Today's devotion from Nehemiah 13.
What. A. Bummer. As we turn to the concluding chapter of Nehemiah, we are surely somewhat dejected. After everything God had done, the people are still broken. After all of the hard decisions and sacrifices, the people are still not where they need to be. After all the preparation and expectation, the people still continued their natural inclination to drift toward the corrupt practices that got them in this mess.
While this ending is anticlimactic, what other option is there really? Nehemiah's story didn't take place to perfect the people, but to accomplish two main objectives. First, God's plan of redemption continued to include His chosen people in this, their Promised Land. His steadfast and faithful work with them through the ministry of Nehemiah was simply a way of perpetuating His ongoing work. Second, Nehemiah's account reminds us that we are never enough.
That's right. There was no possible way for the people to be 100% faithful because they lived in a dark and fallen world. As we see them fail to provide for the Levites and continuing forbidden relations with foreign powers, what we are really witnessing is the incontrovertible truth that people ultimately don't need social or religious reform. We need a Savior.
Try as they might, the people would continue to fail in following God. We see it time and again throughout the Old Testament. The only thing the Israelites seem to be able to do faithfully is to be unfaithful. I'm not trying to excuse their disobedience. I simply think we need to remember that everything Nehemiah attempted to do was temporary. A strong Jerusalem was not God's ultimate purpose, Christ was.
Before we point too many fingers, we need to be careful. Most of us aren't far behind the Israelites. Even the Apostle Paul lamented his tendency to stumble after God. This is why Christ is His ultimate goal in your life as well. He wants you to be in Christ. That is where your release from the past, relief in the present, and hope for the future is found. It's not found in your ability to fulfill rules. It's found in His victorious status as Lord and Savior. Only in Him can all sin be defeated and all righteousness be found...for good.