Deep-seated Theology – Nehemiah 9:5b-38

One of the weaknesses of modern Christians is our lack of God-consciousness – God awareness. How often do we see something equally beautiful, like a flower, a sunset, or a mountain landscape and our minds go to the Creator before thinking of something else? When something good comes our way, at what point do we move from the person through whom the blessing came to the God from whom it originated? And conversely, when something problematic arises, do we immediately try to think of human or physical solutions, or do we turn to the Lord who has the only guaranteed solution? How quickly does your heart turn to the Lord?

In my message Sunday night I said that our prayer-leader extolled the Lord, but only at the beginning. I said that the rest of his prayer was basically a history lesson. But as I was reading through this chapter once again, the Holy Spirit brought me to see my mistake. This prayer is filled with theology, but it’s not the organized – seminary – in your face – type of theology. It is deep-seated, in the sense that it is there – but it is under the surface for the most part. This man’s knowledge of the Lord permeated his prayer, but only once or twice after the opening sentences was it his direct theme.

This lesson will be quite different from our usual. Let’s read through this prayer a bit more slowly and try to look for references to God and His attributes. But before we do, I need to point out that just about every theologian has his own list of attributes. There are some characteristics of Jehovah to which they all point – like omnipotence and omniscience. But some men like to split and differentiate those attributes to almost infinitesimal points. Bancroft lists 8 attributes, equally divided between natural and moral varieties. Theissen wants to add 4 more points calling them the essence of God. Chaffer lists 10 attributes, while Gill goes on to about two dozen. Thankfully, we aren’t theologians. We are just going to try to let the Holy Spirit lead us.

What sort of theology lies behind this man’s prayer?

Verse 5 – “Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.” Doesn’t this man believe that Jehovah God is eternal, and therefore His praise should be for ever and ever? And he believes in the majesty of God – that He is not just above all things, but glorious above all things. “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” Obviously, the Lord is omnipotent – all powerful – and as such He is worthy of adoration and worship. When you see that beautiful mountain or the raging waterfall, does your heart turn toward the Creator? “Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;” Jehovah is sovereign; He is the King over every aspect of His creation, including the souls of men.

Verse 5 – “And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous: And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea.” The Lord is omniscient, seeing what was in Abraham’s heart and hearing the cries of Israel in Egypt. Oh, and He is not only omnipresent, but He is God over all peoples, tongues and nations. He is not a tribal God – the God of the insignificant Hebrews, but the sovereign over all – infinite in every way. “And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day. And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters. The Lord is holy and righteous, judging sin – and in this case pride – which He particularly hates. But He is also faithful and merciful, blessing the children of Abraham according to His covenant. Furthermore He not only is omnipotent, but He uses His power to magnify His glory – He is infinitely glorious.

Verse 12 – “Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.” Verse 15 – “And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.” Our God is full of self-originating love, showing grace and kindness toward people totally undeserving. And again we see His faithfulness. Verse 13 – “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:” Jehovah is righteous and just, He made Himself absolutely clear about what He expects from us. Plus, He is condescending, revealing Himself in order to make known His will. “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage” At this point our prayer-leader pours out his theology – “but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.”

Verse 20 – “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.” One of the attributes of God is His faithfulness – faithfulness to His word, His promise, His covenant. “Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.” Once again, we see the miraculous omnipotence of the Lord. “Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.” Our prayer-leader uses the same words that the faithful God used when speaking to Abraham. “So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.” One of God’s blessings is to enable feeble men to accomplish what is next to impossible – like Samson, the Judges and the untrained military of Israel to conquer the pugilistic Canaanites. And despite knowing how we often indulge ourselves He continues to bless with His great goodness.

Verse 26 – “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them.” God is holy and just, and no matter who it is that sins against Him, the Lord cannot condone his sin. “And in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.” Again, this prayer refers to the mercy of God and the God of great mercies. “But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.” Our God is longsuffering, patient and merciful.

Verse 32 – “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.” What does our worship-leader say? Our God is great, mighty and terrible. Jehovah is worthy of worship, respect and even fear. But He is true and faithful in keeping His covenants and promises. “Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:” Again, God is always just and righteous. “Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.” One of the Lord’s attributes is goodness. Psalm 119:68 – “Thou ART good, and DOEST good.”

Verse 36 – “Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it:” God is the sovereign King over all creation, but He is gracious in His gifts to the sons of men. He permits unworthy creatures like us to serve Him. “And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.” Daniel 2:21 – The Lord, “changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” “And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” Because of who He is, Jehovah deserves our worship, our love, and our service – all our love, all our heart, all our soul and all our mind – body, soul and spirit.