Our daily reading takes us to Nehemiah 10 today. We could call this chapter “Ezra 20” if we wanted to be cute. We could do this because Nehemiah and Ezra were originally one book. In fact, they are still one book in the Hebrew Bible. But we’ll stick with our modern format and call it “Nehemiah 10.”
“We will not neglect the house of our God”
The chapter records the end of a story that begins with the last verse of Nehemiah 7. Ezra the priest read The Law (that is, the word of God) to the Israelite refugees who are rebuilding Jerusalem and reestablishing Israelite society. We don’t know if these people never heard The Law before. It seems that they hadn’t, but that is not stated in the text. What we do know they didn’t obey it. They knew that as well, and they repented of it.
Whether they were hearing the word of God for the very first time or simply hearing the word of God as if it was the very first time, that word made them aware of their sins. They not only became aware of their sins but they repented of them. Their repentance is so strong that they formalize it in a written document sealed by their leaders and they make an oath to start keeping it. The oath ends with this powerful line: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”
It’s Our Choice
That is the line that caught my attention as I read the text today. I suppose the line was guaranteed to catch my attention. It is the last line of the chapter, after all, and the last line of this part of the story as well. That makes it a little more noticeable than the verses around it. Not only so, but it is short and punchy, which makes it stand out even more. So it is likely I would have noticed this verse under any circumstances.
But what really made me notice it this morning is that it is yet another example of something I have been thinking about lately. I call that something “choice.” It recently occurred to me that choice (that is, making a choice, choosing of one course of action over another) is a large part of the walk with God.
Choosing vs. Compulsion
That may be obvious to you, but it is something I have missed for some time. I always thought the walk with God was not as much a matter of choice as it was a matter of compulsion. I always thought that we do the things we do in the walk with God not so much because we choose to do them but because we are convinced to do them. This, in fact, is the way Christian author C.S. Lewis (one of my heroes) describes his conversion. He says he was convinced by logic that Jesus is the Son of God and so was “brought in kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes every direction for a chance of escape.” He even referred to himself as “the most reluctant convert.”
It was somewhat the same for me. I wasn’t as reluctant to enter the walk with God as Lewis was. I wasn’t reluctant at all, really. But it wasn’t something I chose at the beginning. In my early years, I simply believed in God. I don’t ever remember beginning to believe in Him. I just always did believe in Him. My mother and grandmother sang songs about God to me when I was just a baby and I just believed what those songs said.
“Choose for yourselves…”
What we see in Nehemiah 10, though, is something much different. These are people who are not dragged kicking and screaming to an intellectual conclusion. They are not people who simply go along with what they have been told. These are people who have been convicted. They have heard the word. They have probably been touched by the Spirit (the text doesn’t say that, but we know that is how conviction works so I think we can assume it). Their hearts and minds have been changed. And so they look at the options before them and they choose the God option.
We see that same choice of that same option in many other parts of Scripture as well. Joshua chose the God option when he told the Israelites under his command, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Peter and the Apostles chose the God option when Jesus asked if they were going to desert Him as so many others did and Peter replied, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). I personally chose God in my early teen years after watching some of my friends beat up an outcast at school. I realized that action was wrong and I made a choice at that moment to begin actively walking with the God I had always believed in.
A Daily Choice
You may need to make a similar choice today. No, not may. You do. All of us do. Making this choice is not something that is “one and done”, not something we do one time and never have to do again. It is a choice we make over and over. There are options. They are not good options (they are not good in and of themselves and they do not go to good places), but there are options. And we could take them if we want. What we have to do when we face these options is choose God. Chose God again.
That’s what I am encouraged to do when I read this last line of Nehemiah 10. I see these people choosing God, and I am encouraged to choose God, too. I see that choosing God is right and wise and wonderful. May you see and do the same thing. May we all join these people in saying, “We will not neglect the house of our God.”