Nehemiah 9: Confession and Covenant
August 15, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The confession begins, and it is worth paying careful attention to how it is done. This is not a “guilt trip” or “beating yourself up”; this is a careful confession of faith, repentance of wrong-doing, that leads to a fresh beginning and a new start (the “covenant”).
First, they confess not only their own sins, but also those of their fathers (9:2). In biblical thinking, headship matters. Time and again, you find godly members of God’s people confessing not only their own sins, but also the sins of all God’s people. It is a way of appealing to God for mercy on them as individuals and also on the whole congregation, too.
They confess that God is the only true God (9:6). This the death knell of all idolatry, whether of the obvious physical kind or the more insidious idolatries of the heart. There is no ultimate fulfillment in anything or anyone other than God. Confess that truth, and you will be on the beginning of a new road towards true fulfillment in God.
They confess that it all began with God—God chose Abram (9:7). They are not God’s people because of the good things they have done (far from it), but because of God’s electing choice. They confess that the reception of this choice came through faith (9:8). God has always initiated redemption, and that redemption has always run down the channel of faithfulness and faith which is its twin and essence.
They confess that God rescued them from Egypt (9:9) and that this rescue ultimately was for God’s glory (9:10). Our salvation ultimately gives God glory—like nothing else, even creation; the work of redemption is that which honors and glorifies God as the God of love, grace and favor.
They confess that out of this election—grace, faith, rescue, glory to God—flows the law (9:13-14). The law is an expression of a covenant people, not the foundation of becoming the covenant people—whose foundation is God and God’s grace alone.
“But” (9:16), God’s people were far from faithful to the covenant. Over and over again God rescued them, redeemed them, forgave them, despite their continued return to ways of sin and idolatry. Eventually God gave them into the hands of the people of the lands (9:30), though he was still gracious to them in not making an end of them altogether.
They, in particular, confess the reason for their situation is not the fault of God or of impolitic leadership, but its essence and cause are in their abandonment of God’s covenant: this is why they are “slaves” now (9:36).
Having made this confession, having acknowledged who God is, what God has done, and who they are, the answer to their situation becomes obvious. Renew their covenant with God. This they then proceed to do: they will covenant again with God as their covenant God (9:38). Perhaps today is a day when you can say to God, “I will start once more to follow you.”
Perhaps your church can say again, “We will once more covenant with you to obey you and follow your Word and believe your gospel.” Covenant with God anew today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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