Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 9.32-35
32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
Reflection: Confession and Covenant
By John Tillman
Nehemiah’s generation wrote a prayer to God that is a long confession and history of their own sins. These sins incapacitated them from their mission of manifesting God to the world. Rather than being a distinctive “kingdom of God,” Israel became indistinguishable from the other nations.
Not only did Israel’s kings and leaders, priests and prophets abuse their own people, they misrepresented God. When pagan nations saw Israel’s kings and leaders acting just like their own leaders, why would they assume that Yahweh was different from their gods?
Like Israel, we are to represent the distinctiveness of God and to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. Making known Christ and his kingdom is the essence of Epiphany. This is not just mystical or metaphorical. We make Christ known in practical ways. After all, many non-Christians today don’t believe in anything “mystical.” But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t manifesting Christ to them. Are we doing so faithfully? As we live, act, and worship, we show others what Christ is like. Or do we?
When unbelievers wonder how Christ might treat them, they will think about how we have treated them. When they wonder what Christ might do for them, they will think about what we have done for them. What assumptions about God do our actions lead people to believe?
God’s kingdom, even though it is “from another place” (John 18.36) becomes visible when we live “here” as we should “there.” When we maintain a connection to God’s kingdom, living it out in front of people, they sense it even if they don’t know what to call it. God’s kingdom is attractive. People may like you or trust you or see you as a leader and not know why.
Like Nehemiah’s assembly, we need to regularly spend time confessing our misrepresentations of God. As this year closes, spend some time reviewing and confessing. But then, shift from mourning sin to moving in line with God’s Spirit into a new year.
Nehemiah’s community made a new covenant to once again be God’s distinctive people. Christ has made a new covenant for us to be, not just citizens, but heirs with him. God will be faithful to us. And to whatever degree we, by God’s grace, can be faithful, his kingdom will shine through us, calling many to live in his light.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. — Psalm 118.14
Nehemiah 9 (Listen 7:46)
Revelation 18 (Listen 4:48)
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What might you hear as you read through the Bible at a sustainable, two-year pace, with time for reflection and growth from each day’s passage?