Read Nehemiah 9:1-3. Why were the people separating themselves from all foreigners?
Although Nehemiah was eager to make sure that the people associated this time with joy, he now led the assembly to fasting. They humbled themselves before God and threw dust on their heads, while wearing sackcloth.
Because the foreigners didn’t have a share in the corporate sin of the people of Israel, the Israelites separated themselves from them, as the Hebrews knew that it was their sins that needed to be forgiven. They acknowledged the sins of their nation, which had led them into exile.
Their corporate prayers and confession demonstrated a deep understanding of the nature of sin. The Israelites could have been angry that their predecessors messed up and led their whole nation into exile. Or they could have spent time complaining about the choices of their leaders and the lack of godliness displayed by the previous generations, which had led them to where they were right now — just a small group of returnees. However, instead of harboring hatred and grievances, they turned to God in humility and confession.
Nehemiah 9:3 reports that the people read from the Book of the Law for a fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed sin and worshiped God. This is the third reading of the Torah. Reading the Torah is central to confession, which must be based on the truth, which comes from God. Through our reading of the Bible, God draws near to us, and the Holy Spirit can speak to us and teach us. The truth of His Word molds our thinking and understanding, encourages and lifts us up. The Israelites also sorrowed and wept, because spending time in God’s holy presence makes us aware of His beauty and goodness while impressing upon us how amazing it is that the Creator of the universe chooses to be with us, even despite our unworthiness. Thus, we realize that without God in our lives, we are no different from any of our spiritual ancestors in the faith. Only with God working in us can we be who we should be.
|Read Daniel 9:4-19. In what ways is His prayer applicable to ourselves today? What should the reality of this application say to us individually, and as a church?|