by Steven Chan
When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after having been taken captive by the Babylonians in 586 BC, they read the book of the Law and resolved to walk in the way of God. It is very instructive for us to note how they viewed the Lord as they assembled before Him in worship.
Firstly, in Neh 9:5-6, they acknowledged Him as the Lord who made the heavens and the earth and therefore the host of heaven worships Him:
“Stand up and bless the LORD your God forever and ever!”Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven. The heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.”
Likewise, Christians worship God because we acknowledge Him to be the creator and also preserver of the universe. So we stand and raise our voice to praise Him for His greatness, power and glory. There is none besides Him. So, it is not an issue of choice of who we want to acknowledge as God for there is only one Creator of the universe – and He is our Lord.
Secondly, they acknowledged His deliverance in the past when their forefathers were slaves in Egypt. Beyond just the initial persuasion of the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, they also acknowledged how God continued to provide for them along the way: “Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the road which they should travel.” (Neh 9:12). He did not leave them alone to find their way out of slavery; He guided them every step along the way.
Likewise, Christians today need to remember God’s deliverance through His Son when He paid the price for our redemption on the cross, and more importantly, to be aware that God continues to guide and help us along the way with His grace and providential care (Rom 8:31-39; Heb 2:18; 4:16).
Thirdly, they recalled that God had also given them His Commandments so that they may do the things that will please Him: “You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant. (Neh 9:13-14). God’s words were “just”, “true” and “good”.
Likewise, Christians need to realize that Jesus Christ came to give us God’s Word to help us do the things that will please God (John 17:8; 2 Cor 5:9)
Fourthly, they recalled how God had also provided for their physical/bodily needs during very difficult times and circumstances and blessed them with the promised land He had promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: “You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, and brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, and told them to go in to possess the land which You had sworn to give them”. (Neh 9:15). Nothing is beyond God. He can give water from the rock – is there any circumstance too hard for God to provide relief for us?
Likewise, Christians need to remember that God’s promises are sure and that He will not fail in His promises and that we can depend on Him even when times and circumstances are difficult for us. He will not fail us. Heb 13:5-6: “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Do we really trust God and His promises?
Fifthly, the Israelites recalled their unfaithfulness to the Lord in spite of God’s goodness and blessings towards them: Neh 9:16-18: “But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments. 17 They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage.”
It is truly sad and tragic to hear of some brethren who have chosen to reject God and refused to obey Him –and sometimes they have chosen their own leaders to lead them back into bondage! That is the tragedy of backsliding as described in 2 Peter 2:19-20: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” May we be ever mindful that we do not fall away from our Lord. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”(1 Cor 10:12)
Sixthly, they remembered the wonderful attributes of God: “But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.” (Neh 9:17) This is the magnificent love and grace of God that ought to draw all men to God. Our God is “ready to forgive, He is gracious and merciful and His kindness is in abundance – meaning that it is not limited. God does not give up on them even when they had chosen to depart from Him. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8)
Finally, they recalled that God did not abandon them even when they did things that displeased Him greatly: Neh 9:18-21: 18 “Even when they made a molded calf for themselves, and said, ‘This is your god that brought you up out of Egypt,’ and worked great provocations, 19 Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, to lead them on the road; nor the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way they should go. 20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”
After remembering the greatness and goodness of God, the Israelites then presented their own petition or requests to Him: Neh 9:31-32: “Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful. 32 “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy: Do not let all the trouble seem small before You that has come upon us,”
Like those Israelites during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, Christians should always remember our God – that He is gracious, merciful, great, mighty and awesome – and He keeps His promises – so that when we present our requests to Him we should not doubt His faithfulness (I Cor 10:13; Heb 10:23). Our troubles may seem small to the great and mighty God but His assurance for us is that He cares for us. When we truly know our Lord, we will want to stand up and bless the Lord with our voices of praise in the assembly of the saints!! Truly, it is a tremendous privilege to worship our Lord! It helps for us to reflect on who our God is, when we come to Him in our prayers and to worship Him.
Correction to last week’s bulletin article
We are thankful to our readers for pointing out that we had inadvertently omitted a key word in our article in last week’s bulletin. The word that should have been included but was inadvertently omitted was the word “not” in the following paragraph (underlined in bold italic):-
“However, this does not mean that one is incapable of committing sin after one‟s baptism: In Acts 8:13, Simon the sorcerer believed in Jesus and was baptized and shortly thereafter, he sinned and the apostle Peter said to him in Acts 8:22: “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be for-given you.” It was not necessary for him to be baptized again but he had to repent and pray for forgiveness of sins. There is only one baptism and one does not need to baptize again when one sins – so long as one has been baptized for the right purpose.”
We do apologize for the error.