"And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Elijah did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household staff of Tobiah out of the chamber,Nehemiah 13:7, 8.
THE story of stern old Nehemiah, and his struggles with Sanballat's traitorous crew, deserves our best attention. The spirit of decision met the foes of Zion at every turn, but watchfulness was always needed. Our case is very similar, let us gather wisdom from this ancient record,
Our enemies will not readily renounce their hold upon our souls When Tobiah could not prevent the restoration of Jerusalem, he plotted to obtain quarters within it; and when sin can no longer have dominion over us, it artfully contrives to dwell within our flesh. Inside the wall a foe is far more dangerous than without, and thus inbred sin is much more to be dreaded than outward temptation. It behoves us to keep a strict watch, for in some secret chamber of our nature sin will find a lurking-place. They say there is a skeleton in every house, certainly, there is a body of death in every saint.
Our enemies have allies within us. If it had not been for Eliasbib, the priest Tobiah had never obtained the great chamber, nor been able to introduce his household stuff. Alas! for us that our weaker passions should. so soon consent to sin, and that appetites which are in them selves but natural, should so easily become inflamed into furious, sinful passions. If traitors within did not open to enemies without, Mansoul would not so readily be taken.
Our holiest dispositions need careful watching. In the house of the Lord, Tobiah gained a lodging, in the very chamber "where aforetime they laid the meat offerings and the frankincense." Spiritual pride will find a hidingplace in our devotions, unbelief will lurk amid our self-examination, and anger will conceal itself under the skirts of our zeal. In seasons of the highest spiritual enjoyment, it behoves us to exercise double vigilance against our great enemy, who so often transforms himself into an angel of light. The sweet flowers blooming in our window attract the buzzing bees, and so do our sweet graces draw the notice of the enemy to us. Thieves waylay men known to have full purses, and pirates watch for loaded galleons. Nehemiah tells us, "All this time was not I at Jerusalem:" his watchful eye was gone, or Tobiah would not have dared to intrude. Watch, believer, watch always! Watch most when least in apparent need of it,
It will be our wisdom to show no quarter to our foe. "Cast forth all his goods," was stern Nehemiah's order; and then, having carefully purged the chamber, he filled it anew with the Lord's stores. He did not leave him even a chest in which to store a few trifles, but turned out the whole. It should grieve us sore if we have given allowance to sin, and in the power of the Spirit of holiness, we should strive to make a clean riddance of the evil. Woe unto us if we make provision for the flesh. have we none of the household stuff of Tobiah to cast forth from the sanctuary of our heart? Is there no vacant space to fill with frankincense for the Lord our God?
This incident gives us the true history of backsliding, and of restoration from it. The process is simple and is seen in the narrative. At the outset of the evil, the heart becomes vacant, the precious stores of the Lord vanish one by one, and there is room for something else. Heavenly-mindedness is gone, and then the heart is ready to mind earthly things. Then comes the suggestion and allowance from the traitor within, and straightway the lumber of Tobiah is introduced by degrees, and the soul becomes a wholesale warehouse for the household stuff of sin. Behold the mischief when at its full: the heart, which should be the house of God, becomes a receptacle for the has gotten booty of thieves. If by God's grace a decided sin-hating faith shall act the part of stern old Nehemiah, there will be a returning to a gracious condition, which will be reached step by step until there is a complete re-dedication of the now haunted chamber. Out will be thrown the cherished evils, out of doors and. windows with muck dust and breakage all will be hurled, and a riddance will be made as thoroughly as grace shall enable penitence to do the business. Next shall follow a cleansing, scouring, and purifying of no ordinary kind, in which, with many penitential tears and bewailings, the heart shall cry to be purged with hyssop, and cleansed from all its secret faults. To this the Holy Spirit will give an answer of peace, and the precious blood of Jesus shall purify the heart by a renewed experience of its cleansing power. Then, as the crowning mercy, the vessel of the Lord and: all the dedicated goods, shall be once again set in their places, and so by restoration to its proper use, the chamber of the heart shall be preserved from becoming again a receiving house for thieves. Emptiness and idleness of mind is a very dangerous condition; Satan never sees a vacant heart without resolving to fill it with the treasures of mischief. When the measure is full of wheat, there is no room for it; when the soul is fully occupied with Jesus, the enemy may look in vain for an entrance; but a heart usually thoughtless, indevout, and inactive, is an inn upon the devil's highway, and shall be thronged with evil guests.
Bleeding on a cross for me,
Quick my idols all depart,
Jesus gets and falls my heart."