In the book of Nehemiah, the children of Israel had spent 70 years in captivity under the Babylonians because they would not leave worshipping false gods and separate themselves to worship on Yahweh. For many generations God warned them over and over. He sent prophets to tell them 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. Now the 70 years of bondage had 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. 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. Now their generation was being returned to the land of promise and they recognize that it was the grace of God that allowed them back. As a result we see the people mourn and weep over their sin as they repent and confess their sin 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. As a result, they mourn & weep over their sin as they confess their sin to God. — click to tweet.
In verse 17, we find attributes of God that is good new for us today because we, like the Jews, stray from God and go our own way. We too are guilty of trying to do life our way, rather than God’s way. When we repent and turn back to God, we will 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 will find the same God they found: a God ready to pardon, gracious & merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, & will not forsake us. — click to tweet
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.
The second thing we learn, is that God is ready to pardon. 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.
We also learn that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger. 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. But just as Israel experienced – there comes a day when judgement comes if we do not repent. Ultimately we see God’s graciousness and mercy towards us poured out through the sacrifice of His only son in our place. If you want to see the extent of God’s grace and mercy towards us, you only need to look to the cross.
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 encountered. God is still abundant in kindness towards us today.
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.
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.
God, Love and Marshmallow Wars: This book contains 365 daily challenges for couples to strengthen their relationships to each other and with God. Couples will complete activities such as Scripture memory, conversation starters, relationship builders, learning about Biblical marriage, romance builders, personal reflections, and date ideas. Click here to purchase your copy. (This link will open a new widow and take you to Westbow Press’ bookstore.) It is also available at Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobel
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Julia is CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people and couples develop a passionate relationship with God. A public speaker, conference trainer, event planner, and blog writer, Julia is a two-time graduate from Grand Canyon University with a bachelor in Psychology and a masters in Professional Counseling. Saved as a child and raised in church and in a Christian home and private Christian School as a Pastor’s kid, Julia has taught Sunday school, led music, played the piano, served as Children’s Director, and engaged her gifts in many other areas of church life. Previously employed with the Florida Baptist Convention, Julia organized events and led conferences for church ministry assistants.
Julia enjoys sharing her journey as a growing Christian with others looking for a deeper connection with God. Through Bible study and her own life experiences, God has given Julia a passion to help couples understand God’s design for marriage while they learn to place God first in their marriage, cultivate meaningful relationships, build intimacy, and address the tougher issues that come in every marriage so that they can experience a marriage that honors and glorifies God. Julia also loves mentoring, teaching, and working with women to help them learn to live as Godly women.
With her history and experience growing up in both small and large churches, Julia enjoys bringing top level quality events to churches of all sizes. Her father largely pastored small churches and therefore she understands that these vital parts of the believing community need to be good stewards of the resources God provides them with. This knowledge inspires her passion for being available with a fresh perspective for those who want to provide their congregations with meaningful spiritual growth opportunities.