Nehemiah brings before the Lord the final items he has covered with the people. He has called them to account for their sins and set them straight.
When I first read the heading for our text “Nehemiah’s Final Reform” I thought that he was going to be addressing one last issue with the people. Instead he addresses three issues that have been gone over before by him but the people required a ‘refresher’ course in them.
I am not certain of the timeframe for Nehemiah confronting the people but it looks to me like it is after he went back to the king and then returned to Judah again. “While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king and came to Jerusalem” (verses 6-7a).
Nehemiah stayed in Judah for 12 years on his first trip back. He doesn’t tell us how long he was back in Susa before coming back to Jerusalem again. He says he was there for “some time” (verse 6b) before he came back to Jerusalem again.
This may just be my “while the cat’s away the mice will play” thinking but weren’t all three of these issues covered the first time Nehemiah was in town? In fact I’m 99.999% certain that they were all covered in the new covenant that the people signed. How quickly they turned away! So when we were told that they were faithful to the tithes all during Zerubbabel and Nehemiah’s time, it only counted when these two men were there to watch them.
Nehemiah is reminding God that he has addressed these three issues with the people, again, and to please not hold him accountable if they don’t listen, again. I want to shake the priest who gave a room to Tobiah! He was in league with Sanballat in trying to stop the rebuilding of the wall. He was NOT a friend of God and had NO business having quarters within the courts of God’s House. I LOVE how Nehemiah dealt with that situation.
We are not told how long Nehemiah stayed in Jerusalem the second time but he made certain to put people in charge that he could trust. He didn’t put anyone in charge who had ties to Tobiah or Sanballat. Those two men had done enough damage over the years. Maybe if he had done this the first time he wouldn’t have had to do a reboot with the people when he came back. But then again, Israel was famous for breaking their commitment with God.
From today’s reading we can take possibly two lessons. 1. Be careful with who you leave in charge, and 2. Review and renew your promises. This being the beginning of another new year these are good things to do anyway. Look back at the choices you have made and see where you need to adjust your course so that you don’t fall back into the same sins as before. Israel had been repeating the sin of intermarriage since the time of Solomon. Before Solomon even as they had to deal with this sin while still in the wilderness. And it wasn’t because the people from other nations were ‘bad’ but they brought their foreign beliefs with them and corrupted Israel’s faith. We are to pay attention to intermarrying in faith lineage.
Father God, show me the sins that I keep repeating and help me STOP the cycle for good! I don’t want to make ‘pie crust promises’ to You. Continue healing my body too Lord.