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Summary: We all fail to keep our pledges, don’t we? Our good intentions and plans often fall by the wayside. Sometimes we blatantly break our promises but other times, we just kind of drift away, a little at a time.

Standing By Our Promises

As many of you know, I really like Snicker bars. For the past year, whenever I would go to Dairy Queen, I would always order a Snicker Bar Breeze. All I had to do was walk in and one of the workers would start filling a cup with chunks of tasty nougat. It was automatic for me, until the day I tasted my six-year-old daughter’s mint Oreo blizzard!

From that point on, I’ve left Snickers behind ­ I guess that makes me a “Snicker Bar Breeze Backslider.”

When Becky had her tonsils out, we told her she could have whatever she wanted at Dairy Queen. She didn’t feel like eating anything for about a week, but when she was better, she remembered our promise. One day, I stopped and got her a blizzard. I tried every trick I could think of to get as many spoonfuls as I could! She finally made me promise to not eat any more.

When we got home, she put what was left in the freezer to save until she felt better. A few hours later, I remembered it was in there, so I grabbed a spoon and finished it (I didn’t think she’d want it because she felt so sick). When she opened the freezer, she saw that it was gone and said, “Dad, you promised!” To make it up to her we went out to Dairy Queen a couple days later and split a large mint Oreo blizzard. I was a good boy but she kept her eye on me to make sure I didn’t hog it.

A few days later, Beth bought her another blizzard. Becky once again put was left in the freezer but this time I didn’t touch it. A couple minutes later, Becky said that I could finish her tasty treat. I thanked her, opened the freezer and pulled out an…empty cup! She laughed so hard that she fell on the floor.

Well, just this week we went to Dairy Queen as a family and Becky once again ordered her favorite blizzard. I ordered one as well but I could tell Becky didn’t trust me. I noticed that she sat as far away from me as she could. I tried to exchange cups with her when mine was empty but she was on to me. She gave me one of her great smiles and said, “Dad, you promised!” I smiled sheepishly and then mentioned that it was funny that I was speaking on the theme of “Standing By Our Promises” this Sunday. To which Lydia, our 9-year-old, said, “Well then you better start keeping yours, Dad.” Ouch.

We all fail to keep our pledges, don’t we? Our good intentions and plans often fall by the wayside. Sometimes we blatantly break our promises but other times, we just kind of drift away, a little at a time. Someone has said that moral failure and spiritual decline are a great deal like a flat tire. Most flat tires don’t occur as a result of a blowout. They get flat because air leaks out over time, often imperceptibly. I’m told that generally speaking, a tire will lose one or two pounds of air per month in cool weather, and even more in warmer weather. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re going flat until the car becomes difficult to steer.

In our passage for today, we come face-to-face with some backsliders. The dictionary defines the verb “backslide” this way: “To relapse into bad habits, sinful behavior, or undesirable activities.” You would think that the last chapter of this great book would contain encouraging and compelling stories of how God’s people took their spiritual commitment to the next level. Frankly, this script does not have a happy ending. Within a relatively short period of time, the children of Israel went spiritually flat and returned to their old ways of doing things ­ violating God’s laws and allowing the world’s system to press them into its mold. That leads to one of the lessons of the book of Nehemiah: Good beginnings are no guarantee of happy endings.

Background

Before we jump into chapter 13, I want to give you some background information.

1. Nehemiah went back to Persia at the end of chapter 12. In chapter 1 we learned that Nehemiah had a great job in the Persian White House. Sensing God’s clear leading, Nehemiah requested and received permission to lead a team of builders to reconstruct the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nehemiah was appointed governor and served for 12 years in that position. He dealt with the enemies, organized the people, rebuilt the wall, set up the infrastructure for the repopulated city, and led a great celebration of dedication. When he was done with all this, he returned as a senior advisor to the king of Persia. We don’t know how long he stayed but it was probably several years.

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