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Penitence for Rebuilding

Rebuilding Together  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: We learn from Nehemiah chapter nine the importance of God’s word, and that a faithful study of God’s word will lead to repentance and Spiritual revival. Nehemiah, has accomplished the rebuilding of the walls, and he is now fully committed to seeing the people rebuild their relationship with God.

Confess Sins to God (9:1-4)

Note (9:1): The proclamation and teaching of God’s word should often prompt us to soberly consider our ways before God. Every sermon and worship service should not be a moment of exuberance and joy, because there are often times that God’s people should pray and repent.
Their Confession Led to Repentance (9:1-2) - “1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, [wearing] sackcloth, [and had put] dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers.”
Note (9:1) - The act of fasting was to deny the personal desires, as a reminder to focus on Spiritual matters. Fasting requires an act of refusing self-indulgence because of a motivation to focus on the Spiritual things of life. Jesus included it as a key ingredient to a believer’s impactful prayer-life (Mark 9:29).
Putting on sackcloth was another form of prayerful repentance. The rough texture of the sackcloth would chafe the skin and cause irritation as a reminder of the harshness of life and the discomfort of sin and sorrow.
“Dust on their heads” was a reminder that from the dust man came and to the dust he will return (Genesis 3:19).
Genesis 37:34 - “Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth around his waist, and mourned for his son many days.”
Job 16:15 - “15 I have sewn sackcloth over my skin; I have buried my strength in the dust. 16 My face has grown red with weeping, and darkness covers my eyes,”
Notes (9:2a) - The act of separation from foreigners was in accordance with the Law, not an act of arrogance. God prohibited the Hebrews people intermingling with the nations they would conquer in order to maintain a pure and monotheistic blood-line.
🔑 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (HCSB) - “14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does God's sanctuary have with idols? For we are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said: I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 17 Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. 18 I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”
🔑 Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) - “1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Note (9:2b) - “confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers.” - This account shows the results of Scriptural worship, which leads to a heart’s contrition and confessing sin.
Leviticus 26:39-40 (HCSB) - “39 Those who survive in the lands of your enemies will waste away because of their sin; they will also waste away because of their fathers' sins along with theirs. 40 "But if they will confess their sin and the sin of their fathers-their unfaithfulness that they practiced against Me, and how they acted with hostility toward Me,”
1 John 1:7-9 (HCSB) - “7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, "We have no sin," we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Their Confession Was Furthered by the Reading of Scripture (9:3-4) - 3 While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and [spent] another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God. 4 Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the raised platform [built] for the Levites and cried out loudly to the Lord their God.”
Acts 7:60 (HCSB) - “60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin!" And saying this, he fell asleep.”

Consider What God Has Done (9:5-36)

