A couple weeks ago I was reading from the Book of Nehemiah and was struck by God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people. In chapter nine we find great humility on the part of the children of Israel, and then a long declaration by the Levites. This extensive statement is what I want us to reflect on today. As we review it, I hope we are encouraged by the great faithfulness of God!
Near the beginning of the chapter the Levites bless God and His holy name. They speak of His creation and how He is worthy of worship (Neh. 9:6). They remember God choosing Abram, renaming him Abraham, and the performance of His words (vv. 7-8).
Verses 9 through 12 summarize the awesome deeds of the Almighty in delivering the Israelites out of Egypt:
- He showed signs and wonders against Pharaoh (vs. 10)
- He divided the sea before the children of Israel (vs. 11)
- He cast their pursuers into the depths
- He led the people by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (vs. 12)
At Mount Sinai, right ordinances, true laws, statutes, and commandments were given to His people. They knew God’s holy Sabbath, and their physical needs were provided for. They were given bread from heaven for their hunger, and water out of a rock for their thirst (vv. 13-15). In addition to all these great blessings, He also swore to give them a land to possess (vs. 15).
Verses 16 and onward contain a great contrast between the wickedness of the Israelites and the faithfulness of God. It is actually this point that gave me the impetus to write this post. Please notice all the wickedness of the people, and God’s continued mercy and faithfulness.
They describe how their fathers behaved proudly and refused to obey. They weren’t mindful of God’s wonders that were done among the Egyptians. They appointed a captain to return to their bondage.
Nonetheless, God was ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in loving kindness, and didn’t forsake them (vs. 17).
The Israelites made a molded calf and committed awful blasphemies.
Yet God did not forsake them in the wilderness (vs. 19). The pillars of cloud and fire did not depart. Manna and water were still given, as was the Spirit to instruct them (vs. 20). The people were sustained for forty years and lacked nothing (vs. 21). They were brought into the land which was promised to their fathers, and the children were multiplied as the stars of the sky (vs. 23).
The people were filled, became fat, and delighted themselves in the great goodness of God. They were also disobedient, rebelled against the Lord, cast the Law behind their back, and killed His prophets. Therefore, they were given into the hand of their adversaries.
When they cried to God, He heard from heaven and gave them saviors from their enemies (vs. 27). This cycle of wickedness by the people, and God’s mercy, was done repeatedly (vv. 28-31).
Nevertheless in your manifold mercies you didn’t make a full end of them, nor forsake them; for you are a gracious and merciful GodNehemiah 9:31 WEB
The Levites’ Great Confession to God
God was truly gracious and merciful to His people. His longsuffering with them was amazing, especially considering all the ungodliness the Jews committed. Although the Levites spoke of transgressions earlier in the chapter, their focus on them seems to be heightened at this point.
They still describe God’s character, but also confess a large number of sins. While doing so, all sorts of people in the nation are mentioned. These include priests, prophets, princes, and kings. They speak of their transgresses in such ways as,
- We have done wickedly (vs. 33)
- Nor listened to your commandments (vs. 34)
- They have not served you (vs. 35)
- They didn’t turn from their wicked ways
It is tragic that all of these rebellious acts are done despite God’s great goodness, and the large and rich land which He gave them. The Levites then take a position of humility. They describe themselves as servants (vs. 36). After speaking of the fruit of the land and the kings who are set over them, the chapter ends with the words, “Yet for all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, our Levites, and our priests, seal it” (vs. 38).
Images UsedSunset on the Sea by rocchetta6273 from Pixabay.
Levites Reading the Law to the People by rocchetta6273 from Wikimedia Commons.