Introduction: After the Jews read God’s Word, a Spirit-led revival broke out. Their revival included a prayer of repentance and worship based upon God’s repeated intervention throughout their history. From the Jews’ prayer, God reveals seven of His attributes that you should be thankful for and praise during your times of prayer and worship. These include His: (1) holiness, (2) faithfulness, (3) compassion, (4) guidance, (5) mercy, (6) provision, and (7) deliverance.
First, the Jews began their worship with a corporate prayer of repentance. In their sinful state, the Jews could not approach God. Because God is holy, your worship should also begin by repenting of your sins. Second, the Jews then celebrated that the Creator of the universe had been faithful to keep His promises to the Jews. You should also worship God with gratitude for His faithfulness. Third, the Jews gave thanks that God loved His people enough to respond to their cries for help. You should also worship God with gratitude for His love and compassion. Fourth, the Jews also gave thanks for God’s guidance in the wilderness through both a pillar of light (the Holy Spirit) and His Word. You should also worship God with gratitude for His guidance through His Spirit and His Word. Fifth, the Jews next gave thanks that God had repeatedly forgiven their sins and withheld the judgment that they deserved under the law. You should also worship God with gratitude for His mercy and forgiveness. Sixth, the Jews next gave thanks that God provided everything that they needed to be a great nation. You should also worship God with gratitude for providing for all your needs. Finally, the Jews gave thanks that God had repeatedly delivered them from their self-inflicted cycle of sin, and they prayed for the strength to break that cycle. You should also worship God with gratitude for your deliverance from sin. And you should always turn to God for the strength to obey and break the cycle of sin.
The Jews repent of their sins before their holy God. As part of their spiritual renewal, The Jews worshipped God’s holiness with a contrite and humble heart: “1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. 2 The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the wrongdoings of their fathers. 3 While they stood in their place, they read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. 4 Now on the Levites’ platform stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and they cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God.” (Neh. 9:1-4). Prayer and fasting were important for both Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 8:21; 9:6-15; Neh. 1:4-11; 2:4-5; 5:19; 9:5-37; 13:14, 22, 31). Here, the confession of their sins was part of their worship of God (Neh. 9:3). Repentance was important for two reasons. First, the Jews could not approach God’s holiness in their sinful state. Second, they could only approach God with a contrite and humble heart. To show that their repentance was genuine, they also separated themselves from their pagan influences.
Approach God in prayer and worship with a contrite and humble heart. God wants to exalt you. Yet, like the Jews, you must first approach Him in humility: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). In worship and in prayer, do you approach God in humility?
God’s Word is able to convict sinners. God’s holy Word convicted the people of their sins (Neh. 9:3) “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). Like the Jews, sin has also separated you from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God . . .” (Isaiah 59:2(a)). “[I]t is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”’ (Rom. 3:10-11). “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Thus, if you say that you are going to heaven because you are a good person, the truth is not within you. If you want to worship your holy Creator, first repent of your sins.
Be holy by letting Jesus cleanse your sins. Whenever Ezra read the law, he encouraged people to repent of their sins (Neh. 9:3; Ezra 10:10). Because God is holy, He expects you to be holy before Him as well: “because it is written: ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.”’ (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7). Spiritual renewal also cannot last when you try to conceal your sins: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13). Jesus also began His public ministry with a call to repentance. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17). Jesus came “saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”’ (Mk. 1:15). His disciples also began their ministry with a call to repentance: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 2:38). If you say that you are without sin, the Bible says that the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus promises to forgive your sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). What sins do you need to repent of?
The Jews praise God’s sovereignty and faithfulness as the Creator of the universe. The Jews then celebrated the faithfulness of the Creator of the universe, who is always faithful in keeping His promises to His people: “5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! May Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their lights, the earth and everything that is on it, the seas and everything that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly lights bow down before You. 7 You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give him the land of the Canaanite, of the Hittite and the Amorite, of the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite— to give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise, because You are righteous.” (Neh. 9:5-8). In total, eight Levities stood up to lead the Jews in a prayer of praise and repentance for God’s faithfulness in creating the Jewish nation. In the Bible, the number eight symbolizes new beginnings. They prayed for the Creator of the universe and the Author of the covenant with Abraham to give the Jews a new beginning with Him.
