Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat the Horonite are two conniving characters that are relentless in their quest to marginalize the presence of God’s people in Jerusalem. When letter writing campaigns and threats of violence fail to deter Judah’s success, they resort to worming their way from within. Tobiah cozies up to Eliashib and occupies a room in the house of God. Sanballat becomes father-in-law to one of Eliashib’s sons. Once their leaders acquiesce to the influence of Judah’s enemies, the Levites follow their example and take foreign wives and assume the language of their enemies. In today’s terms, it is a hot mess.
When I first read Nehemiah’s violent response upon his return to Jerusalem, it seemed something from present day Afghanistan when individuals marry outside the family’s wishes. Nehemiah’s actions are hard, swift and brutal. The foreign element had to be removed. Families were broken apart and beatings took place. After a closer look, I realized what Tobiah and Sanballat were going after; they wanted to eradicate that which was sacred and set the people of Judah apart- the very presence of God. Nehemiah acted to prevent that from happening.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys god’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” God sees my heart, my life as his dwelling place- a place precious, sacred and beautiful. He wants to come and live within me. I am incapable of making this heart clean enough for his holy presence to take residence, but he has taken care of that. He sent his son, Jesus. It’s by his righteousness and his work on the Cross that I can be the temple that he longs to call home. So, I take the time to go before God and ask him to show me the places within that I haven’t granted him access. God opens those doors and breathes life and light into dark places.
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.”
Today, I pray that our lives are that sacred space where God dwells.