Zealous for the Lord– Man as Chaplain

Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love. … Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good. - Nehemiah 13:22, 30-31 ESV

Nehemiah was born in a foreign land. So was 
Eric Liddell, the son of missionaries to China. Like Nehemiah, Eric eventually returned to the land of his ancestors—in his case, Scotland. He went to school and discovered that God had gifted him with the ability to run like the wind. Speaking of his talent, Eric said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

As an athlete participating in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, France, Eric was faced with a tough decision, one retold in the movie Chariots of Fire. Eric’s best shot at a gold medal was the 100 meters, but the race was to be held on Sunday. Eric chose not to run in that race out of respect for the Lord’s Day, just as his father had taught him. He was ridiculed for his religious convictions. Even his own countrymen scoffed at him for refusing to run on Sunday, but Eric stood firm. He entered the 400-meter competition, and in a thrilling final race, he won, setting a European record that stood for 12 years.

Yet for Eric, an Olympic gold medal was not the most important achievement: “It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals.”
In Nehemiah 13, over a decade had passed since the dedication of the walls. Many would point to those walls as Nehemiah’s “gold medal” achievement. But for Nehemiah, there was a bigger prize in view. For him, life was about zealously honoring and pleasing the Lord and leading his people to do the same.
Apparently, Nehemiah had made good on his promise to King Artaxerxes to come back to his government security job in Persia. However, he must have gotten word that there was trouble brewing back home in Jerusalem. Nehemiah returned to find that after all that God had done through him—rebuilding the walls, renewing the hearts of the people in repentance and revival, and reinstituting temple worship with the prescribed holy days and festivals—spiritual compromise had crept back into Jewish culture while he was away.
With his eyes fixed on the prize of honoring and pleasing God, Nehemiah was not going to allow such compromise to continue, especially when it came to keeping the temple pure and the Sabbath holy. He knew compromising in these ways would bring spiritual decline and invite God’s judgment if allowed to continue. Like a father who comes home to find his children misbehaving, Nehemiah took swift action to bring discipline to Jerusalem. With a righteous zeal, he threw out the enemy Tobiah and all his personal belongings from the temple, called out the leaders for failing to keep their commitments, pointed out God’s law against profaning the Sabbath, and punished men who had intermarried with worshippers of pagan gods.
Were some of Nehemiah’s actions extreme? By New Testament standards, sure. But you’ve got to admire Nehemiah’s zeal for the Lord, His house, His ministers, and His day. The way he “cleaned house” reminds me a lot of the way Jesus Himself cleansed the Temple. Nehemiah was zealous about honoring and pleasing God, and he wanted others to do so as well. That is the heart of a Chaplain.
As Eric Liddell said, there is a greater goal than just winning the temporal prize of a gold medal. We must have eternity in view, like Nehemiah did when he said these final words: “Remember me, O my God, for good.” As we approach another Father’s Day, may we zealously discharge our duties as Chaplains, instilling honor for the Lord, His house, His ministers, and His day. May we faithfully pass on the timeless truths of God’s Word to those precious lives we are blessed and honored to call children and grandchildren! May we sense His pleasure as we do so.

Are you zealous to honor the person and work of the Lord? Are you zealous to honor the Lord’s Day?
- Are you instilling respect for the Lord and His day in your family and friends? What steps can you take to do so with zeal? 
- Ask the Lord to light a fire in your heart to be more zealous for Him like Nehemiah was and like Jesus was.