And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God…

—Nehemiah 13:25

Great things had happened in Jerusalem.  After a seventy-year exile in Babylon, God brought His people back to their homeland.  Progress resettling and rebuilding was slow, but by Nehemiah 13, the temple and the city walls were rebuilt.  More importantly, there had been more than one spiritual revival.  Earlier in Nehemiah 10, the people made a covenant with God regarding marrying non-believers (v.30), honoring the Sabbath (v.31), and giving offerings to support the temple and the priests (v.32-39).

Nehemiah had to return to Persia to report the progress to the king.  When he returned, however (13:4-31), he found the marriages to non-believers were rampant, the Sabbath was not being honored, and the priests and the temple were being neglected.  Nehemiah was livid, and he contended with the people, rebuking them and even getting physical with them!

What do we learn from this?

First, people sin against the Lord and break commitments to Him.  That this happens doesn’t make it alright, but that it happens is a sober reminder that even the best among us fails—often, repeatedly, and sometimes miserably.

Second, it is the duty of God’s ministers to confront sin.  God loves His people so much that He doesn’t reject us.  Instead He sends us ministers who confront us and our sin on God’s behalf.  Let us receive it with thanksgiving, rather than get mad at the messengers.

Third, we must repent, sometimes again and again!  Let us repent when we have sinned.  We do ourselves no favors by denying and continuing in sin.  And when we have to repent, again and again, let us repent again and again, rejoicing that God forgives sin (when we confess and repent)—yes, again and again.