Nehemiah 12:1-26

12 These were the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and with Joshua:

Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

Amariah, Malluk, Hattush,

Shekaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,

Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah,

Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah,

Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah,

Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah.

These were the leaders of the priests and their associates in the days of Joshua.

The Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and also Mattaniah, who, together with his associates, was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services.

10 Joshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.

12 In the days of Joiakim, these were the heads of the priestly families:

of Seraiah’s family, Meraiah;

of Jeremiah’s, Hananiah;

13 of Ezra’s, Meshullam;

of Amariah’s, Jehohanan;

14 of Malluk’s, Jonathan;

of Shekaniah’s, Joseph;

15 of Harim’s, Adna;

of Meremoth’s, Helkai;

16 of Iddo’s, Zechariah;

of Ginnethon’s, Meshullam;

17 of Abijah’s, Zikri;

of Miniamin’s and of Moadiah’s, Piltai;

18 of Bilgah’s, Shammua;

of Shemaiah’s, Jehonathan;

19 of Joiarib’s, Mattenai;

of Jedaiah’s, Uzzi;

20 of Sallu’s, Kallai;

of Amok’s, Eber;

21 of Hilkiah’s, Hashabiah;

of Jedaiah’s, Nethanel.

22 The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. 24 And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God.

25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. 26 They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law.
(Nehemiah 12:1-26 NIV)

In our last passage, we saw the repopulation of Jerusalem from the Jewish people who lived in the surrounding villages.   One of ten Jewish families living outside the city walls moved into the city.  Having people live inside the city walls was important to creating a safe and prosperous city – physically, spiritually, and socially.  Building community is more than houses – it’s the relationships that make a city function.

Today we see the generations of priests and Levites since the exiles returned with Zerubbabel.  Verses 1 – 11 list the original priests and Levites that came with Zerubbabel; verses 12-26 list the subsequent generations of priests and Levites up to those in Nehemiah’s day.

So why are these records important and included in Nehemiah’s book?  The next passage (12:27 – 13:3) describe the official dedication of Jerusalem’s walls and gates, and the priests and Levites had a leading role in that celebration.  In seeking to obey the Lord, Nehemiah wanted to follow God’s ordinances laid out during the days of King David (v. 24).  Making sure that the families God ordained in David’s reign were present and leading the people was part of that obedience.

Remember that many of these Biblical ordinances that Nehemiah reinstated had been forgotten over the centuries.  It was only through the reading of God’s Word that the people were reminded of what God had established long ago for their good and His glory.

May we spend time in God’s Word to remind us of His great love for us, and his purpose and plan for our lives.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 11:1-36

11 Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem (now some Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants lived in the towns of Judah, each on their own property in the various towns, while other people from both Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem):

From the descendants of Judah:

Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez; and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Kol-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, a descendant of Shelah. The descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468 men of standing.

From the descendants of Benjamin:

Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah,and his followers, Gabbai and Sallai—928 men. Joel son of Zikri was their chief officer, and Judah son of Hassenuah was over the New Quarter of the city.

10 From the priests:

Jedaiah; the son of Joiarib; Jakin; 11 Seraiah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub,the official in charge of the house of God, 12 and their associates, who carried on work for the temple—822 men; Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah, 13 and his associates, who were heads of families—242 men; Amashsai son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 and his associates, who were men of standing—128. Their chief officer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.

15 From the Levites:

Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 Shabbethai and Jozabad, two of the heads of the Levites, who had charge of the outside work of the house of God;17 Mattaniah son of Mika, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer; Bakbukiah, second among his associates; and Abda son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18 The Levites in the holy city totaled 284.

19 The gatekeepers:

Akkub, Talmon and their associates, who kept watch at the gates—172 men.

20 The rest of the Israelites, with the priests and Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, each on their ancestral property.

21 The temple servants lived on the hill of Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them.

22 The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the musicians responsible for the service of the house of God. 23 The musicians were under the king’s orders, which regulated their daily activity.

24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, one of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was the king’s agent in all affairs relating to the people.

25 As for the villages with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath Arba and its surrounding settlements, in Dibon and its settlements, in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 in Jeshua, in Moladah, in Beth Pelet, 27 in Hazar Shual, in Beersheba and its settlements, 28 in Ziklag, in Mekonah and its settlements, 29 in En Rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its settlements. So they were living all the way from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.

31 The descendants of the Benjamites from Geba lived in Mikmash, Aija, Bethel and its settlements, 32 in Anathoth, Nob and Ananiah, 33 in Hazor,Ramah and Gittaim, 34 in Hadid, Zeboim and Neballat, 35 in Lod and Ono, and in Ge Harashim.