God is sovereign and faithful to keep His promises. God created the universe (Neh. 9:6; Gen. 1:1; Dt. 10:14; Acts 4:24; Col. 1:16). He later selected Abram, despite being an idol worshipper from Ur (Neh. 9:7; Gen. 11:31; 12:1; Josh. 24:2). He then renamed him Abraham (Neh. 9:7; Gen. 17:5). And He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants to give them the Promised Land (Neh. 9:8; Gen. 12:6-7; 13:14-15; 15:18; 17:8; 26:4; 28:13-15; 50:24; Ex. 12:25; 23:20-31; 33:1-3; Dt. 1:19-20). He also promised to destroy “the Amorites, Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites.” (Ex. 23:23). Through Joshua, God later fulfilled these promises: “So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.” (Josh. 21:43). The Levities celebrated that He fulfilled His promise because He is righteous (Neh. 9:8). As God once told Abraham: “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). Do you trust that God is in control and faithful to keep His Word?
Bless God’s Holy name. The Levities blessed God’s holy name: “bless the Lord your God forever and ever! May Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!” (Neh. 9:5). The psalmist also blessed God’s holy name: “And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.” (Ps. 72:19). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.” (Ps. 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” (Ps. 115:1). David also praised God’s holy name: “that Your name may be magnified forever,” (2 Sam. 7:26). Jesus also began the Lord’s prayer by declaring God’s name to be holy (Matt. 6:9) Do your prayers also include blessings and praises for God’s name?
Worship the faithful Creator of the universe who is sovereign over everything. The Jews worshiped the Creator who gave them life (Neh. 9:6). The psalmist also worshiped God as the creator of all life: “May you be blessed of the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 115:15). “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8). “May the LORD bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 134:3). If you have the faith to celebrate that God created everything, you can have the faith to know that there is no problem that is too big in your life for God to deal with.
Worship God with gratitude. The Jews thanked God because they were beneficiaries of God’s covenant with Abraham (Neh. 9:7-8). With faith in Jesus, you can also give thanks that you are an heir to God’s covenant with Abraham: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29). “And you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28). God will keep His covenant promises with you as well: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24). To fully appreciate God’s faithfulness, you need to know God’s Word. Do your prayers and worship include praise for His faithfulness?
The Jews praise God’s love and compassion for His people. The Jews also celebrated that God loved them enough to hear and respond to their cries of oppression in Egypt: “9 You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land; for You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, and You made a name for Yourself as it is this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so they passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground; and You hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into raging waters.” (Neh. 9:9-11). As one commentator notes, once you repent of your sins, you can better appreciate God’s goodness: “A second sure sign of revival (following brokenness of heart) is reflection on the goodness of God. When our pride is cast down, and our hearts humble before God, we can begin to see Him for who He is - and when we see that, we see how good God is.” (David Guzik on Neh. 9).
God is loving and compassionate toward His people. The Jews celebrated that God is loving and compassionate and heard the cries of His people in Egypt (Neh. 9:9). When God selected Moses, He declared: “The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.”’ (Ex. 3:7). God then freed the Jews from Egyptian bondage through “signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land.” (Neh. 9:10; Ex. 3:20; 7:6-11:10; 14:31). After parting the Red Sea to allow the Jews to pass, He then “hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into raging waters.” (Neh. 9:11; Ex. 13:7-15:21).
In your worship, give thanks for God’s compassion. Your worship should also give thanks for God’s compassion: “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6). “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Ps. 86:5). “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ps. 103:8). “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.” (Ps. 116:5). How are you thanking God for His love and compassion?
