The way to freedom

Nehemiah 9:16-25
If you happen to find yourself in the middle of a reading like Nehemiah 9, you might not recognize what is happening.

For sure, there is an acknowledgment of sin taking place. The priest Ezra is recalling the history of his people. It’s better to say he is remembering the faithfulness of his God. He recounts several acts of power and mercy God shows to his ancestors.

God gave life to all people. God called Abraham to lead his people. When the people of God were in bondage, God freed them. They walked across dry land through the divided sea. As if that wasn’t enough, God led them by day with a pillar of cloud and by night a pillar of fire. And even if that didn’t quite make the point, God made a covenant that ensured their standing before the Lord.

And what was their response to all this?

Ezra says, “They acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey” God’s commandments. Even though God was “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” the people wanted their old life in Egypt. Now, this doesn’t sound like a confession of sin. Ezra and the people are remembering what their ancestors did. But who their ancestors were, they were, too. Generational legacies are hard to ignore.

At this point, they recognized the sin of their ancestors as part of their own. Their sense of sin was more communal than ours tends to be. We’re used to thinking of my sin. That’s not wrong, mind you. It’s incomplete.

Now, here’s the part you might miss if you merely happen upon this passage. Yes, it’s an acknowledgment of sin. But it’s part of a larger gathering of the people. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and there was a sense of renewal among them. This moment of national repentance was a part of their celebration and restoration.

Do we see repentance that way? Is confessing sin something we look forward to doing? Like Ezra did in Nehemiah 9, are we willing to acknowledge the guilt our ancestors passed to us? I wonder if it’s possible to know what true freedom from sin is unless we learn to do just that.

We should recognize what our sin does to one another. How sin keeps us from living in the image of God. And understand how sin breaks God’s heart.

But we can also rejoice because God forgives!

“In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven,” is a joyful declaration of peace, reconciliation and power. The more we’re willing to acknowledge how sin invades our lives, the more we can repent. And the more we turn to God, the more grace restores us. Thanks be to God!

Stay blessed…john

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

John Fletcher

Recent Posts


Social Links