Lord's Day Evening Meditations August 10, 2003

Nehemiah 9: 1-15

A Remarkable Occasion

We have seen how the remnant had been listening to the Word of God, and it was having an effect on them. Firstly, they wanted more. That is the way with the Word; when you start to enter into it, you begin to enjoy it and to want to have more. A second effect was that they were learning the will of God and how far they had departed from it. The third effect was that they wanted to do the Lord's will so that they would be right before Him. So they gathered again on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month. They had not been told to do so - they wanted to do so because they felt the need of occupation with the Lord's things. In this time of grace we do not have specified commands for specific days like they did. But how good it is when we feel the need of having the Word, the need of spiritual food, and the need of being occupied with the Lord's things, so that we willingly meet together for that purpose.

We'll consider the things that characterized their coming together. Firstly, there was fasting. Literally, this is purposely refraining from eating for a certain length of time. Spiritually it speaks of self-denial. "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Matt. 16:24. We put aside our own desires for the Lord's sake. Sackclothes signified deep sorrow or repentance: "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." Joel 1:8. Earth upon them, I believe, would speak of humiliation. This is the opposite of pride which is so often condemned in Scripture. "God resisteth the proud." James 4:6. A brother wrote, "Of all our enemies, pride dies the slowest and the hardest." Self-denial, sorrow at the state of things, and humility, are all very valuable things, which do not, meanwhile, take from us "the joy of the Lord" that we have seen previously. This is verse 1.

In verse 2 there was separation. Earlier, the people "had separated themselves from the filthiness of the heathen of the land." Ezra 6:21. The matter of separation was very important then, and it is now also. Our present society does not consider itself heathen, but it is practicing the same filthiness as the heathen did those many years ago. And it is just as important to separate from that filthiness today as it was then.

Nehemiah's great concern was to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem - to rebuild an effective barrier between the Lord's people and the strangers and the heathen with all their evil practices. The Lord's people today are all those who are truly saved. The unsaved are still under the power of Satan. Is it possible that a child of God and a child of the devil could be identical? We'll look at some New Testament Scriptures that speak on this subject. "And be not conformed to this world, etc." Rom. 12:1 - 2. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." Read 2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1. These Scriptures speak for themselves.

Our brother has reminded us recently of Eph. 5:14 - "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from (among) the dead." It's a wake up call; you don't want to sleep with the dead! 2 Tim. 2:20 - 21 speaks of purging ourselves from vessels to dishonour if we would be vessels unto honour. Heb. 13:13 calls to "go forth unto Him without the camp," and in Rev. 18:4 there is a voice that says, "Come out of her My people." I refer to these Scriptures to show that the subject of separation is a very important one in the New Testament.

The next characteristic was confession: they "confessed their sins." v. 2. We all make mistakes and do things wrong. Pride refuses to confess this, but a proper state of soul will own it all. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. This is God's provision to restore us to the enjoyment of communion with Him again. Along with this went the reading of the book of the law of the Lord, which took up one quarter of the day. v. 3. In those days there would have been very few copies of the book of the law available. Besides that, many people could not read, so they were dependent on the priests and scribes to read to them. We cannot stress too much the importance of getting the Word, both individually and collectively. We can't always be together to have the Word, but we can read on our own, and also not miss the occasions to have it together.

Another occupation during that remarkable day was worship. It is important to see that this was not neglected; God must have His portion also. The Lord Jesus has made it known to us that the Father seeks worshippers, those who will worship Him "in spirit and in truth." "In spirit" is according to His nature, and "in truth" is according to His Word. What joy that gives to His heart, and how we owe it to Him! The Saviour seeks sinners to come to Him to be saved, and He finds some, though it is few compared to the number of the unsaved. Amongst those who are saved the Father seeks worshippers, and He finds some, but again it is few compared to the number of those who are saved. It is the love of His heart that desires this, for He knows that when our hearts are disposed to worship, it is because they are enjoying the portion that He has for us - Himself.

The next characteristic of the meeting that day was prayer, which takes up the remainder of the chapter. Once again, the importance of prayer can not be over-emphasized. Prayer should be as natural to us as breathing, and just as necessary. The Word is, "Praying always." As a matter of interest, and you can follow this up, Ezra 9 is a prayer, Nehemiah 9 is a prayer, and Daniel 9 is a prayer. This prayer, addressed to Jehovah, the God of Israel, firstly recognized Who He was. Though we address God as our Father, He is the same glorious Person. He is the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, and Who preserves all that He has created. Every aspect of the creation, whether large or small, is intricate and perfect. What power! What wisdom! What skill! But this mighty, Creator God is my Father, and I am His beloved child! Yet, in the intimacy of this relationship, we must not forget the grandeur of His Person, and come to Him with all due reverence.

After recognizing God's glory and power in creation, the prayer goes on to relate some of the things that glorious God had done for them. We find election (v. 7) and promise (v. 8) in Abraham, deliverance from the bondage of Egypt (vs. 9 - 11), direction for the people in the wilderness (v. 12), communication to them at Sinai, (vs. 13 - 14), and finally, provision for their every need in the wilderness (v. 15). All that the Lord did for them, He has done of us in a much greater way. Their election was as an earthly people, with a promise of an earthly inheritance. Their bodies were delivered from slavery and were provided with food and water in the wilderness.

Our election was before time began, and is for a heavenly and eternal inheritance. He has delivered us from slavery to the power of darkness and He directs us by His Word on our heavenly road. He speaks to us of the things above to draw us along to heaven; and He has made full provision for the needs of our souls all along the way. We have a totally wonderful God! He was wonderful to His people Israel, and He is wonderful to us now also.

We would naturally expect wonderful results from Israel having been chosen and cared for in this way. How did they respond to so much blessing? The next part of the prayer begins with the word "But." v. 16. After all that God had done for them "They dealt proudly and refused to obey," and the prayer goes on to recount their disobedience, its consequences, and the mercy of God in spite of all. We have the same wonderful God Who has blessed us above anything that He ever did for Israel. How are we responding to all the blessings He has given, is giving, and will yet give us? S.L.