Declaring the Glory
May 6-7, 2023
It's been several weeks, so I thought maybe we should build the background to the story. Nehemiah served the king of Persia as the cupbearer. He was his immediate servant there in Babylon. This was, of course, during the time when Israel, after they were defeated, you remember the story, they were exiled there in Babylon.
Well, one day a friend of his returned from visiting Jerusalem and, of course, he inquired about what's happening in the city. His friend gave him a report of tremendous discouragement. The people are distressed, the walls are broken down, the gates are burned with fire, and the people are heavily oppressed.
Jeremiah, when he heard this, it just broke his heart. Hebrews all over the world have a heart for that city, Yerushalayim. "Oh, that place where God has placed His name." He wept and he mourned and he prayed and he fasted. Would God maybe allow him to be part of doing something about this? He asked the king for permission, for leave to go, and the king granted. He went to Jerusalem and really stirred up to people. "Rise up, people. We got to build this thing."
Nehemiah became their governor and their leader and, as I mentioned, he had the principles of leadership. Many have studied, written books about it. As he led them through, navigating through opposition without and within, leading them to rebuild the walls, put forth the gains, again, put guards in their place. Then not only did he want to build back the city and the walls, but now he wants to build the people, needs to build the people spiritually.
He gathered them all at the main square and then he had Ezra, the priest, stand on the platform to read to them the word of God. They had never heard the word of God ever, ever in their lives. He stood there, took the scroll of the book, and opened it, and the people arose on their feet. He began, "Bless the Lord, people," and then he read.
Well, now they're hearing the word of God for the first time, and they're hearing about the promises of God and how His favor was upon them, and no glory upon Israel through God's presence and the temple, and the grandeur of what they had. They started to weep when they realized, oh, that they once had and now lost it all. They're weeping and their mourning.
Nehemiah stands up and the rest of the leaders, "No, no, this is not the time to weep. This is the time to rejoice for the joy of the Lord is our strength." He gave them one of the principles of revival. See, they were weeping over all that they had lost. "Oh, once we had so much. Oh, we were once such a great people that God had blessed with His glory. We want it back. We want it back. We want our lives back."
Well, as I said, when we were studying those chapters, you don't get your life back. You get your life forwards. The path is in front of you. Life is in front of you. You cannot change the past, but you can rejoice in what God has in store for you in the future. Nehemiah, having said that, dismissed the people that day and he said, "Go and eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, give to those who have nothing prepared. We are going to rejoice, people, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
They went home and they rejoiced as their families gathered. Then the next day, they came to hear the word of God again. Day after day after day, the word of God was read to them. That brings us now to Nehemiah 9, "For on the 24th day of that month, he assembled them all again, but this time, with a very different purpose in mind." It says that, "For a fourth of the day, they read from the book of the law of God, but then for another fourth of the day, they confess the sins of their fathers, the iniquities of their forefathers, and they worshiped the Almighty God."
Both parts of revival are contained there. They confess the sins of their fathers and forefathers and they worship God. The elements and the principles of revival are there for us to take hold of today. Let's look at it. We're in chapter nine. We're picking it up in the middle of this declaration of glory.
I. Remember His Wondrous Deeds
Again, we look at the other verses around this Wednesday. They start this amazing speech going all the way back where God revealed His wonderful deeds to them. All the way back to creation, when He called Abram and called him Abraham, the father of nations, and then how He rescued them from Egypt and led them to the desert, over and over, declaring the wonderful deeds God did.
Now, we pick it up in the middle of that speech in verse 15. "For you provided bread from heaven to them for their hunger, see the wonderful ways that you bless your people. You brought forth water, miraculous provision of water there in the desert from Iraq for them, for their thirst, and then you told them to enter in to possess that land, that land which you sworn to give to them," but verse 16, see, those were all declaring the glory, but verse 16 is the confession of sin.
