Nehemiah chapter nine is entitled, “The people confess their sins”. Some of the Levite priests stood in front of the assembly and cried out in an extended prayer on behalf of the nation. Today’s passage picks up the prayer just after the priests had remembered the times of great blessing as the Israelites settled the promised land. I find it interesting that a common perception of the God of the Old testament is that he is a god of vengeance and furious anger, fire and brimstone, etc. But many times throughout the old testament we see the Lords incredible grace and mercy towards his people, if only they will turn back to him and obey him. This obedience that the Lord seeks from us is not in order to imprison us, it is to set us free and give us abundant life. This passage and its driving message puts into my mind a famous verse from the book of Jeremiah —For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
Nehemiah 9:26-31 NLT
“But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies. “But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times! “You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them. But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!
For me, the key point is that far from being vengeful and punishing the people himself, God just allows us the freedom to choose. As and when God’s people forget about obeying His instructions and turn their backs on him, he simply watches as they turn away from his love and towards their enemies, who then, as humans do, conquer them and oppress them. But whenever the people remember their Lord, and turn back in repentance, he hears them and has rescued them many times. My goal is never again to forget God’s instructions. I have already lived a lot of my life in the hands of my enemies, from now on I intend to trust and obey only the Lord.
Nehemiah 9:22-10:39, 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13, Psalms 34:1-10, Proverbs 21:13