9 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. 3 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. 4 Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. 5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
(Nehemiah 9:1-5a NIV)
As we completed chapter 8, we saw God’s people 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.
Truly the joy of the Lord was their strength (8:10).
As we begin chapter 9, we see the next gathering of the Jewish people, 2 days after the end of the Feast of Booths. While the week-long celebration was joyous, it ended with a solemn assembly, on a serious note (8:18), according to God’s plan (Leviticus 23:36).
Verse 1 sets the mood for this gathering:
- fasting – seeking God more than food
- sack cloth – showing humility before the Lord
- dust on heads – reminding themselves of their mortality
All these were outward expressions of an inward state of mind toward the Lord.
In verse 2, we see the Jewish people separate themselves from the rest of the populace – this was a “family affair”, not a community-wide gathering.
The people spent 3 hours studying God’s Word, and 3 hours worshiping the Lord and confessing their sins (v. 3).
The Levites led in worshiping the Lord, and in prayer (vv. 4-5). Notice that they began their prayer with praise and adoration of who God is – His essential “God-ness”.
When you experience God’s favor, His love and goodness, where does that lead you?
Does that lead you to:
- repentance (Romans 2:4)?
- openness to giving Him more control of your life?
Spend some time with Him today, and see where He leads your heart.