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Nehemiah --- Chapter 9
Gathering to Worship, Verses 1-4
Two days after the end of the Feast of Tabernacles the Israelites began a period of mourning and fasting. They dressed in sackcloth and put dirt on their heads. It seems the revival which had preceded had brought great conviction to some. One thing apparently was the foreigners they were allowing to live among them. There had been trouble with marriage of Jews and foreigners earlier, upon the return of Ezra, (Ezra, chapters 9, 10). Likely some more of this had occurred. The service turned into a confession of sins, as the men stood and confessed their sins and those of their fathers in which they had continued.
These were coupled with reading of the law. For the first quarter of the day they listened to the reading of the law, then for the second they confessed and worshipped. On the platform erected for the Levite teachers stood eight of them crying out to the Lord loudly in appeal for forgiveness. Eight of the Levites then prayed the prayer which follows in verses 5-38, confessing their sins, reviewing their history and God’s goodness to Israel.
Eight of the Levite teachers led the assembled confessors in a lengthy prayer. They began with laudation of God, calling on the people to bless Him for ever and ever. He was praised as the only Lord and Creator of the ’leavens, their host, the earth and its occupants, the sea and its creatures, the Giver of all life. Then they turned to the history of Israel, beginning with the call of Abaram from Ur, changing his name to Abraham, and making with him the covenant to give the land of Canaan to him and his descendants after him. This promise He had kept.
Thus they began at the beginning with praise prayer. God was there from the beginning, and it was He who proceeded to establish the nation of Israel in Abraham. Not only did He start them as a separate people, but saved them in Egypt, then delivered them from the bondage into which they fell there. By His signs and wonders He overturned Pharoah’s opposition, destroying him in the Red Sea when he tried to pursue Israel, whom He brought through on dry ground. God appears first in His eternity, then His election of Abraham, then His power to deliver.
His guidance is displayed in the leadership of Israel through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. His authority over them He emphasized by the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. Here He gave them His ordinances, statutes, and precepts, including the sabbath, which set them apart and proved them as to their obedience to His law. His sustenance of His people was demonstrated by the sending of the manna for their food and water from the rock to drink.
The mercy and forgiveness of their God was very demonstrable in His treatment of their rebellion in the wilderness. When they repeatedly rebelled, in building the golden calf and in electing a captain to lead them back to Egypt, Moses would intercede and He would forgive them. They were objects of His grace, compassion, and lovingkindness, and He did not forsake them.
Verse 20 mentions His instruction by His spirit presence among them. This was seen in Moses and in the deeds He performed with and for them. They did not want for anything needful, for even their clothing did not wear out, and they never became footsore. When they neared Canaan the Lord proved Himself a God of verity, for all that He had promised them concerning the land He fulfilled. Sihon and Og across the Jordan fell to them, and they inhabited the land; then the second generation, the children of the wilderness rebels, inherited the land of Canaan as the Lord had promised. Great fortified cities fell to them. They occupied fertile and developed fields, producing vineyards, reservoirs of water already provided. They were blessed with an abundance already prepared for them.
From the time of the conquest throughout the period of the judges the longsuffering of God was His most apparent characteristic with Israel. Over and over they sinned and went into bondage to surrounding nations. Then they called on the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance, and He would comply only to have them revert to their old apostasy. Even after the kingdom was established they continued their shortcomings, and God sent His prophets to preach to them and cal’ them back to His law. But they had turned a deaf ear and a cold shoulder, refusing His remonstrance. Still, in His great compassion the Lord did not make an end of Israel, but preserved a remnant.
From verse 32 on the Levites’ prayer turns to confession and petition. Again the Lord is addressed as their great, mighty, awesome, covenant-keeping, and loving God. They implore Him to look on all their sufferings and trials, on kings, princes, priests, and prophets, and all the fathers, that it not seem to Him insignificant, but sufficient that He might restore to them His great blessing and forgiveness. Yet they acknowledged that the sins of the fathers and themselves were great, that God had not been unfaithful to His promises in bringing this chastisement on them. They had failed to keep their side of the covenant, had disobeyed His commandments and refused His admonitions. When they were in their own kingdom they had enjoyed His abundant blessings and refused to serve Him, for which reason they became slaves of a foreign nation. At that very time they lived as slaves in the land God gave them, its abundance and riches going to the enrichment of their heathen lord. For this they were in "great distress."
Lessons to learn: 1) reading the word of God will convict one concerning his sin and shortcoming; 2) God’s ministers should lead His people in praise and honor of the Lord; 3) Gods dealing with His people is demonstrably good from its beginning to its ending; 4) the best thing for one convicted to do is to confess and seek God’s forgiveness.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Nehemiah 9". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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