Today the people celebrate the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem with a parade led by two large thanksgiving choirs. “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”
After serving as governor of Judah for twelve years, Nehemiah returns to Artaxerxes king of Babylon. Nehemiah says that when he was governor he did not demand the governor’s provisions as the other governors had done in the past because he didn’t want to place any more burden on the people. Nehemiah calls upon the Lord saying, “Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.”
After some time away, Nehemiah is granted permission by King Artaxerxes to return to Judah, where he discovers that the people have neglected the house of the Lord and the word of God. Nehemiah knows that the Lord gives His people instructions for their own good. So Nehemiah rebukes the rulers and the people for disobeying the word of God, and he sets the house of the Lord back in order. He forces the people to honor the Sabbath and condemns the ones who intermarried with pagan nations. Nehemiah calls the people to remember what happened to King Solomon when he took pagan wives and concubines for himself – “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?”
We end the reading meeting the prophet Malachi who proclaims God’s love for Israel to the ones who have returned to Judah from exile. He reminds them that they were God’s chosen people by reminding them of the Patriarch Era, when the Lord chose Isaac’s son Jacob over Esau to receive His covenantal blessings and to work His plan of sending our Savior. Although Israel was punished for their disobedience, the Lord is restoring Israel and is committed to them, proving His love for them. God did not make the same covenant with Esau’s descendants, Edom, and they will be judged for their wickedness and not restored like Israel.
Malachi rebukes the priests who were accepting unworthy sacrifices. He tells them the Lord is worthy of their honor because He is their Father, Master, and King! Malachi tells the priests that their lives should be an example for the others. “‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.’”
Tomorrow we will finish reading the Old Testament, bringing an end to the Return Era… so keep reading! (Nehemiah 12:27-13:6a, Nehemiah 5:14-19, Nehemiah 13:6b-31, Malachi 1:1-2:9)