Scripture Passage: Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39
I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:
- The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon. Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
- Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.
Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals. They were a newer generation, born in captivity. They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple. And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law. They were determined to get back to God’s ways.
Chapter 9 continues on this theme.
Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.
This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible.
It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him. This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.
How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.
There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin.
This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.
This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!
TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –
This can only begin to happen when three things happen.
We need the 3 A’s to take place:
- Admit our wrongs,
- Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
- Act on it!
THE FIRST STEP…
CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!
James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”
It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.
In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.
In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer. If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.
This realization leads to REPENTANCE.
And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.
We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.
We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.
This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).
QUESTION: Why does God want us to confess? Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.
First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE.
Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.
Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.
REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.
It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!
This is the way to happiness. We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME. We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.
REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.
WHAT IS SIN?
I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is. And my response is always redirected to, “What do you think “SIN” is?
In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”
The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.
It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way! This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.
GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!
The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance. It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration. It was God’s Word!
The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.
So what are we looking at in all of this?
If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:
- What do we really want to change into?
- What kind of a change are we looking at?
It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way. It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at. It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on. That’s the standard. God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.
In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.
NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.
Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.
“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.
THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…
In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES. This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin. We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God. This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return. Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).
Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace.
We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –
[17-b] But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).
The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!
When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.
NEHEMIAH 9:38 –
The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying,
THE COMMITMENT –
The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:
Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”
10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].
10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”
10:39-c “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”
The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.
OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!
EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.
David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way. Be honest with yourself.
- Tell Him what you did wrong.
- Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
- Is God’s Word a concern to you? Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
- Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…
Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.
- If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.
Photos & Images: Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.
Bible Translations: Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.