On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent. Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests. – Nehemiah 13:1-5
Well the celebrating is over and so is the book of Nehemiah. I have to confess I have been scouting ahead into Job to see if there are more interesting rapids in store. I am glad to report that that there are plenty of rapids, funny water, and rich water imagery in Job…but back to the passage at hand.
The last bit of advice the Israelites glean from Ezra’s reading of the Book of Moses is a bit odd. The message they are getting, or at least they think they are getting, is to exclude foreigners from the assembly of God and Israel. This was apparently based on a statement that “no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, because they had not met the Israelites with food and water”. Quite a grudge to hold.
Interestingly, before they had this revelation to “exclude from Israel all who were of foreign descent” they were charged with taking care of the storerooms and “grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil”. I wonder if there was a connection between the two events beyond the obvious temporal one?
Can a preoccupation with worldly things, even things associated with the exercise of our religion, result in an “us” versus “them mentality? I think so…When Jesus showed up he turned the “us” and “them on their heads and the one who had formerly excluded ended up excluding themselves from the New Covenant that Jesus offered.
Prayer: God thank You for including us in the New Covenant. Help us to invite others to come in too.