Summary: 'Standing by Our Promises' - Nehemiah chapter 13 sermon by Gordon Curley. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(1). The Holy Place Promise (vs 4-14).
(2). The Sabbath Promise (vs 14-22)
(3). The Separation Promise (vs 23-29)
• The story is told of a politician who was photographed for an article in a magazine,
• After receiving the proofs of his portrait,
• He was very angry with the photographer.
• He phoned him up and said, “These pictures do not do me justice!”
• The photographer replied,
• “Sir, with a face like yours, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!”
• TRANSITION: We are used to seeing almost perfect photographs and images of people,
• This is often due to the fact many people edit and photoshop there images.
• By doing that you remove any imperfections and anything you do not want people to see.
• One of the remarkable things about the Bible,
• Is that God never ‘photoshops’ the history of his people.
• It is one of the arguments for the inspiration of the Scripture,
• That unlike may ancient historical records,
• The Bible shows people with all their faults and failings as well as their successes.
• Today we finish our studies in the book of Nehemiah.
• And if you're looking for a "and they all lived happily ever after" conclusion,
• Then you are going to be disappointed.
• There have been some great moments, some great highs in the book of Nehemiah,
• But this chapter contains disappointment, it certainly is not edited or photoshopped!
• It reveals to us another spiritual low in the life of this nation.
• To understand this chapter (#13),
• You need to realise that the events of verses 4-31,
• Occur after Nehemiah had left Jerusalem, gone back to Babylon (Persia) and returned.
• Back in chapter 2 verse 6, Nehemiah had told king Artaxerxes that he would return,
• And after the wall (and the people) were restored,
• Well, Nehemiah kept his word.
• He returned back to the palace in Susa, the capital of Persia,
• Then sometime later (we don’t know how long),
• Nehemiah was allowed to return back to Jerusalem.
• (Verses 6-7 and also verse 10 make that clear)
Quote: the saying:
“While the cat is away the mice will play”
• That idiom/phrase makes the point,
• Without supervision, people will do as they please,
• Especially in disregarding or breaking rules
• Sadly, that was the case in Judea,
• The people very quickly broke their promises they made in chapter 10.
• And it would require Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, Judah once again,
• To try and sort the people out.
• We don’t know exactly how long Nehemiah stayed in the palace at Susa,
• Before returning back again to Jerusalem in chapter 13.
• But when he returns (vs 6-7),
• What he finds is not good, it is heart breaking.
Note: Deep Disappointment is written through most of this chapter.
• If you and I were the authors of this book,
• We would have finished it at chapter 12, with exciting story of how God’s people,
• Going from strength to strength, growing numerically and flourishing spiritually.
• But instead if finishes with disappointment.
• The people have gone back on their promises and are spiritually weak.
• I’m sure you know the game Snakes and Ladders (US= Chutes and ladders).
• You roll the dice, and move your counter,
• And if you land on a square with a ladder you get a shortcut to move higher up,
• But if you land on a snake you go down the board.
• And the worst-case scenario is that you could go all the way back to square one.
• TRANSITION: This chapter has been described as back to square one.
• Sadly, at the end of the book,
• The people are no better off spiritually than they were at the beginning of the book!
• The people have backslidden as a nation.
• They have relapsed into bad habits, sinful behaviour, and undesirable activities.
It really is quite an anti-climax to the end of the book.
• Especially when realise this is one of last chapters in Old Testament history.
• Although we find this book about half-way though our Old Testaments.
• These events actually happened at the time of Malachi,
• Which is the very last book of your English Old Testament.
• Now either Nehemiah or Malachi is the last recorded history book of the Old Testament,
• Scholars are not quite sure which.
• The Old Testament in our English Bibles were not put together chronologically,
• i.e. the order in which they were written.
• Instead they were grouped together by their content,