Return from Exile: Nehemiah 13 (6)
Pray Psalm 85.1-3.
LORD, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin.
You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.
Sing Psalm 85.1-3.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
O LORD, You Your favor showed to Your land;
Your people You saved by Your mighty hand.
Their sins You forgave, all Your wrath You withdrew;
You turned back the anger which to them was due.
Read Nehemiah 13.1-31; meditate on verses 30, 31.
1. What did Nehemiah do?
2. What did he ask of the LORD?
Nehemiah 13 presents the disaster of man’s best efforts. Apart from God and His Spirit, we cannot keep our promises to Him, cannot fulfill our duties, and will compromise our faith at many points. This is what Nehemiah faced in the people of Jerusalem and Judah, and he knew exactly what he needed to do.
He could not just throw up his hands and say, “Oh well, I can’t do anything.” God had called and appointed him over the people. He was their chief shepherd, and rather than let them continue to slide deeper into their captivity to self, he did all he could to rescue them from their wicked ways. He cleansed the temple, the people, and the city of “everything pagan”, everything, that is, that detracted from God’s glory and corrupted the people in His sight (v. 30). He made sure that the work of the priests and Levites continued, for they were the sinful people’s only means of connecting with God. He was firm, direct, and unsparing in his rebukes; but he was also diligent to repair—as far as he could—the people’s wayward paths and to keep them pointed to the LORD.
In our day, when our churches are captive to all manner of unbelieving cultural forms and aspirations, we need a generation of Nehemiahs to do the good works God commands from His Law and all His Word, and to call the people to repent of their sins and refocus on their King. All who aspire to follow in Nehemiah’s example can know that the Lord Jesus sees their labors and will send His Spirit for true revival, renewal, and awakening at His appointed time. Let us pray that God will remember us for faithfully seeking Him, serving His people, and following in His path.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this story and remember who Nehemiah was: he was cupbearer to the king (Neh. 2.1). He was not a professional clergyman, nor was he a politician. And yet, he became the religious and governmental authority to all Jerusalem, along with the able help of the skilled scribe and priest Ezra (Ezra 7.1-6). These two men rebuilt the temple, the wall, and the spiritual condition of its people. Well done.
At the end of the story Nehemiah’s wisdom sets the people on a track for success in life:
1. He cleansed them of everything pagan.
2. He assigned duties for them to fulfill (Neh. 13.30).
He not only took away, but he filled their lives with Kingdom work.
Jesus warned of cleaning a house from evil, but not filling it with good.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it be with this wicked generation” (Matt. 12.43-45). And as Luke adds: “the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Lk. 11.26).
What happens if we just remove questionable things, but don’t fill it with God’s Word? Well, nothing good; and in fact, per what Jesus said, it is worse than before we cleaned house. We are merely a void, a blank sheet, ready to be filled again with bad. The vacancy must be filled with Jesus, because sure enough, it will not just remain a vacuum.
When the church captive wakes up, and its people begin to repent, we must not just leave behind everything pagan (which is a great start), but we must fill up our lives with the Holy Spirit of our living Lord Jesus Christ.
“…I press on, that I may lay hold on that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me…one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3.12-14). Full of Him.
God can use each one of us in His Kingdom work and for His glory. Nehemiah is the poster child for stepping outside of his comfort zone, and into a need and filling it, with power found only in the Holy Spirit.
We, like Nehemiah and Ezra, experience daily anticipation for what God will call us to do, and of how He will empower us to do it (Eph. 2.10). If a cupbearer and a scribe were used to revive and rebuild Jerusalem, why should we expect anything different from ourselves?
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12.13).
1. What’s the main lesson you have learned from Nehemiah’s example?
2. What have you learned about temptation, sin, and obedience from watching the people of God throughout this book?
3. What can you do to keep from falling into the kind of captivity to self and comfort that kept these people from realizing the Presence, promise, and power of the Lord?
This may well be the summary of our petitions; we need no more to make us happy than this; Remember me, O my God, for good. We may humbly hope that the Lord will remember us and our services, although, after lives of unwearied activity and usefulness, we shall still see cause to abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes, and to cry out with Nehemiah, Spare me, O my God, according to the greatness of thy mercy. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Nehemiah 13.30, 31
Pray Psalm 85.4-13.
Pray that God will revive His people, as He has frequently done in the past. Call on Him to revive you and to transform you more completely into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Sing Psalm 85.4-13.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
Restore us, O God, renew us in peace,
and cause all Your wrath against us to cease.
Will You evermore all Your wrath to us show?
Revive us that we may Your joy again know.
LORD, show us Your love; restore us, we pray!
And help us to hear the words that You say.
Speak peace to Your people; in truth let us stand.
We fear You; let glory and grace fill our land.
In Jesus God’s grace and truth are combined;
both goodness and peace in Him do we find.
Truth springs from the earth as He walks in our midst,
and righteousness flows from the heav’ns as a gift.
The LORD by His grace will give what is good;
our land will produce abundance of food.
And righteousness will go before the LORD’s face,
and make of His footsteps a way in this place.
T. M. and Susie Moore
Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter, available free by clicking here.
The Sum of the Matter
- T.M. Moore
- November 11, 2023
Nehemiah, our example. Nehemiah 13.30, 31
Return from Exile: Nehemiah 13 (6)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore