Saturday, February 24, 2018

Year 8, Day 55: Nehemiah 8

Theological Commentary: Click Here

As we come to Nehemiah 8, we hear about Ezra’s reading of the Law before all the people.  As the people hear, they respond.  It’s the way that it should be.  We should respond when we hear the truth in our life.  We should allow ourselves to be convicted and acknowledge that our humanity might have something to learn.  Personally, I think that’s the big takeaway for this day.

That being said, I think there is a secondary message that is much less obvious and worth diving into.  Think back to the timing of this event.  Ezra reads the Law after the walls are built and complete.  Isn’t it interesting that Nehemiah focuses on the walls and then focuses on God?

Let’s be careful.  I’m not about to say that safety is more important than God.  Nehemiah may have been more concerned with safety in the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it is ultimately more important.  I believe that nothing in this world is more important than our relationship with God.  What it means is that Nehemiah understands a very simple truth.  Sometimes we need to be more concerned with the things of this world before a person can be reached with the truth of God.

In education, we have a similar philosophy.  It’s called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and you can Google an image if you want to look it up.  Its principle is basic.  The foundational needs at the bottom must be met before a person is going to be able to examine the needs near the top of the triangle.

To put it plainly, physiological needs must be met first.  You can’t teach someone who hasn’t eaten in a while, who is dehydrated to the point of having headaches, or who hasn’t been able to access legitimate sleep patterns.  You can’t convince someone that you love them if they are worried about their relative safety.  You can’t help to boost someone’s self-esteem if they have no sense of belonging.

Nehemiah gets this.  He knows that relationship with God can’t really happen until the walls are built and until the people in Jerusalem feel secure in both literal safety as well as in their provision.  That’s why Nehemiah focuses on the walls first and then brings in Ezra only after the lower order needs of the people are met.

Nehemiah is a brilliant leader.  He understands people intuitively.  He also understands that sometimes we have to deal with a more basic need before we can deal with an ultimately more significant need.  This is an incredibly insightful understanding of humanity to have as a leader.