Read for This Week’s Study: Neh. 13:1-9; Deut. 23:3-6; Neh. 13:10-14; Num. 18:21-24; Neh. 13:15-22; John 5:5-16.
Memory Text: “And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!” (Nehemiah 13:22, NKJV).
In the interim between chapters 12 and 13, Nehemiah returns to Babylon. Though we don’t know how long he was gone, when he returned (probably around 430–425 B.C). the people were backsliding. Though they had covenanted with God on these matters: first, not to intermarry with idolaters; second, to observe the Sabbath carefully; and, third, to take care of the temple and its personnel by tithe and offerings (Nehemiah 10) — they had violated all three of these promises.
By the time Nehemiah returned, he found them very lax in their devotion to God. The people had stopped returning tithes and offerings, began using temple rooms for other purposes, ceased keeping the Sabbath properly, and even returned to intermarriage with the nations around them. Worst of all, it was the leadership whom he had left behind that contributed to the decline in the Israelites’ relationship with God. It is not surprising that Nehemiah was devastated when he discovered how much had changed. However, instead of accepting it, once again as his character demanded, he acted for God’s glory.