There are times when there is no escaping it. We are just plain in the wrong. And we know it. Nicole and Sharon discuss the value in confessing sin immediately, and the freedom that comes from speaking truth and being forgiven. This is liberating. Join us for a talk about confession and repentance, learning from God's people long ago.
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Are you ready to embrace a little stillness, some rest for your soul today? Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast, where we stop and study God’s words and encourage one another to know him better and love him more. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast. Episode 60 is called “When You’re Wrong and You Know It.” Yes, we’re going to be talking about confessing sin. Sharon, sin is an old fashioned word, it seems. Nowadays we talk about mistakes we make, or wrong turns. It’s awkward to use the word sin, but the Bible is pretty clear. Some things are just plain wrong. Right?
You got it. They’re not just mistakes. They’re deliberately wrong sometimes, you’re exactly right. Well, sin is a biblical word. And those of us that have been Christians for any length of time at all have heard about it. And it means literally “missing the mark.” So in the old Testament, one of the words for sin is “khata,” which literally means “missing the mark,” like as if you’re shooting an arrow and you’re headed for a target and you completely miss the target. So this is where you’re supposed to be. This is where the arrow is supposed to be. (Nicole: You’re nowhere near it.) And it’s not. (Nicole: Oh, no.) You missed, you definitely missed. And it’s the same thing in the New Testament, the word is “hamartia.” So that’s what it is. It’s when God shows us what we should be doing and we don’t do what God asked of us or what we were designed as human beings to do. So for example, he tells us to love others. When we show contempt or hatred instead, that little arrow hasn’t gone in the love direction, it’s missed the mark. I’m so thankful though, that the Lord paid the penalty for sin, right? Because otherwise the penalty is death for us and our little arrows often don’t hit the target. (Nicole: Absolutely not.) So thank you, Jesus, that you paid the penalty.
Yeah. I echo that. Thank you, Lord. I was reading through Romans and I think chapter six, that talks about how we used to be slaves to sin and now we’re free through Christ. What a glorious thought that is. (Sharon: Yes, it is.) You know, to no longer be obligated to do what is wrong. We have the freedom to obey God with the Holy Spirit to help. My youngest daughter just recently accepted Christ into her heart, which is just the best thing ever.
It is. (Nicole: I know it!) I’m so happy for you!
I was so happy. But she told me that she was no longer a sinner and that she no longer sins. (Sharon: That’s cute.) So that made me chuckle. I was like, oh, sweet girl, if only. So I tried to explain to her using that chapter in Romans that we no longer have to sin, that we have a choice now, and we can choose obedience and to not sin, but that we’ll still be tempted. But that God gave us the Holy Spirit to help resist these temptations.
I’m really glad you prepared her, because otherwise the first time she misses the mark, she’d be like, wait, did I, did Jesus really come into my heart?
Right. She took it very seriously. We’ve got to discuss this. You understand, I mean, you’re five, but you still can understand this.
She sure can! Yeah. I accepted Jesus at age four and I got it enough. I know I did because I remember feeling him come in, you know, it just had that sweetness about it. So that’s so cool. But yes, poor little thing. She will miss the mark a time or seven.
Well, today we’re reading Nehemiah chapter nine. We’ve just finished studying the big eight day party where they all heard God’s word, the book of Moses, read to them and they wept and then went home and dried their eyes and feasted. They built tents, as Moses told them to do, to remember the years their ancestors lived in tents in the wilderness, they actually hit the bullseye, Nicole! (Nicole: It’s so good.) Obedience! Oh my goodness. In doing what God commanded. It was a cool time. So now we come to Nehemiah 9 and the mood changes from party to repentance and sorrow. So let’s rotate verses, and why don’t you start us off with Nehemiah 9:1?
All right. “So on October 31st, the people assembled again. And this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads.
Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors.
They remained standing in place for three hours. While the book of the law of the Lord, their God was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours, they confessed their sins and worshipped the Lord their God.
The Levites — Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani — stood on the stairway of the gates and cried out to the Lord their God with loud voices.
Then the leaders of the Levites — Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah — called out to the people, “stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting.’ Then they prayed. ‘May your glorious name be praised. May it be exalted above all blessing and praise.'”
Huh! (Nicole: Wow.) Well, let’s just stop there, because I feel that’s a lot already, and reflect on this. (Nicole: Yeah!) What stands out to you the most?
I am really in awe, Sharon, at the amount of time they stood in repentance. (Sharon: Yes.) That’s astonishing.
