Much of the Old Testament is a rhythm of God’s judgment and grace. The storyline often goes something like this: God makes promises. God commands. People get stubborn. People disobey. People refuse to listen. God responds with judgment. God gives grace and fulfills his promises. People enjoy. People get stubborn. The cycle begins again…. The promise of God always involves judgment and grace. Proclaiming only a message of judgment without grace brings despair, death, and hell; there is no hope. Only speaking of grace apart from judgment is oxymoronic – it doesn’t exist because there is no need for grace if there is no judgment; grace is an undeserved mercy given freely by God in the face of our sinful selves.
Nehemiah chapter nine is a beautiful prayer of confession. Having heard the Word of God proclaimed, the people did not remain obstinate; they realized exile occurred because of their own stubborn refusal to listen to God, and they repented. The Jews acknowledged their checkered past of ignoring the prophets God sent, and they bellied-up and took ownership of their own sin. And God was faithful. Even though the city of Jerusalem had been overtaken and the people sent into exile, God brought them back and the broken wall was rebuilt.
It is never too late to turn from a past filled with poor decisions, broken relationships, and spiritual disobedience. The time of confession is available, and the time is now. God’s grace always trumps our dubious past. The appropriate response to today’s lectionary is to spend some time in confession to God. This chapter, along with Nehemiah chapter one, are good places to begin with understanding just what to say to God. Confession ought always to conclude with accepting the grace available to us in Christ. Today is a new day. Let it be a new life with the love of Jesus implanted in your heart.
Holy and loving God, your grace is measureless and free. Today I turn from my stubborn refusal to walk in your ways, and receive the wonderful gift of new life through Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. Amen.