On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. 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 worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
– Nehemiah 9:1-6
“One of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, said, ‘Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.’ Bible commentator Mathew Henry added, ‘A Christian is always in danger. By his faith alone, he will be able to keep his ground.’
“While religious persecution runs at high pitch in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, American Christians are sheltered from physical onslaught. Yet, atheist and other anti-faith groups want to abolish God from the public square, dismantle memorial crosses that honor veterans, and destroy ages-old sanctities of marriage and life. Those who serve God and the cause of Christ can no longer sit in idleness on the sidelines. As with the people of Nehemiah’s day, Christians need to confess their sins and stand up, boldly proclaiming that they belong to God.
The coming year shows no promise of a let-up by your adversary. Are you ready in 2019 to take your place – with jailed evangelists in China, Christian aid workers in South Sudan, and the teenage girl in Texas fighting to keep the right to say “under God” in her Pledge? Prayerfully consider your watchfulness, your depth of faith, and your willingness to be among those who stand.
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
This goes hand-in-hand with yesterday’s post, in an odd way. Odd, how these two devotions overlap as do the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Ezra told the people to separate from their foreign wives. Now Nehemiah talks of the dedication ceremony after they had done so. The Scripture and devotion both speak of taking a stand. The Scripture’s description of the preparation for the ceremony is different than our modern worship services today.
We don’t do the sack cloth and ashes routine much anymore, but maybe we should, at least spiritually. What would people think when they showed up for a Christmas Eve service and a few people were there in sackcloth and ashes. Moreover, how would they react to the fact that they had spent three hours reading the Bible and that the upcoming worship service would include three more hours of confession of sins and singing praises to God?
There might be a bunch that would find a different church, but is that not what got the Israelites in trouble in the first place? “The temple is destroyed. The priests left. Let’s go somewhere else. I hear there is a modern-style worship service of some sort on that hill over there.” (Contemporary worship is not being trashed here. The Israelites’ problem is that they did not check to see who was being worshipped. That could be true today in traditional or contemporary worship services.) It seems that there was no one there to say that worshipping on that far hill was NOT a good idea. No one there was willing to take a stand. With Ezra and Nehemiah, they had leaders who asked the others to stand with them.
Who among us is willing to take a stand?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.