Read His Words Before Ours!
Sin is something we usually want to hide. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to hide their knowledge of their nakedness. (Genesis 3:7) In the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas called Jesus friend as he betrayed Him to the religious leaders with a kiss. (Matthew 26:47-49)
For hundreds of years, the Israelites were stuck in a cycle of sin, crying out, repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and then sin again. They knew their history, but here, under the leadership of Nehemiah, was a fresh chance to get it right.
Envision this scene.
Your church is assembled in a public space with heads full of dust, wearing sackcloth, with stomachs rumbling from fasting for days. And then, out loud, everyone confesses their sins and the sins of their ancestors. You read through the Bible, spend time worshiping the Lord, crying out to Him and confessing some more.
Now envision yourself, burdened for your community. You start your day connecting to the Lord “by prayer and petitions, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3-10)
We should be excited about this model of personal (Daniel 9:3-10) and corporate repentance (Nehemiah 9:1-4). Personally, I was ready to run at “heads full of dust”! This isn’t about pride or appearance. It’s about seeking spiritual renewal from God.
Throughout the Bible, we see renewal stemming from repentance.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Acts 3:19-20 tells us, “ Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord[.]”
Personal repentance brings renewal by giving us
the right perspective on sin (Psalm 51:3-5),
restored relationship with God through His forgiveness (Psalm 51:2, 7-9),
and willing hearts to stay turned from our sin and toward God. (Psalm 51:12-13)
We also see corporate repentance throughout the Bible.
In 2 Kings 23:1-3, King Josiah read the Word before the people. They made a covenant “to follow the Lord and to keep His commands, His decrees, and His statutes[.]” (2 Kings 23:3)
In Ezra 10:1-4, the prophet Ezra “[…]prayed and confessed, weeping and falling facedown” while the people also wept, confessed their unfaithfulness to God, and made a covenant with God to “send away all the foreign wives and their children[.]”
Corporate repentance draws us closer to God individually and as a community because we lament our ancestors’ sins along with our own and collectively vow to turn back to God. It also brings us in line with our duties from 1 Peter 2:9 as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
From Nehemiah 9:5 to 37, Nehemiah proclaimed God’s praise, and gave an account of how God provided for and protected Israel. As he recounted each event, Nehemiah pointed to the people’s sins and unfaithfulness contrasted against God’s steadfast faithfulness. It was a stunning reminder that “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
It’s also a reminder of God’s character and power. When we feel weak, we can draw strength from the Creator of the world. When we are being persecuted, we can know God is able to handle our enemies as He did Pharoah. When we are in need, we’re reminded that if God could provide manna and quail from heaven, He can surely help us. And we are refreshed by knowing, even when we sin, and we will, God is a “forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love[.]” (Nehemiah 9:17)
How can we practice these things today?
For personal and corporate repentance and renewal, we should come before Him with humility. We do this by verbalizing our wonder at His character and holiness. Then we should move into a time of confessing sin. Personally and corporately, we should be doing this on a regular basis. Just like we are eager to restore a relationship with a loved one by apologizing for an offense and changing our future behavior, we should take this even more seriously with the Lord.
One additional step we can take is modeled in Nehemiah 10:30-39, where they wrote out the changes they promised to make. Similarly, what if we wrote out, following some examples from our text, our commitments to the Lord? Here are a few examples:
“On Sunday, I will not take an extra shift at work. I trust the Lord to provide those extra funds.” (Nehemiah 10:31)
“Our family will agree on an additional gift to give to the church yearly.” (Nehemiah 10:32)
“I will cut unnecessary purchases and give it to my church or a ministry,” or “I will reserve time on my calendar to serve at church or with a ministry each month.” (Nehemiah 10:35-37)
If we record and review our promises, we can trust our faithful God will bless us to do even more! We will be able, because He is able. Imagine the testimony our lives will be to His honor and glory!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!