Not long back, I attended a friend’s ordination ceremony in Evansville. It was a real pleasure to see a young man entering his first pastorate and a young church welcoming its first full-time pastor. The veteran pastors who delivered the charge to the church and to the pastor offered sage advice and cast a marvelous vision for God’s blessing on their ministry together.
The book of Nehemiah often provides a text for ceremonies like these, and this was no exception. Nehemiah has lots to say about facing discouragement, tackling seemingly impossible challenges, and dealing with opposition. No starry-eyed, Pollyanna counsel either. No one sugarcoated the challenges pastor and people would encounter down the road.
So, on that count, I was a little disappointed that no one mentioned my favorite verse in the whole book. As a preacher’s kid who has seen his share of stiff-necked church members – and as a deacon who has seen one too many hard-headed pastors – I thought it was a shame no one mentioned it.
The situation Nehemiah faced was that some of the Israelites had married Canaanite women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. One of the problems this created was that many children couldn’t speak Hebrew.
Nehemiah met the problem head on, in the best tradition of Old Testament prophets:
“I rebuked them, cursed them, beat some of their men, and pulled out their hair. I forced them to take an oath before God ….” (Nehemiah 13:25a HCSB)
Now there’s some realistic advice for a young preacher. Brethren, if you’re going to preach God’s Word, preach the whole counsel of God’s Word! ;^)