The People of Israel Confess Their Sin
9 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
“And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
“And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.
“Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.
“Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.
Nehemiah 9 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them.” -Nehemiah 9:17
Based on what Ezra read from the Law, the people had re-instituted the 7 Day Feast of Tabernacles. It’s stated the Israelites hadn’t done this since the days of Joshua! It was an incredibly joyful time for the people as they made booths, much like their ancestors had, and lived in them those days. During that time they gathered daily to hear the Word of God, reflect upon that and even consider the actions of their ancestors and God’s faithfulness to them. As we know, and they were reminded, those Israelite’s were terribly rebellious against their God over and over again, yet He was steadfast. The end of chapter 8 speaks of how their celebration was tremendous and joy was very great.
But through this time, these 7 days of celebration and listening to God’s Word and history of their people, the Holy Spirit was deeply at work.
On the 8th day, they gathered in a solemn assembly and what took place was the climax to what the Spirit had been doing within their hearts. Wearing sackcloth and ashes with dust on their heads (which in ancient times was a public sign of sorrow and repentance) they separated themselves physically from the foreigners who stood among them to hear the Word. The Spirit of God had been so at work in their hearts, they stood and confessed their sins; confessed the sins of their fathers that had led them to the places they’d been. The Law was read for ¼ of the day which resulted in an additional ¼ in confessing their sins and yet another ¼ worshiping.
This is one spectacular worship service.
What is so incredibly beautiful here is throughout the entire period of 7 days, from the listening to the Word to the parties at night, the Spirit of God was working individually upon the people. He was tapping into each one through these things preparing them, readying them for this event.
He does the same today. I really believe that. For many, ourselves included, the slow work of God in our lives penetrates our activities and hearts until the time is ripe and we’re ready to follow through with what He’s driving us toward. He is forgiving, gracious and compassionate. He does not forsake us.
Nehemiah 9 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Nehemiah 9 describes a scene of revival. God was working collectively and personally to bring about reflection, ownership, repentance, and obedience.
There is something to be said about reflecting on our history with God. As we think back, we undoubtedly will find that although we have not been faithful to God, He has been faithful to us. Nehemiah 9 is a beautiful recap of Israel’s relationship with God. It was necessary to trudge back through this history in order to bring about ownership of their sin. They didn’t gloss over it or minimize it. They fully embraced it and verbalized it to both God and their community.
All this led to what God desires most from us. Humility and repentance. Although the people reflected and repented of their past, this was not a case of confessing “generational sin.”
“This does not mean there was some type of “generational curse” that had to be broken. God does not punish the children for their father’s sin, and it is evil to say He does (Ezekiel 18). We do recognize that those raised in an environment of sin may very well repeat those same sins, but not because they must – but because their environment made it an easy choice to make.” David Guzik
The people repented of their glorification of their forefathers. Sometimes we tend to justify our own behavior by comparing ourselves to others or by keeping traditions and rituals. The people were sick and tired of repeating the same sins over and over so they decided to do something about it.
Our commitment to obedience is important. It’s not something that just happens to us as we sit around and wait and it’s also not something we can entirely control in our own strength. But when the Holy Spirit convicts, we must follow through on our end just as the Israelites did. They were not just content to feel bad and confess. They desired to follow and obey!