The Language of Ashdod

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nehemiah is a man who sometimes leaps off the page at readers.  His zeal for the Lord is undeniable.  Even with enemies surrounding Jerusalem on multiple sides, Nehemiah led the Jews to rebuild the city’s wall – even if they had to do it with one hand working on the construction and the other hand holding a weapon (Nehemiah 4:17).  He did not let politics stop him from doing right; though Tobiah the Ammonite was friends with Eliashib the priest, that did not stop Nehemiah from throwing Tobiah out of his room on the temple grounds, where he had no right to be (13:1-9).  Nehemiah stopped the Jews from profaning the Sabbath through their work (13:15); he ran foreign merchants off from the city on the Sabbath and threatened to lay hands on them if they ever caused trouble again (13:21).  All of this Nehemiah did because he loved the Lord and respected the commands that God had given.


One of the biggest problems that Nehemiah faced was that the Jewish people were intermarrying with the pagan people of the land.  In doing so, houses that should have been dedicated to the service of the Lord were being tainted with the false gods of women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.  This was a direct violation of Moses’ warning to the people 1000 years earlier: “(Speaking of the pagan peoples of the land)…Nor shall you make marriages with them.  You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.  For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.  But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images and burn their carved images with fire” (Deuteronomy 7:3-5). 


Now, let us take note of what happened when the Jews, who were to be God’s “special treasure,” ignored His commands and married themselves to the world: “And half their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people” (Nehemiah 13:24).  Nehemiah looked around and saw young Jews who could not even speak the language of Judah!  How would they know the teachings God had delivered to the Hebrews, if they couldn’t even speak the language?  How would they be able to read about the character of Jehovah, and of His great goodness to Israel? 


They wouldn’t.  But they would have no problem speaking and reading about the pagan accounts of false gods like Baal, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and a host of others; they would have no problem singing the praises of the pagans.  They could read the worldly writings, and they could speak the worldly language just fine…it was the holy things they could not understand.  


There is a lesson in this for us.  How many young people today are being brought up in homes where God’s word is not taught?  They know little or nothing about Him because their parents have spent little to no time training them and teaching them about Him.  These children might hear an occasional reference to God…just as they might hear an occasional reference to a former president or to some long-retired football player.  What a travesty is occurring in so many homes! 


The danger for us is similar to the danger that faced Israel in the Old Testament.  “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).  If this generation barely knows anything about God, what will their children be taught?  Will they have any clue who God is?


But they will have no trouble speaking the “language of Ashdod.”  They have no problem speaking and acting just like the world around them.  Many young people could not tell you the difference between 1 Chronicles and 1 Corinthians, but they are masters of Twitter, Facebook, texting, and a host of other things.  They are quite fluent in worldliness, but the Bible’s teaching is a foreign language to them – one that is not only unknown, but often ridiculed and cursed.  At the very least, it is simply ignored.


Certainly, individuals must make their own decisions, and each will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).  As parents, what can we do to help our children against this flood of worldliness?


Mind our example.  If I show far more interest in things of this world than in the things of God, can I honestly be surprised when my children do the same?  Do we discuss the Creator while together as a family?  Do we talk about Bible lessons together, and make applications from the Scriptures to our own lives?  If I don’t teach my children how to do that, who will?  Their friends at school?  Their internet buddies?  The musicians they listen to?  We know better than that. 


I also need to remember that it is not enough just to say the right things…my children need to see me living by God’s standard.  When I fall short of it, am I quick to repent and try to make things right?  They see it.  Every time.


Start young.  The apostle Paul told Timothy, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).  It’s never too early to start instructing our children in the way of the Lord.  With it, we can help them build a foundation of faith that will continue to grow their entire lives. 


But we cannot teach what we do not know.  If I expect my children to diligently seek God’s ways from childhood, I must first, “Be diligent to present [myself] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).


When Nehemiah saw this woeful lack of spirituality among the people, he did not make excuses for them - he went to work.  He contended with the error, he fought against it...he did whatever it took to turn the focus back to God.  Am I willing to go to war against worldliness like that in my house?  And if worldliness has settled in at my house, will I be willing, like Nehemiah, to lay hands on it and toss it out the gate, telling it not to come back?