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The Scriptorium

Sinful Marriages

Watch your deviations. Nehemiah 13.23-29

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 13 (5)

Pray Psalm 116.7-9
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the LORD
In the land of the living.

Sing Psalm 116.7-9.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
Full well the LORD has dealt with me; my soul from death He delivered.
My weeping eyes, my stumbling feet, He has redeemed forever.
Forever I before His face shall walk with those who know His grace,
and dwell with them forever.

Read Nehemiah 13.1-29; meditate on verses 23-29.


1. What was wrong with these marriages?

2. How serious a matter was this to Nehemiah?

The old temptations tend to linger the longest when we refuse to deal with them. Israel’s besetting sin for generations had been that of intermarriage with pagan peoples. This had always been a cause of stumbling for Israel, as they accommodated the false gods of their pagan spouses and raised their children in a culture pervaded by pagan ways. And here they were, having made this big, ostentatious covenant with God, doing the same thing all over again (vv. 23, 24).


Nehemiah was furious (v. 25). He cited the example of Solomon who, though much loved of God, brought pagan women and their gods into the court and temple precincts, ultimately causing the division of Israel into two nations (1 Kgs. 11). Asaph railed mightily against the sins of Solomon and his generation, but his voice went unheard then (Pss. 50, 73-83). Nehemiah insisted that those who were intermarrying with pagan women were guilty of a “great evil”, and they must repent and put these women away.

Even one of the priests, Joiada, was guilty. This was a case of the fruit not falling far from the tree. As his father, Eliashib, had cozied up to Tobiah, Joiada did the same with Sanballat. Nehemiah booted him from his office. No compromised priests can serve the LORD or His people.

Note how, on this occasion, Nehemiah called on the LORD to remember, not himself, but the priests who had sinned and defiled God’s covenant (v. 29). Their sin was greater because they caused other priests, Levites, and people to stumble. Nehemiah turned them over to God, Who was no doubt fitting them for a millstone (Matt. 18.6).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Yes. Once again, they blundered into horrible sin. But it didn’t happen all at once.
They fudged the line in many places along the way, which led to this downfall.
They were not faithfully following the Law of God, and then whammo, accidentally fell into sin.
No, it was a gradual slide of demise into a real big problem.

Here are Solomon’s great words of wisdom to his children, that if only he’d paid attention to himself, would have saved the entire Kingdom from splitting in two.
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth:
Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded,
and all who were slain by her were strong men.
Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7.24-27).
Yup. Let’s think about it: the strongest man, Samson; the most powerful man, David; and the wisest man, Solomon—all fell for the same thing. Dumb.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed
lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10.12).

Watch your deviations.
It is in those little places, where we begin to compromise God’s laws, that accrue unto big danger.

It happens. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.
Dress for the battle daily “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6.12-18).

We do not want to be the recipients of Nehemiah’s prayer:
“Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites” (Neh. 13.29). And lest we think that does not include us, Peter clarifies: “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” (1 Pet. 2.9).

As God says to all believers: “you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev. 19.2).

For reflection
1. How does “deviation” begin to find a place in your soul? What can you do to check it?

2. We may not marry pagan spouses, but do we embrace pagan ways or ideas or desires? How can you know when this is happening in you? What should you do then?

3. Do you believe that God can help you resist temptation? How does that work?

Nehemiah showed the evil of these marriages. Some, more obstinate than the rest, he smote, that is, ordered them to be beaten by the officers according to the law, Deuteronomy 25:2, 3. Here are Nehemiah’s prayers on this occasion. He prays, "Remember them, O my God." Lord, convince and convert them; put them in mind of what they should be and do. The best services to the public have been forgotten by those for whom they were done, therefore Nehemiah refers himself to God, to recompense him. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Nehemiah 13.23-31

Pray Psalm 116.10-19.
Pray for the leaders of your church, that they will resist every temptation to compromise the Gospel, their callings, and the glory of the Lord, and that they will be diligent like Nehemiah to shepherd the flock entrusted to their care.

Sing Psalm 116.10-19.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
Afflicted, I believe His Word, though lying men would undo me.
What shall I render to the LORD for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above and call upon the God of love
and pay my vows most truly.

How sweet to Him when saints depart—make me, Your servant, Savior!
From sin You loosed my wand’ring heart; I praise Your Name forever!
On You I call, my vows to pay; here in Your Presence I would stay,
Your praise to offer ever.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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