Remember me, O my God, for good. – Nehemiah 13:31
This phrase is repeated often by Nehemiah. This book, unique in the Old Testament, is part personal journal, part official record. Surely Nehemiah needed to give an account of his activities to the king back in Susa. But Nehemiah’s repeated concern is not for the king’s approval, but for the LORD’s. It is as though we are peeking into one man’s prayer that God would find him faithful.
Our final reading begins after the preamble of a covenant that the people of Jerusalem are composing. Remember that the original covenant, delivered on Sinai and reaffirmed in Deuteronomy, was one-directional. It was not negotiated; it was given by the LORD to His people, who then affirmed it. The Nehemiah covenant is not new, but is a reaffirmation by the children of Israel to the LORD’s stated obligations of them.
Their initial promise, therefore, is “to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes.” This boldly reveals their understanding of the LORD: almost a thousand years after the covenant was established on Sinai, God’s people acknowledge that neither the LORD nor His expectations had moved. They follow with commitments to refrain from intermarrying with the nations around them, to honor the Sabbath day and year, and to “not neglect the house of God.”
These commitments will be tested in the final chapter, as a series of vignettes from twelve years in the future reveal that not everyone is taking the covenant seriously. After a respite in Susa, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to find Tobiah living in the temple, the Levites destitute, the Sabbath dishonored, and the priests among those who had taken foreign wives, just as we saw in Ezra.
Now that this book is closing, reflect back on the presence of God in Ezra and Nehemiah. On no occasion did “The word of the LORD” come directly through any of these characters. The activity of God is observed in, through, and around these men, by them and others, but besides brief mentions of Haggai and Zechariah, there is little sense of the prophetic. This is much different from what we experienced in previous generations with Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Rather, the movement of God is inferred and discerned, in powerful ways that caused the actors to conclude that surely “the hand of God was on me.”
Our verse for this week is Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Nehemiah 10 through 13. Now let’s read it!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.