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Learning the Lessons of History

 Rev. Enoch Thompson | January 17, 2024 | Nehemiah 13:15-18



¹⁷ I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this wicked thing you are doing — desecrating the Sabbath day? ¹⁸ Didn't your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath." Nehemiah 13:17-18 (NIV)



Experience is the best teacher, it has been said, but one does not need to repeat the painful experiences of others before they are able to learn the lessons of those experiences. In our text for the day, we see how difficult it is for people to learn from the experiences of others, and sometimes tragically to learn from their own experiences.


Though the community of Israel had been reminded of the source of their captivity as coming from their failure to keep the Sabbath and to make the land rest on the Sabbath, in the seventh year and the Jubilee years, and though they had solemnly pledged and sworn on oath to obey the law concerning the Sabbath we realise in our text that during the period of Nehemiah’s absence from Jerusalem the leaders and the people of Israel had fallen back into the routine of breaking God’s law to them.


Sadly, the other leaders had not learnt the lessons of history as well as Nehemiah had. It is frustrating when only a few individuals are left to be the memory of the community and to remember where wrong choices had led them. When we fail to learn the lessons of history, we predispose ourselves to be revisited by the calamities of history.



Let’s open our eyes to the facts of the history of those who have gone ahead of us and determine that we would not repeat their mistakes. Let’s look into our own lives and make up our minds under God to never again go on paths that led us into waterless places and deep pits.



Dear Master, please help me to be alert, to avoid the paths of those who went off the track, and to avoid repeating my own and other people’s mistakes. Please make me wise so I can avoid unnecessary pain.

For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.





DAILY word study: REBUKE

The Hebrew term for "rebuke" is "גָּעַר" (Ga'ar), signifying a strong expression of disapproval, correction, or admonishment.

"Rebuke" is found throughout the Bible. In Proverbs 9:8, it says, "Do not rebuke mockers, or they will hate you; rebuke the wise, and they will love you." This implies that rebuke is not only corrective but also has a relational aspect.

Nehemiah's rebuke is stern but purposeful. He points out the wickedness of violating the Sabbath, connecting it to the historical disobedience of their ancestors that led to God's judgment. This emphasizes the cyclical nature of disobedience and its consequences.

Nehemiah draws attention to the repetitive disobedience of their ancestors. This highlights a biblical theme where historical patterns often reoccur, underscoring the importance of learning from the past.


Considering Nehemiah's rebuke, how can we navigate the balance between correcting wrongdoing and maintaining a spirit of love and reconciliation? In what ways does the biblical concept of rebuke contribute to the growth and unity of a community?

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