Because God loves you and hears your cries to Him, respond by helping others. God repeatedly responded to the cries of His people when they were oppressed. In addition to hearing the cries of His people in Egypt (Ex. 3:7), He also repeatedly responded to their cries of oppression in the Promised Land (Jdgs. 2:18). “Many times He would deliver them; they, however, were rebellious in their counsel, and so sank down in their iniquity. Nevertheless He looked upon their distress when He heard their cry; and He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.” (Ps. 106:43-45). This same love caused Jesus to come to Earth and allow Himself to be killed so that underserving sinners might be delivered (Jo. 3:16). Believers are called upon to show His love to others in need. If a believer sees another believer in need and closes his or heart to that person, the Bible asks: “how does the love of God remain in him?” (1 Jo. 3:17; Jam. 2:16; Dt. 15:7). Are you showing your appreciation for God’s love and compassion by helping another person in need?
The Jews praise God’s guidance. Another part of the Jews’ worship celebrated the guidance that God have them in the wilderness, both through His Spirit and His Word: “12 And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, and with a pillar of fire by night to light for them the way in which they were to go. 13 Then You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven; You gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. 14 So You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and gave them commandments, statutes, and law, through Your servant Moses. 15 You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, You brought out water from a rock for them for their thirst, and You told them to enter in order to take possession of the land which You swore to give them.” (Neh. 9:12-15). The pillar of light symbolized the Holy Spirit, and the laws given to Moses included His broader inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
God guided the Jews with His pillar of light. The Jews celebrated that they were never lost in the wilderness: “12 And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, and with a pillar of fire by night to light for them the way in which they were to go.” (Neh. 9:12; Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19; Dt. 1:33). “Then He led them with the cloud by day and all the night with a light of fire.” (Ps. 78:14; 105:39). The cloud and the pillar of light represented the Holy Spirit. When you read God’s Word and pray, the Holy Spirit can speak to you: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:16). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you?
God also guided the Jews with His Word. The Jews also celebrated that God “gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. 14 So You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and gave them commandments, statutes, and law, through Your servant Moses.” (Neh. 9:13-14; Ex. 19:20; 20:1-21). When Moses delivered God’s law, He declared: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”’ (Dt. 4:6). The psalmist declared: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps.19:7). “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130). Solomon also declared: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). Are you reading the Word so that God can instruct and guide you?
Jesus was both the bread and water of life. The Jews celebrated that God provided mana from heaven during their journey (Neh. 9:15; Ex. 16:4, 14-15; Ps. 105:40). He also provided living waters from rocks in the desert (Neh. 9:15; Ex. 17:6; Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). Jesus was the mana from heaven “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”’ (Jo. 6:32-33). He was also the living water that kept the Jews alive in the wilderness (Jo. 7:37-39). When you allow Jesus to guide you, He will also provide all you need to sustain your work for Him.
The Jews praise God’s forgiveness and mercy. The Jews’ worship also gave thanks for God’s forgiveness and mercy: “16 But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. 17 They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy; and You did not abandon them. 18 Even when they made for themselves a calf of cast metal and said, ‘This is your god who brought you up from Egypt,’ and committed great blasphemies, 19 You, in Your great compassion, did not abandon them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.” (Neh. 9:16-19). The Jews venerated their ancestors. But they and their ancestors had both repeatedly sinned.
The Jews confessed their many rebellions against God. The Jews confessed that they “acted arrogantly”, “refused to listen”, and “did not remember” all that God had done for them (Neh. 9:16-17). God frequently lamented to Moses that they were a stiff necked or obstinate people: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”’ (Ex. 32:9). “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” (Ex. 33:3). “The LORD spoke further to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people.”’ (Dt. 9:13). He later deported them because they refused to give up their idolatry: “However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God.” (2 Kgs. 17:14). Stephan later warned the Sanhedrin that their same stubbornness caused them to reject Jesus: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51). When God exposes your sins, do you humbly repent and accept responsibility for your mistakes?
