Have you ever had that moment when you are spending time in the Word and you realize that you are a lot like the person or people you are reading about?? Well, I had a moment this last weekend when I was reading in Nehemiah 8-9. The people of God are repenting and confessing sin after their land is in shambles. So the writer gives an overview of what has happened to the people of God.
So here’s my summary…..
Abram was found faithful so God changed his name to Abraham and made a covenant with him that his descendants would be a numerous as the stars. God’s promise was kept and they flourished until they were held in oppressing captivity in Egypt. God sees their affliction so He raises up a leader-Moses to lead them out of slavery. He shows His power and strength to Pharaoh and all of Egypt by signs and wonders. The Lord divides the Red Sea delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. He leads them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The Lord provides for them giving them everything they need. He gave Moses the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai. Then they start having troubles. They don’t like the Law. So they refuse to obey and forget all that God has done for them. They make a golden calf to worship and appointed a leader to take them back to captivity in Egypt. Because to them life was better in slavery than freedom in the wilderness. The Lord gave them over to their enemies and they suffered hardship. But the Lord because of His great mercy heard their cries from Heaven. He raised up leaders to fight and save them from their enemies. But after they were delivered and had rested and got comfortable- they sinned and they abandoned the Lord- rejecting His Law. So they were given over to their enemies again- but when they cried out in their distress the Lord heard them and delivered them again and again.
As I read this I had so many interrogative questions I wanted to plague the Israelites with.
“Really, Israelites? Really??? How could you forget all that God had done for you?”
“How could you rebel when the Lord had provided everything for you? “
“How could you rebel when you had seen all of God’s signs and wonders and how He delivered you out of Egypt?”
“How could you think that slavery is better than being led through the wilderness by God Almighty?”
“ How could you rebel after God delivered you from your enemies?”
But in asking all these questions about the rebellion of the Israelites the Lord so graciously convicted my heart with this very bare and honest reality.
“Aren't you like them too? Remember how you forget all that I have done for you?”
“How I have provided and sustained you and yet you fail to remember that it is Me and Me alone that leads and guides you.”
“Haven’t you wanted to go back to “Egypt” instead of staying in the wilderness where I am?”
This is all so true. The people of God today are probably a lot more like the Israelites in the wilderness than we’d like to admit. We accuse the Israelites of being faithless and rebellious but fail to see the rebellion in our own hearts. We see how they forgot to see God’s goodness and faithfulness and think, “How could they? Wasn't it so obvious how He graciously was caring for them?” Yet, we do the same thing. Failing to see How He mercifully cares and sustains us by His grace and loving-kindness. We are astonished when the Israelites erect a golden calf to worship but we fail to see or deny the idols we have raised up in our own lives. We see how the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt to slavery because there was “prosperity and happiness” instead of staying in the wilderness with the Lord. Yet, haven’t we wished when trial and difficulty come to go back to our “Egypt?”
“Life would be better if I went back to my partying days.”
“Life would be easier if I wasn't so passionate about Christ.”
“Life would be more fun if I didn't obey all of God’s commands.”
Following God is too hard... I'm just going to take a break and do my own thing for a while."
“Surely, He wants me to be happy.”
Are we not guilty of this?
Time and time again we forget all that the Lord has done for us.
How He has DELIVERED us from sin and death.
How He has REDEEMED us from the penalty of our sin which we rightly deserved.
How He has LOVED us with an everlasting, unending and unconditional love.
How He has ADOPTED us as sons and daughters and given us the inheritance of His very own Son Jesus.
How He has given EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through His Spirit living inside of us.
How He SUSTAINS us by His Grace.
How He PROVIDES for our every need.
How He is FAITHFUL even when we are faithless.
How He is so GRACIOUS and MERCIFUL to our wandering hearts.
Yes. We are a lot like the Israelites.
But the good thing is that the God of the Israelites is our God too.
“But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17b ESV)
He is far more loving, far more patient and faithful than we deserve. Let us not forget that…. “Nevertheless, in Your great mercies You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.” (Nehemiah 9:31 ESV)
Let us not forget.
Let us always remember.
Let us always see His goodness.
Let us always worship.
Even in the wilderness…..