The freeze frame blurs. Nehemiah goes away for a while and then returns to find things have fallen apart. Everything has reverted along the lines of pragmatic greed, treating the worship of the unseen deity as redundant.
The tithing system that supported full time temple workers failed, so they were back in the fields. Commerce did not cease for the Sabbath. People intermarried with non Israelites, children lost the culture. Time, money and romance: the battlegrounds of distraction from God.
This note of failure to end, this imperfection, I’ve been looking for it. You will never get a better christian leader than Nehemiah. He had a great task that inspired the people, but in the end the people reverted to type.
He uses his authority and leadership to fix the problems he finds. His refrain:
- “Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services”
- Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
- “Remember me with favour, my God.”
Effectively “I did my best, I did the right thing”. He knows he can only account to God for his own behaviour, he can’t save the world.
So the book that has been relentlessly positive and about the God’s people returning to him with deep joy and obedience ends with the search for lasting salvation still active. And the reputation of the OT of raising more questions than it answers is in tact. Christ is the answer.