Recently I’ve been using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan to read several chapters of the Bible each day. Because I’ve become used to reading in a slow, meditative way (lectio divina), I’m finding that even when I read more quickly, certain things stand out. Here’s what stood out for me in the book of Nehemiah.
“We will not neglect the house of our God.” Nehemiah 10:39b
In case you don’t know, or don’t remember, the book of Nehemiah is the last historical book in the Old Testament, and it is a record about how the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. They rebuilt the walls of the city and revived the worship life of the nation. Reestablishing the temple required sacrifice. The people (according to God’s law) were to give a tithe (one-tenth) of all they produced for the support of the Levites (their priests) and to maintain the place of worship. After 40 years of exile, they were more than willing to do this.
This verse makes me think about my own commitment. Of course, this does mean money. Am I happy to give one tenth of my income to take care of God’s house? Or do I sometimes regard this as a hardship? Do I think of supporting the chuch as a joy and a privilege, or do I grouse about how little others give? Do I give my first fruits, or just what I have left over after doing what I want to do?
We can neglect the house of God in other ways, too. During this time of the pandemic, many of us have become accustomed to avoiding church services. Watching the Pastor preach on Zoom or YouTube services may be better than nothing, but should not become a continual substitute for meeting together, as Paul urges us to do in the book of Hebrews:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ….” Hebrews 10:24-25a
Meeting together encourages us to love and serve others. It fosters accountability and Christian action; it reminds us that we are not alone in our Christian walk. How lucky we are to have a church building and a church family!
In our country, it’s easy to take our churches for granted. I do it sometimes, and you probably do, too. The people of Nehemiah’s time knew what it meant to enjoy God’s law in God’s house. Take a page from their book — don’t neglect the house of the Lord. It’s a privilege we should never take for granted.
For more about the church see:
Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered by James C. Wilhoit
We (the Laity) Are the Church
Do I help or hurt the Church?