The people flooded back to re-inhabit the now secure city, and the record flows seamlessly into a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. What a Feast that was as the Law was read by Ezra and selected Levites expounded its meaning until revival swept over the city and people turned back to Yahweh in repentance and tears. Later the leaders, Levites and priests solemnly pledged, in a ‘binding agreement’ [Nehemiah 9:38] to be obedient to Yahweh’s Law.
What a shock for Nehemiah when he returned to the city after a prolonged absence to find that standards were already slipping! Does that sound familiar? We can get swept up with enthusiasm when the Holy Spirit revives us, but then gradually become ‘weary by the wayside’, and good intentions fade as we face daily challenges to be resolute and faithful to our promises.
Nehemiah 13:15-22 relates Nehemiah’s outrage that, on his return, he found the people once again ‘desecrating the Sabbath’! And what were they doing? Oh, just this and that; a few odd jobs; other bigger ones that seemed urgent; a little shopping; a little buying of food! Does that, perhaps, strike any chord with you? I hope not, for to the man of Yahweh this was contemptible and he rebuked the leaders vigorously. He then spoke severely to the merchants camping in the shadow of the city wall in order to be the first in with their wares as the gates opened; ‘Go away,’ he roared, angrily, ‘or I will lay hands on you!’ Finally he commanded the Levites to purify themselves [!!] and then guard the gates during the Sabbath in order to keep the day holy.
Ministers, leaders, home-makers – may I ask if you keenly ‘guard the gates’ to keep the Sabbath Day holy? It’s an important command for so many reasons – but that’s for another article!
Blessed is the man…who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it.