Nehemiah 9 – Knowing God So We Can Know Ourselves

Meditation for Preparation

It’s easy to read this account of Israel’s repeated sins in the face of God’s abundant mercy and think, “How could those Jews be so ungrateful? How could they be so hardhearted?” It’s also easy to read this account and think, “How can my mate be so prone to sin? He [she] reads the Bible and goes to church where the Bible is preached. What’s wrong with him [her]?” Thus we fail to apply it to ourselves. We ought to read this chapter and realize that we’re looking in the mirror. It describes the propensity of my heart! “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love” (Robert Robinson, “Come Thou Fount”).

Keep in mind that this prayer of confession followed and flowed out of the extended reading of God’s Word (9:3). The Word of God reveals to us the true condition of our hearts. Sin deceives and blinds us to our true condition. We’re prone to compare ourselves to others, invariably to those who aren’t quite as
godly as we are. We think, “I’m not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).

But “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12-13). The Bible lays bare the true condition of our hearts before God.

John Calvin writes, “Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy—this pride is innate in all of us—unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured.”

It was not at the beginning of Paul’s Christian life, but toward the end that he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). He did not say, “among whom I used to be foremost of all,” but rather, “I am foremost of all.” The closer Paul walked with God and gazed upon His perfect righteousness, the more he was aware of his own sinfulness, even though in his daily walk he was growing in holiness. Even so, the more that you come to know God and your own heart through His Word, the more you will realize how prone to sin you really are. This will keep you at the foot of the cross, trusting in God’s free grace.

Steven Cole

Heart Preparation
Read Nehemiah 9. How often do you study and meditate upon God’s Word? How will you defeat sin and grow in godliness if you are not seeing yourself in the light of the truth?

Posted on: February 21, 2013 - 7:54PM

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