The Jews also praised God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Jews celebrated that God forgave their sins, despite their stiff-necked and rebellious nature: “You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy; and You did not abandon them.” (Neh. 9:17). “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6; 33:19; Nu. 19:18). “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Dt. 4:31).
Give thanks that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on your faithfulness. God could have revoked His blessings upon the Jews for their rebellions. Yet, God remained faithful, even when the Jews rebelled against Him (Neh. 9:18-19). He remained faithful to His promise to never forsake the Jews: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; 4:31; Heb. 13:5). ‘“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”’ (Is. 43:25). You can also give thanks that His faithfulness is not conditioned upon our faithfulness: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that God will not use your sins to revoke His promises to you?
The Jews praise God’s provision. The Jews’ worship also included thanks for God’s provision for all their needs: “20 Instead, You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, You did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. 21 Indeed, for forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not lacking; their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell up. 22 You also gave them kingdoms and peoples, and allotted them to them as a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon and the land of Og the king of Bashan. 23 You made their sons as numerous as the stars of heaven, and You brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 So their sons entered and took possession of the land. And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and You handed them over to them, with their kings and the peoples of the land, to do with them as they desired. 25 They captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing, carved out cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled and put on fat, and lived luxuriously in Your great goodness.” (Neh. 9:20-25). When the Jews followed God’s Word, they received the fulness of His blessings and never lacked what they needed.
God provided for all the Jews’ needs. The Jews celebrated that God “did not withhold Your manna from their mouth,” (Neh. 9:20). He provided both manna and quail after they grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8, 35). He later again provided the “rabble” (half breeds) meat when they grew tired of His manna (Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). God also gave the Jews “water for their thirst” (Neh. 9:20). He made water come out from a rock at Horeb (Ex. 17:6). He also transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). He later caused the waters to gush out of a rock at Meribah (Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). God even miraculously protected their feet from swelling (Neh. 9:21; Dt. 8:4). As a quote from Moses, the Jews celebrated that “for forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not lacking;” (Neh. 9:21). Moses said at the end of their journey: “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”’ (Dt. 2:7). Your worship should also include thanks that God has provided for your needs.
God’s provision also included conquered lands and a large population. To provide for the Jews, God also gave them conquered lands that were not part of the Promised Lands. To east of the Jordan River, these included “land of Sihon the king of Heshbon and the land of Og the king of Bashan.” (Neh. 9:22; Nu. 21:33-35; Dt. 1:4). God also fulfilled His promise to Abraham to make the Jews a large nation: “You made their sons as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Neh. 9:23; Gen. 15:5; 22:17). He further fulfilled His promise to Abraham to give the Jews the Promised Land: “And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, . . .” (Neh. 9:24; Josh. 21:43). “You with Your own hand drove out the nations; . . .” (Ps. 44:2). Your worship should also include gratitude for God’s faithfulness in your life. He can remove any obstacle in your life.
Jesus will also provide for you as well. Jesus cares for you in the wilderness (Hos. 13:5). He is your manna and your food (Jo. 6:35; Matt. 6:31). He is the “rock” who gives you the water of contentment in your wilderness (Jo. 4:14; 6:36; 7:37-38; 1 Cor. 10:3-4). He clothes you (Matt. 6:30). He is also “the rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1; Dt. 32:3-4; Isa. 26:4). Likewise, He is a rock and a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Ps. 18:30; 2 Sam. 22:3, 31). Thus, He tells you not to worry about your provision (Matt. 6:34). If you complain about your provision, you are not trusting Him. Are there areas of worry or doubt in your life? If so, repent of these things. If you are in need, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33).
