James Nisbet Commentary - Nehemiah 13:26 - 13:26

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James Nisbet Commentary - Nehemiah 13:26 - 13:26

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‘Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.’


‘YET’—but, for all that, notwithstanding, nevertheless—there was none like him. It required the whole Godhead to deliver that verdict on poor, frail, tottering human character. Solomon began well and ended ill. Outlandish women caused him to sin; he had broken the sacred law; he had, so to say, performed the miracle of trampling himself under foot. ‘YET’—oh, that light of hope, that sound of music, that syllable of joy! Who then will despise the least? who then will give up the worst? who will write his own child’s history and conclude it in woe? Will any one write the history of the prodigal son without ending it in mirth and glee and song and dance and unpolluted revel?

I. There are two ‘yets.’—God’s ‘yet’ is one of hope; He pronounces from heaven that the majority is in favour of goodness. Then there is another ‘yet,’ in which man does twice over the sin which has been pardoned. Shall we not rather reverse the chronology and say, there is a ‘yet’ which indicates that man sins against God; then there is a second ‘yet’ which proves that where sin abounded grace did much more abound? That is the right chronology, if so be our hearts are not wholly given over to the power of evil and the reign of darkness. Solomon was a bad man. He would not have denied the charge himself. Witness after witness could have been called who would have proved the treachery of his heart, even if Solomon himself had resisted the impeachment. ‘Yet.’ You should take that word into your family. It will shed a rosy flight through the darkest chambers of the house, and through the darkest chambers of the soul.

II. What is the effect of God’s ‘yet’ in the course of human discipline?—It never prevents punishment. God will not spare the rod. Laceration is part of divine education. We must suffer, and there is no help for it; and if God could sin, God would suffer. There is nothing arbitrary in penalty, so far as it is administered by Providence. Human penalties may be arbitrary, irregular, and eccentric; but the punishment, the consequence that follows sin, is divine, inevitable. What is punishment? Here every man must be his own dictionary. What is punishment to one man is no punishment to another. Personality defines penalty. The point you started from will tell you what hell is. A man who has been accustomed to the highest enjoyments of civilisation will have one definition of a prison, and a man who has lived in meanness and misery and every kind of villainy will have another. As we grow in sensitiveness we grow in the power of appreciating penalty. To one child a look will be punishment enough; another could receive the rod and afterwards smile at the smiter.


(1) ‘It is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men. Your brethren like to speak against you, to have discovered a peccadillo, one little sin, and to have fingers dainty enough to pick out that little hair, and to be able to say, “I’ve got it!” The Lord saith, You have wounded Me, and disappointed Me, and gone away from Me, yet—how can I give thee up? Return! That is the difference between your human theories and the great divine idea of redemption—God always seeing the best, fixing His eyes upon the salvable points, looking to those elements that are still left out of which He can rear manhood. He will not quench the smoking flax, He will not break the bruised reed.’

(2) Never take any man at his worst; God always takes us at our best. If ever we touch the reality of prayer, He answers us then; He knows we must offer a million words before we come to the one word, the right word, and no sooner do we utter it than He gathers the clouds in His heavens and sends rich rain upon the thirsty land. You may talk six times to Him and hear nothing, see nothing, by way of response; but in the seventh time you will come upon the right chord, the right word, the right appeal; He will then open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing so great that there shall not be room to receive it. As God therefore takes us at our best, so let us take each other at our best.’