36 Some of the divisions of the Levites of Judah settled in Benjamin.
(Nehemiah 11:1-36 NIV)

The Jewish people held a national day of revival, with fasting, Scripture reading, confession of sin, and prayer. The leaders also wrote and signed a document outlining a list of things they promised to do in obedience to God’s Word.  These promises were not to appease God or earn salvation or other right standing before the Lord.  Rather, these promises were to show their humble appreciation for all that God had done for them.

In today’s text, we see the Jewish people living out their faith.  Remember Nehemiah 7:4, where Nehemiah commented, “Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.“?  Today’s text addresses that issue.

Verse 1 outlines the plan to repopulate Jerusalem.  One in ten families were to move to Jerusalem from their surrounding towns and villages.  How did they determine who stayed and who moved?  They put the decision in the Lord’s hands by “casting lots”.  The process was simple:  they would pray, then flip a coin, draw straws, roll dice, pull numbers out of a hat, etc.  Solomon wisely acknowledged many centuries before that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33 NIV).

Once the selection process was complete, the nine-tenths of the people in the communities then gathered around the one-tenth who volunteered to move and prayed over them and blessed them (v. 2).

The rest of the chapter is a list of the families who moved:

  • The tribes of Judah and Benjamin (vv. 4b-9)
  • The priests (vv. 10-14)
  • The Levites (vv. 15-18)
  • Others (vv. 19-36)

This was not an easy move for any of the families involved.  Jerusalem was still a dangerous place, even with the walls and gates rebuilt.  There was still a tremendous hatred of the city and the Jewish people from the surrounding regions.  This move would be akin to moving into an inner city environment where the buildings were run down or non-existent, and threats of violence were all around.

This was also a move away from family, starting over by finding new friends, rebuilding a house, etc.  There were no financial incentives for this move, just obedience to the Lord.

What are we willing to do in our adventure with God?

First of all, are we even willing to consider what the Lord might do in and through us, or do we pull our name out of consideration altogether?

If we are willing to see where God will move in and through us, what might that look like?  What might that adventure manifest into?

God works uniquely and individually in each person’s life; here are a few examples of what God has done in the lives of others:

  • Learning a new skill or relational attribute to minister to a family member
  • Making a new friend that the Lord brought into their life
  • Stepping into a new role in their church, to build or rebuild) a ministry or role
  • Moving to a new community to plant a new church, not as a pastor or church staff, but as a member
  • Moving to a new place as a missionary

Change is no fun – it’s messy, hard, painful, and it forces us to confront our illusion of control over our lives.  Change forces us to depend on the Lord instead of ourselves.

But with change comes growth in the Lord and in relationships with others.

May we not fear the change, but rather, embrace the adventure that awaits as we love the Lord and love others that cross our paths.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 10:34-39

34 “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.

35 “We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.

36 “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.

37 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept.

“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
(Nehemiah 10:34-39 NIV)

As part of a national day of revival, Jewish people committed their hearts and lives to living for the Lord.  As part of that commitment, the leaders wrote and signed a document detailing specifics of their obedience to the Lord.

In our previous time together, we studied the first details of their obedience.  Today, we will take a look at the remainder of their promises to the Lord.

In yesterday’s passage, we saw the leaders committed to honoring God in their personal lives.  In today’s text, we see the leaders commit to honoring the Lord in the Jewish community as well as their personal lives.

This commitment to honor God in the Jewish community focused on obeying God in bringing their tithes and offerings to the Lord.  From our study of Ezra chapter 8, we know that the Levites were not given an inheritance of land in Israel or Judah.  They were to be fully dedicated to serving the Lord, and not have to spend time working to earn a living.  The Levites were somewhat similar to pastors and church staff in our day – supported by the funds of the church attendees.  In the case of the Levites, their food allowance came from the generosity and obedience of the people and the priests.

When Ezra prepared to leave Babylon, he noticed there were no Levites among the returning exiles.  The Levites had been so mistreated over the years (some of them nearly starved to death) that none were initially willing to volunteer for more hardship.  The lack of care and concern for the Levites reflected the overall spiritual condition of the people and Jewish leadership.  Ezra prayerfully requested that some Levites go with the returning exiles, and the Lord changed the hearts of some Levites who then volunteered to go.

As we see the Jewish leaders and people commit to bringing their tithes and offerings to the Lord, we see the change in their hearts reflected in their finances and provisions.  The Levites would now be properly cared for, as the Lord originally intended.  This was a positive sign of change in the Jewish people.

