Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Friday, May 26, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 27, Neh 8-9

Today's readings are Neh 8-9.

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 8:1-8) 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 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.

Hearing the Law causes the people to understand their sin and results in their grieving over their rebellion (Neh 8:9). Nehemiah and Ezra explain that the Law is for their benefit, not their condemnation (Neh 8:10-11). When God’s people are aware of their sin and repent, their relationship is restored, and they can experience His joy and peace. The people get it (Neh 8:12)! Instead of mourning over their sin, they confess and rejoice that God has shown them what is necessary to have a more intimate relationship with Him.
In a day when many believe the Law is outdated and nothing more than legalism, Nehemiah’s message is a revelation. The Law serves to reveal sin. It is a gift, not a burden. When our sin is made apparent, we repent, and our relationship with God is strengthened. This is true for believers and unbelievers. For unbelievers, the Law reveals their need for salvation. For believers, it shows us the need for ongoing sanctification.

There is a great confession by the Hebrew people in Neh 9:1-37. 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.

As we prepare to read chapter ten, watch what happens to Israel as they openly confess their sins and approach God with contrite hearts. 

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