Earlier in the story we read where, "the people had a mind to work," (Neh. 4: 6) but now that the work is complete there is scarcely anyone to live in Jerusalem. Somehow this story line seems to follow the course of this passage, "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach." Isa. 4:1. It is a curious situation when by our lifestyle we display an affinity for church membership, but no desire for Kingdom membership. What distressing parallels are there to this scenario today?
1. A woman (or a man) seeks to marry a man (or a woman), not because she (he) loves him (her), but for the status or financial security the spouse offers.
2. A man struggles to get a woman to sleep with him, but has no interest in marrying her; and vice versa.
3. A drug dealer uses the Church as a cover for his underground operations. There was the story in a recent newscast where three unnamed men were arrested in association with a major Marijuana farm in a house (either owned or rented in a church's name), located in an upscale community.
4. "I am baptized twice already, I sing on the choir (love singing on the choir), I love telling children's story during 'Feeding the Lambs,' but I also love sleeping around. And then there's this ogre of a man (or this witch of a woman); can't take a single bone in him (or her). To keep my peace when I go to Church, if he/she is sitting on one side of the Church, I go on the other side; if he/she exits through one door, I go through another. I do my best to avoid him/her.
5. "I know we are promised a great life in the hereafter, but the truth is, this is the life I'm sure of. Have you not heard the saying, 'a bird in the hand is worth a thousand in the bushes?' Well, just in case this is the only life we'll live, I'm going to make sure I live it well. But I'll still come to Church, and I'll give financial support whenever I can - but I'm not going to allow a 'pastor' to live better than me."
6. "I'm a Christian, but I'm nobody's door mat. So if you think you're gonna come in and take advantage of me - you'll see another side to this man/woman you think is all nice and accommodating."
7. "Turn the other cheek, turn the other cheek! Well, the only other cheek that's going to be slapped, if you slap me, is yours."
So there's church membership, and there's involvement in church work, but Kingdom living is a whole other ball game - and that's where many of us fall short; our bodies are present, but our minds are somewhere else. Jesus puts it succinctly in Matt 15:8, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
Father in Heaven, how blind and dumb can we get. Please forgive our foolish ways and place within each of us a new heart; an upright heart. Grant that we will all live as Kingdom people; pilgrims of this earth, bound for the Promised Land. And even as we will anticipate the descent of the New Jerusalem, let us now live as if it is already here, because indeed, it should be in our hearts. Bless us all to this end we ask, in Jesus' name, amen.
This reading is based on Nehemiah 11. To read and/or listen to this passage and read other related blogs click here.