The Jews praise and petition God for deliverance. The Jews’ worship also included praise for God’s many prior deliverances, and their petition that He would do so again: “26 But they became rebellious and revolted against You, and threw Your Law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who had admonished them in order to bring them back to You, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore You handed them over to their enemies who oppressed them, but when they cried out to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them people who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried out again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, 29 and admonished them in order to turn them back to Your Law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, which, if a person follows them, then he will live by them. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. 30 However, You remained patient with them for many years, and admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, yet they would not listen. Therefore You handed them over to the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God. 32 Now then, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps His covenant and faithfulness, do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, which has happened to us, our kings, our leaders, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and to all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. 33 However, You are righteous in everything that has happened to us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly. 34 For our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Your Law or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them. 35 But they, in their own kingdom, with Your great goodness which You gave them, with the broad and rich land which You placed before them, did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds. 36 Behold, we are slaves today, and as for the land which You gave to our fathers to eat its fruit and its bounty, Behold, we are slaves on it. 37 And its abundant produce is for the kings whom You have set over us because of our sins; they also rule over our bodies and over our cattle as they please, so we are in great distress. 38 Now because of all this we are making an agreement in writing; and on the sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites, and our priests.” (Neh. 9:26-38). The Jews realized that they had repeatedly taken God’s mercy and grace for granted. “This is a third sure sign of revival - recognition of our own sinfulness. When we humbly seek God, and see His goodness, we can't help but next to notice our own sinfulness - the blackness of our sin stands out against the brightness of God’s purity and goodness . . . We sometimes feel as if God has gotten tired of us; that we can’t ask him to forgive us for something He has forgiven us for so many times before. But God never gets tired of us, and never turns away the repentant heart.” (David Guzik on Neh. 9).
God repeatedly delivered the Jews when their cycle of rebellions led to their oppression. The Jews repeatedly rebelled against God and even murdered His prophets (Neh. 9:26). As one example, King Manasseh murdered God’s people (2 Kgs. 21:16). By both Jewish and Christian tradition, he placed Isaiah into an empty log and sawed him into two (Heb. 11:37). When the Jews rebelled, God removed His hand of protection, and the Jews experienced oppression (Neh. 9:26). The Jews celebrated that God still delivered them from their oppressors when they cried to Him in the time of their distress. (Neh. 9:27; Jdgs. 2:16; Acts 13:30). But each time God delivered they Jews, they returned to their sins (Neh. 9:28-30; Jdgs. 2:17-22; Jer. 11:10; 2 Chr. 7:22; 1 Kgs. 14:9; Jer. 9:3; Ro. 1:28). God’s mercy and grace, however, was greater than the Jews’ sins: “Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.” (Neh. 9:31). The Jews confessed that they had responded to God’s underserved mercy and grace by acting “wickedly.” (Neh. 9:33-34).
Praise God for His deliverance from your enemies and from your sins. Like the Jews did in recounting their journey in the wilderness, you are encouraged to recount God’s provision for you and the many times that He has delivered you from your enemies. “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” (Ps. 77:11). You are also encouraged to teach your children and grandchildren what God has done for you: “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” (Ps. 145:4). Have you shared God’s blessings in your life with others? Have you praised Him for the many times that He has delivered you?
Pray for God to deliver you from any sin that continues to hold you in bondage. The Jews concluded with the humility to know that their rebellion remained ongoing. Thus, they petitioned God to deliver them from their sins: “36 Behold, we are slaves today, and as for the land which You gave to our fathers to eat its fruit and its bounty, Behold, we are slaves on it.” (Neh. 9:36). This included both the Persian empire and their own rebellious hearts. Thus, the Jews made a covenant to try to break from their sins (Neh. 9:37-38). But they depended upon God for the strength to break free from their sins. “The fourth sure sign of revival - after brokenness of heart, after reflection on God's goodness, after recognition of our sinfulness, is a renewal of our obedience. We come to a place of decision, so this work of God is not just a wonderful experience, but something that shapes our future.” (David Guzik on Neh. 9). God also wants you to turn to Him when you are caught in bondage to sin. He can free you from any bondage or addiction.