Teeth are falling out of our kids faces all the time. I congratulate them on their “new smile” every time they lose a tooth. However, everything was not a celebration. We were concerned because our children’s new teeth seemed yellow. We are always reminding them to care for their teeth and they get a nutritious diet, but why were their new teeth yellow? I asked the dentist when we went for our regular check up. He said that their teeth are healthy, but they only appear yellow because baby teeth are naturally whiter. He said, “That’s why some people call them milk teeth.”
I had heard of the phrase milk teeth, but never learned the meaning behind the term. Sometimes we only notice something is different when we compare it with something else.
Nehemiah seems to go on a rampage in Nehemiah 13. You read how Nehemiah “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair” (Nehemiah 13:25). What is going on?
A few chapters earlier, Nehemiah led the people in a solemn prayer of confession and dedication. They pledged to “walk in God’s law…and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord” (Nehemiah 10:29). Nehemiah, as a good leader, signs his name to the promise first with all the spiritual leaders pledging their lives, too (Nehemiah 10:1). The primary commitments were to not intermarry with unbelievers, observe the sabbath day, and support the Temple through gifts, provisions, and worship. It appears these people finally understood what had been missing in their nation for centuries. Your heart is warmed with their child-like sincerity.
Nehemiah returns to the king’s court to fulfill his obligations, but he is allowed to return to Jerusalem after some time to which he finds the people have not fulfilled their pledge. Some of the sworn enemies of the people and God’s work are now welcomed family! Tobiah has VIP access to the Temple courtyard even though he is an unbeliever. One of the high priest’s sons has married Sanballat’s daughter, defiling the priesthood! Beyond that, the next generation didn’t know the words of God because they could hardly speak the language at all. The Levites abandoned the Temple to work in the fields because the promised support didn’t materialize. In every way, their commitment from a few years earlier had failed.
The people sadly didn’t notice what had happened. Things had changed, but they had changed little-by-little. Nehemiah’s return resurfaced the contrast of consistency against compromise and it was stark. Nehemiah was not fanatical. The people had compromised to such a point, they no longer resembled the pledge they had at one time made.
As we are approach the New Year, take note of where you are and avoid comparing your life with others or with your perceived success. Look at the facts. Revisit some commitments you made to God and see if you have been consistent or compromising. Then radically depend on God to help you. The most honest response each of us can have is “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”