down on the keyboard,
“I will take life by the throat!”
Here is this genius musician and composer who is losing probably the most important of his 5 senses to his gift.
You can appreciate that maybe he might be a little angry.
It was this anger, to take his life by the throat, that drove him to not allow his disability to overwhelm his gift.
He was determined not to give up and continued to compose for decades as he lost his ability hear what he was composing.
Sometimes we have to take life by the throat, get angry, and allow this emotion to drive our determination to not give up and to continue to make the necessary changes that will allow us to be successful in what God created us to be.
As Solomon wrote:
There are seasons, times when we need to get angry and use that anger as a motivation to bring about the necessary changes.
For instance, training our dog Jack.
My challenge is to not get angry at the wrong thing and never react too harshly out of anger.
We start gently, graciously, teaching him commands.
In a short time, he gets them. He knows them and understands what we are commanding him to do. He gets treated for obedience.
Then, after a short time, something trips inside of him and even though he knows what to do he decides to do something else.
Many of you know we are working on distractions.
Thursday mornings. He should be able to sit, stay, and them come right to me no matter who else is in the room or whatever else might be going on.
He knows this. He has no trouble when there are no distractions.
This is only sit, stay, shake, come. Most of the time, not a big deal.
But, there will be situations when his life may depend on his obedience.
When we’re out at Sara’s garden and he’s w/ us and he chooses to run into the street. He should stop when we command him b/c he could die if a car is coming.
When we’re in the forest and he catches the scent of another animal and bolts. If doesn’t come when we call him and he chases that scent and loses us, he’s dead.
That makes me angry.
Similarly, teaching my children, when they were toddlers, to stay w/ me walking thru a parking lot. They had to hold my hand.
They could run free in the yard, in a park, where it’s safe.
But, once we got near the street or parking lot they had to hold my hand and stay w/ me. Or else!
Why? B/C their life depended on it.
I would get angry if they disobeyed me in those moments.
Other times, not such a big deal and I could respond less harshly.
But, if they were potentially in danger, or in danger of doing serious damage to something or someone else. I’d get angry. They needed to know that behavior was unacceptable.
Not b/c I’m a control-freak. But, b/c their life or the life of someone else depended on it.
There is a time to get angry and use that emotion as motivation to bring about necessary changes, maybe in our own lives, maybe in the lives of others, before somebody gets hurt.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
If we are going to successfully complete a do-over that God has given us we might need to get angry at ourselves, our situation, or somebody else.
Nehemiah is one of these passages written in the past and in ch. 13, he faced a situation where some people were going to get hurt by God if they didn’t make the necessary changes. He got angry.
And his emotion provided some motivation for the ppl to make these changes.
But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God.
But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission
We don’t know how long Nehemiah stayed in Jerusalem after the wall was completed and provided leadership for the ppl.
Eventually, he left and returned to his role in king Artaxerxes’ court as his cup-bearer.
The king had only given him permission t/b gone temporarily. It came time when he needed to return.
And, again, we don’t know how long he stayed away or what motivated him to come back to Jerusalem.
Maybe someone reported to him, maybe he just missed the ppl.
Either way, it became clear that while the cat was away the mice got busy doing the wrong things.
When he got back to Jerusalem, he discovered 4 things going on that we making God very mad and if they continued the ppl were going to get hurt by God.
He got mad. He took these situations by the throat, appropriately so.
The first situation:
Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.
and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.
There was a fox in the henhouse.
Tobiah! A sworn enemy of God.
He was one of those who opposed Nehemiah from the beginning. As soon as he arrived to work on the wall Tobiah tried to stop it.
Then, under new leadership, no only had they welcomed Tobiah into a relationship, they gave him a room in the temple.
Remember the oath they swore before Nehemiah left to make God and the temple their priority. Something changed since then.
Nehemiah never let him inside the walls much less the temple. He is a classic example of a rebellious unbeliever who tries in every way to counter the word, work, and ways of God.
In the temple there were rooms where they stored the utensils used in worship and all the grain that was to be sacrificed and feed the priests.
They cleaned out one of those rooms and let Tobiah live there.
Nehemiah got angry and cleaned out Tobiah’s stuff. Picture in your mind his clothes and furniture flying out the window.
Nehemiah didn’t need to call a committee meeting to discuss the use of the rooms.
He didn’t need to bow in prayer.
When your child is running for the street you don’t need to pray, you need to run after them. Then pray.
God was ticked off. And the last time He got really, really ticked at Israel they got exiled.
The ppl were going to get hurt so Nehemiah got angry and got involved to save them from themselves and kicked the fox out of the henhouse.
Then, he discovered the next problem
I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites. Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
Parents know, as do dog-owners, when it’s quiet go find out what they’re up to.
Nehemiah was looking and said, “Then I discovered this.”
Remember last week? The vow they took to support the temple-workers who moved into the city. They had to b/c they couldn’t support themselves as they rebuilt the city and worked in and around the temple.
What happens if all of you stop giving to this church? I have to go get a job that pays. Tom.
We won’t have time to do what needs t/b done to run the programs here.
Again, Nehemiah didn’t call a committee meeting to discuss the situation. He lit the leaders up!
