In the latter portions of Nehemiah, we get to see the newly restored Israelites studying scripture together. All of a sudden they are smacked with the truth about who God is and who they are. Their response? Mourning. Weeping. Sackcloth and ashes.
Chapter nine contains the longest prayer in the Bible. It is a confession that sums up the biblical narrative to this point. It contrasts God’s faithfulness to Israel’s rebellion. Time and again Israel fails but God shows up in steadfast love and mercy. The Israelites praying here did not cross the Red Sea. They didn’t witness the plagues, the pillars of cloud and fire, or the miracles in the wilderness. They did not lift up the golden calf or kill the prophets. Yet, in verse 33 their prayer changes from “they” to “we.” They say “for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly” (emphasis added).
The restored Israelites are counting themselves equal with their ancestors in failure, humbly taking responsibility for their sin, confessing that God is right and they are wrong. These men and women could have tried to shift the blame. After all, they were in exile, raised in a foreign land around foreign gods, born to people who had disobeyed God. But no, they added themselves to the narrative.
When we truly understand God’s Word, it brings us to our knees in awe and repentance. The Israelites left their time of study convicted to the point of grief, recognizing that there was no good in them. They set aside their pride, took responsibility for their sin, and confessed their failure. This in turn led them to renew their covenant with the Lord who had proved himself faithful time and again. As we read and study God’s very words, the Holy Spirit shines a revealing light on the deepest, darkest corners of our soul, revealing sin we often had no idea was lurking there. Then we get the wonderful opportunity to repent and confess our sin, allowing God to remove it from us and replace it with his unending, amazing grace day by day.
As you read this week, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and penetrate your heart with the truth of who you are in your sinfulness and who God is in his holiness and goodness. Let it sink down deep into your soul. Spend time on your knees in honest confession, taking responsibility for your sin and adding your name to the sorry tale of humanity rebelling against their wonderful Creator. Repent and turn to the arms of the Lord who is steadfast in his love and mercy.
After all, naturally there is no good thing in you. But bless the Lord! Through the cross, you can now walk under daily grace. Wham! Covered by the blood of Jesus. Boom! Forgiven by the Father. Bam! Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Memory Verse: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1-2
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