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Nehemiah Chapter 9

Memory verses for this week: Psa 73:28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Introduction: In chapter 8, we studied about the Feasts of Tabernacles being reestablished for the children of Israel. They gathered and listened to the priests read the Word of God for several hours as they drew near to God and determined to do things the way the law had instructed them to worship.

Overview of Nehemiah 9: As the observance for the completion of the wall continued, the leadership of Judah publicly worshiped God. They openly and publicly praised God, confessed the collective sin of the nation, and entered into a renewed covenant to serve the Lord.

I. A Solemn Fast

Neh 9:1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
Neh 9:2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
Neh 9:3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Two days after the Feast of Tabernacles was over, the restoration remnant “assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.” This all was symbolic of contrition and repentance.

They separated themselves from ungodly associates (i.e., “strangers”) and “stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.” A spirit of revival swept across the people. Moreover, they spent a quarter of a day publicly reading the “book of the law of the LORD their God.” They spent another quarter of the day confessing and worshiping “the LORD their God.” There was nothing shallow or of pretense. These people truly were revived in their spirit to honor the Lord and serve Him. True worship requires us to confess and forsake our sins, and with a clean heart, worship the Lord.

Jesus told the woman at the well what true worshippers were required to do.

John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
John 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
John 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


II. Prayer and Confession of Sin

Neh 9:4 Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.
Neh 9:5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

Chief Levites stood upon an elevated place in the Temple area and urged Israel to “stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever.” Beginning at the middle of verse 5 and then ranging to the end of the chapter is a powerful prayer of worship, confession, praise, and rededication.

Notice how in beginning the prayer, God was worshiped and praised. “Blessed by thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

In the ‘Lord’s prayer,’ Jesus taught His disciples to follow the same procedure.

As this lengthy public prayer unfolds, the Levites essentially rehearse Old Testament history to that point, praising God for how He had delivered His people in the past.

Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Luke 11:3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Neh 9:6 Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
Neh 9:7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;
Neh 9:8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:

Clear acknowledgment of God as Creator is noted. Creation in the Bible far transcends the first several chapters of Genesis. Of note also is the comment how that “the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” That probably is a reference to the angelic host of heaven.

In recording that God chose Abraham in verse 7, notice how it is noted, God “foundest his heart faithful before thee.” There is nothing complicated about faithfulness. It remains a spiritual virtue to this day. Almost two and one-half thousand years ago, these Jews recalled how God had even much earlier given the land of Palestine to Abraham and his descendants. They noted how God “performed” His Word which He always does. And then noted that “thou are righteous.” The righteousness of God is truly one of His most basic attributes. It is one of the most repeated attributes of God in the Bible.

Neh 9:9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
Neh 9:10 And showedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day.
Neh 9:11 And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.

They recalled how that God providentially and miraculously delivered their forefathers from Egypt. They also noted that the Egyptians had “dealt proudly.” God is never impressed with human pride. To the contrary, He deals against it.

Isa 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Isa 57:16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

Neh 9:12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.
Neh 9:13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
Neh 9:14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
Neh 9:15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.

They began to systematically recall how that God was merciful and helped them at every step of the great exodus. He provided the pillar of cloud and fire for guidance. God gave them His Law. Notice how they described it. It is characterized as right, true, and good.

The issuing of the sabbatical command was in fact an act of goodness by God for His people that they might have a day of rest. He miraculously provided their every need: “bread from heaven . . . water for them out of the rock for their thirst” and promised them a land which He swore would be theirs.

Neh 9:16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,
Neh 9:17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
Neh 9:18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
Neh 9:19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go.

Though upwards of nine-hundred years had passed, these restoration Jews again confessed the collective sin of their forefathers.

Notice the simple basics of the sin of Israel past.

(1) They were proud before God.

(2) They hardened their necks.

(3) They ignored His commandments.

(4) They refused to obey Him.

(5) They forgot His salvation.

(6) They rebelled.

(7) People do not change nor does the nature of sin.

(8) The same basic sin of Israel is alive and well in God’s people to this day.

They recalled how God remained “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.” Truly His mercy endures for ever. Even in their great provocation against God, He mercifully forsook them not.

Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Heb 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

John Gill had some excellent comments about verse 17.

