Nehemiah 9: 32-38
Nehemiah 9: 33 "In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong."
Today's Righteous Roulette brought me to Nehemiah and yet again, God gave me a word from what seemed like nowhere. This time we find the Israelites in the midst of slavery and there are a couple things we can take from this part of their history. So let's jump right into what I think this chapter teaches.
1. Learn your lesson. In this chapter of Nehemiah, the Israelites are confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness as was customary in their law. However, this particular confession was unique from what we may see as confessing nowadays. The Israelite people were confessing not only for their current situations, but for past transgressions that their ancestors had committed against God. The funny thing about the whole situation, however, is that it sounds like a broken record as they repeat the same sins over and over again as a people. God blesses them, they get spoiled, they worship some other idols, God punishes them by allowing them to get conquered, they beg for forgiveness and God blesses them again. Then the entire cycle repeats itself over and over again, (read the beginning of chapter 9 for details).
As an observer, I found the Israelites to be foolish to try God that way time after time and not believe there would be some sort of consequence for their actions but then I realized we do the same thing everyday. Whether it's worshiping other idols, (actors, sports stars or even our Pastors and Bishops) lying, cheating, stealing or lusting, we still repeat the same sins constantly and then wonder why certain desires in our life aren't fulfilled or why life just seems hard.
Paul tells us in Romans that "where sin increased, grace increased all the more," and many of us take that for granted knowing that God will forgive us, (5:20, NIV). However, he goes on to say in Chapter 6, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!," (v 1-2, NIV). Just because we know that God will forgive us if we confess our sins, doesn't mean that we should continue to be disobedient. Jesus told us, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching," so even if we aren't obedient to avoid the consequences, we should do so simply because we say that we love God, (John 14:23 NIV). We know that actions speak louder than words so prove to God you love him by learning your lesson and turning away from sin.
2. Praise Him in Advance. The other important lesson that stuck out to me in this story is the fact that in the midst of their slavery, the Israelites were celebrating. They were celebrating as the recounted the many times they turned away from God. They celebrated as they recounted every time they were made slaves and every time God punished them for their disobedience. They celebrated even as they were enslaved at that moment for the same disobedience and did so not because they enjoyed being slavery, but because across that same history of disobedience and punishment, there was a history of grace, mercy and redemption. God gave the Israelites chance after chance and they knew that God loved them so much He would be willing to give them another chance if they turned their attention back towards Him.
There are countless situations where praising God in the middle of your trouble has brought nothing but reward. Never have I read a story where praising God at your lowest point has only made troubles worse and never resulted in some sort of breakthrough. Whether it was Daniel in the lions den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace, Paul and Silas in prison or Job's unfortunate chain of events, each of them praised God when it seemed like a hopeless situation and God showed up every time.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us "Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (NIV). Don't let you situation prevent you from fulfilling God's will for you. Whether up or down, rich or poor, happy or sad, the joy of God should always be with you so praise God in advance for what he can and will do in your life.