They were setting a horrible example. And, if let go then God was going to light them up. And, if He did it it would have been painful!
They had reneged on their commitment to keep God and his work their highest priority.
We all know our priorities are revealed in how we spend out money.
Do you pay God first the amount He has laid on your heart to give?
Or, do you pay him last w/ whatever might be left over at the end of the month? If there is anything left over.
They had let God slip in their priorities and He would not let this go much longer.
Nehemiah had to do something so he did.
Soon after, he discovered the next problem that was indicative of the same priority problem.
They made no time for God.
In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.” When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
How you spend your money reflects your priorities and so does how you spend your time.
They weren’t keeping the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was and always will be Saturday, the 7th day.
There were 6 days for them to conduct business. The 7th was set aside for their most important relationships.
Obviously, God was supposed t/b the most important so worship w/ other believers was supposed to happen every Saturday.
Then, go play w/ your family and friends. Do relationship-building activities.
Sabbath laws didn’t restrict activity, though c.1 Pharisees taught that it did. They were meant to restrict business and work activity.
God knows we are prone to workaholism. And our relationships suffer as a result.
Make time, a quantity of quality time, for God and the most important ppl in your life.
Schedule it if you have to. Impromptu is nice. But, in my life if it isn’t scheduled it likely won’t happen.
I can say I love Sara but if I don’t make time for her do I really?
There is nothing wrong w/ hard work and making a profit. Just don’t do it on the Sabbath.
Even though everyone else was. God told Israel to look different b/c they were different. And, one way they looked different was by doing less business than everyone else.
They spent less money
They didn’t buy stuff nor sell stuff on Saturday. They didn’t work their fields nor their shops. Since no one was buying stuff, no one had to work.
From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday no business.
Nehemiah didn’t ask, he instructed the guards to lock the city gates as the sun set and not to open them till Saturday night.
Find something else to do that will improve your spiritual life and your family life during these hours.
He reminded them this was one of the reasons why their parents were exiled. If they kept this up God would hurt them, too. It was unnecessary and foolish.
He didn’t have to pray before he confronted the leaders. But, he did pray after and asked God to treat him right for what he was doing.
No doubt he was losing friends among the Israelis.
He was the lone voice crying out that they were running toward a very busy street and about to get creamed.
He got mad and it motivated him to make a change.
No more business on Saturdays.
Then he discovered the 4th problem.
Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah.
Situations like this had been addressed so severely in the past even to the point of dissolving all the inter-cultural marriages at one point.
Marrying someone from another culture was acceptable as long as they became Jewish by belief and behavior.
He illustrated the problem in this verse. The first generation of children didn’t speak Hebrew so they couldn’t understand God’s word.
Each subsequent generation moves farther away from God. So, it was necessary to nip this in the bud by prohibiting any marriage to a non-Jew.
The equivalent today is a Christian marrying a non-believer.
Or, a U of A alum marrying an ASU alum. Which school gets your allegiance?
Neither gets a full commitment. At best, both get a partial commitment.
God will not tolerate a partial commitment from someone He gave everything for.
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to fall in love, not that he doesn’t want us to get married. He wants a total commitment from everyone . And, the only way we can do that is if we are married to someone who is as committed to Him as we are.
Picture your dog running off into the forest, out of site, after a coyote. He’s dead.
Picture your grandchild running toward the street w/ and oncoming car that does not see them.
It’s okay to be angry when the ppl, or pets, we love so much are on a course that will hurt them, or us, or do significant damage.
If we care about ourselves and we’re doing things we know we shouldn’t then maybe we need to get angry at ourselves or our situation. Use that anger as motivation to bring about the necessary changes so nobody gets hurt.
When the time is right and you get a do-over from God maybe anger is the right emotion to help you make it a successful one.
Is there a fox in your henhouse?
Is there someone you need to create a distance from b/c they are getting in God’s way in your life?
Is there something you are doing that you need to stop doing b/c it is distracting you from doing what God wants you to do?
It may be hard but it’s not impossible to get the fox out of your henhouse.
Do you need to make God a higher priority?
Do you need to communicate that in how you spend or give your money?
Is God the first person you pay? Or, the last or the least?
Don’t give for the health of this church. We are a very healthy church. Give b/c God is leading you to give; next week.
I’m not asking for a raise. This isn’t about me, either.
This is about you and making God the appropriate priority in your life and showing it in how you spend your money.
Do you need to make more time for God?
A daily quiet time? Bible reading?
Is there somebody in your life that is important to God that you need to make more quality time for?
Ask your spouse out on a date.
Buy a friend a cup of coffee.
Do-overs. God is gracious enough to give us 2nd chances and new opportunities.
It requires making right turns where we made wrong turns in the past.
Doing right things for a change might be some of the hardest things we will do and we need all the motivation we can muster along w/ the power of God to get it done.
Maybe you need to get mad and take your situation by the throat and not let it defeat you or distract you from making your next do-over a success.
Sometimes we have to take life by the throat, get angry at ourselves or our situation, and allow this emotion to drive our determination to not give up and to continue to make the necessary changes that will allow us to be successful in what God created us to be.
That is Ezra and Nehemiah.