Ver. 17. And refused to obey, etc.] Though exhorted, admonished, and
threatened, such was their obstinacy of the Jews: neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; in delivering them at the Red sea, in raining manna about them, and giving them water out of the rock: but hardened their necks; see the preceding verse: and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage; they not only proposed it, but determined upon it, which is reckoned the same as if they had done it,

Num 14:2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
Num 14:3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
Num 14:4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger,
and of great kindness; as he had proclaimed his name before Moses, and as
the whole of his conduct towards the people of Israel abundantly shewed,

Exo 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Exo 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

and forsookest them not; when in the wilderness, where otherwise they
must have perished,

Neh 9:20 Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
Neh 9:21 Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.

God gave His “good spirit to instruct them.” He did not withhold either manna from heaven nor water for their thirst. He provided their every need “so that they lacked nothing.” The same God is still on the throne.

We sometimes just need to have more faith and know that God is the one in control and he always provides for our needs, and many times even our wants.

Mat 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Mat 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Mat 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Neh 9:22 Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.
Neh 9:23 Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.
Neh 9:24 So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.

Neh 9:25 And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.

God furthermore gave them victory to possess the land He had promised them.
He multiplied their posterity as He had promised them. He gave them a land which was developed and prosperous. The reference to “a fat land” has the idea of a rich land or a prosperous land. The land of Palestine then was not the barren, semi-arid, and more or less treeless land it has been in recent centuries. It truly was a rich land, flowing with milk and honey.

As they conquered the land they assumed possession of homes already built, priceless wells already dug, “vineyards, oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance.” In possessing the land, “they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.” God not only gave them a land, it was one of the most prosperous places on the face of the earth in that time. They essentially inherited it all.

Neh 9:26 Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.
Neh 9:27 Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.

Some of the most profound comments in the entire Bible are noted. Notwithstanding all that God had done for them, “they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn to thee.”

That they in so doing “wrought great provocations” . God chastened them.

They, in their trouble, would cry to God for help, "and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviors, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.” This referred to the era of the judges.

Matthew Henry said in his commentary that they acknowledged the sins of the fore fathers and wanted God to direct them now.

They begin with the sins of Israel in the wilderness: They, even our fathers (so it might better be read), dealt proudly (though, considering what they were, and how lately they had come out of slavery, they had no reason to be proud), and hardened their necks, v. 16. Pride is at the bottom of men’s obstinacy and disobedience; they think it below them to bow their necks to God’s yoke, and a piece of state to set up their own will in opposition to the will of God himself. (1.) There were two things which they did not duly give heed to, else they would not have done as they did:—The word of God they heard, but they did not hearken to God’s commandments; and the works of God they saw, but they were not mindful of his wonders: had they duly considered them as miracles, they would have obeyed from a principle of faith and holy fear; had they duly considered them as mercies, they would have obeyed from a principle of gratitude and holy love. But, when men make no right use either of God’s ordinances or of his providences, what can be expected from them? (2.) Two great sins are here specified; which they were guilty of in the wilderness—meditating a return, [1.] To Egyptian slavery, which, for the sake of the garlick and onions, they preferred before the glorious liberty of the Israel of God attended with some difficulty and inconvenience. In their rebellion they appointed a captain to return to their bondage, in distrust of God’s power and contempt of his holy promise, v. 17. [2.] To Egyptian idolatry: They made a molten calf, and were so sottish as to say, This is thy God.

Neh 9:28 But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;
Neh 9:29 And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
Neh 9:30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.

Neh 9:31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.

The Levites continued to rehearse in their prayer how their forefathers had provoked God and how He continued to be patient with them. He sent prophets to further warn them.

They ignored them and God allowed them to be dispersed among gentile nations as most remained in that day. Yet God did not forget His people. Because of His “great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou are a gracious and merciful God.”

III. The Character of the Prayer Changes

Neh 9:32 Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.
Neh 9:33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:
Neh 9:34 Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.

The Levites began to plead for God to once again intervene on their behalf. In further praising Him, they pled with Him to “let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us . . . since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.”

In verse 33, the Jews further acknowledged how God has been “just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly.” They confessed the sins of their more recent fore bearers in how they had disobeyed God.

Neh 9:35 For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.
Neh 9:36 Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it:
Neh 9:37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
Neh 9:38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

The Levites acknowledged they were servants in the good land God had long before promised them.

The word translated as servants (dbe ebed) has the sense of ‘slavery’ or ‘bond- men.’

The Israelites acknowledged that their lack of freedom even in their own land was “because of our sins” and therefore they were “in great distress.”

Because of all of this, we find in verse 38 that they vowed to renew their covenant with God and put it in writing. The reference to their “princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it” has the sense that the leadership therefore signed the renewed written covenant they made with God.

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Prov 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

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