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It happens. Nehemiah 9.1-3

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 6-9.3 (6)

Pray Psalm 85.1-3.
LORD, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin.
You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

Sing Psalm 85.1-3.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
O LORD, You Your favor showed to Your land;
Your people You saved by Your mighty hand.
Their sins You forgave, all Your wrath You withdrew;
You turned back the anger which to them was due.

Read and meditate on Nehemiah 9.1-3.

1. How did the people appear as they assembled?

2. What did they do as an assembly?

This looks very much like other seasons of revival in the Old Testament. Sincere. Prayerful. Word-based. And, alas, incomplete. David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah had all presided over seasons of sudden, sincere, and God-honoring revival. But they were not complete, for one reason or another, and they did not last.

But this is as much as we can expect for those days before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Today’s passage reminds us that the human soul longs for God, longs to be right with Him and to know His favor. But because we are sinful and prone to become captive to the world, we must humble ourselves, return to God’s Word, confess and repent of our sins, worship and pray and wait on the Lord to revive us.

We have been insisting that these people who returned from captivity had merely exchanged one form of captivity—in Babylon—for another—their own selfish interest and worldly desires. But still, the longing persists in God’s people to be right with Him and to know the promises and blessings of His covenant. And, in His grace, throughout the Old Testament, God granted a measure of revival, all the while pointing forward to that great day when the King of kings would free us from our captivity to sin and self, lead and seat us in the very throne room of God, send His Spirit to dwell in us, and revive us to seek and enjoy His eternal Kingdom and glory.

Yet even as wondrous as our times of revival can be, they also remain incomplete, and will be until Jesus returns and makes all things new. Then we will see Him face-to-face, and revival will continue without end.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
That thought brings a smile to your face. Oh, happy day! To see Jesus face-to-face, with continued revival in His Presence forevermore. It is what we anticipate with great longing.

But until then, we desire at least partial revival, here on earth.

In our antiseptic wet-wipe age it is hard to imagine anyone being so distraught about sin that they put dust on their heads or cover themselves with earth (Neh. 9.1). Children, dirt-play being a favorite pastime, would probably love that way to repentance. (I guess that’s why we send them to their rooms and not outside to make mudpies). But this again, is where we are called to be like little children before our heavenly Father.

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18.3).
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19.14).
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mk. 10.15).
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…” (Jn. 1.12).
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn. 3.2).
“Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right” (Prov. 20.11).
“…And a little child shall lead them” (Is. 11.6).

However you are led, repentance is always the first step to revival—even without the additional dust (Ps. 103.14).

So as children of God, throwing caution to the wind, let us humble ourselves, and pray and seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked, captive ways. God promises that if we do that, He will hear from heaven, and will forgive our sins, and will heal our land, our hearts, and our churches (2 Chron. 7.14).

Whether it is with dirt on our heads, or merely a truly repentant heart, God will see, and He will know our sincerity. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139.23, 24).

And He will forgive and renew us, and give us revival—even if only partially—in anticipation of the glorious Day of Jesus’ return when He will make all things new. Glory hallelujah!

For reflection
1. When you think of “revival”, what comes to mind?

2. Why do we need to seek revival? Is seeking revival part of your daily prayers?

3. Whom will you encourage today to join you in seeking the Lord for revival?

The careful study of God’s word will more and more discover to us our own sinfulness, and the plenteousness of his salvation; thus it calls us to mourn for sin, and to rejoice in him.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Nehemiah 9.1-3

Pray Psalm 85.4-13.
Pray that God will bring true revival to all His churches, and that revival may lead to renewal in the Church and awakening to faith in the world.

Sing Psalm 85.4-13.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
Restore us, O God, renew us in peace,
and cause all Your wrath against us to cease.
Will You evermore all Your wrath to us show?
Revive us that we may Your joy again know.

LORD, show us Your love; restore us, we pray!
And help us to hear the words that You say.
Speak peace to Your people; in truth let us stand.
We fear You; let glory and grace fill our land.

In Jesus God’s grace and truth are combined;
both goodness and peace in Him do we find.
Truth springs from the earth as He walks in our midst,
and righteousness flows from the heav’ns as a gift.

The LORD by His grace will give what is good;
our land will produce abundance of food.
And righteousness will go before the LORD’s face,
and make of His footsteps a way in this place.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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