I have been slowly reading through the Old Testament. Very slowly. Today I was reading in Nehemiah and came to a passage subtitled “National Confession of Sin” (Nehemiah 9)
My first thought was, “What a concept!”
After Jerusalem’s walls had been rebuilt and the exiles returned to the city, they held a festival. It says that it was a celebration like none they’d ever seen in their lifetime. There was tremendous joy!
And in their joy, they assembled to recognize where they’d come from and to repent from the ways of their ancestors.
I read the passage and found myself feeling more and more broken. The nation of Israel turned its back on God any chance they got.
“They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders…Even after they had cast an image of a calf… and said ‘This is your God who brought you out of Egypt’….You did not abandon them because of your great compassion… You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years and they lacked nothing….” (vs 17-21)
I can’t help but picture America in place of Israel. A nation blessed by God. A nation that is disobedient and rebellious.
“So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers who rescued them from the power of their enemies. But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in Your sight….You were patient with them for many years, and Your Spirit warned them through Your prophets, but they would not listen…” (vs 26-30)
Probably the most impactful thing I read was near the end of the chapter:
” You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commands and warnings You gave them. When they were in Your kingdom, with Your abundant goodness that You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land you set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways.
Here we are today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are — slaves in it! Its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.” (vs 33-37)
We are in great distress.