- Here’s an example of backsliding! Did your jaw drop an inch when you read the description at the opening of our lesson describing the backsliding of God’s people while Nehemiah had been away from Babylon? Imagine if this were your church–no more tithes or offerings, secular meetings held on sabbath in the church, young people encouraged to marry non-Adventists and even non-Christians, total disregard for Sabbath keeping–and all of this under the leadership of local members? Imagine how Nehemiah felt to see the fallen spiritual condition of God’s people. And all this after what God had done for them.
- Tainted temple leadership. As if the backsliding mentioned above wasn’t enough, Nehemiah immediately learns of the total acceptance by God’s people of non-believing foreign leaders to the extent that the Jewish leadership had become corrupted by the assumption of control, pushing Nehemiah aside. Heart-broken prayer and weeping by Nehemiah must have taken over his spiritual life. Would you have advised Nehemiah not to pay attention to what was going on? To focus on living a godly life? How alarmed must Nehemiah been when he learned that one of his fiercest enemies, Tobiah, moved into the temple to live and rule the people of God. True or False: Seeing there was so little he could do, Nehemiah just wept, watched and listened. Discuss.
- Levites in the field. What did Nehemiah do when he saw that tithe-paying practices had been abandoned and that singers and other workers had left because they weren’t being paid for their time-consuming work as they had before? How did things change at the temple to correct the horrible, fallen state of worship there? What did Nehemiah do about it? Read Nehemiah 13:10-14 for details. Notice that one corrupt leader of God’s people was allowed to hold his position. Why do you think this was allowed? Can you see light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Judah under the leadership of Nehemiah?
- Tithes and offerings. What happened when God’s followers stopped giving a faithful tithe for the temple work? Our note for this question mentions that services stopped because the leaders who had organized the services didn’t have time to do so any longer without pay. Could something like this ever happen in your local church? Or the conference that oversees the finances for your church and others in a given territory? Is it less than ideal to return the tithe as evidence of our generosity? If so, what is a more acceptable motive?
- Treading the wine presses on Sabbath. You probably don’t know any church member who presses grapes to make wine on Sabbath or any other day, but what if you did? “God’s people keep the Sabbath,” you might say. Or “the Sabbath keeps God people.” How is it true that the Sabbath keeps us together as God’s people?
- Keeping the Sabbath holy. What was Nehemiah’s responsibility in Sabbath keeping in the nation of God? Why? How was it possible that the Sabbath had been observed for so many hundreds of years? Isn’t it wonderful that God’s people never disagreed with each other about how the Sabbath should be kept? It wasn’t that important? Do you think that Sabbath keeping has weakened through the ages? What opportunities do you and I have to share our spirit of worship on the Sabbath with others–including fellow Seventh-day Adventists?