Each time I complete a First Aid course, the suggested treatment for many conditions seems to change – often considerably. Even the mainstay, Dr. ABC, has ‘filled out’ over the years with additional letters. As far as I’m aware, however, the first step remains ‘check for danger’. The trainers always explain this one clearly – you can’t help the person in need if you yourself meet the same fate.
In chapter 13, we are reminded again to be distinctive. From the height of joyous celebration (Ch 12) to Nehemiah’s return some years later (Ch 13), the people of Judah have made compromises and fallen back into their old habits and way of life. They’ve lost their saltiness. Eliashib providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God is a clear example. The sentiment is summed up well in 13:11 “Why is the house of God neglected?”
What does it look like to neglect God this side of the Cross? In my own experience, closeness to God is usually encountered during both the peaks and troughs of life; expressed as praise and petition respectively. It seems to me the times between, of apathy or neglect, are when we drift. The book of Nehemiah demonstrates what God’s people are capable of under Him or more accurately, what God is capable of through His faithful people. Just as the first essential and unchanging step in providing Frist Aid is to check for danger, we see that being distinctive disciples allows us to reach out to those in need with His love from a place of security in Him.