Chapter 13 records a time in which Nehemiah returns to Judah after a brief absence, only to find the people in need of rebuke, repentance, and reform – again! Once again, a spiritual leader needs to remind them of their commitment to not be unequally yoked with foreigners. Not only did they marry foreign women – again! – but they also allowed Tobiah (yes, that Tobiah, the Ammonite who taunted, mocked, and threatened Israel!) to take up lodging in the temple! In addition, the temple servants had to go find work elsewhere because they ceased to be compensated appropriately, bringing the spiritual work of the people to a halt. And even more, the people were profaning the Sabbath!
We may be grieved that the children of Israel seem to find themselves in this unending cycle of sin, repentance, and reform, but we would miss the point if we limited this condition to them only. The cycle of sin reveals to all people that we are sinners by nature and without a changed heart we would all return to sin again. As believers in Jesus Christ, God has given us new hearts and new desires so that we can fight sin – and have victory!