Return from Exile: Malachi 1 (7)
Pray Psalm 51.10-13.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
Sing Psalm 51.10-13.
(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, LORD, and keep me in Your hand;
thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
Review Nehemiah 13; meditate on verses 14, 22, 29, 31.
1. What did Nehemiah do throughout this chapter?
2. What did he want God to do?
In Israel’s history, the word “remember” cues up all kinds of covenant episodes. God promised to remember the covenant He made with the earth in the days of Noah (Gen. 9.15, 16). He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as He called Moses to deliver His people (Ex. 2.24). Moses pleaded with God to remember that covenant when He was threatening to destroy His people (Ex. 32.14). God promised to remember His covenant in Leviticus 26.42 and 45. He called His people to remember the work He had done remembering His covenant on their behalf (Deut. 8.2, 18). And so on.
It’s not that God was prone to be forgetful. “Remember” carries the meaning of continuing watchfulness, faithfulness, and unfailing attention and love. It indicates that God is acting according to His Word and that those who are in covenant with Him should do so as well.
When Nehemiah prayed that God would remember him and his works, he was invoking covenant language, the language of grace and promise, language that pointed forward to a day when God would crush the head of Satan, install Shiloh as King over His people, set His captive people free, and bring all the blessings of His Word to His faithful servants. Nehemiah—like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and the prophets—sought to honor and glorify God by remembering His covenant and doing whatever he could to help God’s people remember it as well.
His prayers of remembrance invoked the grace, care, provision, and forbearance of God toward a people prone to wander from His path and always in need of revival and renewal. We need such prayers today.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
As covenantal as Nehemiah’s prayers were, they were equally practical.
We can only imagine that he was feeling the exhaustion of dealing with the recalcitrant; the concerns of butting heads with the vindictive; and the human fear of what those recalcitrant, vindictive folk might do to him and all the work he held dear.
Remember me, LORD, he prayed, and please:
- Do not wipe out my good deeds (Neh. 13.14).
- Spare me from my enemies’ anger (Neh. 13.22).
- Look on my enemies’ deeds for the truth of what they are (Neh. 13.29).
- When all is said and done, LORD, remember me for good (Neh. 13.31).
We can hear him intoning David’s prayer of sadness, saying: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (Ps. 55.6-8).
We can all empathize with his feelings. I dare say, we have all felt the same.
Life will always have its ups and downs and sideways blowbacks, but through it all, God is with us.
As He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31.6; Heb. 13.5).
And Jesus calls to us with His words: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11.28-30).
When we feel alone in our exhaustion caused by turmoil from without and within, it helps to remember that it has always been thus: the prophets of old; God’s many faithful followers (including Nehemiah and Ezra); and Jesus and all His followers through the centuries have faced emotional, physical, and spiritual hardships (Heb. 11.35-37). “Yet,” as Paul wrote, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Because truthfully, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8. 37, 35). Nope. Nothing can. Not even the sadness of being spurned by church, family, or friends. Tribulation doesn’t always look like being sawn in two (Heb. 11.37).
So, how precious to know: God not only remembers His majestic Covenant, but He remembers us: “…you are Mine” (Is. 43.1).
1. How has God remembered His covenant toward you?
2. What does He expect of you in the way of remembering His covenant?
3. Why are reading and studying God’s Word so important to help us remember God’s covenant?
We may humbly hope that the Lord will remember us and our services, although, after lives of unwearied activity and usefulness, we shall still see cause to abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes, and to cry out with Nehemiah, Spare me, O my God, according to the greatness of thy mercy. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Nehemiah 13.31
Pray Psalm 51.14-19.
Thank God that He remembers His covenant and will faithfully keep His people and build His Church. Recommit yourself to knowing, loving, and serving Him increasingly.
Sing Psalm 51.14-19.
(Aughton: He Leadeth Me)
Deliver us, from guilt, O LORD, You Who have saved us by Your Word;
and let our tongues Your mercy bless, and sing of Your great righteousness!
Refrain vv. 15, 18
LORD, open now our lips to raise to You sweet songs of joyous praise!
Thus let Your favor on us fall, and build and strengthen Zion’s wall!
No sacrifice, no offering would You have us, Your people, bring;
but broken spirits, cleansed of lies, and pure hearts You will not despise.
Now build Your Church, raise high the wall of those who on Your mercy call.
And take our lives and let them be sweet sacrifices, LORD, to Thee!
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.
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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, available free by clicking here.