“While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem for … I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done….” (Nehemiah 13:6-7a)
There were many great reforms that happened after the Israelites returned home from their Babylonian exile. One of their first projects was to rebuild the temple, and at the same time, Ezra the priest was dutifully teaching the Law and instructing the people in how to follow God. After these things were underway, a man named Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem, taking up the position of governor. He was extremely zealous for God, quickly leading the people into total dedication to their Creator. He made sure the poor were taken care of, and he encouraged the people to continue their work on Jerusalem’s wall. That was an adventure on its own, as there were many enemies of Israel who didn’t want to see the city protected. But through all his trials, Nehemiah persevered. He made his life a testimony to God’s greatness, and he expected his people to follow that example.
After a while, Nehemiah went back to Babylon to visit the king. During his absence, things started getting out of control. Contrary to their vows, some people were beginning to work on the Sabbath, buying things from foreigners and selling their own goods. Some of the men even had foreign wives. The most atrocious act, however, was committed by the high priest himself. Within God’s very house, he set aside a chamber for one of his relatives—a man who just happened to have been one of the main opponents of the wall-building. When Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem, he had all of this and more to straighten out. Though he immediately started new reforms and led the people to repentance, the fact remained that they started to rebel again once there was no one keeping them accountable.
While this is a sad situation, it’s not exactly uncommon. We all like to think that we’ll do what’s expected of us whether we’re held accountable for it or not. Unfortunately, such noble aspirations often collapse. As an example, take having a daily quiet time with God. You start off well, cheerfully reading your Bible and praying every day. But after a little while, you start slacking. At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. You only missed one day of reading your Bible; that’s not going to hurt, is it? Then one day becomes two, two days become three… and almost before you know it, you’ve gone a whole week without spending any time with God at all. What’s even scarier is that there may not be anyone who knows you’re not doing it. If you haven’t asked anyone to check with you about it, how are they supposed to know you’re struggling?
As Nehemiah learned, people do what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect. While we might like to think we can do things on our own, that’s usually not the case. We need other people in our lives, people who will encourage us to follow God and do what He’s calling us to do. We as Christians are supposed to help our fellow Christians, keeping one another in check and helping each other grow in God. Having someone to help you doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. Rather, as King Solomon noted, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) A little inspection will go a long way.