Summary: TRUE CHANGE or RENEWAL can only happen when these 3 things take place: (1) Admit our wrongs (confession), (2) Acknowledge God’s ways (repentance), and (3) Act on It (commitment).
We have come to Nehemiah 9. Let’s take a quick glance at the setting.
• The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon. Their Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem had been destroyed.
• Now, after 70 years, they have returned and rebuilt their city.
Although we usually say they “returned” to Israel, most of them were coming back for the first time. They were the newer generation, born in captivity.
• They had found the Law of Moses during their work on the Temple. Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them. They vowed to return to God’s Law.
• Chapter 8 described their sorrow for having strayed from God and sinned against Him. They were determined to obey God and get back to God’s ways.
• Chapter 9 continues on this theme.
We are going to read this beautiful prayer led by the Levites – Neh 9:1-37 [use audioclip]
We see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.
• They listen to the Word, they pray and they worship Him. They confessed their sins.
• The Levites led them in this corporate prayer, the longest recorded prayer in the Bible.
It was a prayer of confession and repentance, recounting what God has done for them and men’s failure to honour Him.
• I find the prayer awesome. You see a retelling of everything that God has done and what He has shown them (over their entire history). And a recounting of their disobedience and rebellion.
• It was a confession. There was this realisation of how far they have drifted from God, and an honest confession of their sin.
This is the first step in every spiritual renewal or revival – a realisation that we have drifted from God and a desire to get back.
• This confession makes renewal possible; confession makes revival plausible.
• TRUE CHANGE or RENEWAL can only happen when these 3 things take place:
(1) Admit our wrongs, (2) Acknowledge God’s ways, and (3) Act on It.
The first step is the confession; it is to admit that there is a need for change.
• We saw how this started in Chapter 8 – when they heard the Word, they mourn and weep.
• We saw that now in this corporate prayer.
Confession is important because it is the first step to change.
• James Montgomery Boice: “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgement of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”
• It is important that we examine ourselves. If we are not convinced that we need a change, we won’t. This realisation leads to repentance.
We pray that we will always be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.
• It doesn't help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.
• We want to confess because we are moved by the Word of God or convicted by the Holy Spirit.
• This was what happened to the prodigal son. Luke 15:17-18 “When he came to his senses (realisation), he said, “How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” (confession)
Why does God want us to confess? Surely not to inform Him of something He does not already know.
• Firstly, God wants us to admit them so that we can take the steps toward change. Only when we agree with God that it needs to be change, will we find the commitment to change it.
• Secondly, confession makes us real. We are fully honest before God, honest with self, and honest towards people. It is being authentic, being vulnerable and being real.
• This is the way to happiness. We are not laden with guilt or shame; we experience God’s forgiveness and the joy of forgiveness.
• Good fellowship with God cannot happen with unconfessed sin in our lives.
The second thing that is necessary for RENEWAL to take place is to acknowledge God’s way – or take God’s Word seriously.
• It is this deep conviction that His Word is the only blessed way.
This is closely related to the first – confession. God’s Word leads to confession.
• The reading of the Law, and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures, led to the people’s confession and repentance.
• This realisation that we have sinned against God comes through the reading of God’s Word.
• We will never acknowledge sin to be sin or grieve over it unless we understand it as an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.