Ezra - Psalm 4
Text: Nehemiah 9
(side note: every time I see the name "Nehemiah" I start singing a song from a church musical when I was a kid "O me! O My! O Nehemiah look what we have done! The walls are down the gates are broke oh. . hum de hum dum hum...." yeah. That's all I remember. I DO however have this musical to thank for teaching me about Nehemiah re-building the walls of Jerusalem.)
Anyway. I feel a bit like a broken record but the Israelites keep pointing this out about themselves and every time my heart just breaks. In Chapter 9 the Israelites are standing "in their places and confess[ing] their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day and spent another quarter in confession and in worship of their Lord their God." (2-3)
As they do this they remember their past. There was no Bible to carry around those days - so they often repeated their history. My years as an English teacher taught me that repetition has a rather strong literary effect - and God certainly employs it. Just in case you missed it before - one more time let's see just what these Israelites have been up to:
Verses 5-15 describe all the amazing things God did for them - how God made a name for himself (10). (That seems to be one of the big themes God is showing me in this speed read - that God made a name for himself and it's A Big Deal)
And, of course, the Israelites "failed to remember the miracles [God] performed among them" (17).
They went back and forth - At one time they "reveled in [his] great goodness" (25) but "as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was even in [his] sight" (28).
Yet -even with all this unfaithfulness from the Israelites - we get this:
"our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. . . n all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong... Even while [our kings] were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
But, see, we are staves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat it's fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, it's abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress." (32-37)
Now, if I was God I'd say, "hold on..the kings I placed over you? I seem to recall you begging me for those kings so you could be like those around you? Those are of your asking as well!" (Though I know God did anoint and appoint kings)
That last part is just so sad to me. Living in the promised land - and the promised land is doing exactly as was promised - producing abundant fruit. Yet, the people do not get the benefit of the promise - they're there - but the fruit goes to the king and they are slaves in the land because of their sin.
Living as a slave in a promised land. Just because you're somewhere God wants you to be doesn't mean you're exempt from making mistakes or suffering consequences of your actions.