Wednesday, June 21, 2017
On October 31 the people assembled again, and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God. The Levites—Jeshuaj, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Kenani—stood on the stairway of the Levites and cried out to the Lord their God with loud voices. Then the leaders of the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—called out to the people: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!” Then they prayed: “May your glorious name be praised! May it be exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you. “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldeans and renamed him Abraham. When he had proved himself faithful, you made a covenant with him to give him and his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word. Nehemiah 9:1-8(NLT)
The rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem wasn’t the only restoration project on Nehemiah’s (or God’s) heart. The people of Israel, who had been conquered time and again, had learned the lesson of humility; they now had to learn the lessons of victory.
Part of that re-training, to re-shape the children of God into usable messengers of God’s good news of salvation for the entire world, was to teach them to live in the sacrifice of praise.
Nehemiah called for a great praise and worship service, and all the people came dressed in sackcloth and ashes (not Easter bonnets and top hats!). They stood in place for the reading of God’s Word for three hours, and then opened their hearts in response, confessing their sins, and their ancestor’s sins for three more hours! Then the liturgy stopped, and the confessing stopped, and the priests called for the people to start praising God – to call out to Him.
If you noticed in the reading, every bit of the people’s calling-out praise to God was a rehearsing of what God had done for, and through the people of Israel. This was a testimony meeting! This was the sacrifice God was interested in…cleansed hearts in response to God’s Word, followed by the expression of cleared minds, speaking the praise of God’s lovingkindness. Right minds that understood the presence of mercy!
It’s important to notice the pattern: Word of God…Confession…Praise.
If ever our world needed to get this right, it is certainly now!
When you take the Word of God seriously, how can you NOT confess your sins? And once you’ve confessed those sins, is it not time to offer the sacrifice of praise?