And they all lived happily ever after. It would be nice if that was how the last verse of Nehemiah 13 read. But instead we find an ending to this book that is all together different. It’s unlike most Hollywood movies. It doesn’t resemble most paperback novels. It’s anticlimactic. It has nothing of the predictable storyline that runs throughout most Lifetime movies. Having experienced a revival of great proportion, the people of Jerusalem take ten steps backwards and revert to their old ways. Whereas they has experienced a spiritual renewal, the book ends with the people of God once again in spiritual decay. What we’re going to see in this chapter is that all of the promises and all of the commitments that were made in chapter 10 have now been broken. They are, in a very real sense, back to square one.
But how does something like this happen? How did the people of God move from renewal and revival to spiritual decay? And that’s an important question because the experience of the Israelites is not foreign to us. In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian very long before you become familiar with the ups and downs. The Lord may bring a season of renewal in your life. You’ve committed to live according to his Word. You’ve begun to see old habits put to death. But before you know it, the very things you said you would never do again…well, you’re doing them again. The reality is that even when we experience seasons of great revival, either personally or corporately, ew haven’t made it home yet. And there is an ever present need for us to persevere until the coming of our Lord Jesus. J.I. Packer rightly puts it this way, “Where God has sent reformation, Satan will work, behind the scenes if not overtly, for deformation of all that was made new.”
So as we read chapter 13, I want us to not view it as a disappointing end to the story. Instead, let’s look at it as a sobering warning about the nature of sin. A reminder that we are a people in constant need of revival. A reminder that we are prone to drift. And yet, a people whom God has been very gracious too.