Have you strayed from God over time? Have you forgotten something God did in your life? Have you ever expressed that remorse or sorrow to God? Sometimes we need to be reminded. ◊
Have you ever been reminded of some actions of your past? Maybe some good actions, or maybe some bad actions?
How about some good things that were done for you?
How about good things that God did for you? Can you identify them or anything as blessings or God’s mercy or His faithfulness? Has God ever protected you in some way or provided for you or given you clear direction at some point in your life?
Have you strayed from God over time? Have you forgotten something God did in your life? Have you ever expressed that remorse or sorrow to God?
Have you ever felt convicted by the Holy Spirit in your heart of hearts or directly by simply reading the Word of God?
During the time of Nehemiah’s leadership and after the walls have been reconstructed, the Jews in Jerusalem hear Ezra read the Law of God (see Nehemiah 8) and are greatly convicted.
They experience a cathartic remembrance of their wayward ways and all that God has done for them and their ancestors.
The Continued Gathering
In Nehemiah 9, the people continue to gather together and are moved to confess their errant ways and recommit themselves to the Lord:
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.…They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs….the Levites…said:
“Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:1-6)
They remind themselves that God started with Abram/Abraham and made an initial covenant with him. And that God keeps His promises:
“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to You, and You made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because You are righteous. (Nehemiah 9:7-8)
Then they are reminded of the God-led exodus out of Egypt and the escape from Pharaoh and the signs and wonders that God conducted:
“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; You heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for You knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for Yourself, which remains to this day. You [God] divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but You hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take. (Nehemiah 9:9-12)
Then they are reminded of the Law handed down via God’s servant Moses and the provision of food and water:
“You came down on Mount Sinai; You spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath…. In their hunger You gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst You brought them water from the rock; You told them to go in and take possession of the land You had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. (Nehemiah 9:13-15)
Then they are reminded of their stubborn disobedience and God’s patience:
“But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey Your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them…. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore You did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. Nehemiah 9:16-18)
They are reminded that God did not abandon them for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness:
“Because of Your great compassion You did not abandon them in the wilderness…. For forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. (Nehemiah 9:19-21)
They are then reminded of God giving them kingdoms and nations and multiplied them:
“You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers…. You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and You brought them into the land that You told their parents to enter and possess. … You…gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land… They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. (Nehemiah 9:22-25)
Then they are reminded of their rebellious disobedience and blasphemies against God, and God’s great mercy and compassion:
“But they [our ancestors] were disobedient and rebelled against You; they turned their backs on Your law. They killed Your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to You; they committed awful blasphemies. So You delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to You. From heaven You heard them, and in Your great compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. (Nehemiah 9:26-27)
And then they are reminded of their continued evil and disobedience and God’s continued mercy:
“But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in Your sight….You warned them in order to turn them back to Your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed Your commands. They sinned against Your ordinances….Stubbornly they turned their backs on You, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years You were patient with them. By Your Spirit You warned them through Your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so You gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. But in Your great mercy You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for Yyou are a gracious and merciful God. (Nehemiah 9:28-31)
They are reminded that their own current plight is a direct result of their own disobedience to God:
“Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in Your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, You have remained righteous; You have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow Your law; they did not pay attention to Your commands or the statutes You warned them to keep. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land You gave them, they did not serve You or turn from their evil ways.
“But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress. (Nehemiah 9:32-37)
With the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Nehemiah via Ezra and the Levite priests lead the people to acknowledge their past and present sins. And the people (like us all) are moved to humble acknowledment of God’s great and gracious mercy and faithfulness.
The Agreement of the People
So the people all agree and make a binding agreement to renew their covenant with God:
“In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.” (Nehemiah 9:38)
Their agreement and promises to God are laid out in the next chapter, Nehemiah 10.
Do you need reminding of what God has done in your life?
“In all that has happened to us, You have remained righteous; You have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.” – Nehemiah 8:33