Consider God’s Creative Power (9:5-6) - "5 Then the Levites-Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah-said: Stand up. Bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Praise Your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the Lord. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and the heavenly host worships You.”
Note (9:5a) - “Stand Up” - The call for the people to stand was in honor and recognition of His word and worth. It was their custom to stand in reverence to God. This is obviously a cultural difference, but it is worth noting that standing pushes the physical person
“Bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Praise Your glorious name.”.. - The reading of Scripture promoted a full call to worship. This is a lesson that worship always begins and ends with the God’s word. Also, the Scriptures will inform worship, and they are sufficient to inspire worship. Our modern culture seems to value the pageantry of worship, and often participate in a thoughtless emotional spirited display, that lacks careful consideration of God’s person, power, and promises.
Psalm 103:1-4 (KJV) - 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Psalm 117:1-2 (KJV) - “1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. 2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.”
1 Kings 8:22 (HCSB) - “22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire congregation of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.”
Note (9:5b) - These declarations of praise (baraka: to honor, commendation, and worship) have come as a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (627 B.C. - 586 B.C.), which came approximately 140 years prior. Jeremiah had prophesied of the coming destruction of the city due to Judah’s continual sins of worshipping idol gods.
Jeremiah 33:10-11 (HCSB) - “10 "This is what the Lord says: In this place which you say is a ruin, without man or beast-that is, in Judah's cities and Jerusalem's streets that are a desolation without man, without inhabitant, and without beast-there will be heard again 11 a sound of joy and gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, and the voice of those saying, Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good; His faithful love endures forever as they bring thank offerings to the temple of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as in former times, says the Lord.”
Note (9:6a) - “You alone are the LORD…” - This statement of exclusivity, is an about-face from their years spent in idolatry, pursuing other Gods, which caused them to fall into Babylonian captivity. They now declare that there is only one true God, and He is the God that created the heavens and the earth.
🔑 Deuteronomy 6:4 (HCSB) - “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
Consider God’s Covenant Promises (9:7-15) - “7 You are the Lord God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and changed his name to Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful in Your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites- to give it to his descendants. You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous. 9 You saw the oppression of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, all his officials, and all the people of his land, for You knew how arrogantly they treated our ancestors. You made a name for Yourself that endures to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, and they crossed through it on dry ground. You hurled their pursuers into the depths like a stone into churning waters. 12 You led them with a pillar of cloud by day, and with a pillar of fire by night, to illuminate the way they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good decrees and commandments. 14 You revealed Your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commandments, statutes, and a law through Your servant Moses. 15 You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; You brought them water from the rock for their thirst. You told them to go in and possess the land You had sworn to give them.”
Consider God’s Compassionate Patience (9:16-25) - “16 But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to Your commands. 17 They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them. 18 Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, "This is your God who brought you out of Egypt," and they had committed terrible blasphemies, 19 You did not abandon them in the wilderness because of Your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go. 20 You sent Your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths, and You gave them water for their thirst. 21 You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. 22 You gave them kingdoms and peoples and assigned them to be a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and of the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their descendants like the stars of heaven and brought them to the land You told their ancestors to go in and take possession [of it]. 24 So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, rock-hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in Your great goodness.”
Note (9:16-19) - Consider their ways, compared to God’s response. They acted terribly, but God continued enduring with them, and refused to abandon them in the wilderness. Every child of grace, who has wondered in the wilderness of Sin, and is now saved can also rejoice, that God was merciful and did not abandon the sinner lost in sin.
Illustration: John Newton’s famous hymn “Amazing Grace” is an appropriate hymn for this group. God extended his rich favor to them, when all they deserved was harsh judgment. It is amazing to consider the truth that God loves us enough to provide His deliverance, and then extend mercy, when His kindness repaid with insult and rejection
Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I am found
I was blind, but now I see.
Consider The People’s Contrary Practices (9:26-37) - “26 But they were disobedient and rebelled against You. They flung Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who warned them to turn them back to You. They committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In Your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies. 28 But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in Your sight. So You abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion. 29 You warned them to turn back to Your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey Your commandments. They sinned against Your ordinances, by which a person will live if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. 30 You were patient with them for many years, and Your Spirit warned them through Your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, You handed them over to the surrounding peoples. 31 However, in Your abundant compassion, You did not destroy them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God. 32 So now, our God-the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant- do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all Your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today. 33 You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commandments and warnings You gave them. 35 When they were in their kingdom, with Your abundant goodness You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land You set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways. 36 Here we are today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are-slaves in it! 37 Its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.”

Commit to Serving God (9:38)

Legal Agreement (9:38a) - “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement in writing on a sealed document”
Note (9:38a) - After thoughtfully considering God’s mercy, the people decided to affirm their repentance with a legally binding decree. They realized their new life in the land was a blessing that God had done as an extension of his covenant promise to them. This promise had guided and guarded them through their captivity, and has now re-establshed them in the land. There was a clear desire to not take for granted God’s restoration and forgiveness.
2 Kings 23:3 (HCSB) - “3 Next, the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant in the presence of the Lord to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments, His decrees, and His statutes with all his mind and with all his heart, and to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book; all the people agreed to the covenant.”
2 Chronicles 34:31 (HCSB) - “31 Next the king stood at his post and made a covenant in the Lord's presence to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments, His decrees, and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul in order to carry out the words of the covenant written in this book.”
Leadership-Led Agreement (9:38b) - “containing the names of our leaders, Levites, and priests.”
Note (9:38b): This portion of the text relates to the people who were responsible for leading in worship. It is important to note that the leaders had failed to lead the people properly, and so they allowed their Spiritual decline.
Acts 20:28 (HCSB) - “28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Hebrews 13:17-18 (HCSB) - “17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. 18 Pray for us; for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything.”
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