In my Bible reading this week, I was stunned by the following verses in Nehemiah 9:36-37:
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. 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.
The verses above are the bookend portion of a prayer of repentance. It was a solemn moment where the leaders and the people “fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads” (v. 1) as they asked God for forgiveness for their sins.
The people of Israel knew they had failed God miserably by not keeping the commandments He gave them through Moses. Seeking to make amends, they separated themselves from the foreign wives they had married, and for 3 hours they remained standing as they heard the Book of the Law of the Lord read to them. They spent an additional 3 hours confessing their sins and worshipping God. It was a 6-hour service.
What a scene that must have been!
Can you sense the reverence? The repentance? The grief for having hurt the heart of God? The pain for failing to keep His ordinances? Can you sense a spirit of conviction gripping their hearts, making them realize that they had miserably sinned against a faithful, merciful, loving God who had done mighty things for them?
And now they found themselves being slaves in the very land the Lord God gave them!
As you read the prayer beginning in verse 6, the Levites remind the people who God is and recount the wonderful works He did for their ancestors. They reminded the people of the greatness of their God, the “glorious reputation that has never been forgotten” (v. 10).
In spite of their sins, the people were comforted, “But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, even when they made an idol shaped like a calf” (v. 17-18) worshipping it as if it was their savior who brought them out of Egypt!
Truly, what an amazing, loving, caring, protecting God we serve.
My reading came to a halt as the Holy Spirit showed me that I could be settling for crumbs because of sin, missing out on what our loving Father has given us, plenty to feast on! Sin separates us from God. Sin is anger, disrespect, fear, worry, bitterness, ugly words, lack of vision, lack of love… in other words, lack of enthusiasm for producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and worse yet, grieving the Holy Spirit.
The current discouraging global situation can easily get our eyes off of God and fixed on the unsolvable problems of this world, if we let it. As churches shut down, inevitably many sheep felt lonely and left to fend for themselves. There is power in unity, that’s where God commands the blessing. And the devil knows it. Even the new terminology of “social distancing” is so ungodly. Yes, we understand the reason why, but we cannot deny its side effects.
As you know, we cannot do life on our own. We need Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit to show us our own sin, to guide us so that we may repent, and restore our relationship with God… daily. There’s no better time than now, to stop being slaves in the land of plenty.