Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Week's Project Ezra Reading: Nehemiah 9

Greetings Project Ezra brothers and sisters. This week’s reading is Nehemiah chapter 9. This chapter, which follows the story of Ezra reading the word to the people, from which the name of our group comes, is a great example of God’s grace and long suffering, and tells us something profound about the nature of man and the nature of God.

In this passage the author recounts how the Jews, God’s chosen people, violated His law and turned their backs on Him repeatedly, receiving the punishment due them because of their actions. God lavished His love on His children, providing for them in ways that He had never provided for any other people. He brought them out of slavery, sustained them during 40 years in the desert, and then drove the resident’s out of the Promised Land, providing the Israelites not only with land itself, but with the goods and cities that had belonged to their enemies.

But the Israelites, time and time again, turned their back on God. Even though they could see His goodness, His provision, and the evidence of His power, they chose to turn from Him to follow their own selfish desires. Have you ever heard someone say they would believe in Jesus if he would just appear to them? The history of the Israelites says differently. Moses disappeared for a few weeks while receiving God’s law, and the Israelites, who had seen the Red Sea parted, had seen the plagues in Egypt, and had been lead by God’s pillars of fire and smoke, chose to create a god with their hands rather than trust in the true and living God. God has given us more than ample evidence for his existence and his goodness. Jesus said in Luke 16:31 that “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” We don’t need more proof, we need humility.

Following the Israelite’s rebellion God was righteously angry and showed his justice by sending punishment on them for their rebellion. While they were under God’s wrath, they had two options, just as men do now. They could repent, as they did at the beginning of the chapter, with fasting, sack cloth and earth on their heads, or they could continue in their foolish and arrogant rebellion, preferring to cling to pretended autonomy than submit to the one true God. The description of the fourth and firth bowls of God’s wrath in Revelation 16 paint a frightening picture of the consequences of that choice, and of that truth. Rebellion against God is a matter of pride.

I think the contrast between the message of Nehemiah 9 and Revelation 16 is the key message. We have all rebelled against God, despite the blessings and provision he has given us. We are all worthy of just punishment, and we all have a choice. We can either cling to our pride and remain under God’s just wrath, or we can repent in sack cloth and ashes and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, trusting in his graciousness and longsuffering, and receive His salvation.

So tell people the story of Israel this week, and plead with them to hear the example of humble repentance and to follow it through trust in Jesus Christ, rather then remaining in their pride and rebellion.

For the praise of His glory,


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