Back online . . . and hopefully, for awhile at least, back in routine.
I’ve enjoyed the break. Enjoyed spending focused time with the family of God. Enjoyed a quick road trip south to central Oregon to connect with my daughter and husband. But, not gonna lie to ya’, I’ve missed my morning routine. Something about being still and knowing that He is God each morning. Something about opening His word and asking Him to “open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law” (Ps. 119:18). Something about a secret place where God can search me and know me. Something about a secret place where I can again hear His still small voice through His living and active Word. Something about then taking a few minutes, noodling on His revelation and chewing on His word, and then putting a few thoughts into the computer. Ah, blessed routine!
And this morning it is a phrase in a verse in Nehemiah that I think God has highlighted for me to savor.
“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey Your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
(Nehemiah 9:16-17 ESV)
Nehemiah 8 and 9 have got to be some of the most stirring chapters in all of Scripture. After great opposition and many different attempts at derailing the work, Nehemiah and his crew of former exiles have finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. And to celebrate they gather in the security of their rebuilt city to lay again the foundation of God’s word. A platform is built, the people gather, Ezra takes the stage, everyone stands, and the word of God is read . . . and read . . . and read some more. And the people listen, and the Levites explain the meaning of what is read, and hearts are moved, and the things of God are again pursued.
Three weeks later they gather again. For three hours they stand again to hear the Book of the Law read. And then for three hours they confess their sin and worship their God. And in the midst of such confession and worship they recount God’s dealing with them as a nation.
“You are the LORD, You alone,” they acknowledge afresh (9:5). The Maker of heaven and earth, the God who chose Abram, the God who entered into covenant. The God of their deliverance from Egypt, the Provider of bread from heaven, the One who lead them by day and night, by pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, to the land promised them.
But, they confess, “our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.” Though they were set up for success, their faithlessness led to failure. Though God was on their side, they chose instead to give Him their backs. But where man’s sin does abound, the grace of God does more abound.
But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love . . .
Familiar ring to the verse but with a twist. It is the goodness of God proclaimed to Moses as he stood by the LORD on the rock. The glory of God revealed to Moses as he was sheltered in the cleft of the rock (Ex. 33:17-34:8). And while the glory revealed to Moses is repeated throughout the Old Testament, only here is found the added attribute, “ready to forgive.”
Not only able to forgive, having become, through the finished work of the cross, the “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:23-26). Not just willing to forgive, extending patience and longsuffering toward all, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pet. 3:9). But ready to forgive. Allowing circumstance here on earth that directs eyes toward heaven. Calling the sinner to Himself. Waiting for faith to ascend that He might forgive.
True for the sinner, true for the saint.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1John 1:8-9 ESV)
Ready to forgive. The sacrifice of Christ sufficient to pay the price for all our sin–past, present, and future. The blood of Christ able to cleanse away the stain of all our transgressions–not only the stain of the distant past, but also the stain of the not so distant past.
You are the LORD, God alone. And You are ready to forgive. Thank you, Father.
For Your grace . . . for Your glory.