Six hours all together, right?
Yeah! Three hours and then three more praising. And like, that’s just, it blows my mind. But I do like the steps they did it in. It reminds me kind of the format of the Moms in Prayer method of praying where there’s like a confession and a praise. You know, they had the humbling and confessing first, the setting themselves apart. They were very intentional and distinct in what they were doing, you know, they needed to do as far as confession and getting right with God. And for people who had just come out of exile in a foreign nation, this was probably very important for them to do. Maybe that’s why it was so extreme. (Sharon: Maybe.) Yeah. Like a strong reminding of who they are as a people and who their God is.
Yeah. And they really did take it seriously. I mean, they’re fasting. They’re not eating. (Nicole: Right.) So oh my word, I just realized that — they’re standing for six hours fasting.
Oh, I didn’t even think about that too. That’s hard. Got people like toppling over.
I know it! Yeah. They’re dressed in burlap and they’ve got dust on their heads. They’ve got a visual going again at the same time of “oh God, forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us.”
It’s a very uncomfortable state with the dust, and the burlap probably was itchy, and the dust… Like I don’t like feeling dirty.
No, I don’t either. It must’ve been kind of gritty.
It must have been very, for six hours! Right! To just stand in like dirt. I don’t know. It’s a very profound thing to do, to kind of show the state of their confession and their sin.
It is. Yeah. There’s a deep grief there, that weeping that they were told to stop earlier. (Nicole: Yeah.) It’s like, okay, now is the time. (Nicole: Right.) We have, we haven’t built our tents, well, since Joshua, you know, we built our tents, and there’s just so many ways we have missed that mark. (Nicole: Right.) And so it’s beautiful and it’s humbling because that’s not how I have done it in the past, and even now I don’t put on burlap. When I was a little girl, I kind of tacked on my confession at the end of every prayer. I think probably some Sunday school teacher taught it to me, but it was almost formulaic. It was “and forgive me for my sins in Jesus’ name, amen.” (Nicole: Right.) I didn’t name them. I didn’t even think about them. You know, I’d asked for all the things I want and then I’d say, “and forgive me for my sins in Jesus’ name, amen.” (Nicole: Like an afterthought, you know.) Right, as an afterthought. So that was not good. How about you?
Oh yeah. I’m right there with you. It was always a quick prayer at the end of the day to quickly cover any sins committed that day. You know, nothing too terrible, terribly heartfelt or soul-searching. (Sharon: No, nope, nope.) Forgive all the sins I might’ve done, amen.
Yup yup yup, just take care of them. (Nicole: Right.) So, but you know, Moms in Prayer, speaking of Moms in Prayer again, really changed that for me because you have that minute of silence, sometimes two to three minutes of silence, where no one’s praying out loud and you just, you have time to say, “search my heart, Lord, show me where I have sinned,” and named them silently before the Lord and ask God to forgive them. And when we name them, we’re more aware of them. (Nicole: Oh, we are.) We really are. So here’s some of the more common ones that I might have confessed a time or seven: careless words, very thoughtless words, selfish thoughts, the sin of comparing ourselves to others, stretching the truth to make ourselves look better, having a critical spirit toward others and believing the worst about them instead of the best. That is something that I’ve really wrestled with. And God’s shown me, why are you believing the worst? Don’t you want people to believe the best about you? Why are you always going to the worst motive for them? You know what I mean? Oh, they did that because dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Well, maybe they didn’t do that because of dah, dah, dah, dah, you don’t know their thoughts, Sharon. Stop being critical. Or how about this? Not believing God forgives us and beating ourselves up for confessed sin and negating what Jesus did on the cross. I mean, that’s a sin in itself, to not receive his forgiveness when we’ve asked, because he does forgive and he doesn’t want us to continue to beat ourselves up over it. So basically naming sins before God, like these guys did back in Nehemiah’s day, makes us more aware of them, more likely to ask for help to turn from them, which is part of repentance is turning away from it. I don’t want to do this anymore, Lord. I want to hit that mark. You know, I don’t want to miss it, and saying, I don’t want to do that again.