The principle of “first fruits” mentioned several times in today’s passage was a sign of faith in the Lord.  By giving the Lord the first part of the harvest, the people were showing their thankfulness to the Lord for His provision and telling the Lord that they trusted Him for the remainder of the harvest.

What does living in a community of faith look like in our day?

Is it all about us and what we can benefit from our association with a local church, or is there a deeper commitment to the Lord and to His work, including the sharing of the resources the Lord has provided to us?

May we exhibit generosity to others, just as the Lord has shown generosity to us in His protection, His provision, and His care and feeding of us along life’s way, as well as His ultimate provision of eternal life through His Son’s death and resurrection.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 10:28-33

28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand—29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.

31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

32 “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God:33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
(Nehemiah 10:28-33 NIV)

On this national day of revival, the Jewish people participated in Scripture reading, prayer, confession of sin, and repentance.  Over 80 leaders also drafted a document and signed it, stating their obedience to God and their intention to live in a restored relationship with Him.

Nehemiah recorded who signed the document first before he told us what the document said.  This record of the “who” before the “what” showed the leaders’ heart and desire to have a right relationship with God.  Over the next two days, we’ll take a look at what the Jewish people promised to be and to do.

While over 80 people signed this document, its impact and influence was intended for all Jewish people.  Verse 28 begins by listing everyone involved – men, women, sons, daughters, anyone of age who claimed to follow God was included.

Verse 29 identifies the intensity of the Jewish peoples’ commitment to the Lord.  This was a serious oath they were making before God.  They promised to live in accordance with God’s Law or have a curse upon them if they did not.  This was not an attempt to appease an angry deity, nor was it an attempt to merit salvation.  Rather, this oath was an act of their will to honor God with their lives.

Verses 30 – 39 contain the terms of the oath.  We’ll take a look at the first few verses today, and follow up with the remaining verses the next day.

Verse 30 starts with the promise to not intermarry with non-Jewish people, according to God’s command (Exodus 34:16).  This command was not to maintain racial or genetic purity – this was to maintain spiritual purity, worshipping God alone.

Verse 31 contains three promises:

  • no commerce or trade (doing business) on Sabbaths and other holy days, as ordained by God (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Giving the agricultural lands a rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11)
  • Forgiveness of debt every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)

Verses 32-33 contain the last promise we’ll look at today – that of gathering a self-imposed annual “tax” that will provide for the operation of God’s house (Exodus 30:11-16).  This was a flat tax; the rich were not to give more, nor were the poor to give less.

Remember that a shekel represented a day’s wages.  Scholars note that the Lord asked for half a shekel, but this oath stated a third of a shekel.  The discrepancy appeared to be a difference in exchange rates between the Jewish economy and the economy of their captors; the monetary amount seemed to be expressed in their captors’ currency.

If we were to write a similar letter to the Lord in our day, what would we hear God calling us to be and to do?  What would our choices be?

And most importantly, what would our attitude be?  Would this be outward compliance to “look good” in other people’s eyes or in God’s eyes, to please God or someone else?

Or would this willingness to write and sign such a document be an inward willingness to honor God with our lives and resources?

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 10:1-27

10 Those who sealed it were:

Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hakaliah.

Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,

Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk,

Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.

These were the priests.

The Levites:

Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,

10 and their associates: Shebaniah,

Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

11 Mika, Rehob, Hashabiah,

12 Zakkur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

14 The leaders of the people:

Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,

19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,

27 Malluk, Harim and Baanah.
(Nehemiah 10:1-27 NIV)

Chapter 9 was a record of the national day of repentance and revival in Israel during Nehemiah’s term as governor.  They spent their time reading Scripture, in prayer, worship, and confession of sins.  At the end of their confession, the leaders signed a written document identifying specific changes they promised to make in their daily lives based on their renewed relationship with the Lord.

Today we will see who signed this document; in subsequent days, we’ll see what they agreed to.

The names are listed in three groups:

  • The priests (vv. 1-8)
  • The Levites (vv. 9-13)
  • The leaders of the people (vv. 14-27)

Nehemiah signed his name to the document (v. 1); in all, over eighty people signed this document.  This was truly a historic moment.

Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, a 19th-century itinerant preacher and evangelist, wherever he was preaching, would often stop and draw a circle in the dirt. Then he’d step inside that circle and pray something like, “O God, please send a revival here, and let it begin inside this circle.”

By writing down their commitments to the Lord and signing their names to the document, the leaders of Israel were drawing their circles and stepping inside them.

What does revival look like for us?

What changes would we be willing to make to honor God in our daily lives?

What of God’s commands from His Word would we agree to in humble obedience?

Would we be willing to write down these things and sign our name at the bottom, just as these people did?

