Hovering over Nehemiah 9 this morning.
For over three weeks the people who built the wall have been listening to the Word. What began on the first day of the seventh month with standing before Ezra as he read from the Book of the Law (8:1-3), on the twenty-fourth day manifested itself in standing before God and confessing their sins (9:1-2). Beholding oneself in the word of God has a way of doing that to a person.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)
And give an account they did.
As they confess their sin and worship their God they tell themselves again the old, old story. The story of a God who created heaven and earth. The story of the God who chose Abraham and made him, and those who would come from him, children of promise. A national biography of deliverance from Egypt, of dividing a great sea, and of dependence on extra-terrestrial provision while working their way through the wilderness.
A tale of being gifted a land of promise. Of taking possession of “houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance” (9:25). Of being blessed beyond what they could have imagined. Blessed in their calling. Blessed in their deliverance. Blessed in their wanderings. Blessed in their land of promise.
And yet, they confess with fasting and in sackcloth (9:1-2), “our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey Your commandments” (9:16). Though they had freely received, they rebelled. Despite being given the tablets, they cast the Law behind their backs. Though God’s face had shone on them, they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck. They received the gifts but they spurned the Giver. And eventually, it cost them the land.
Though the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, though there was cause for great rejoicing, the very labor itself was a reminder that they had been in exile and that Jerusalem had been razed. That the glory had departed. That for all that they had accomplished in their return, it was but a shadow of what once was when they had received it.
And here, for me, is the summation of the matter:
“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, . . . You have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for You have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.”
(Nehemiah 9:32-33 ESV)
Despite all the hardship, despite the sweat and toil, when all was said and done . . . done and said . . . God had been righteous, He had dealt with them faithfully.
It’s not You, they would acknowledge, it’s us.
No blame to be deflected to the Almighty. Because He is righteous. No second guessing the why of what has happened. For He is faithful.
God’s righteous character the grid through which we view our story. God’s faithful promise the anchor for our tale.
They had messed up . . . repeatedly! And He had shown mercy . . . . abundantly!
They had gone astray, again and again. He had been gracious, again and again and again . . . and yet again!
Reminded this morning that our God is a righteous God. That our God is a faithful God.
“Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”
(Nehemiah 9:5b ESV)
Because of His amazing grace. For His eternal glory.