Edmund Burke, the English philosopher, said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” By that he meant that unless people who have been made free keep awake and alert and keep doing what made them free, they will return to their chains. Some things we cannot take for granted. Freedom is one of those things. The other thing that requires eternal vigilance is the work of a local New Testament church.
In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah has now rebuilt the walls and the temple has been dedicated. Then he had to go back to Babylon on business and was gone for a year. The people had covenanted together before he left to keep God’s law, but without their leader, they quickly returned to their old ways. So when Nehemiah came back, he said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” (v. 11).
There were at least three matters Nehemiah corrected when he returned that the people had promised before he left. All of these are things over which a pastor must be eternally vigilant.
Separation in the Work of God
The “mixed multitude” were always a problem in Scripture. In Nehemiah 13, he discovered that the people had not obeyed the law which said that the Moabite and Ammonite were not to be mixed in the congregation of the Lord, and that some of the Israelites had married these people who were the descendants of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters. These marriages were forbidden by God’s law. These mixed marriages always caused amalgamation of devotion between the Lord and foreign and strange gods. In fact, later in this passage he warns them by using Solomon as an example: “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things?” (v. 26a).
The “mixed multitude” in churches wants to use worldly methods and schemes to reach people. They are not so much concerned for truth and the glory of God as they are for “apparent” success and numbers and prestige. It takes eternal vigilance to keep a separated people!
Support for the Work of God
The last thing they had promised a little over a year before he left was to take care of the house of God by their tithes and their support of the Levites. It didn’t take long for the support of the people to stop. Without that support the Levites had been scattered and gone back to their fields to make a living!
When people backslide, one of the first things to go is their giving. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Support for the work of the Lord is something that requires vigilance! The people must be challenged by the preaching to give!
Service in the Work of God
In verses 15–22, we see that the people had already gone back to trading on the Sabbath day and had neglected to keep the laws regarding the Sabbath. Money came before godliness. Their spirituality took a second place to their pursuit of their god, mammon.
Luke 16:13 says, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
A man has to decide what will be first in his life. Only one pursuit can have first place! He has to decide what the nourishment of his soul really means to him. How important are the Sunday services in particular and preaching and fellowship with God’s people to the nourishment of my soul? There must be constant preaching on surrender!
Paul said at the close of his ministry, “I have fought a good fight.” Leadership is charged with contending for the faith, and it requires “eternal vigilance.”