2013-08-07 / Religion

Sunday School Lesson

Confess your sins before God
Rev. James Temples

Nehemiah 9

The children of Israel had turned from the ways of God — Jehovah —and had embraced the false gods of the nations around them. They forsook the God who had chosen them as the nation through which the Messiah would come.

Jehovah would not allow their rebellion to continue. Through his love, he sent many prophets declaring the divine desire that they would return to him.

These words of love and compassion were rejected. The result was their being carried into captivity. However, God did not forget his own, even as they were exiled from his desired will.

The Persian king, Cyrus, made a declaration concerning the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36:22,23. Years later, the wall of the city was rebuilt under the leadership of the man, Nehemiah. Nehemiah 6:15. The priest, Ezra, was sent as a teacher, to instruct a generation that had no personal knowledge of the divine expectations.

The law of Moses was the text from which Ezra would teach. These hearers knew the existence of these laws but had no personal knowledge of the content. “And Ezra the priest brought the law…And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday. Nehemiah 8:2,3.

It was necessary for some helpers to be present in this teaching session. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8.

Since many of the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem had spent much — if not all — of their lives in various countries, it was necessary for the Hebrew of the Old Testament to be translated into these languages.

At the hearing of these words, the personal response of many of the hearers was that of mourning. These teachers wanted these people to be joyful, yet they had begun to mourn. Nehemiah 8:9c.

Those who had gathered to hear the word celebrated “the feast of the seventh month.” Nehemiah 8:14. After this seven-day feast, there was a “solemn assembly, according to the manner.” Nehemiah 8:18c.

Many of the words that these people heard were warnings concerning action that needed to be taken.

When these people returned to their cities, they had been able to ponder these divine directives. Personal and national sins had been revealed. They recognized the cause of the judgments that had been poured out upon their rebellious ancestors.

These same judgments could fall on them. “Now in the 20 and fourth day of this month (i.e., the seventh month) the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.” Nehemiah 9:1.

For these Jews to be seen in public covered with sackcloth, and with earth or ashes upon them, were signs of extreme mourning. They knew that their race was to remain pure. However, many of them were part of mixed marriages or the offspring of these marriages. These mixed marriages were often based on the acceptance of false gods.

Those who were pure Jews separated themselves from all strangers (the sons of foreigners), and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.” Nehemiah 9:2. Open confession of personal sins and iniquities, along with ancestral sins was seen as necessary.

The use of the word, confess, can paint a whole gallery of pictures — many of them are not pretty.

A part of our sinful nature includes our desire to skip the blame and pass it on. This fact is shown in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8- 13), and has not been reduced through the centuries. Do we truly confess our sins, or do we, simply, half-heartedly admit them?

To admit personal sins is fairly easy. However, God has equipped each of us with a conscience — a built-in moral code, revealing right and wrong.

These people were aware of their personal responsibility to serve the heavenly father — the creator of the universe. They knew that they could “change their ways” and obey the divine commands. Their forefathers had died. What could they do with regard to their actions?

No, one cannot unscramble eggs. Yet, these people could avoid the pitfalls that had marked the lives of the ancients.

We can learn from our mistakes. Yet, it is important that we learn from the mistakes of others. No person lives long enough to make all the mistakes for himself or herself.

These people did not depend upon their own wisdom in their approach to God. “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.” Nehemiah 9:3.

The leaders of this time of worship and confession realized the necessity of their returning to their roots, as a means of spiritual, personal cleansing. “Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites…and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God.” Nehemiah 9:4.

Their intent was to make known the past blessings of God — “Then the Levites…said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.” Nehemiah 9:5.

The words that poured forth from this group were the recalling of the greatness of God, and his divine provisions for his people.

Remembering the blessings of the past would cause this generation to recognize the hand of their God that had directed their national and personal history. “Thou, even thou, art the Lord, alone (only; separate from others); thou has made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is in therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name Abraham…” Nehemiah 9:6,7.

This prayer was concluded, and these leaders wrote a covenant, “and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” Nehemiah 9:38c. The names of those who signed this covenant are a part of the divine record. Nehemiah 10:1-27.

Are we this serious about obeying God in our daily lives?” We, too, must confess — to say what God already knows — our sins. John 3:16; 1 John 1:9.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Florida. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478-299-2068

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