Lord's Day Evening Meditations August
Nehemiah 9: 16-38
The Story of Israel
In this prayer of the remnant we have seen them
recount all that the Lord had done for them in verses 7 - 15.
The story of the response of the people to the Lord's goodness
begins in verse 16. "They and our fathers dealt proudly
… and refused to obey." That is the story of Israel;
it is the same story all through the Old Testament; it is the
story of man and the revelation of the human heart. Pride and
disobedience go together. Obedience requires submission to a superior
authority. Pride refuses to acknowledge a superior authority;
man does not like to submit because he wants to run his own life
and do things his way. Can we not see ourselves in this? Pride
and disobedience are the two basic principles of man's rebellion
and the source of all the trouble, sorrow, and suffering in the
Verse 17 tells how when Israel, in the wilderness,
came to the borders of the promised land, they "appointed
a captain to return to their bondage." The spies brought
back an evil report of the land so that the people refused to
enter, and so the Lord turned them back to wander another 38 years
in the wilderness. But the wonderful thing is that He didn't forsake
them; He turned back with them and went with them all the time
and all the way. How the story of Israel shows the utter foolishness
of our hearts and the goodness of the heart of God!
Verse 18 recounts the making of the golden calf.
At Sinai the people had said, "All that the Lord hath
spoken we will do." But even before Moses had brought
the law down from the mountain they had broken the first commandment
"and had wrought great provocations." What
an insult that calf was to God! Well might He be angry with those
people that He loved so well. We think so lightly of disobedience!
Have we ever stopped to think of what disobedience does to the
Lord? There is no heart so full of love as that of the Lord Jesus.
This morning we sang, "Himself He could not save; love's
stream too deeply flowed." A heart that is full of love
is a tender heart, and a tender heart is a heart that is very
easily hurt. Have we thought what our stubbornness and willfulness
does to our Lord? He's not a stone; He's not a piece of steel!
And yet we act towards Him as though He had no feelings at all!
Many times Israel "wrought great provocations."
May we take it to heart.
Yet, in spite of it all, during those forty years,
God tenderly and faithfully cared for them. The pillar of cloud
and the pillar of fire were always there to show the way; the
manna and the water from the rock never failed. vs. 19 - 21. He
went with them and finally brought them again to Canaan and gave
them their promised inheritance. vs. 24 - 25. "So the
children went in and possessed the land," and what
a wonderful gift it was: "Houses full of all goods, wells
digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance:
so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted
themselves in Thy great goodness." v. 25. Joshua
had said to the people, "Not one thing hath failed of
all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you."
Josh. 23:14. What more could He do for them? Surely they would
be grateful for so many and so wonderful blessings!
"Nevertheless they were disobedient,
and rebelled … and they wrought great provocations."
v. 26. He loaded them with blessings, and this is the return He
got from them! Can you believe it? This is something that has
long troubled me - to see many of the Lord's beloved people today
do the same thing. They receive greater blessings than Israel
ever had, they enjoy those blessings, yet as much as turn their
backs on Him and treat His will as something of no importance.
Gratitude is not simply a matter of saying "Thank you."
True gratitude will express itself in trying to please the One
Who has given so generously. The Lord Jesus said, "If
a man love Me, he will keep My words." John 14:23.
The realization of how much His love has given will stir our hearts
to love Him in return, and love to Him expresses itself in obedience
to His will. It was so with the Lord Himself. "But that
the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave
Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence."
John 14:31. He showed to all how He loved His Father, by doing
what His Father commanded Him - He went to the cross.
Well, Israel took all that the Lord gave them and
turned their backs on Him, even to the point of killing the prophets
who tried to turn them back. Which is more important, the gift
or the Giver? Israel accepted the gift, but refused the One Who
gave. In Isaiah 5 the Lord likens Israel to a vineyard. "What
could have been done more," He said, "to My
vineyard, that I have not done in it?" Is. 5:4. After
all His work and care, all He got from that vineyard was wild
grapes. Keep in mind, though, that while the nation as a whole
was rebellious, there always were a few individuals who were faithful
and obedient. God always preserved Himself a remnant, and He still
does today. May we be exercised as to not grieving the heart of
our loving Lord and Saviour.
Verses 27 and 28 are the story of the Book of Judges:
disobedience, deep trouble, a cry for help, faithful deliverance,
and then repeated disobedience, etc. all over again. The Lord
sent prophets to them, but "they dealt proudly, and hearkened
not." v. 29. Finally, after many years of mercy, they
were given "into the hand of the people of the lands,"
(v. 30), they were given into captivity. "Nevertheless
for Thy great mercies' sake Thou didst not utterly consume them,
nor forsake them; for Thou art a gracious and merciful God."
v. 31. The story of Israel ends with verse 31. In spite of all
that they had done, God had been gracious, He had "not
utterly consumed them," (as we would have done) and
there was still a little remnant that remained. Beginning at verse
32 this little remnant pleads with their God because they "are
in great distress." v. 37.
Faith always justifies God, and it is remarkable
to see this faith in this prayer. "Howbeit Thou art just
in all that is brought upon us; for Thou hast done right, but
we have done wickedly." v. 33. They recognized that
they were at fault and that God was right in all that He had done.
How many times we complain because we don't like things the way
they are, or we don't like something that happens to us. We plan
something and it doesn't work out; our plans get changed, and
we get upset and angry, and complain or blame this or that. If
it happened, it is because God allowed it (no luck for a believer).
We probably brought it on ourselves like Israel did, but if God
allowed it, then it is His will, and "As for God, His
way is perfect." God is always right, and if
there is some conflict between His ways and mine, or between His
will and mine, then He is right and I am wrong. Willfulness fights
this and makes itself (and others) miserable, whereas faith accepts
it and rests in peace, confidence, and quietness.
They had refused to serve the Lord in verses 34
- 35, so they were servants of foreign kings instead, who had
dominion over them and all that they had. The end result was,
"We are in great distress." Their distress,
however, brought them to the right place; it brought them to cry
to the Lord for help, and to confess all their sins and failures.
It was a remarkable work of grace in the hearts of this remnant;
they felt their condition, and they now had a very strong desire
to make things right before the Lord. "And because of
this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites,
and priests seal unto it." v. 38. They made an agreement
to keep all of God's law and be obedient to it in every way. What
they desired to do was right, for it is always right to desire
to do the will of God, but the way they went about it was wrong.
Making promises is claiming to have strength that we don't have.
However, their desire was right, and may this example stir us
up to desire to be obedient to our Lord's will. S.L.