One of the things I have learned over the years both from Scripture as well as my own personal experience is that no matter how mature in Christ, how passionate about the gospel, how effective in ministry, and even how greatly we have sacrificed for the Faith all of us are still very much prone to wander from the Lord and life we love. And it doesn't take much to get us wandering. For many of us its not as much an intentional wandering as much as it is caused by the unintentional neglect of spiritual priorities.
One of the vivid examples the Bible gives us of such neglect is found in the Book of Nehemiah. In this autobiographical report, Nehemiah gives us a “play by play” analysis of everything that took place when he traveled from the Persian city of Susa to Jerusalem to lead in the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem as well as lead the people in a spiritual revival. The climax of this revival is seen in chapters 8-9 where the people, upon hearing the Word of God, read and taught, respond by confessing and repenting of their sins. Then in chapter 10, they signed a covenant in which they promised to obey and honor the Lord from here on out.
What a tremendous response to the preaching of the Word of God. I’m sure Nehemiah was ecstatic. What preacher wouldn’t be thrilled to have a whole nation respond to the Word of God in such powerful expressions of love and loyalty to the Lord?
Well after his twelve year success in leading in this great work for God among his people, Nehemiah needed to return to his day job as the cupbearer to King Artexerxes back in Persia. In preparation, he did what any good leader would do under the same circumstances and made sure his leadership would be carried on by qualified men. Once theses arrangements were made, he then left to resume his service to the king.
Now, fast forward twenty some years and Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem, only to find that in the approximately two decades that he had been gone, the people had drifted back to the way they were before he had come the first time. I’m sure he was shocked to hear about and actually see for himself that the mountaintop experience of twenty years ago had become a distant memory in the people’s minds and hearts. And I’m certain that he must have been greatly saddened to find that the people’s zeal for God’s praise and glory, twenty years ago, was no longer a driving force in their lives.
Nehemiah 13, is the record of how quickly and gradually God’s people can move from a spiritual high to spiritual decline. Its a good reminder to all of us that even in our strongest and most vital of moments with God, we are still very “prone to wander from the God we love”.
It appears, from reading chapter 13, that the people began their departure from Nehemiah’s reforms in very small and seemingly insignificant steps that amounted to not giving full attention to all of God’s Law. A careless attitude toward the Temple (13:4-9), a failure to take seriously the corporate worship of God (13:10-14), a disregard for the Lord’s Day (13:15-21), a nonchalant attitude on the part of the spiritual leaders toward their responsibilities (13:22), utter disregard for God's standards on marriage (13:23-27), and leaders who followed rather than led the people (13:28-30).
Spiritual and Biblical reform is always an ongoing experience. If not, it, very quickly, becomes “dis-reform”, which more often than not leads you and I back to square one in our walk with the Lord. Whatever progress you have made in Christ, whatever growth and maturity you are enjoying, however far you have come spiritually—don’t forget—until Heaven, when sin is completely removed, your heart is still prone to wander from the God you love. Therefore, as Proverbs 4:23 commands: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”