"Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, Against all his servants and all the people of his land; For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, And made a name for Yourself as it is this day.Nehemiah 9:10(NASB)
Nehemiah was the man who grieved and mourned over the holy city of Jerusalem, which lay in ruins with its city gates burned and charred. He was cup-bearer to Artaxerxes the Persian king, and his prayer to the Lord was answered when the king heard his lament and authorised the rebuilding of the city, with its walls and gates.
It was not an easy task as there was much opposition from the governor of the city and other individuals with authority in Jerusalem. Indeed, these detractors tried every delaying tactic and introduced many objections. They even tried slandering Nehemiah in a letter to the king, but due to his determination, and his faithful group of builders, the city wall was finished and its various gates were finally reconstructed.
It was following the rebuilding of the city wall that it was necessary to re-establish the confidence of the people and re-ignite their trust in the Lord their God. And so, Nehemiah records God's hand in elements of their past history, to build up their enthusiasm for the present and future and to revitalise their hope in the Lord.
He started by making a register of the entire Jewish population of Jerusalem so that they could set about a programme of social improvement and religious reform. After a period of national fasting, individual repentance, prayer, and the confession of their sin (and those of their Jewish forefathers) the entire Jewish nation stood up as one – to listen to the public reading of the Law of Moses and to give heed to the nation's priestly leaders who rehearsed a national prayer of praise and thanksgiving before the Lord.
The name of the Lord was blessed and highly exalted, and all the people were reminded of the many elements of God's creative hand: "You alone are the LORD," was the joyful reminder, "You have made the heavens – the heaven of heavens with all their host. You created 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 bows down before You."
The psalm of praise reminded the listeners of their forefather Abraham, who was brought out of Ur of the Chaldees and was given the Promised Land for his descendants, forever. They recalled the nation's afflictions in Egypt and were reminded that it was God Who heard their cry when they were enslaved in Egypt, and God Who answered their pleas for help.
"Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh," the prayer continued, "Your signs were against all his servants and all the people of his land. You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, and You made a name for Yourself.. as it is to this day."
The amazing signs and wonders that accompanied the Israelite's escape out from Egypt, continued to be a much-discussed topic of fearful wonder to all the surrounding pagan nations. The greatness and almighty strength of Israel's God was exhibited before all their enemies – but they also had to be reminded of His awesome deeds on their account, for they had wandered away from the Lord.
As we reflect on these events of their history, it is wise to consider that the Israelites are not the only ones who have drifted away from God and looked to pagan idols of wood and stone, silver and gold. Israel is not the only group that needs to be reminded of the God in Who they believed, and Who should command their loyalty and love.
Many in the Church today are leaving their first love for the more modern idols of bricks and mortar, gold and silver, fame, fortune, and the praise of man. Many have set aside the truth of God's Word for the lies and deception of the enemy who has rendered the Bible as insignificant and the Person and Work of Christ as superfluous to the requirement of these modern times.
But God's Word is founded on the one and only Foundation that can never be shaken - the single, steadfast truth of God's written Word, which is indistinguishable from the living, incarnate Word of God in the face of Jesus Christ. May we hold fast to the truth and be ready and able to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ – for His name's sake.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the many reminders in both Old and New Testaments, of the ease with which we can leave our first love and the speed with which we can wander from the truth. Keep me on the road of righteousness and looking to Jesus. Prevent me from being dazzled by any passing fancy of this world, which can only cause me to stumble. May I never forget that You alone are the Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that by grace You sent Your only begotten Son to die in my place so that by faith in Him I may rise to life immortal. Praise Your holy name! AMEN.