Summary: 'Standing by Our Promises' - Nehemiah chapter 13 sermon by Gordon Curley. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


(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,

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