Nehemiah 9:17. Five Things to Know About God When You Mess Up

Can you remember the last time when you messed up? Maybe you’re right in the middle of a mess up right now. It’s not hard to find yourself in the middle of sin. James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Satan studies each one of us. He knows exactly what area to tempt you in. He’s not going to come around and tempt you in areas that are not a weakness – he’ll strike where you are the weakest. Most of us mess up every – single – day. We are constantly having to bring our sin to God and ask Him to forgive us.

But what about when your “mess up” looks more like an exploded landmine? Or maybe it isn’t all that big, but your “mess up” is repetitive and here you are messing up again? Satan wants to keep us in our guilt so we are defeated in our sin. So, he fills our minds with lies that says, “God could never use me.” Or “I’ve done this too many times. God’s not even going to believe me when I say I’m sorry.” Or “God won’t forgive this one – it’s just too big of a sin.”

Let’s look at the nation of Israel and their really big “mess up” that lasted for generations and five things we need to know about God for the times when we mess things up.

What was Israel’s mess up?

In the book of Nehemiah, the children of Israel had spent 70 years in captivity under the Babylonians because they would not leave worshiping false gods and separate themselves to worship only Yahweh. Throughout many generations, God sent prophet after prophet to warn them over and over of His coming judgement. Periodically a king would take the throne who’s heart was for God and there would be a brief revival in the nation, but eventually, enough was enough and the land was invaded and the people were carried off into bondage – just as God had said would happen if they did not repent and turn back to Him.

God is a God who keeps his promises. Most of the time that knowledge brings us comfort. Because He keeps His promises we can trust in His gift of eternal life. We tend to think about God keeping his promises when they are good promises. However, God keeps all His promises – even the ones that warn of judgement when we refuse to repent. Israel discovered the hard way that when you mess up and stubbornly refuse to repent, God’s promises of judgement does come.

The Returning Exiles

Now, as Nehemiah, enters the stage of history, the 70 years of bondage has ended and the exiled Israelites are returning to Jerusalem. The first group was led back by Zerubbabel around 538 BC when Cyrus was king. The second group was led by Ezra around 458 BC when Artaxerxes was king. Then Nehemiah brought the third group back around 444 BC and Artaxerxes was still king.

A Penitent Prayer for the Mess up

The long penitent prayer found in Nehemiah chapter 9 shows that the Jews understood that their persistent rebellion against God is what led them to be taken captive. Their rebellion was their mess up. And their motto must have been “If you’re going to do something, do it well,” ’cause they messed up real good! But do you know the good news about that? It shows that no matter how big our mess up, no matter how far we stray from God, a repentant and contrite heart always leads us back toa loving God who is ready to forgive.

The group of returning exiles recognized that it was the grace of God that allowed them to return to the Promised Land. Their response to God’s goodness and grace was a recognition of just how bad their mess up was and they mourn and weep over their sin as they repent and confess it to God.

The Jews understood their persistent rebellion against God led them into captivity for 70 years. They also knew it was the grace of God that allowed them back into the Promised Land. As a result, the mourn and weep over their sin as they confess their sin to God.

Five Things to Know About God When You’ve Messed Up

In verse 17, we find attributes of God that is good news for us today because we, like the Jews, have strayed from God and go our own way. We too are guilty of trying to do life our way, rather than God’s way. And just like the Jews found a merciful God ready to forgive, so can we when we repent and turn back to God. We can find the same God that they found. Verse 17 says, “But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, slow to anger; abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.”

We, like the Jews, stray from God. We try to do life our way, rather than God’s way. When we repent, we will find the same God they found: a God ready to pardon, gracious & merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, & will not forsake us.

1. No Other God

Israel’s biggest sin was not acknowledging God as the One, and only, True and Living God. They preferred carved images over a God who continually had provided for them, cared for them, delivered them. and revealed Himself to them time and time again. When we come to God in repentance, we need to recognize that God is God. There is no other God. Isaiah 45:5 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.”

While we may not bow down and worship golden or stone images, we are all guilty of making something a god in our life. It could be our children, careers, or hobbies. Anything that we make more important in our life than God becomes an idol that we worship. As we repent, we return God to the place He deserves in our lives and get our priorities in the right order.

2. God stand ready to pardon your mess up

The second thing we learn, is that God is ready to pardon. To pardon is the action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error, offense, or sin. He is waiting for us to come to Him, asking for forgiveness and as soon as our heart is repentant and contrite, He is ready to pronounce our pardon. The only thing standing in the way of our pardon, is our own hard-heartedness and rebellion that refuses to ask God to forgive us.

3. God is gracious, merciful, and slow to anger

We also learn that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger. Almost all of us know someone we might call a “hothead,” meaning they lose their temper quickly and lash out in anger. Thankfully for us, God is not like that. When you look through the books of 1 & 2 Kings and the generation after generation of forsaking God, you can understand that God is indeed gracious and merciful. If God were not gracious and merciful, none of us would have any hope. But God does give us chance after chance to repent before judgement comes. And if we refuse to repent and stubbornly stay in our sin, just as Israel experienced – there comes a day God says, “Enough!” And then, judgement comes.

Ultimately we see God’s graciousness and mercy towards us poured out through the sacrifice of His only son in our place as he hung on a cross, paying our sin debt. If you want to see the extent of God’s grace and mercy towards us, you only need to look to the cross.

Ultimately we see God’s graciousness & mercy towards us poured out through the sacrifice of His only son in our place as he hung on a cross, paying our sin debt. If you want to see the extent of God’s grace and mercy towards us, you only need to look to the cross.

4. God is abundant in kindness

Next we lean that God is abundant in kindness. In all the years of Israel, God had shown his abundant kindness towards them. It is because of His kindness that He provides for us, protects us, and empathizes with us. When Jesus lived on earth, we saw the kindness of God over and over as Jesus healed, fed, and forgave the people He encountered. God is still abundant in kindness towards us today. He still provides for us, empathizes with us, comforts us, guides us, encourages us, and forgives us.

5. God never forsakes His people – not even in the middle of a mess up

Lastly we see that God never forsook His people. Even when they were in bondage, God was at work, drawing them back to Him and preparing them for the day when they would return to the promised land. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us that God will go with us and then He will never leave us or forsake us. The people may have spent 70 years in captivity as a result of their rebellion against God, yet God never forsook them and He will never forsake us.

It’s Time to Come Back To God

If you have strayed away from God, it’s time to come back. Like the Jews, we return as we acknowledge that God is God and there is no other. When we do, we’ll find He is ready to pardon and we will understand and realize the full extent of his grace and mercy. We’ll see that because He is slow to anger that He gave us chance after chance to return to Him. We’ll be able to recognize His abundant kindness in our lives and that even when we strayed from Him, He never strayed from us but kept calling us back to Him. Listen. He’s calling you now.

If you have strayed away from God, it’s time to come back. Even when we stray from Him, He never strays from us but keeps calling us back to Him. Listen! He’s calling you now.

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