By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Nehemiah 5-9
Key Scripture Verses: Nehemiah 9:33, 36-37 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“‘In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.’”
“‘But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.’”
The book of Nehemiah addresses the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem. At this point, the people have rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem under the direction of Nehemiah, but building the wall was not enough, because the people needed spiritual revival. Nehemiah provided leadership and Ezra, their priest and scribe, provided spiritual guidance and education in the law. Ezra reviewed the law with them and reminded them of the laws of Moses and this began their revival. Chapter 9 is a prayer of confession.
Here we see the people praying with the Levites, crying out with repentance, admitting that they have lived in the land that God has given them without remembering him.
We see that God was faithful in fulfilling his promises to the Israelites, giving them the land of Canaan, the “land of milk and honey,” and providing everything they needed to prosper and enjoy the fruits of his love. Before they entered The Promised Land they were prepared by Moses and the laws were reviewed, they were advised how to treat each other, they were advised in all of the ways of proper conduct that God required—all so that they would live lives of abundance, enjoy a loving relationship with him, and enjoy his provision.
But, once the people took the land of Canaan and started to enjoy wealth and prosperity, they started to sin against God. They were scattered and exiled to Babylon and then when they were able to return to their home again, ironically, they found themselves enslaved in their own land: “’Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us.’”
The people had accepted God’s love and provision, took what was provided, and spiritually abandoned their worship and praise of the one who gave it to them. They had become complacent in their abundance and, as a result of their sin, they lost control over it and lived outside of God’s will.
How often do we do the same thing? When God answers our prayers and we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labors and life is good with God, we start to get complacent and we start to believe that we have earned our wealth on our own, that we have been more clever than others around us, and we start to believe that we have created our abundance. We forget that God gives us the tools and resources, that God gives us the ability to use those resources, that he provides for us when we cannot provide for ourselves. How easily we forget.
Luckily for the Israelites, and luckily for us, because of God’s grace and his love for us, he accepts our prayers of confession. He accepts our repentance and embraces us yet again into his loving arms.
May we remember God in the good times without becoming complacent. May we praise him and worship him at all times. Let’s remember God in all that we do.