After the Jews under Nehemiah’s leadership had built the walls and hung the gates, they took the steps necessary to inhabit the city. Having appointed gatekeepers, singers, and Levites with their appropriate duties, Nehemiah charged Hanani and Hannaniah with the responsibility of having the entrances to the city guarded for their protection (Neh. 7:1-3). This was essential due to the threat posed by the enemies who had sought to keep them from their work since Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. Thus, since their numbers were comparatively few (Neh. 7:4), it also made sense for Nehemiah to register the people (Neh. 7:5). The record Nehemiah consulted served a very practical purpose; it offered a listing of those who had sacrificed to come back to their homeland to rebuild (Neh. 7:6-60). With numerous enemies all around claiming some Jewish background, it was essential to distinguish the faithful servant from the feckless pretender (Neh. 7:61-63). Therefore, based upon this examination, “These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim” (Neh. 6:64-65).
In today’s world many congregations are struggling to stay afloat. Numbers are down in many places seeking to remain true to the old paths. As a result, whenever anyone visits and expresses interest in becoming a member of the congregation, many people welcome them with open arms without showing any interest in their spiritual background, doctrinal beliefs, marital situation, and sometimes even whether or not that person is actually a Christian. While we certainly should be friendly and welcoming to people, we should want to know who and what we are actually welcoming! Are we welcoming in a false teacher? Are we embracing people living in sin? Are we introducing problems into the congregation, into the youth group, and into the Bible Class program just because we are so desperate for warm bodies? God forbid!
No matter how difficult a situation might be, accepting people without considering their background is dangerous at the very least. A few simple conversations with people in the midst of hospitality and friendship can help a congregation know the strengths and weaknesses, potential and potential dangers, of a person otherwise unknown. It amazes me that we can read verses about the nature of how Satan works and how we should be prepared and yet embrace the unknown before knowing whether that person is precious or poison (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Jude 3-4). Nehemiah knew better. He understood the need to know a person’s background and loyalties before inviting them inside the gate. It is time for us to learn and apply the same lesson.