Presumptuous Church: Nehemiah 9

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Nehemiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible! I am so amazed and encouraged that God partners with people as we prayerfully and strategically follow him. When I have read this book previously, I’ve focused on its building, leadership, and organizational aspects. But reading through it again, I am aware of just how prophetic Nehemiah was. If you haven’t read the book of Nehemiah recently, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s a great read!

The book begins with Nehemiah learning that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down. They were largely defenseless. Because the wall was destroyed, they were more open to an enemy’s attack. Nehemiah is troubled by the news, takes time to pray and mourn, and then seeks to do something about it. He rallies the nation of Israel together and invites everyone to contribute to the rebuilding effort. Once the wall is rebuilt, he and Ezra (a scribe and priest), read the Law and lead the people in confessing their sins.

One of the phrases in their confession that pushed me to my knees is found in verse 16, which says:

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.” Nehemiah 9:16 (ESV)

When I read that, I think of myself. I can fall prey to the presumptuousness that Nehemiah describes. Because I know the Bible, church culture, and God, I can mistakenly think that I know what God wants me to do. I can assume that God wants me to do things that “sound” like God, but aren’t of him.

I can be presumptuous in what I create, what I write, and what I do. Because I know this about myself, I have to be intentional in guarding myself from this tendency. And I don’t think any of us are exempt from this. I believe that we all, especially those of us who are used to church or have been a Christian for a while, can fall prey to this sin of presumption.

Even David, who it’s been written was a “man after God’s own heart” wrote a prayer about presuming about God.

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:13-14 (ESV)

What amazes me about this is that I have Psalm 19:14 memorized. That verse was embedded in me years ago. But I hadn’t paid the same level of attention to verse 13. This is why I love to study the Bible—there’s always something new to discover!

I’m going to keep this post a little shorter in the hopes that we will take the time to pray these verses and see what God is saying to us. He longs to heal and cleanse us. He wants us to spend time with him instead of doing things “for” him. God doesn’t want us to worship a version of him, but desires that we know him as he actually is. And I believe spending time in confession and repentance is honoring to him. Let’s take this important step of faith and healing together today!

To go Deeper: Read Important Questions for Decision-Making, Order Up!
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