Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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28. Rediscovering Revival Part 6

Nehemiah 9:16-36

16 “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands. 17 They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, 18 even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies.19 “But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. 20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst.21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!22 “Then you helped our ancestors conquer kingdoms and nations, and you placed your people in every corner of the land. They took over the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. 23 You made their descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and brought them into the land you had promised to their ancestors.24 “They went in and took possession of the land. You subdued whole nations before them. Even the Canaanites, who inhabited the land, were powerless! Your people could deal with these nations and their kings as they pleased. 25 Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings.26 “But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.28 “But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!29 “You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. 30 In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them. 31 But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!32 “And now, our God, the great and mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of unfailing love, do not let all the hardships we have suffered seem insignificant to you. Great trouble has come upon us and upon our kings and leaders and priests and prophets and ancestors—all of your people—from the days when the kings of Assyria first triumphed over us until now. 33 Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your Law or listen to the warnings in your commands and laws. 35 Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you, though you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness.36 “So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land. 37 The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”

Not only did the people confess their confidence in the greatness of God but also in the:

B. Goodness of God

In this prayer God is clearly the focal point, as the word “you” is used over 50 times.  Also, I want you to note that the word “give” is used in one form or another at least 16 different times. This part of the prayer rehearses the history of Israel, revealing God’s goodness to His people and their repeated failure to appreciate His gifts and obey His will. George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher has said, “He who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it.” I want you to underline Verse 25 because it is the perfect summary of how God showed His goodness through blessing His people: “They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.” Did you catch that? God gave them much more than they deserved. The land was fertile. Their houses were already furnished. The water was already running, and the fruit was just waiting to be picked. They had everything they needed. They “reveled” in God’s great goodness, which literally means that they “luxuriated” in God’s blessings. The same is true for us, 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need as well, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” That leads to a question. Are you “luxuriating” in God’s goodness today? Or, are you taking God for granted? Are you focused more on what you don’t have? So often we base God’s goodness on our circumstances instead of His character. Some of us mistakenly thank God for His goodness only when things go the way we want them to go. But the real challenge and test of our discipleship, is to thank Him for His goodness even when we experience grief. Corrie Ten Boom writes: “Deep in our hearts we believe in a good God. Yet how shallow is our understanding of His goodness. How often I have heard people say, ‘How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic and look at the lovely weather!’ Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister Betsie to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.” When we base God’s goodness on our circumstances instead of His character, we open up the door for the Devil to deceive us into believing that God is not good. Sometimes my pain is the product of a Good God dealing with His disobedient child. Not only did they confess their confidence in a great and good God but also in the:

C. Grace of God

Verse 31 sates: “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” Because He is a God of grace, He is good to His people even when they are not good to Him. In His mercy, God didn’t give them what they deserved; and in His grace, He gave them what they didn’t deserve. The people finish their prayer confessing their sins that made them slaves to others. It is here that we see a change in pronouns, instead of focusing on “their” sins, the people now say, “we did wrong.” Until we can personally own our specific sins you will miss out on experiencing the grace of God. Their prayer ends on a jarring note, “We are in great distress.” The people recognize that generation after generation; the same sin problems seem to come back. Some of you are brave enough to admit that you are in great distress. You have your own history of good intentions that fell apart. You’ve seen the cycle of sin repeated over and over in your life. But we don’t have to stay in the sin cycle any longer, Jesus has joined us in the process. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ ministry to us in 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” This entire chapter speaks of grace. God demonstrates His greatness and His goodness and what do the people do? They turn from Him, run from His Word, and persist in doing things their own way. At any point, God could have said, “That’s it. You’ve messed up too much. You’re on your own.” Yet He invites us to come to Him to confess so that our story of guilt can be replaced with songs of God’s grace. What about you, do you need to come clean and confess your sins, do you need to come and confess your confidence in God? Have you been taking God for granted, focusing more on what you can get  than on His greatness, goodness and grace. Do you have a small view of God or a grand one?