I love me some Taco Bell. It’s inexpensive, usually fast, and it’s outside the bun.
This devotion to low-tier quality cuisine directly conflicts with another hobby of mine: running. I could bore the reader with the fine details and ingredients of Taco Bell’s menu versus its detrimental affects on my fitness, but I’m fairly certain this is not mysterious to the reader.
And that’s the thing about our diet or daily activity: it’s usually clear what is beneficial and what causes destruction. Fire sauce on a fiery Doritos shell and its effect upon my digestive tract comes to mind immediately.
Of course, this concoction is tasty to me, along with other things like Pepsi, Swedish Fish, bacon (that’s universal, it would seem), and ice cream. But without question, if my diet were dominated by these foods, I would be a sluggish mess and likely suffering from perpetual heartburn along with relentless pubescent-level acne.
What I find fascinating about humans, myself included, is what they’re willing to put inside their bodies. Not every person needs to go on the paleo diet or get into Crossfit tomorrow, but the level of abuse people endure is astounding. I just returned from a church men’s retreat and witnessed men enjoying a healthy, edifying feast upon God’s Word, and then promptly entering the dining hall and filling their bodies with detrimental foods of excessive portions.
What if we were more conscious about what goes into our bodies? The mouth isn’t the only means of absorbing things. How about your eyes? What are you doing with your hands?
We read today that after Israel completes the walls of Jerusalem, he turns to the Levite rulers and asks them an imperative question:
Why is the house of God forsaken?
The previous king had left a bunch of garbage in the temple rooms, and the Levites did nothing about it, going back to the fields as if nothing were different about their hometown. A lot of Christians are living this way right now– they fortify their minds, yet their heart remains stagnant, unaffected by the profound work of the Lord within them.
Nehemiah continues his reforms, catching a bunch of folks toiling on the Sabbath, then kicking out some merchants that were showing up to sell at the gates of the temple on the aforementioned day of rest and worship. There’s also some intermarrying going on, which God had specifically told Israel not to do because they knew their tendency to stray into temptation. Nehemiah treats these fine gentleman with great respect.
So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.”
I love this guy.
God desires our temples, which are our very bodies, to be sanctified, which is just a fancy way of saying cleaned up, in order to serve the Lord properly and with integrity. We must separate ourselves from unclean things.
It seems like common sense — would you drink a chocolate milkshake moments before running a couple of miles? Of course not, unless projectile vomit is something you look forward to performing.
Likewise, would you behold sexually immoral images and speak curses under your breath before lifting your eyes to the Lord and exalting Him with your mouth?
I would believe the majority of us are guilty of this, but we mustn’t lose heart. Our propensity to stumble over ourselves, to brandish our flawed selves to God, is precisely why the grace of Jesus Christ exists. He desires to restore us, to garner our attention and prompt us to make some changes.
The means of doing so might vary in intensity. He may approach you in the fields, in the midst of your usual labor, and simply ask you, “Why do you forsake the house of God?” encouraging you to return to your heart and clean it up.
The Lord also might be apt to pull your hair or even strike you to get your attention.
In the end, God turns this curse into a blessing. It is in this failure that the Lord reveals our faults unto us, and He begs us to return the fortified walls of Jerusalem. We then realize the safety of His presence in our lives, and the great mercy of Christ, who is ready to restore us at any moment.
But we must be willing. There is without question too much defilement in the temple, both as an assembly of believers and within our own bodies and souls. Heed what the Word says: do not forsake the house of God. Take a good look at what’s in there. Then, take out the trash.