STAND UP AND PRAISE THE LORD YOUR GOD…YOU WERE RIGHT AND WE WERE WRONG. Around 2500 years ago, a nation stood united in praise to the Lord with the sole intent of honoring Him through national repentance of their sins. The longest prayer of the entire Bible was offered as a worship unto God on the 24th day of God's 7th month, October 1 on our 2021 Gregorian calendar. This timeless prayer is right on target for us today as Christians in America.
“You were right, and we were wrong” is part of the prayer offering of Nehemiah 9, voiced the day after the completion of God’s appointed Festival of Tabernacles, which pictures the return of Jesus to live, or “tabernacle” with mankind as King and Ruler of the entire world. See last week's lesson: https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/4353395544740601
Following the biggest celebration of the year, God's people spent 1/4 day reading His Word. They spent another 1/4 day confessing their sin and worshipping the Lord, praising Him for His continuing mercies. Then they came together in Nehemiah 10 and made a written, binding agreement that they would keep themselves free of unholy alliances, follow God’s Word and “not neglect the house of our God”.
Led by God’s appointed judges for 350 years, Israel began its decline by placing their faith in the mindset of the world for leadership. "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 1 Samuel 8:5.
When the Lord gave them what they wanted, He also told them what would happen. "... you will cry out in that day because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:18.
We would do well to read that ENTIRE chapter. Many of the phrases are all too familiar. "He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots...He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage.... He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants."
It would seem on the surface that the people were doing the right thing by asking God specifically for new leadership. However, God tells us what was really going on in 1 Samuel 10:17-19. “I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you. But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”
God gave the nation what it had been praying for. It wasn't long before their new king began doing things which revealed his true bent. Saul became jealous of David and sought to take his life. He attempted to secure his throne by executing the High Priest and later ordering the Witch of Endor to conjure up the dead spirit of Samuel. In the end, King Saul took his own life following a battlefield defeat.
2 kings later, the nation became so divided over the choice of a leader, they split in two. The northern kingdom of Israel, composed of 10 tribes, with its capital of Samaria, lasted around 200 years before being conquered and scattered around the world by the Assyrians. The surviving 2 tribes, called Judah, were ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by kings from the Davidic line. But it all ended when Jerusalem was ransacked and burned. Its populace was led away to 70 years of exile in the enemy kingdom of Babylon.
At the time of today's lesson, the conquered southern kingdom of Judah, now under Persian rule, had been allowed to return and rebuild the Walls of Jerusalem and resettle the Holy City and its surrounding lands. Still under Persian rule, the nation had come together to celebrate the completion of the city walls, and to celebrate The Festival of Tabernacles.
Humbled after years of rule by their enemies, they had begun God's 7th month as a restored nation by hearing Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses as God commanded. As they listened attentively day after day, God's people were reminded of His goodness and mercy. The Word of the Lord was made clear and given new meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Spiritual revival fell upon the land. The longest prayer in the Bible, Nehemiah 9, was voiced by a broken nation, vowing to pledge their allegiance solely to the Almighty, and none other.
"Stand up and praise the Lord your God! God has always lived and will live forever. People should praise your glorious name. May your name be lifted above all blessing and praise. You are God. Lord, only you are God. You made the sky and the highest heavens and everything in them. You made the earth and everything on it. You made the seas and everything in them. You give life to everything. All the heavenly angels bow down and worship you."
“...You saw our ancestors suffering in Egypt and heard them call for help by the Red Sea. You showed the miracles to Pharaoh. You did amazing things to his officials and his people. You knew that the Egyptians thought they were better than our ancestors. But you proved how great you are, and they remember that even today.”
“You split the Red Sea in front of them, and they walked through on dry land. The Egyptian soldiers were chasing them, but you threw that enemy into the sea. And they sank like a rock into the sea. With the tall cloud, you led them by day, and at night you used the column of fire. That is the way you lit their path and showed them where to go.”
“Then you came down to Mount Sinai. You spoke to them from heaven. You gave them good laws… You told them about your special day of rest—the Sabbath…They were hungry, so you gave them food from heaven. They were thirsty, so you gave them water from a rock. You told them, ‘Come, take this land.’ You used your power, and took the land for them.”
“But our ancestors became proud and stubborn. They refused to obey your commands. They refused to listen. They forgot the amazing things you did with them. They became stubborn. They decided to return to Egypt and become slaves again.”
“But you are a forgiving God! You are kind and full of mercy. You are patient and full of love. So you didn’t leave them! You didn’t leave them even when they made golden calves and said, ‘These are the gods that led us out of Egypt.’ You are very kind, so you didn’t leave them in the desert. You didn’t take the tall cloud away from them by day. You continued to lead them. You didn’t take the column of fire away from them at night. You continued to light their path and to show them which way to go.”
“You gave them your good Spirit to make them wise. You gave them manna for food. You gave them water for their thirst. You took care of them for 40 years. They had all they needed in the desert. Their clothes didn’t wear out, and their feet didn’t swell and hurt. You gave them kingdoms and nations, and you gave them faraway places where few people live... You made their descendants as many as the stars in the sky. You brought them to the land you promised to give their ancestors…You let them defeat those people.”
“...And then they turned against you. They threw away your teachings... So you let their enemies have them. The enemy caused them much trouble. When trouble came, our ancestors called to you for help. And in heaven, you heard them. You are very kind, so you sent people to save them. And they rescued them from their enemies."
"Then as soon as our ancestors were rested, they started doing terrible things again! So you let the enemy defeat them and punish them. They called to you for help, and in heaven you heard them and helped them. You are so kind. That happened so many times.”
“You warned them. You told them to come back, but they were too proud. They refused to listen to your commands. If people obey your laws, they will live. But our ancestors broke your laws. They were stubborn. They turned their backs on you. They refused to listen.”
“You were very patient with our ancestors. You let them mistreat you for many years. You warned them with your Spirit. You sent the prophets to warn them. But our ancestors didn’t listen. So you gave them to people in other countries. But you are so kind! You didn’t completely destroy them. You didn’t leave them. You are such a kind and merciful God!"
"Our God, you are the great God, the awesome, powerful soldier! You are kind and loyal. You keep your agreement. We have had many troubles, and our troubles are important to you. Bad things happened to all our people, and to our kings and leaders, and to our priests and prophets.”
“But God, you were right about everything that happened to us. You were right, and we were wrong. Our kings, leaders, priests, and fathers did not obey your law. They didn’t listen to your commands. They ignored your warnings. Our ancestors didn’t serve you even when they were living in their own kingdom. They didn’t stop doing evil. They enjoyed all the wonderful things you gave them. They enjoyed the rich land and had plenty of room, but they didn’t stop their evil ways.”
“And now, we are slaves. We are slaves in this land, the land you gave our ancestors so they could enjoy its fruit and all the good things that grow here. The harvest is big in this land. But we sinned, so that harvest goes to the kings you put over us. They control us and our cattle. They do anything they want. We are in a lot of trouble.”
This very day, we 21st century Christians are receiving a merciful warning straight from the Almighty. God's Word tells us clearly what happens when His people become arrogant and petulant, vowing in hardened hearts that we can and should control our own destiny by depending on leadership of our choosing. Faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ as King then becomes secondary to the appointment of a king “savior” and his leadership.
May we all vow this day to keep ourselves free of unholy alliances, follow God’s Word, and not neglect the ongoing ministry to “the house of our God”.
"STAND UP AND PRAISE THE LORD YOUR GOD…YOU WERE RIGHT AND WE WERE WRONG"