Celebrate with me one more time, lifting high our great God as we bless His holy name! This was a meaningful time for all who were present as God’s Story continued to unfold. Levites joined together and prayed: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” People recited pages of God’s faithfulness throughout history and everyone at the gathering swore an oath to commit themselves to follow God.
Oh how I wanted this time of dedicated celebration to be what His people focused on during the four hundred-year silence between the Old and New Testaments. But sadly, God’s dearly loved and chosen people drifted into neglecting Him and in time they were again living in their self-centered rebellious ways. This tragic shift did not happen overnight but it happened. How easy it would have been, and justified too, for God to have let mankind go on down the road to destruction. Praise be to God; He does not leave us in our sin, but through His Son Jesus He offers hope upon hope when we turn to Him.
Nehemiah 9:5b-6 NIV
There was a lot to be sorted out for the newly re-established city with its completed walls. Ezra and Nehemiah were a great team. With Jerusalem now stable again, some of God’s people chose to live within her walls and were blessed to do so, and the rest returned to their towns throughout Israel. The most important thing in the lives of those who had traveled from exile was the re-institution of the holidays, and for God’s law to be read again in public.
They needed God’s wisdom and were ready to hear it. The time was right and all of the Israelites who were old enough to understand gathered. God’s law was read. There was mass confession of sins, then great joy and celebration followed. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
The joy of the Lord truly was their strength as they lived in blessedness, and for a time, close to Him. Lord, You indeed are the great God of all, and worthy of praise and worship. As we Your people read Your Story and see how You have called us as a people to worship You, may we honor You with obedience and thankfulness. May we often celebrate Your goodness to us. May we see Your blessings as gifts we love to unwrap and delight in and share. Amen.
Nehemiah 8:6 ESV
It had been fourteen years since Ezra returned to Jerusalem. Word got back to Nehemiah, a Jew serving in the Persian palace, that Jerusalem’s city walls were still in disarray. As the newly appointed governor to Jerusalem, Nehemiah received a commission from the Persian king to make the journey to Jerusalem to help revitalize the city. Nehemiah was faithful and put into motion the task before him as he rallied the work force to focus on rebuilding the city walls. Nehemiah was a man who cared for God’s people and talked to the Lord in prayer. Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it. God did bless him: the wall was completed in fifty-two days! Even Israel’s enemies had acknowledged that God had accomplished the task!
We had been living in our supervisor’s home in London while they were on an extended stay in the US, and my Bible reading for the year had me at this point in God’s Story. Although a lot of good was coming from our living situation, I was anxious to move into our own place and begin to establish our identity in that new area. For fifty-two days in a row I prayed, and house after house that we sought to rent fell through. I remember thinking how Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of a whole city with God’s help. Certainly God could help us find a home. And He did. And I grew closer to God in the anticipation of His provision.
His desire was to give us more than just a house; He provided this home at just the right time so we could host a house-warming Christmas party as the conclusion of a counseling class I attended at the local university. So, my classmates – students of various ages from a variety of countries, heard more good news of Jesus while we gathered in our new 110-year-old home. What great (or small) thing does the Lord want to accomplish through you? Are you talking to Him about it? Prayer brings us closer to the One who desires to give to us the desires of our hearts.
Nehemiah 5:19 NLT