Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 22 July 21:
Nehemiah 1:6-9 — I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’
Nehemiah was in great despair and mourning because he understood the implications of the fact that after God had miraculously moved the heart of king Cyrus to support Zerubbabel in rebuilding the temple, and after God had miraculously moved the heart of king Artaxerxes to support Ezra in leading a large body of exiles back to the holy city and in teaching the people of Israel the Law, the Israelites had returned to the same sins that led them to their exile in the first place. As a result, the restoration they had long hoped for was in jeopardy. Nehemiah understood that restoration depended on true repentance, a complete change of heart, mind, and behavior, against sin and for God.
- Jeremiah 8:5 — Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
- Hosea 11:7 — My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.
- Luke 6:46 — Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
- 2 Peter 2:20-22 — For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (Compare with Matthew 12:43-45)
- Ezekiel 18:32 — For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.
- Isaiah 55:6-7 — Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
- Mark 1:4 — John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
- Matthew 4:17 — From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- Luke 5:32 — I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
- Acts 2:38 — And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
- Acts 17:30 — The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
- Romans 2:4 — Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
- 2 Peter 3:9 — The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
- 2 Chronicles 7:14 — If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
- Acts 11:18 — When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
- Romans 12:9 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
- Revelation 2:5 — Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
- Revelation 3:19 — Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
- Revelation 18:4 — Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
- James 4:4-10 — You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
- Luke 24:47 — And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was so distraught over the sins of his people that, despite being personally unaffected directly by what was going on in Jerusalem, he “wept and mourned for days and continued in fasting and praying before God…. confessing the sins of the people of Israel,” even taking personal responsibility for contributing to the culture of sin. Nehemiah was driven to intercessory prayer, but he was also convicted to risk his career and his life in order to personally help his people return to the Lord.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
How convicted are you concerning the sins commonly accepted among God’s people, and how convicted are you concerning your own complacency and complicities? How bad do the sins of God’s people have to be before you are driven to weep and mourn for days, fasting and praying before God and confessing the sins of the people as well as yourself? And having been entrusted by God with the message and ministry of reconciliation, how passionate are you to spread the Gospel and to make disciples, and what are you willing to risk in order to accomplish this mission? What are you willing to risk in order to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins… in His Name to all nations”? (Luke 24:47)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 July 21: Pray God will give you a heart for the lost and wayward like Nehemiah had for his people, and pray that God will give you the courage to take personal action to spread the Gospel.