Nehemiah's Exhortation

January 25, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Nehemiah 6--8, Psalm 25, Proverbs 25.


This week, I did most of my devotional reading early in the morning. Though I have gone back and forth on the time of day in which I am best able to spend time reading the Scriptures and praying, in this season of life it is undeniably mornings. Our evenings are quite varied, for one thing. For another, these days I am for more awake at 6:15 in the morning than I am at 9:15 (or, as now, 10:15) at night. Thus, devotedly doing my devotions means doing them in the morning for the most part, lest I have a hard time keeping my eyes open.

Tonight’s readings in Nehemiah covered passages with which I am quite familiar, having looked at them many times. A few of them are proof texts for certain views of preaching—in particular, the way thtat the Levites gave the meaning of the text so that the people could understand it is often used to buttress support for expositional preaching. This, however, is a thoroughly ironic move hermeneutically speaking. The passage is actually indicating that the Levites were basically translating, not offering explanatory commentary. Thus, it is a failure of exposition to derive proof for expository preaching from the text.

Of at least equal interest to me has always been the way Nehemiah responded to the people’s repentant reaction to hearing the Law of God proclaimed by Ezra. Nehemiah encouraged the people not to focus on the sorrow of what they had done, but on the joy of who their God was and what he had done on their behealf. The same exhortation, it seems to me, is one that we should think about more often. To be sure, it is good to be reminded of our sin and our failings. It is even better, however, for us to turn from looking at ourselves and to look at the Messiah who has saved us from those sins and failings. Too easily do many of us fixate on the magnitude of our sin—either thinking it too big for God to really deal with, or too small for God to concern himself with, but in any case focusing on the sin—instead of on the one who has conquered sin once and for all.

May we instead learn, like Nehemiah exhorted the people, to rejoice at what God has done on our behalf, and to celebrate the ways in which he has worked salvation in the midst of and through our sorrows and our foibles.