Outlasting Old Habits

Nehemiah learned that if you want to bring about change, you have to stay on top of it. Having led the people of Israel to re-establish many of the practices of the Law, including supporting the Levites with their tithes, Nehemiah went back to Babylon to see King Artaxerxes. But when he returned to Jerusalem, 13:10 tells us “I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who had performed the services had gone away, each to his own field.” There’s a lesson here which many of us can apply:

Nehemiah learned the hard way about the old “when the cat’s away” syndrome: when a leader is absent, things don’t always “carry on” the way they should. With Nehemiah gone, the people neglected to bring the tithes for the Levites, and without that support, the tribe left Jerusalem, and the ministry at God’s Temple, which Nehemiah had worked so hard to re-establish, came to a halt. But Nehemiah did not give up. Verse 11 says that he reprimanded the officials (:11) and gathered the Levites back.

One lesson here is that it often takes more than one attempt at reform to permanently change the status quo. We tend to “fall back” into bad habits, into the “same old grind” — unless there is someone there to enforce the new order. A church leader — or a parent, a supervisor or business owner, or anyone seeking to implement change — needs to “stay on top of things”, and realize that what you hope to accomplish will probably not happen the first time you try it. People will forget, or tend to slide back into their old habits. They need reminders, and accountability. For the “reformer” to be successful, he must be as persistent in the administration of the reform as the others are in backsliding to their old ways. Whoever is more persistent will win the day. If what you are doing is important enough, and especially if it is Biblical, then make sure that someone is YOU!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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