Saturday, February 9, 2019
13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.
16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.
The context for this passage continues from the previous chapter, when the people heard God’s Word and wept in repentance because they realized how they and their ancestors had sinned against the Lord. It contains a prayer of confession, about how they did not obey God’s commands. They became stiff-necked, unwilling to listen to God. They became complacent about miracles God performed, as if they were nothing. They acted as if so what if God provided bread from heaven? Who cares that God brought them water from a rock, or that God had set aside this Promised Land for them? Were God’s efforts for nothing when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt?
When we come to our senses, we become conscious of how wrong we are. It’s like Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son, who had to feed pigs (yuck, pigs!) before he realized how far he had strayed from his father’s love, just as the people of Israel came to realize how far they had strayed from their Father’s love. When they heard God’s Word, they realized how far they had strayed, and that was good. Now God could help them back where they belonged.
Nehemiah reminds us that we, like the people of Israel, are prone to sin. We too overlook God’s blessings or take them for granted. We look at God’s forgiving love, but fail to say, “I’m sorry” to God about our wrongs. Or we get aggravated by something another has done but forget we have done exactly the same thing ourselves.
We are blessed to be forgiven when we ask. We are blessed that God takes away the weight of our sins from our shoulders by the offering of Christ on the cross. May we not forget how God is slow to anger and abounding in love. May we also not take God’s blessings for granted, but instead give praise to our God both today and every day!
We praise you, dear God, for your merciful love, and thank you for your forgiving grace. Bring to our mind the things we have done that we should not have done, that we may repent and try anew to follow your Word. Make us truly grateful for daily blessings that you shower down upon us in love. Make this a good day, Lord, in Christ our savior. Amen.