Today's Lectionary Text
Nehemiah 9:26-31Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their backs and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore you gave them into the hands of their enemies, who made them suffer. Then in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hands of their enemies. But after they had rest, they again did evil before you, and you abandoned them to the hands of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you rescued them according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your ordinances, by the observance of which a person shall live. They turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. Many years you were patient with them, and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; yet they would not listen. Therefore you handed them over to the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
In the equivalent of just six verses, the prophet Nehemiah shares an abridged history of the Israelite people and the reason God sent Jesus to earth to die on our behalf.
Nehemiah provides a confession on behalf of the people before God. Amid the backdrop of the walls of Jerusalem being restored following the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah, the prophet explains how the people continually rebelled against God, but God showed mercy by delivering them from their enemies. After a period of peace and rest, the people again rebelled and were overtaken again by their enemies until God once again heard their cries and intervened on their behalf.
The cycle continued again and again.
Nehemiah concludes this passage by giving glory to God for showing mercy by not forsaking the people, “for you are a gracious and merciful God.” Ultimately, God’s mercy came in the form of a baby, Emmanuel – God with us, Jesus.
It’s easy for us today to look at the history of the Israelites and ask, “How could they get it so wrong over and over again?” But if we are honest with ourselves, we aren’t any better today, despite knowing this history of rebellion.
We pledge to serve Christ by loving God, loving others and making disciples, but sin continually causes us to rebel, just as the Israelites rebelled. Thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made for us all on the cross, God continually intervenes on our behalf, forgives us and welcomes us back, just as God did for the ancient Israelites.
Praise God for sending Jesus! Just as the Israelites no doubt waited eagerly for God’s intervention, may we eagerly await the coming of a baby born in Bethlehem.
-Todd Seifert, communications director
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, we confess that we have not learned the lessons from our Jewish brothers and sisters of so many years ago. We thank you for sending us Jesus, through whom You continually show us love and mercy. Amen.
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