I think that’s crucial for repentance because if we don’t name it, we can easily ignore it (Sharon: yes, we can.) or, you know, forgive those sins, but you know, the one that I don’t particularly want to face right now or turn from, like just kind of glaze over, but I’m probably still going to do it today. There’s something in stopping and naming it and like, God, okay, here it is. Here’s the ugly sin. This is what it is. Help me to… You know, forgive it and then help me to turn away from it.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s very important. And we don’t do that in our sort of self-gratification culture nearly often enough. (Nicole: No, I don’t.) We don’t. And there’s no scariness in it because we know we’re going to be forgiven. In fact, Jesus has already paid for it. (Nicole: Right.) So we shouldn’t worry about saying them, because it’s not going to produce shame to say it. It’s actually going to produce that freedom. (Nicole: Yes.) To name it, acknowledge it. Be forgiven. And then to ask for help in turning.
Yeah. It’s like cleaning out, you’re getting the yuck out so you can heal.
Yes, yes. And if we gloss over it, the wound festers. Good word, I like that, Nicole. Good job. (Nicole: Festering sin, gross.) I love that he forgives us.
Yes. Thank you, Lord. Well, let’s see.
Let’s continue reading, I think! (Nicole: I think we’re good!) Have we sort of plumbed the depths of that? All right. So they’re going to change now from confessing personal sins to praising God and then confessing community sins, which is another interesting little thing that we can chat about in a minute. It’s like, the more they praise God, the more horrified they are, what they and their ancestors did. You know? So this is kind of interesting. So I’m going to pick it up at verse 6. Okay, here I go. “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all. And the angels of heaven worship you.
You are the Lord God who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldeans and renamed him Abraham.
When he proved himself faithful, you made a covenant with him to give him and his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites, and you have done what you promised for you are always true to your word.
You saw the misery of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cries from beside, the Red Sea.
You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten.
You divided the sea for your peoples. They could walk through on dry lands. And then you hurled their enemies into the depths of the sea. They sank like stones beneath the mighty waves.
You led our ancestors by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. So they could find their way.
You came down to Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just and decrees and commands that were good.
You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath and you commanded them through Moses your servant to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions.
You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry and water from the rock when they were thirsty. You commanded them to go and take possession of the land you had sworn to give them.”
Just going to stop here for a minute, because just that listing… They’re listing all the stunning things God did. You know, bread falling down from heaven, pillars of fire, just saying, follow the pillar and you’ll be safe. These are stunning things. So, so here comes verse 16. “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn and they paid no attention to your commands.
They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry and rich and unfailing love. You did not abandon them.
Even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘this is your God who brought you out of Egypt.’ They committed terrible blasphemies.
But in your great mercy, you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of clouds still led them forward by day. And the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night.
You sent your good spirit to instruct them. And you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst.
For 40 years, you sustained them in the wilderness and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”
Oh, wow. Okay. So what are they doing in this section?
They’re going back and they’re remembering their history, but they’re also going back and seeing what God had done. Like you said, all those miracles and the provision that he provided. I think it’s important because, you know, I know if I don’t go back and remember what God has done, I’ll forget. So I think they’re bringing him back, their history and what God has already done for their people to remember that he’s still faithful. He’s still going to do this for them.
Yeah. So they’ve read it. They’ve heard the book of the law, and now they’re talking it back to him and saying you did all these things and our ancestors still ignored you, you know, kind of thing. Just a sad, sad story. And yet it’s a common story. I mean, Nicole, do you find that once you recognize the sin in your life and confess it, you’d never do it again?
Oh no, I wish! When I’m not living each day, moment by moment with Jesus first in my thoughts, I fall to sin so easily. I find myself getting easily frustrated and being way too hard on my kiddos for things that I should give them grace for.
That was one of my problems too. I’d be so irritated. And plus their little fingers, they didn’t mean to spill the milk again. Well, how about the kids? Is one telling of a rule enough for them either?
Again, ugh, no, I wish! That would’ve certainly, yes…
Kinda figured that.
Well, that would help me with my earlier mentioning of sin and frustration, you know, if they listened the first time. Yeah. But you know, and I know you know, too, having children really shows us just how much grace I know that God has with me. He just, he’s such a wonderful parent. And I need to realize that my children are still being shaped by Christ just as I am. And I can’t expect them to get it right on the first time, you know. Like I never get it right on the first try. It’s very humbling having children, isn’t it? (Sharon: Yes.) They do a great job of reflecting all of our shortcomings.
Our shortcomings. Yeah. You hear them say something and you’re like, oh, I know where you got that from. And it was me.
You’re a little version of me, I’m so sorry.
