When the City Needs to be Rebuilt, Again (Neh 13)

In Sunday’s sermon, pastor Darin preached from Nehemiah chapter 13, where we find a very sad ending to this book. After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and the spiritual revival of the people, Nehemiah returned to Babylon.  But, when he returned to Jerusalem, he discovered chaos: the people fell back into the very sin that resulted in their being exiled. Nehemiah immediately worked to restore order and turn the people back to the Lord again. Thus while single experiences of revival are important, this text shows us the need to live a life of continual repentance. So, the key message of the sermon was that God’s people must live a life of repentance before God. There were 3 major points related to this:


1. We never outgrow repentance:

           a. Our entire life is one of repentance. Martin Luther: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”[1]  In Neh 8, we saw the primacy of God’s Word. God’s Word reveals the sin in our hearts, and drives us to Christ, who bore our sin, and who is at work in us to forgive us and cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Let us go to His Word, and confess and turn from our sins everyday as we rest on the finished work of Christ on our behalf.  


           b. We must not expect experiences of revival to sustain us forever. Many examples of moral failure after revival: Noah, Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:4-5). We must continually seek God afresh and anew through repentance and faith in Christ. How might we do this? We must make right use of the means of grace; i.e., those things God has appointed to nourish and strengthen us spiritually: God’s Word, prayer, fellowship, sacraments.    


           c. God is after a walk with him to all that he calls you to:

                       1) Time: how do we use our time for service to God?

                       2) Money: do we give sufficiently of our financial resources?

                       3) How we lead our families: are we teaching our family God’s Word?


2. God wants your work to be for his glory:

           a. Issue of success: Nehemiah gave his life for this cause, but returns to find it a mess. But he understands that his work was not ultimately to secure Jerusalem, but to worship God.


           b. God calls us to offer our work to him for his pleasure and glory (Rom 11:36). This is true success.  Do you do your work as unto the Lord? (see Colossians 3:23)


3. All of our work will be incomplete in this world:

           a. Nehemiah realizes his service is incomplete, but takes action:

                       1) They forsook the house of God. Nehemiah cleanses the temple. This points to the ultimate temple cleansing that Jesus would perform. He drove out those who profaned the temple with whips, but then would allow the violence to be turned on Himself, as the whips would be brought down upon Him, and He would bear God’s wrath on the cross for us.


                       2) They profaned the Sabbath Day. Nehemiah reinstates Sabbath observance. This day is about rest in Christ. Are you allowing unnecessary things to keep you from regularly worshipping the Lord in corporate worship?


                       3) They acted treacherously against God by marrying foreign (unbelieving) wives. The issue with the foreign wives was that they would drive them away from the true God, to false gods. Nehemiah puts a stop to this.  What things in your life are you allowing to seduce you into committing spiritual adultery against the Lord? Identify it, get rid of it, and return to the One who loves you with an everlasting love.


All of this points to the promise that we find in Deuteronomy 30:6, which speaks of the longed for day when the Lord would transform the hearts of his people so that they would love him, and that they may live. This is what the end of this last chapter in Nehemiah screams: We need someone who will give us a new heart--we need a Savior!  Through His shed blood on the cross and resurrection from the grave Jesus cleanses His people as they throw themselves on the promises of the gospel through faith and repentance.  Have you done that? If not, turn to Christ today! If you have, realize that we never outgrow our need to keep appropriating the promises of the Gospel through faith and repentance.






[1] 1st theses in Luther’s 95 theses, http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm.