In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah had to leave Jerusalem for a time after the rebuilding of the temple and the city. In the previous chapter repentance and cleansing had followed public reading of the Scriptures. Nehemiah apparently thought it would be safe to go back to serving the king of Persia in Susa for awhile.Two men had given the people trouble rebuilding, Sanballat and Tobiah, including death threats against Nehemiah.
When he came back to Jerusalem again, however, he discovered that people who were supposed to be serving God full-time were out farming. Why? Because the provisions they were supposed to get had been cut off. Why were the provisions cut off? Because somebody had taken over the storeroom for those things and made it into an apartment for his relative. Who was his relative? Tobiah.
Tobiah was an Ammonite. The Ammonites were people who had refused to help the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. So God said in His law that Ammonites were not welcome in the Congregation of Israel. Yet one of them was living in the Temple, taking up space that was supposed to be for the storage of food for God’s servants. Nehemiah threw out everything that belonged to Tobiah and put back everything that was for God’s servants.
Later Nehemiah found people who had married foreign women and had children who didn’t even know how to speak Hebrew, the language of the country where they lived. Nehemiah pulled these mens’ hair and reminded them that marrying foreign women, unless they became true servants of God, was forbidden.
At the end of the book of Nehemiah, and in several other places, Nehemiah prays that God will “remember me for good.” Christians today are taught to be tolerant, to accept everybody, to love everybody, but that’s not how Nehemih operated. He threw people out. He pulled some hair. He knew that you can’t serve God halfway, that you can’t just obey Him halfway. It’s all or nothing.
It’s true that we are not under the law, but under grace, and that God loves everyone and wants to see them come to Him. It’s also true that God is holy and needs His church and His people protected from corruption.
These sins — mingling with foreigners who didn’t want to change to follow God — resulted in the captivity the Israelites just returned from. Foreigners prevented God’s servants from getting what they needed to live and turned their husbands’ and childrens’ hearts away from service to God. Nehemiah threw them out, and maybe it’s time for us to throw out the corrupting influences in our churches.