It really is a humbling thing. And then, and then they, when they’re older, sometimes point out your shortcomings to you and that’s not fun either. So yeah. So we constantly need God’s grace. We do. And we can kind of get all judgy and critical spirity and sin ourselves looking at the Israelites. But we’re all prone to wander. We really are. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit living within them, you know, because the Holy Spirit came after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The spirit was there, but not in the same beautiful way that we have it. So they had it harder. So we’re all prone to wander. I know better than to lose my temper. It’s such a foolish and counter productive thing to do, but there are days when I still feel it rising within me and words are just begging to be released. The only happy thing is I say “no” to the words and keep them inside more often than I used to. I’m like you words that are begging to be released, I know you’re going to do harm if I let you free. You may not come out now. It makes me think of that passage in Romans where Paul says the good I want to do, I don’t do, and the bad I don’t want to do, I find myself doing it. Help!
Oh, Paul, I feel you there. I think I say that at least once a week, Sharon, followed by a huge sigh. Anyway, let’s pick up this story towards the end of chapter nine, starting at verse 33. I’ll start. “Every time you punished us, you were being just. We have sinned greatly and you gave us only what we deserved.
Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your law or listen to the warnings in your commands and laws.
Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you. Though you showered your goodness on them, you gave them a large fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness.
So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment. We are slaves here in this good land.
The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the king, whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure and we are in great misery.
The people responded, ‘in view of all this, we are making a solemn promise and putting it in writing. On this sealed document are the names of our leaders and Levites and priests.'”
This kind of reminds me of the times that we live in, huh? (Sharon: You know what? Yes.) Like God showers his goodness on us here in America. We have food enough to eat and plenty of clothes to wear. And yet it’s sadly too easily to ignore him and the good thing that he gives.
It is, and we whine about the smallest thing. You know, I don’t even want to tell you some of my little whiny-nesses. Well, the retreat this weekend, I had a beautiful bedroom to myself with a lovely bed, but there was no big brown chair where I could put my feet up. I mean, come on. So I sat on the floor. (Nicole: You were so used to comfy.) I mean, it’s just ridiculous. So anyways, this is November, Nicole. This is the Thanksgiving month. And Thanksgiving is actually in just a couple of days. I want to celebrate it by remembering the many, many blessings he has given us this year, despite the hardships of COVID and vaccine fighting and all the things. So let’s just pause for a minute. I’m glad you brought up modern day. Let’s talk about Thanksgiving. How do you guys in your household incorporate thanking God into your Thanksgiving?
You know, we don’t do very much for Thanksgiving, as far as like traditional stuff. You know, we have dinner with each sides of our family, which is super fun. I love spending time with family over food. It’s my favorite. But I think the biggest thing we try to do is to remind the kiddos to always direct that thankfulness directly to God, just that reminding that he is the giver of all good things, because even in their public school, they talk about thankfulness and gratefulness. So that’s like a concept that the world understands, but just making sure that we acknowledge God’s…
The fact that he’s the source of it all. Exactly. It’s not just happening. We’re breathing because he lets us breathe.
Everything we have is due to God’s grace in our life.
Oh that’s good. I’m glad you’re pointing them back to that. That’s great. We have a couple of traditions at Thanksgiving. Every year we go around the table and we say what we’re thankful for. We usually, you know, finish the meal. We’re not having the pie yet. So because nobody has room for the pie. So we go around the table and say what we’re most thankful for this year. So, and then a couple of times, Angel, my son-in-law, has introduced another way of Thanksgiving as well, where he’ll say, look to the person to your left and tell them why you thank God for them. (Nicole: I love that!) Isn’t that beautiful.
That’d be really good to do with kids and their siblings. And they’re like, I guess I kind of like your hair…
Yeah, exactly, exactly. It really makes you think. One of the years he did it, we were with his family and it was a little hard because I don’t know his father that well, and his father was to my left, but I’m like, I’m so thankful for the son you raised and the fact that you’ve taught him a good work ethic and you know. So it just promotes the thanking and the gratitude that should be a part of Thanksgiving, you know, as well as look at all the food we got, you know, kind of thing. I think that’s just kind of a fun thing to do.
I like that. Yeah, that’s great.
So, well, we are going to finish up today by reading parts of the pact the people made on that sealed document with God and you know what? I tremble in my boots as I read this, because I know that they’re not going to be able to keep doing it. They’re not going to do what they promised. It will become abundantly clear that humans cannot keep all the rules well, and we’ll always miss that mark. So let’s read these wild and wonderful promises, Nicole, and reflect on how much we all need a Savior because we just can’t do all the good things all the time.
