WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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GOD’S COVENANT WITH THE RETURNED EXILES
(GOD is faithful, even when we are not)
Nehemiah chapter 9 details a “revival” which followed the “Festival of Booths” celebrations and observances in chapter 8. This revival took place fifteen days later, and it is marked by six key elements which perhaps any Christian revival, even today, should contain:
· They humbled themselves (v.1)
· They separated themselves from the foreigners who were not a part of theirs and their ancestors sins against GOD (v.2)
· They confessed their sins, and the sins of their ancestors (Vs.2-3)
· The Word of GOD was read to them for three hours (v.3)
· They continued to praise GOD, and acknowledge HIS goodness and HIS grace in prayer (Vs. 4-37)
· They made a solemn promise, in writing, to obey the LORD their GOD (v.38)
“The Word of GOD” has to have a great impact on the lives of a community, if it is to undergo “true change”, or be “revived”. Only the Word of GOD can truly change a person for the better, permanently. The Israelites, in this passage, began their revival with the Word of GOD because the Word is what shows a person his or her sin, and convicts them. We become aware of what is “wrong” only by being shown what is “right” in the eyes of GOD, not, in the eyes of man.
In this passage the Israelites confess a total of 20 “repetitive sins” against GOD, from the time of Abraham to their present day. During this prayer they also acknowledge over 70 facts about GOD and HIS faithfulness. In it they review the history of Israel, and it reveals, both, the majesty and splendor of GOD, and, the depravity of man, at one and the same time.
We see in this chapter how “feasting” evolved into “fasting”, fasting into “confession”, confession into “prayer”, and prayer into, “a promise of obedience”. However, it was the Word of GOD that “convicted” the people, and got the ball rolling toward forgiveness.
“True worship” involves hearing the Word of GOD, praising GOD, praying to GOD, confessing sin to GOD, and then removing ourselves from situations that displease GOD. The better we know GOD, the more we respond to HIM through the “imitation” of HIS ways, those ways that were demonstrated to us by CHRIST JESUS, during HIS mission and time here on earth.
We see over in Nehemiah 10, verses 28-29 that not only did the people who actually ratified the document with their signature agree to solemnly obey the LORD, but also everyone, including all of the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, and Temple servants, who had separated themselves from the pagan people around them, all made a vow to serve only the GOD of Israel. Everyone who had reached an age of accountability, and were old enough to understand, wholeheartedly bound themselves with an oath of obedience to GOD.
They vowed too, to also accept the “curse” of GOD, if they failed to obey HIS Laws as they was issued by HIS servant Moses to their ancestors on Mount Sinai, all those years ago. They solemnly promised to carefully follow and obey all the commands, laws, and regulations of the LORD, GOD of Israel.
However, perhaps it is the cycle of the events that occur in the Book of Judges that are alluded to here in chapter 9, verses 28-31, that probably demonstrate to us most clearly, the Israelites repeated pattern of “sin”, “servitude”, “supplication”, “salvation”, and “silence”. The tragedy that that cycle presents in Israel’s history is that they never relinquished their rebellious ways against GOD, and in fact, with each downswing, GOD would have to increase the severity of their “self-imposed” consequences.
GOD speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures, and we must respond by speaking to HIM, through “prayer” and “praise”. In this “National Prayer” of the Jews, here in Nehemiah 9, they acknowledge their persistent sin, and GOD’s persistent judgment and mercy, and, this prayer also shows us GOD is just in exercising “compassion”.
It is right for GOD to punish, and it is equally correct for HIM to forgive. HE is perfectly free to do what HE pleases, and it pleases HIM to offer man forgiveness of sin through CHRIST JESUS. GOD does not have to change for us, for HE is perfectly righteous in everything that HE has done, and will do. It is us who must change, because it is us who are in error, and, are in need of HIS “daily provisions” (GOD the FATHER), “forgiveness” (CHRIST JESUS), and “help with temptation” (the HOLY SPIRIT), the whole of GOD.
A Sunday school lesson by
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website