"But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly, they became stubborn," that means stiff decked, "and they would not listen to your command. No, they refused to listen and they did not remember the wondrous deeds which you performed among them. No, they became stubborn and so they appointed a leader to return them to their slavery in Egypt."
Now, we go back to the declaring of the glory. "But you are a God of forgiveness. You are gracious and you are compassionate. You are slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, so you did not forsake them even though they did that." In fact, verse 18, "Even when they made for themselves a calf of molten metal," remember that part when Moses was up on the mountain, those 40 days, they didn't know what happened to him so they said to Aaron, "Make us a God." He took their jewelry and fashioned a calf. Remember the story?
"Even then when they made for themselves a calf of molten metal, and then they said, 'This is your God who brought you up from Egypt, people,' and they committed such blasphemies. Even then you and your great compassion, you did not forsake them there in the wilderness, nor that pillar of cloud did not leave them by day to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night didn't leave them to light the way before them in which they were to go. No. You didn't forsake them. No. You gave them your good spirit."
Verse 20, "To instruct them, even though they were so rebellious and hard-hearted, you didn't give up. You poured your favor. That manna, you did not withhold from their mouth. You gave them water for their thirst, even in spite of their hearts. Indeed," verse 21, "for 40 years you provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell for 40 years. They wore the same clothes for 40 years and they never wore out," and they never went out of fashion, I should say too, and their feet did not swell.
Have you ever been in the desert? By the time the afternoon comes, your feet are swollen, your hands are swollen, and no, didn't happen. The miraculous favor of God, the wonders deeds, that's what they're declaring. These are the verses I want us to look at. Of course, we'll look at the verses around on Wednesday, but so much to take hold of, starting with this.
Remember His wondrous deeds. It's right for them. That's why Nehemiah was recounting all the way from the beginning, recounting the wonderful deeds, but he is also wanting them to confess their sins. See also in this, "Our fathers acted arrogantly, became stubborn, would not listen. No, they did not remember those wonderful deeds that you performed."
See, those who remember what God has done are always thankful. Always thankful. Never forget. You and I also have a story. God has proven Himself and done wonderful things I know in my life. God and I have a story, and God is proving Himself to me over and over and over. I'll never forget what God took me out of and established something in my life. He poured his favor. He became my Father. He demonstrated his hand.
God and I, we have a story together, and he's not done yet. Do you have a story? Is God proving himself to you? Amen. Never forget. That's what He says. Never forget because creative remembering is very dangerous. When you think back and you start getting really creative in how you remember, that's very dangerous. That's why Nehemiah wanted them to be reminded of God's wonderful deeds.
A. God has been your daily bread
Notice verse 15, God has been your daily bread. You provided bread from heaven. Manna was God's miraculous daily provision. How do you feed 2 million plus people in the desert wasteland? God did it miraculously by manna, which fell like dew every morning, and they could go out to the desert and harvest enough for that day.
It described as white, and they can make bread out of it or whatever. It was sweet. Very tasty. It's described as it tasted like coriander seed with honey. In other words, it tasted like Krispy Kreme donuts, but absolutely nutritious. This is seeing them for 14 years. Completely nutritious, wonderful in taste, but even with that miraculous provision, they grew discontent. They started to complain about not having meat.
Then they got creative on how they remembered their time in Egypt. Nehemiah 11:5-6, "Oh, we remember. Oh, we remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt. Oh, the good old days when we were in Egypt. Don't you remember the good old days? You know when we were in Egypt, then we had all that fish, free. Oh, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. Oh, but now, our appetite's gone. There's nothing at all the look at except this manna."
That's what I call creative remembering. Man, they made it sound like there was a veritable home buffet back there in Egypt. Oh, those were the good old days. No, that's not the way it was at all. It wasn't roses and light. Did they forget the tears? The bitterness and slavery? Did they forget the oppression? Did they forget the hardship?
