Nehemiah 9 – Renewed Obedience

Following the recalibration of the people’s priorities to have the Word be central in their lives, today one natural effect of this is on show. The people are again assembled (v.1), but this time in fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. Taking up this position of humility, the people then confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers (v.2). They spend the day in the Word, in confession, and in worship (v.3), and then are led in a pretty epically-long prayer (vv.6-38). Perhaps the longest recorded prayer in the Bible, its early stages show a firm statement of recognition of who God is and how gracious He is, 

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, along with all their multitude of stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You impart life to them all, and the multitudes of heaven worship you…

You have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous…

…you are a God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love…

(vv.6, 8, 17, NET)

Ezra (who tradition says led this prayer), then leads the people through a prayerful recollection of their cyclical history of blessing (vv.20-23), rebellion (v.26), correction (v.27a), deliverance (v.27b), and then repetition (vv.28-30). For a more focused look at this cycle, read the book of Judges!

Bringing the historical into the then-present, Ezra confesses some more (v.33) and indirectly prays for mercy and deliverance from the currently-ruling Persians (vv.36-37). Finally, the people make a firm covenant to renewed obedience (v.38).

If we are really honest with ourselves, this pattern is something we see in our own lives, isn’t it? The blessings poured out upon us by a gracious and loving God, our own personal rebellions that can take so many forms, the loving correction of a loving Father (cf. Amos 4.6-13), and His power working in us for our deliverance, either from or through our self-created problems. 

As the people did here, let us today then make a renewed commitment to obedience: your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6.10).

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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