The response of the people to the Bible reading was a long prayer that recounted the goodness of God in contrast to the history of the Israel’s faithlessness. One can observe that the reply is more like a sermon than a prayer, because almost every verse has a parallel somewhere in the Bible.
Read Nehemiah 9:4-8. What are the main topics the prayer focused on in these beginning verses, and why?
In the first part of the prayer, the people bless God, and specifically His name. In the Hebrew culture, a name was not just what people called someone, but it gave a person his/her identity. Thus, the praise of God’s name is significant because it demonstrates to the world that this is a name worthy of praise and honor. This is the name of the Creator of the Universe. The prayer begins with worship to God as the Creator and as the One who “preserves” everything (Neh. 9:6 see also Col. 1:16-17). The word “preserves” comes from a Hebrew verb that means to “keep alive”.
The One who created everything is the One who chose Abraham, a human being, who was not in any way special other than that “his heart” was “faithful”. Abraham may seem to have lacked faith on many occasions, but when asked to give up his son, he didn’t falter (see Genesis 22:1-24). He learned to be faithful — not overnight, but over his long walk with God. In Hebrew thinking, the “heart” refers to the mind. In other words, Abraham developed faithfulness in thought and action and was acknowledged for it by God.
The first few phrases of the prayer focus on God as 1. Creator, 2. Preserver, and 3. Promise Keeper. The people first remind themselves of who God is: He is the faithful One who has created us, preserves us, and always keeps His promises to us. Having that in mind helps us to keep our own lives in perspective and to learn to trust Him even in the most difficult of situations, when it might seem that He is distant from us and unconcerned with our challenges.
|Why is the doctrine of God as our Creator so central to our faith? After all, what other teaching is so important compared to this one, in which we are commanded by God to spend one-seventh of our lives every week in remembering Him as our Creator?|