In fact, God gave to them the Passover, and as part of the Passover, that meal, that Passover meal included that they were to eat herbs, bitter herbs, dipped in salt water, as a reminder of those bitter tears, the hardships, the oppression. Never forget it, and so every year and Passover, as part of the Passover meal, take the bitter herbs, dip them in salt water, and eat them. Then you'll always remember.
See, creative remembering is very dangerous. Sometimes people do that today. Oh, don't you remember the good old days when we were in the world? The parties we used to have. Oh, we were just so crazy, it was just so fun. Oh, the escapades we did when we were drunk. Oh, don't you remember the good old days? What? Did you forget the emptiness, the anguish, the soul that was empty, lonely, desolate? Did you forget? See, creative remembering is dangerous. That's why Nehemiah had them remember fresh and anew the wondrous deeds that God had done.
Nehemiah also had them confessing the sins of their fathers so that they remember that as well. Notice Psalm 106:13-15, they soon forgot his works. They did not wait for his counsel. No, they lusted exceedingly in the wilderness. "We want meat." They tested God there in the desert, and He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul. Ah, there's an interesting scene then unfolded. They were grumbling for meat. "We're of this manna," and so God gave them over to their desire.
He gave them meat, He gave them quail. Not just for one day, or two days, or five days, or seven. No, He gave them quail for 30 days so much, and they went after it was such greed, and they ate with greediness that it came out their noses. Now, you say, "Wait, how do you get quail to come out your nose?" Well, you eat so greedily that you've throw it up, and you're snorting it out your nose.
Some ate so greedily that the lord struck them. God gave them their desire, but leanness of soul, see, this is so important because he's really helping us to recognize that the soul is the most important aspect of who you are. Not the body, not the flesh. These old flesh things, we're going to leave these things behind. No, that soul, that is internal. That is the most important part of who you are. Be very thoughtful about the soul. He gave that what they were long for. They lusted, their flesh wanted, "Me want meat."
He gave them so much that they were snorting out their nose, they got sick of it. That was the idea. You're going to get sick of it. God's teaching them the lesson. Reminds me of the story of the farmer whose dog killed the chickens. Eat chickens. He had a thing, an appetite for chickens. One day, the farmer took one of those dead chickens and tied it around his neck. There it sat for days upon days upon days, rotting, and then finally, he took it off, and that dog never touched chickens again.
B. The nature of man is quite ugly
God wants the flesh to learn that lesson. See, at first, people think they got this thing under control. Oh, I got it. I got it. I can control this thing. Then the next thing you know, they're partners with the thing, and then the next thing you know, they're slaves to the thing. See, He wants him to remember because the nature of man, that's what he's highlighting, the sins of their fathers, the nature of man is quite ugly.
Verse 16, "But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly. They became stubborn and would not listen to your command. They refuse to listen, so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return them back to their slavery. They had a leader." He's referring to that Korah, that leader who led Israel in open rebellion. Korah, along with Dathan, Abiram, and 250 other leaders, this was a swell against Moses.
They did this, really, a large group of people, wanting to go back to Egypt, wanting to go back to slavery, confronted Moses. "You have gone far enough. Who do you think you are," basically. For all the congregation or holy, every one of them. The Lord is in their midst. "Why do you exalt yourself above the assembly of the Lord? Who do you think you are? No, we ought to be leaders."
I tell you what, if they took a vote that day, Moses would have been voted out. In fact, it was the intervening hand of God that saved Moses. When Moses heard that, he wept. He knew what this meant. He knew where it would lead because the ugly of man was coming out. See, that is the condition in which all of us were born. We were born in that condition. Everyone. Every single one was born in that.
Jeremiah 17:9-10, he said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked." Who can know it? This is the condition in which everyone is born. "But I, the Lord, searched the heart and test the mind." See, the root of man, the condition in which man is born, is quite ugly. Something must change for the root, the nature of man has caused so many troubles. When that comes out, it brings forth the nature of the trouble.
