Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Parthenon at night

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Sep 27, Neh 8-10

Today's readings are Neh 8-10. Tomorrow's are Neh 11-13.

It is interesting that the primary reason God makes the city safe and secure is so that the people may begin to worship Him and resume the practice of their faith in the Temple. They start by reading the law (Neh 8) which touches the hearts of the people, who stand the entire time and respond with praise, tears and reverence. The law is read, verse by verse, in order, with the Levites interpreting its "sense" (meaning). This is the template for the proper teaching/preaching of the word.

The feasts are re-instituted, beginning with the feast of booths, a poignant reminder of their recent exile and the fact that their fathers had no permanent homes until the Lord gave them the Promised Land. It can also be seen as a reminder that our homes on earth are temporary as we wait for eternal homes in heaven although the Jews most likely did not have that perspective. For them, the feast of booths was a look back on God's grace and mercy in bringing them through the wilderness.

There is great confession by the Hebrew people in Neh 9. They are still under Persian rule. Taxes are still very high. Their economy is struggling to recover. Yet, they are pious enough to confess that their sin has brought much of this on themselves. They praise God as gracious and merciful in His protection and provision for Israel even though they have been stubborn and fickle throughout their history. They ask for God to deliver them from Gentile oppression.

Collectively, starting with the leaders, spiritual and governmental, they sign an oath. They commit to four over-arching tenants; (1) obedience to the law (2) no inter-marriage with foreigners (3) observance of the Sabbath (4) observance of the tithe and offerings.

Notice that they are not forming a new covenant with God but are rededicating themselves to the original covenant. This is, apparently, a turning point for Israel. They are open and contrite about their sin, making a commitment to return to obedience.

From this, we should learn that the things God does and the people He sends who reveal our sins are a gift of grace. We just witnessed grace in the journey of the Jews. God sent His people into exile, then brought them back. Then He sent prophets to convict them of their sin. The people responded appropriately to God’s chastisement and warning and were restored in their relationship with Him.

While it seems far easier to hide our sin and resist confession, when we strive to confess with a contrite heart, God blesses and draws us nearer.

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