In Nehemiah’s day and throughout the Old Testament the writers describe a predominate cycle of behaviour. It goes like this. Once the people feel safe they begin to forget God and look to the customs of the people’s around them. Then they become dissatisfied. In their dissatisfaction they rebel and turn from God. As time goes on, their rebellion subjects them to the oppression of their enemies. Once they grow tired of the oppression they cry out to God. He then hears and answers them. Again they are in the safety for which they long and the cycle begins again. As we look to the prayer written in Nehemiah 9 we learn of the vicious cycle, the character of God, the character of man and consider how to break the cycle.
The Character of God
God through the great deliverance from Egypt, and many experiences in the wilderness revealed His character to the Hebrews. They knew He alone had ultimate authority. They also learned He was the creator and sustainer of life who was worshipped by the Hosts of heaven. From their knowledge of the history of Abraham they learned that God relates to people, brings them out, gives them a new name, tests their hearts, makes covenants with them and keeps His promises. He also hears the cries of His people and does powerful works on their behalf. God had revealed Himself as their guide, their provider and the One who gave them purpose.
They further learned who God was from their rebellion. He was a listener and always ready to pardon. He demonstrated to them that He was gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and one who never forsakes His own. Even when they made an inanimate object and declared it as their deliverer, He did not leave them. He continued to guide them, and provide for them. They lacked nothing. Their shoes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. He never gave up on them, ever.
The Character of Man
In contrast to the Great God, the character of mankind is manifested. We are prone to pride and stiff necks. We don’t listen to God but instead disobey His directives. We have short memories and forgot God and all He has done for us. Instead we harden our hearts and rebel against Him choosing our own way. We cast His laws behind our backs and kill the prophets who try to remind us of who God is, thereby removing ourselves from the care and protection of Almighty God. However we always find ourselves in trouble and know to call on God. Then we renew our commitments and start over again.
Break the Cycle
It happened all throughout the Old Testament. In Romans 6 the apostle Paul tells us the Hebrews had great zeal for God but it wasn’t from knowledge. They were ignorant of His righteousness. They sought their own righteousness rather than God’s. God’s character did not change nor did the character of mankind. They needed further revelation.
The Old Testament system proved ineffective and the writer of Hebrews tells us they did not continue in God’s covenant and God disregarded them. The law did not work. God therefore, opened another door. He ended the law by sending the ultimate revelation of God, Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus by His death and resurrection took all the sins of mankind to the cross. Our righteousness is as dirty rags. We can try as hard as we want. For righteousness is not performance based. We could never measure up to God’s perfect requirements. Rather, Jesus becomes our righteousness. When we believe that Jesus took all our sins, our missing the mark of God’s perfect requirements, we become righteous in Him. God must be everything. He is also Christ Jesus our righteousness. Break the cycle. Praise God!