Tuesday after the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Nehemiah 9:1-21 (NKJV)
1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. 2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. 4 Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the LORD their God.
5 And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said: “Stand up and bless the LORD your God forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You. 7 You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites—to give it to his descendants. You have performed Your words, for You are righteous.
9 “You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 You showed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants, and against all the people of his land. For You knew that they acted proudly against them. So You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day. 11 And You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; And their persecutors You threw into the deep, as a stone into the mighty waters. 12 Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the road which they should travel. 13 You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. 14 You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, and brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, and told them to go in to possess the land which You had sworn to give them.
16 “But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments. 17 They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they made a molded calf for themselves, and said, ‘This is your god that brought you up out of Egypt,’ and worked great provocations, 19 yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, to lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way they should go. 20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, they lacked nothing; Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
We are not included in the sins confessed by the Jews upon return from the exile. Verse 2 reminds us that this confession is for people descended from Abraham. However, this confession of their sin is a model for us Christians to show us how we are to confess. The Lord’s mercy is ever before the penitent. God had graciously created them and chose them in Abraham to be God’s people. The Lord brought them out of the land of Egypt into a land ready to be inhabited. Yet in spite of all of these gracious gifts, their fathers acted proudly and refused to obey the Lord, preferring the bondage of sin to the worship of the Lord Who had been so gracious to them. When one considers their sin in proportion to the gracious gifts and salvation of God, the lawlessness and shame of sin becomes all the greater. Their confession is an example for us. The Lord bestows so many great gifts on us in Christ Jesus, as well as the gifts of “clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods.” Yet we daily sin and turn to the desires of our hearts.
“But you are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.” The Lord never forsook His people but was always ready to forgive their sins when they penitently confessed them. So it is with us today. The mercy of the Lord is far greater than the depths of our sin and His gracious salvation is stronger than the defilement of our transgressions.