Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

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Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.
Nehemiah 13:11

Nehemiah's story is so familiar. This is the story of one man attempting to change a culture. People love the ideas, and while he is around they all support him, and do what is expected. As soon as he goes away though, old habits kick back in and there is a general backsliding to the way things were before. In the last chapter of Nehemiah's personal account he returns to Jerusalem after some twelve years of absence—he had kept his word to the king and returned to Persia once he felt his work was done. On return he finds most of his cultural improvements to have been undermined, Why is the house of God forsaken?

This of course is a pattern throughout the Old Testament. Most of the judges and prophets (though, sadly, very few of the kings) kept a focus on Mosaic law and did their best to guide the people back onto the path God had chosen for them. Each one has only temporary success, and Nehemiah experiences the same thing here: lots of enthusiasm, usually from inspiring speeches at large meetings, an initial burst of energy to change, and then complacency, magnified of course by the leader's absence. When the cat's away, and all that.

This is a pattern in today's business world too. We all know business practice and procedures have to change, we even know, in general, but very meaningful ways what they should become. And yet they stay the same. Enlightened leaders and skilled change agents have temporary success waking up ossified or sleepwalking cultures, but on their departure the sleep habit kicks right back in. Such change is rarely sustainable. Until the majority of a group not just embrace but actually embody the change it cannot be permanent. No prophet yet has been able to hold God's people to God's laws, and very few corporations are able to hold themselves to basic humanitarian laws today. The glorious thing in all this is that we never stop trying. There is always a new prophet, a new voice of reason crying out in the wilderness. Let's listen.