Well, the first part of chapter 10 lists all the names of the leaders of the people who signed the document. Sharon, I counted the names listed. There are 84 names. (Sharon: Are you kidding me?) No, I was like, we should, are we reading all of these? How many are there?
I’m glad we skipped that part!
We know Nehemiah. He sure did like to personalize everything. So we’re going to start reading in chapter 10 at verse 28, but know that we skipped over 84 names. So if you want go back and read them. “So then the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, singers, temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the pagan people of the land, in order to obey the law of God, together with their wives, sons, daughters, and all who were old enough to understand,
Joined their leaders and bound themselves with an oath. They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the law of God as issued by his servant Moses. They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, regulations, and decrees of the Lord our Lord.
We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land and to not let our sons marry their daughters.
We also promise that if the people of the land should bring any merchandise, or grain to be sold on the Sabbath or on any other holy day, we will refuse to buy it. Every seventh year we will let our land rest and we will cancel all debts owed to us.
In addition, we promise to obey the commands to pay the annual temple tax of one eighth of an ounce of silver for the care of the temple of our God.
This will provide for the bread of the presence, for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings, for the offerings on the Sabbaths, the new moon celebrations and the annual festivals, for the holy offerings and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel. It will provide for everything necessary for the work of the temple of our God.
We have cast sacred lots to determine when, at regular times each year, the families of the priests, Levites, and the common people should bring wood to God’s temple to be burned on the altar of the Lord our God, as is written in the law.
We promise to bring the first part of every harvest to the Lord’s temple year after year, whether it be a crop from the soil or from our fruit trees.
We agree to give God our oldest sons and the first born of all our herds and flocks as prescribed in the law. We will present them to the priests who minister in the temple of our God.
We will store the produce in the store rooms of the temple of our God. We will bring the best of our flour and other grain offerings, the best of our fruit, and the best of our new wine and olive oil. And we promise to bring to the Levites a tenth of everything our land produces, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural towns.
A priest, a descendant of Aaron, will be with the Levites as they receive these tithes. And a tenth of all that is collected as tithes will be delivered by the Levites to the temple of our God and placed in the storerooms.
The people and the Levites must bring these offerings of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the store rooms and place them in the sacred containers near the ministering priests, the gatekeepers, and the singers. We promise together not to neglect the temple of our God.” Wow. Oh, Nicole. They meant well.
That’s a lofty list.
They wanted to hit that bullseye every time. But without the Holy Spirit residing within them, without the free and full forgiveness of Jesus who paid the price each time we miss that mark, they were kind of doomed to failure. The history of the Old Testament teaches us many things. And one of the biggest lessons is that even if, when we really want to, we can’t be perfect. We need saving. We need saving. If you want to read more about how the law does not save, check out Paul’s letter to the Galatians in the New Testament. It’s all about how we need Jesus to save us. And I’m going to read just three verses, Galatians 3:11 to 13, as we close. “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. But the scriptures say it is through faith that a righteous person has life. This way of faith is very different from the way of the law, which says it is through the obeying of the law that a person has life, but Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself, that curse for our wrongdoing.” I love Galatians. It’s so freeing. And after reading all these promises and the exhausting ness of it all, I’m just, I love that passage. (Nicole: That’s a good way to end with some hope.) We’re out of time, but I’m just so thankful that we don’t live under the law anymore. As we enter Thanksgiving, let’s just stop now and thank God for the incredible gift of salvation, that’s not through having to do good works and obeying that law, but simply faith in the saving power of Christ alone. Oh Lord Jesus, how we need you. How I thank you, that it’s no longer about having to be perfect, but about trusting in you and the perfection of who you are. Oh God, forgive us. For the many times we walk away from the hope that is in you, from the forgiveness waiting for us. Help us to confess often and believe fully that you fully forgive. We look to you, Jesus, as our Savior, we acknowledge we cannot save ourselves. And we are so thankful this Thanksgiving that we are free because of what you did for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thank you for joining us on this journey through Nehemiah. Next week is our last episode as we finish up the book. Episode 61 is called “Lessons in Perseverance.” Would you help us out? Are you thankful for our podcast? Write a review, share us with others. Write us a note of encouragement. We’d love to hear from you. Go to sweetselah.org/podcast. Or if you want to thank us financially, go to sweetselah.org/donations and write “podcast partner” in the comments. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends. May God remind you of all you have to be grateful for this year.
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast can be found at [inaudible] dot org. Thank you for joining us.
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