In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath.
As a leader, Nehemiah exposed the problems in Jerusalem. The first problem he saw was that of unwise alliances. Second, he saw unfulfilled commitments. Nehemiah 13:10 says, “I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field.” Because the people had stopped giving, there was no money to pay the people who led in worship. So they had to leave the service of God, and that part of the ministry deteriorated. You see the same thing in the church today. No church can spend money that it does not have. The church depends upon the tithes and offerings of God’s people in order for the church to stay strong.
Third, Nehemiah noticed there were some unkept commands, especially commands related to the Sabbath. Look at verse 15: “In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day.” God had commanded, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9-10). God instituted the Sabbath for our benefit, so that we could recharge our physical, emotional, and spiritual batteries. But there was a second reason for the Sabbath: it was to serve as a witness to the unbelieving world. When God’s people said, “We are not going to engage in business on the Sabbath. Instead, we are going to worship God,” it was a way of saying, “Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship to money.” When you say no to a Sunday morning soccer game or conference call, it is a great witness to the world that there is something more important in life than recreation or money. You might say, “But if we skip that soccer game, it could cost my child a place on the team.” So what? Isn’t it better to start teaching your children early that it is going to cost them something to be a Christian? We witness to the world not by being like the world, but by being different from the world. That is why the Bible says one day a week we are to say no to other things so that we can say yes to God.
Fourth, Nehemiah saw unholy marriages. Look at Nehemiah 13:23-24: “In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah.” God had told the people not to marry unbelieving foreigners. Why? Not only would they turn the people away from the true God, but their children would not learn Hebrew. You had a whole generation of children who could not read or listen to the commands of God, and that led to further spiritual deterioration. These were the problems that Nehemiah exposed.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Eating Problems For Breakfast” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org