Scriptures

Nehemiah 9

Introduction

‘On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the LORD their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.’ Nehemiah 9:1-5

The Israelites Confess Their Sins

In this previous chapter, we read that the people wanted to weep and mourn because they had been living in sin, but the feast wasn’t the time to do this, Nehemiah 8:13-18. This chapter records the events which happened two days later and it tells us they can weep and mourn.

They’re now ready to demonstrate their sorrow for how they had neglected the Word of God and so, they dress in sackcloth and put dust on their heads. They also confessed their sins to God and separated themselves from all foreigners.

They spent three hours listening to the Word being read out and another three hours confessing their sins and they worshipped God. In order to help them not do what their fathers did, they’re now committed to be directed by the word of God.

From the time of the revival of Ezra and Nehemiah forward, the people committed themselves to never again be involved in the practice of idolatry. This is the reason why they put away their foreign wives, Ezra 10:1-17.

The Levites cry out to God and instructed the people to stand up and bless God and His glorious name.

‘You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.’ Nehemiah 9:6-8

The Levites now begin to remind the people of what God has done as they continued to cry out to God. They teach that God is the Creator of all things and they begin with Abram, that is, Abraham and the Land Promise which has been fulfilled, Joshua 23:14.

God had promised that from Abraham a great nation would come, and they would receive the land as an inheritance, Genesis 12:1-3.

‘You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take. “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.’ Nehemiah 9:9-15

The Levites continue to remind the people of how God made it possible for them to escape their Egyptian bondage and how He provided them the Law and food. It’s here that we learn that God’s faithfulness isn’t just found in His words but also in His actions.

God protected them from the army of the Egyptians, He provided manna, Exodus 16:1-36 / Numbers 11:1-9, and water, Exodus 15:25, for them in the wilderness and He guided them through the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, Exodus 19-24.

God delivered His Law through His servant Moses, but the Law originated with God. The ten commandments, as well as all the Old Testament Law, came through Moses, Mark 7:10 / Exodus 20:12.

The Old Testament Law was spoken through angels, Hebrews 2:2, but it was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator, that is, Moses, Galatians 3:19 / Acts 7:53.

‘But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.’ Nehemiah 9:16-21

Despite their ancestors sinning on several occasions, God, out of love and mercy stilled helped them and guided them. However, even though God cared for them, they hardened their hearts by refusing to submit in response to His care, Exodus 32:1-10 / Numbers 14:11-24.

It was at Mount Sinai when they rebelled and wanted to return to Egypt. It was during this time that God wanted to destroy Israel as a nation and start a new nation through the lineage of Moses, but because Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf, God showed them mercy Exodus 32:10-14.

Although they deserved to be destroyed, God gave them manna and water so that they could be preserved from the harshness of the wilderness to which they were condemned for forty years of wandering.

Notice the continuous miracle mentioned here, their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet didn’t swell for the whole forty years they were in the wilderness. We must note that their sandals didn’t wear out either during this whole time, Deuteronomy 29:5.

‘You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their parents to enter and possess. Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they revelled in your great goodness.’ Nehemiah 9:22-25

Here we read of God’s faithfulness in giving Israel the Promised Land and so, fulfilling the promise He made to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3 / Joshua 23:14.

It was God who gave them the strength to drive out the Canaanites from the land. Because God strengthened them, Israel subdued and possessed the land, and were well blessed with an abundance of food.

‘But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time. “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighbouring peoples. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.’ Nehemiah 9:26-31

It was during the time of the Judges when the Jews constantly fell away from God and His ways. As a result of their falling away, their enemies would oppress them and then, in desperation, they would call out to God.

God, who was patient with them and in His mercy would hear their cries and have mercy on them. Even though Israel didn’t deserve it, God continued to send delivers to save them from their oppressors, Judges 2:16 / Judges 3:7-11 / Judges 3:15 / Judges 3:31 / Judges 4:4 / Judges 6:11-13 / Judges 10:11-12 / Judges 10:3-5 / Judges 11:1 / Judges 12:8-10 / Judges 12:11-12 / Judges 12:13-14 / Judges 13:1-25.

This cycle of rebellion, bondage, repentance and deliverance carried on throughout their history until the last deliverance into the bondage of the Babylonians.

However, even when God allowed the Jews to be defeated and taken into captivity for 70 years, He didn’t bring Israel to an end as a nation, because He allowed a remnant to come back rebuild by His providence.

The Agreement Of The People

‘Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways. “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.’ In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.” Nehemiah 9:32-38

In these final verses, we find the Levites telling God they have learned their lesson. They now come to understand that everything, especially all the bad things which happened to them was because of their sinfulness.

They now know if they hadn’t moved away from God, He wouldn’t have moved away from them. They now know that their downfall was all their own doing, they thought their ways were better than God’s ways.

The blessings which were coming from the land that was promised to the Jews weren’t being used for the king because of their rebellion against God’s Word. Instead of being in control of the land, they had become servants of the land for others.

As God had delivered them from those who brought them into bondage in the past, so they were asking for His deliverance from the economic bondage that they were in at the time of this revival.

It’s clear that they were making a huge effort to get back to God’s Law so they could please Him once again, they want to start anew as a nation.

They decided to make a written covenant with God, stating that they were going to uphold the Law of Moses, Jeremiah 32:10. This was written and sealed by the leaders and was a public proclamation and all the people that sealed this document are listed in Nehemiah 10:1-27, which included Nehemiah.

Go To Nehemiah 10

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness."

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