And then I learned that the Levites hadn't been given their regular food allotments. So the Levites and singers who led the services of worship had all left and gone back to their farms.
I called the officials on the carpet, "Why has The Temple of God been abandoned?" I got everyone back again and put them back on their jobs
so that all Judah was again bringing in the tithe of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms.
I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms. I made Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, their right-hand man. These men had a reputation for honesty and hard work. They were responsible for distributing the rations to their brothers.
Remember me, O my God, for this. Don't ever forget the devoted work I have done for The Temple of God and its worship.
During those days, while back in Judah, I also noticed that people treaded wine presses, brought in sacks of grain, and loaded up their donkeys on the Sabbath. They brought wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of stuff to sell on the Sabbath. So I spoke up and warned them about selling food on that day.
Tyrians living there brought in fish and whatever else, selling it to Judeans - in Jerusalem, mind you! - on the Sabbath.
I confronted the leaders of Judah: "What's going on here? This evil! Profaning the Sabbath!
Isn't this exactly what your ancestors did? And because of it didn't God bring down on us and this city all this misery? And here you are adding to it - accumulating more wrath on Jerusalem by profaning the Sabbath."
As the gates of Jerusalem were darkened by the shadows of the approaching Sabbath, I ordered the doors shut and not to be opened until the Sabbath was over. I placed some of my servants at the gates to make sure that nothing to be sold would get in on the Sabbath day.
Traders and dealers in various goods camped outside the gates once or twice.
But I took them to task. I said, "You have no business camping out here by the wall. If I find you here again, I'll use force to drive you off." And that did it; they didn't come back on the Sabbath.
Then I directed the Levites to ceremonially cleanse themselves and take over as guards at the gates to keep the sanctity of the Sabbath day. Remember me also for this, my God. Treat me with mercy according to your great and steadfast love.
Also in those days I saw Jews who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.
Half the children couldn't even speak the language of Judah; all they knew was the language of Ashdod or some other tongue.
So I took those men to task, gave them a piece of my mind, even slapped some of them and jerked them by the hair. I made them swear to God: "Don't marry your daughters to their sons; and don't let their daughters marry your sons - and don't you yourselves marry them!
Didn't Solomon the king of Israel sin because of women just like these? Even though there was no king quite like him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel, foreign women were his downfall.
Do you call this obedience - engaging in this extensive evil, showing yourselves faithless to God by marrying foreign wives?"
One of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; I drove him out of my presence.
Remember them, O my God, how they defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priests and Levites.
All in all I cleansed them from everything foreign. I organized the orders of service for the priests and Levites so that each man knew his job.
I arranged for a regular supply of altar wood at the appointed times and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)