Read Nehemiah 13:15-16. What is the issue that Nehemiah addresses here?
It is not easy to stand up for God when you are in the minority. Because God said that the Sabbath was to be a holy day on which no one was to do any work, Nehemiah intended to make sure that this command was followed in Jerusalem.
No doubt he felt a moral obligation to take the position he did and then act upon it.
The Sabbath was created as the pinnacle of Creation week because it was a special day on which people were to be renewed and recreated by spending time with God in ways that they can’t when engaged in their occupations or other worldly pursuits.
It has been said that “More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel”. The point is that the seventh-day Sabbath was, and remains, a powerful means of helping keep faith alive in those who by God’s grace seek to observe it and enjoy the physical and spiritual benefits it offers us.
Read Nehemiah 13:17-22. What does Nehemiah do in order to stop the “buying and selling” on the Sabbath?
Because Nehemiah is the governor of Judah, he sees his role as the enforcer of the rules. Because the rules in Judah were based on the law of God, he becomes a guardian of that law, including the Sabbath. Maybe if the nobles of Judah had stood up to the corruption brought in by the High Priest, Nehemiah wouldn’t have found himself in this situation. However, the rulers and nobles perhaps already resented Nehemiah for making them give back to the poor earlier; thus, they didn’t seem to object to the changes Eliashib and Tobiah brought in, either.
Nehemiah rebukes the nobles first and then commands that the gates be shut and posts servants at the gates to guard them. When the marketplace simply moves from inside the city to the outside, he takes even more drastic measures and threatens to lay a hand on the merchants the next Sabbath. Nehemiah must have been a man of his word, because the merchants got the point and stayed away from then on.