Focal Passage: Nehemiah 9:32-37
One of the amazing things about my children is their memory. They do not seem to hear me when I remind them of their chores, but let me forget to do something they wanted to do and I am immediately met by “But Dad, you promised.” They remember my promises and do not hesitate to remind me when they are in danger of not being met.
One of the amazing things about God is that He is the covenant making and promise keeping God. He is never in need of me reminding Him when it comes to the matter of His promises. However, I often stand in need of His reminder concerning His covenant promise with me. When it comes to our lesson this week, the nation of Israel is in a place where they need to be reminded of the covenant and promises of God.
Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is reminded of the covenant of God, oftentimes with the words, “I will be their God and they will be my people.” I am also reminded that the same language appears in Revelation 21:7. What an amazing and reassuring covenantal promise from God, He is our God and we get to be His people.
When it comes to the covenants of God, almost always it is God who initiates, establishes, and maintains the covenant. We are the benefactors who receive blessings, protection, provision, and relationship. In Nehemiah 9:32, the covenant of God is referred to as being “gracious.” The Hebrew word for gracious can mean several things; grace, steadfast love, or mercy. It is hard for us to understand how God could initiate, establish, and maintain His covenant with us, and then be so gracious on top of it.
Now do not forget where Nehemiah and the Jewish people find themselves. They are at the end of an almost 300-year-long exile. The reason the nation has been the captives of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians is because they failed to remember God as their God and obey His commands as His people.
Often times a conquered nation had to pay tribute to the ruling nation. That may be in the form of gold, silver, crops, livestock, people, or a combination of those things. Can you imagine how much bitterness could build up from years of paying tribute to a foreign nation? You can give tribute to a foreign king without any heartfelt sincerity. You just do it because you have to.
One of the things that got Israel into trouble was that they continued to make sacrifices to God but did not obey His commands. It was like they were making tribute to God because they had to, not because they wanted to. Think of it this way. I can take my wife out for a nice dinner because I want to or because I feel like I have to. Regardless of the reason, I can guarantee you she can tell the difference.
When it comes to the salvation covenant we have with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we can do the same thing. We can obey Jesus because we feel like we have to and go through the motions without heartfelt sincerity. Or we can be reminded of the gracious God who holds out this amazing gift of forgiveness in Christ and choose to obey Him because we want to. Let me assure you, He knows the difference.
We do not need to remind God of the salvation we have in Jesus, but all too often we need Him to remind us of the salvation we have in Jesus.
— Davis is senior pastor of Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, Ohio.