Saturday, December 10
After the wall was completed the people gathered at the square which was in front of the Water Gate and they had Ezra read the books of the law to them and had them explained to them. The people were so moved that they bowed down low and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah and Ezra told the people not to mourn but to keep the day as holy to the LORD, to go and feast and be filled with joy because the LORD is their strength. They were encouraged to make shelters of branches to help celebrate. This was the custom that was known as the feast of booths or tabernacles that is celebrated to this day by the Jews. Ezra read the law daily for the entire celebration lasting 7 days, and then there was a solemn service held on the eighth day.
After the reading of the scriptures something very interesting and dramatic happens. The Jews separate themselves from any foreign people in their city and they fasted and smeared ashes and dirt upon themselves, wore itchy sackcloth, and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. Then in the hearing of the people the leaders told of the goodness of the LORD to the people throughout generations past. Telling of all His mighty deeds. Then the people all sign an agreement to follow the commands as God laid them out in His law, and to live holy and pleasing lives to the LORD from that time onward. This national repentance and reconciliation was done in order to please the LORD. Whenever God’s people do what pleases Him, His blessings are soon to follow.
What catches my eye about this is that the people hold a national time of repentance. Could you imagine what would happen if we tried to do this today? I’m sure the news stations would be all over it in an instant. Watch out CNN! The interviews could be quite interesting , and could lead to some very juicy gossip to be sure. The point is that people today rarely apologize for anything. They find it even more hard to change their ways . You may have some examples of people you know who don’t apologize when it would be appropriate to do so. You might also know people who say they are going to change their ways but find it difficult to set any new pattern in their behavior. Personally, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a person struggling with addiction say they are going to quit – I would be very rich indeed! I’m not saying that it is impossible for a person to change but it is in reality quite difficult for people to change their attitudes which are then reflected in their actions.
The Jews had this same difficulty. They had a national time of repentance and even signed the document but as history unfolds we can see that they were not very good at keeping their promise to God. It’s important to keep your promises to God. Repentance is all about changing your ways. It’s good to apologize to God when appropriate but even better is to change your behavior so that you don’t have to be in the situation where you need to apologize! God wants us to be sincere in our words and our deeds. Are there any of your actions that you need to apologize to God for, and change? What do you think is the first step you can take to help change your ways so that they are pleasing to God? God’s blessing follows true repentance. What blessings do you think God might have in store for you when you are in right standing with Him?