Daily Devotions


Day 180

Post-Exilic Zeal to Walk in the Law of God

Text: Matthew 12:1-14

(Key text: Nehemiah 13)

A new spirit was born in the hearts of those who experienced exile in Babylon. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah reflected this new spirit of those who returned to Israel to attempt to rebuild their country.

With Ezra came a new emphasis on the study of Torah. This astute scribe was well prepared to teach the law of the Lord.

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord,
and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Ezra 7:10

Supporting him were the prophets Haggai and Zechariah whose preaching ministry enabled the Jews to complete the rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem (Cf. Ezra 6:14).

Nehemiah was also one of those who returned to Israel. He saw the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem as a special and sacred calling from God. He was one of the governors of Jerusalem in the early stages of rebuilding the country.

He represented a new spirit of commitment to walk in the ways of the Lord. He and the returnees pledged to enter into a new commitment to keep the Mosaic covenant with God.


The record of this effort is found in this text. Let us take time to peruse the content of this commitment. The preamble to the Commitment was stated in a long prayer to God (Cf. Nehemiah 9:5-38). This prayer freely admitted that the Lord was right in His judgment against the nation. They had disgracefully neglected to keep God’s laws and thus they deserved to be disciplined.

They had now been given a second chance. They wanted to make good this time round. The conclusion of the prayer must be noted.

“And because of all this,
We make a sure covenant and write it;
Our leaders, our Levites and our priests seal it.”
Nehemiah 9:38

A formal document was carefully written. The leaders of the people then appended their seal (“signatures”) to it.

“Now those who placed their seal on the document were:
Nehemiah the governor…
The Levites…
The leaders of the people…
Nehemiah 10:1,9,14

The contents of the document included a number of important undertakings.

“These joined with their brethren, their nobles,
and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law,
which was given by Moses the servant of God,
And to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord
Our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes…”
Nehemiah 10:29

Of particular interest is this statement concerning how they would keep the Sabbath.

“If the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell
On the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them
On the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forgo
the seventh year’s produce…”
Nehemial 10:31


How well did the people keep the Covenant, especially the Sabbath? Not very well at all! Nehemiah recorded an example of how he had to enforce the keeping of the law.

“In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses
on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys
with wines, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens,
which they brought to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.
And I warned them about the day on which they were
selling provisions. Men of Tyre dwelt there also,
who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them
on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them,
‘What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane
the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus,
and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city?
Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.’ ”
NEHEMIAH 13:15-17

Nehemiah was most zealous in promoting the keeping of the Sabbath law. He also used legal powers as the governor to enforce this law. Arrest was even threatened on lawbreakers.

“So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark
before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut,
And charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath.
Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens
would be brought in on the Sabbath day…”