My children often say, “I’m sorry.” But are they truly? Are these words just a natural response? Too often, it seems as if the latter is correct for if they were sincere then their actions change. This same mindset, regrettably, if found prevalently among those in the Christian church today. It is much less complicated and demanding for one to ask forgiveness rather than for one to do that which Scripture requires.
In the middle of Nehemiah, the people of Israel demonstrate a genuinely reaction to an encounter with God. In the eighth chapter, it portrays a people who are refocusing on the Word of the Lord. The leaders of Israel were devoting themselves to the hearing of God’s word… and in so, discovered much about themselves. One discovery was their need to observe the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles. The people, during this observance, were to live in booths that were to be set up in courts, streets, public squares, and housetops. This festival was a time of celebration, a time to recall the past and ponder the future. The tents-of-sorts were reminders to Israel of their ancestors’ living nomadically after the Exodus. The booth was not to be a symbol of misery. Rather, it was for the people to revisit God’s actions… to remember His protection, preservation, and providence… a time to stop and see the blessing around them… a time to look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. The feast of Booths/Tabernacles was to be a celebration of God.
After speaking of this celebration, the book of Nehemiah turns to praise and repentance. It speaks of the majesty of God and the limitations of mankind. It expounds on the greatness of God for He is worthy (1-5), He Alone (6a), He whom all of all creation speaks (6b). It describes the goodness of God who free gives. The Jehovah God who gave a land (8, 15, 35), gave the law (13), gave the Spirit (20), gave to meet needs (15, 20), gave security (22, 24, 27). It portrays a gracious God who was faithful (32) and correct in all His ways (33). Based on God past work, His greatness, goodness and grace the nation of Israel sought for forgiveness and a new beginning. They could not change their current situation but they could surrender. Hey could again yield to the Lord. (36-38)
It is one thing to hear God’s word and another to allow that Word to produce a change. As Christians, we can spend time in God’s Word and it brings joy to us. This joy is imperfect unless it bears fruit. An honest response to God and His word is action, anything less is inadequate.