What’s stopping you from writing your own letter to God and signing your name to it?

To whom would you show this letter for accountability?

I am drawing my circle in the dirt, stepping inside that circle, and praying for revival inside my circle.

Will you come draw your circle next to mine, step inside your circle, and pray for revival to begin in you?

Blessings,

~kevin

Nehemiah 9:32-38

32 “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. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 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.35 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.

36 “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. 37 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.

38 “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 9:32-38 NIV)

Two days after the Feast of Booths ended, the people of Israel gathered again in fasting, sack cloth, and with dirt on their heads, reading God’s Word, worshiping, and confessing their sins as a people, as a nation.

Last time we looked at the chronological history of God’s goodness and faithfulness toward His people and their unfaithfulness in return.

Today we look at the conclusion of their prayer.

Verse 32 begins with the Jewish leaders recognizing God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness.  The Jewish leaders are paying attention to what God has done, and are begging for God’s mercy.  Because of their sins, God had every right to erase them from the face of the earth, but He chose not to do so (v. 31).

Verses 33 – 35 are an admission of guilt and sin before a holy and righteous God.  The Jews, as God’s people, deserved every bit of discipline they received from God’s hand.  God was just in His dealings with His people.

Verses 36 – 37 identify their current status as slaves in the land God had given them.  This slave status was due to the Jewish people’s sin and rebellion alone.

Verse 38 is the conclusion of their prayer.  In this ending, they write down their commitment to obey God and His Word, to do life His way and not their own way.

The Jewish leaders know that they got themselves into this mess through their disobedience to the Lord.  They don’t expect this commitment to change their status – this is not asking God to grant them a “get out of slavery” card.

This is, however, a humble response to God’s goodness and faithfulness over the centuries, and a desire to live up to their part of the covenant God made with Abraham, of which they are beneficiaries as Abraham’s descendants.

While Abraham was a faithful man, his salvation did not come from his ability to satisfy God’s Law.  Rather, Abraham’s salvation came by God’s grace, through faith in the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ).  Abraham’s example was living by faith, not by his good deeds (Galatians 3:5-13).

And the good news is that through Christ, the blessing that was given to Abraham and offered to the Jewish people of Nehemiah’s day is available to us through Christ as non-Jewish followers of Christ in our day (Galatians 3:14)

So what’s our response to today’s text?

  • humility before God and confession of sin?
  • obedience to God’s Word?
  • thankfulness and worship?

This is not a guilt trip or a “try harder” admonition.

Rather, it is an invitation to allow God to come into our minds, hearts, and souls and do something only He can do – change us from the inside out.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 9:5b-31

“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.

“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.

“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 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. 11 You 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. 12 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.

13 “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. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 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.

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 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.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 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. 24 Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 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.

26 “But they 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. 27 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.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

29 “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, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 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. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
(Nehemiah 9:5b-31 NIV)

As we completed chapter 8, we saw the people of Israel experiencing God’s love and celebrating His goodness.  The Feast of Booths was a week-long celebration to remember God’s protection and provision when their ancestors came out of Egypt centuries ago.

Two days after the Feast of Booths ended, the people of Israel gathered again in fasting, sack cloth, and with dirt on their heads, reading God’s Word, worshiping, and confessing their sins as a people, as a nation.

Today we hear their prayer and confession of sin, as they remember God’s goodness toward them and their unfaithfulness in return.  Here’s the synopsis:

  • God’s creation of the world (v. 6)
  • Abraham’s calling to serve the Lord (v. 7)
  • God’s covenant with Abraham and a land promised by God (v. 8)
  • God’s rescue of His people out of Egypt (vv. 9-12)
  • God established His Law among His people (vv. 13-14)
  • Despite all God’s goodness, the people rebelled and would not listen (vv. 16-17a)
  • God displays His goodness again (v. 17b)
  • Israel’s idolatry (v. 18)
  • God’s goodness and blessing once again (vv. 19-25)
  • Israel’s disobedience (v. 26)
  • Sin’s consequences and God’s deliverance (vv. 27-28)
  • God’s call to repentance and restoration, and Israel’s defiance (vv. 29-30)
  • God’s patience, grace, and love for His people despite their continued sin (v. 31)

Is not the story of God and Israel the story of God and us, as the nations in which we live, as well as us the “church” (the body of Christ), and as individuals?

We see God’s love, goodness, and blessings toward us.

We see our selfishness, rebellion, and resultant distress due to our sin.

We see God’s grace, compassion, deliverance, and an open invitation to return to Him.

Truly “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136).

Take some time for Bible reading, worship, confession of sin, whatever the Lord reveals.

Blessings,
~kevin