Lord's Day Evening Meditations August
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
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
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