12 July – Additional Notes

NEHEMIAH 9 – A Covenant of Love

Looking at the length of this chapter, it’s easy for the temptation to skip it to creep over the mind of a busy person. After all, surely this prayer (that’s now over 24 centuries old) has nothing to do with us today. Well, about five hundred years after Nehemiah wrote his story, the people in AD1 came to the conclusion that “…what now has been manifested (by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God), has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.”[a] If so, then…

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

The main thing to keep in mind here is that no “prophecy of Scripture” is an act of private opinion, made by an act of human will, concocted in the human heart. But God’s people, moved by His Holy Spirit, spoke from God.[b] So if a doctor gives a solution on the internet for a global problem – no matter how long ago that solution was first discovered and published – it’s well worth reading about it. And it was only in reading the script that I noticed HIStory is repeating itself in my personal life-story!

But here’s some background bits that set the scene in today’s chapter:

Twenty-four isn’t just useless information to waste your time. [v1] The Creator God doesn’t do random. HIStory is a highly complex tapestry, and every detail means something significant. The most obvious 24 is 24 hours in a day – a full circle coming back to where they started from. This is “a new day” in the history of the nation, and God’s loving-kindness and compassions are new every morning.[c] This was something that the prophet Jeremiah wrote in his Book of Lamentations at the worst possible moment in HIStory.

It was also the seventh month when the prophet Ezra began to read.[d] And 24/7 is a total “watch” – overseeing the completion of His own Word.[e] Now, on the 24th day – the dawn of this new day in their story – they were putting that truth to the test. 24 is two times the twelve tribes of Israel – one set that failed and one set now starting over again. Standing in sackcloth (for remorse) and ashes/dirt on their heads (for disgrace), they read from their Maker’s Handbook from 6am to 9am and from 9am to mid-day they stood admitting to the things they’d done wrong. [v1-3]

There are Believers out there today who will set aside a Day of Prayer. But it’s virtually unheard of (except in a time of Religious Revival) that the general population – both young and old – will gather in the open air for such a public display of remorse. What’s even more interesting, is that Nehemiah’s story came at the time when the prophet Zechariah had his vision of Joshua the High Priest. [v4-5] If it’s the same Joshua (Jeshua) then Zechariah’s the vision show Joshua dressed in filthy rags before the Lord.[f]

In other words, there’s little hope for these lot when even their best priest is seen as someone who is far from squeaky clean and able to perform what’s needed for getting the people’s mistakes wiped clean. The prophet Isaiah a couple of centuries earlier had already concluded:

“…all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away…” [Isaiah 64:6]

It’s in this state that the priests begin to pray. Beginning first with “exaltation”, they praise the Creator God for who He is. [v5-6] Then they thanked Him for what He’s done throughout their history. [v7-15] It’s only as they see their Father God for who He really is and what He’s done, that their behaviour becomes clear. [v16-17a] And yet, through it all, their Maker shows grace-upon-grace at every wrong turn they make. [v17b-25] Turning again to confession [v26], they finish with admitting that their mess was their fault – even a consequence at the hand of their Maker. [v27-30]

Through it all, these people (who now have a long history with the Creator God), can only describe Him in a hugely positive light. [v31-35] Even after the horrific destruction of their nation, and 70 harrowing years scattered abroad among people who were happy to annihilate them, given half a chance[g], they don’t blame Him for their current situation i.e. “If He was such a loving God, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.” [v36-37] On the contrary, they believed that the Creator’s ways and His rules are just, right and good [v13] and, therefore, want to write up another contract with Him. They want His “Covenant of Love” reinstated – sealing it as a legal agreement. [v38]

At first glance, you may have looked at today’s chapter as useless information about a pre-historic civilization. By the end, however, I hope that you’ve seen what I’ve seen: that this God is the same yesterday, today, and forever[h], and that HIStory is continually being written in us. I may not have been rescued from slavery in Egypt [v9-11], but through my Maker’s “Covenant of Love” – His written word – I’m guided day and night in all my wandering years. [v12] I can’t escape my Father’s love. He seeks me out…

CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”

[a] Romans 16:26

[b] 2 Peter 1:20-21

[c] Lamentations 3:20

[d] Nehemiah 8:1

[e] Jeremiah 1:12

[f] Zechariah 3:1-7

[g] See the Book of Esther

[h] Hebrews 13:8

 

 

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