I was thinking of an illustration, a funny one actually, a number of years ago, a group from another church asked if they could tour our building and get some ideas and whatnot, and they said, "Oh, yes, I would love to do that." I met them and we're going around the building and whatnot. At one point, a person in their group said, "I have a question. I see that you have signs that say, 'Please, no coffee in the sanctuary'. My question is, how do you enforce that?"
I said, "We don't." We don't enforce it. Most people will honor it, but I know when someone missing out on hearing the word of God over a cup of coffee, and that's when he got serious. Why in the world would you make a rule and then not enforce it?" I said, "Because, as they looked him in the eye, because some people are confrontational by nature, and those are the ones who need the word of God most." Amen. All of the story's not over. Yes, exactly.
A few weeks later, I ran into their pastor and I said, "What was up with that guy?" He said, "Oh, you have no idea what you started." "What'd I do?" He said, "Look, the next Sunday, I'm at the back of the sanctuary. I'm greeting people that you're coming in." He walked by me with a cup of coffee like this. Oh, yes, yes. Then he sat right there in the front row, sipping the cup of coffee the whole time. I said, "I am so sorry." He said, "Oh, no, it's worse. He's one of my elders."
I shouldn't laugh. The nature of man, that's what it is. It's the nature of man revealed. That's why Nehemiah wanted them to confess the sins of their fathers to remember, but also to see the wondrous deeds of God. The contrast could not be more stark, but he wants him to see the wonderful deeds of God that they would remember, but also, and this is so important for us to see, to partake us. See, God wants you to partake and live by God's divine nature.
II. Partake and Live by God’s Divine Nature
See, over and over in this declaration of glory, God's divine nature is revealed. Notice verse 17, "You are a God of forgiveness." That is the divine nature. You are gracious and compassionate. Yes, that's the divine nature. You are slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness. Yes, that's the nature of God's heart. That's why he said you did not forsake them. See, the contrast between the nature of man and the divine nature could not be more stark.
Now, if we are born in the condition and nature of man and all of its ugliness, something must change. Something must happen, for if nothing changes, nothing happens, and you continue in the condition of man in which you were born, it will bring forth in your life those things which are ugly. You will bury the fruit of it, of that nature of which you will mourn. Something must change. That's God's divine nature in you.
A. God’s divine nature is beautiful on the soul
See, God wants you to partake of that nature. That is the transforming power of God, for God's divine nature is beautiful on your soul. Nehemiah wanted them to remember everything that God had done, and it's for us to remember as well. Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11. He says, "These things happened to them, to Israel, as examples for us that we would not crave evil things as they also craved." Then says it again, "These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction."
Now, in the New Testament, Peter thinks that, and then adds greatly, deepens it tremendously when he says that God wants more than to instruct. God wants to transform. How? By having us partake of His divine nature. Let me give you the verses in 2 Peter 1:3-9. Please highlight that chapter, dog-ear it, memorize it, it's one of the most powerful understandings of the transforming power of God.
2 Peter 1, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, and He is granted to us His precious and magnificent promises so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature." Right there it is. What does it mean to become partakers of the divine nature? It does not mean that you become the Gods. No. It means that His divine nature is now resident in your life.
See, here's what I mean. When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in your life, when you trust Him for forgiveness of sin, He pays the price for it all on the cross, but you must partake of it. See, He paid the penalty by His blood. That's why communion is so important because communion reminds us that God is doing more than instructing. He's transforming by the partaking. This is my body given unto you, take and eat. This is my blood, the blood in the new covenant, take and drink.
Then when you have received that forgiveness because that blood has been applied to your life, now you have been reconciled to God. Oh, what a holy moment is that when a sinner has been reconciled to God. God is the one pursuing sinners. God is the one who's made a way for sinners to be reconciled to the holy, almighty, glorious, loving, compassionate, gracious, forgiving. That's his nature.
God is made a way for you to be reconciled to a God of love and grace. Sinners though you be, now, you're reconciled so that in that new relationship, He will pour out His Holy Spirit upon your life. The very presence of the living God is now resonant upon your soul. If the presence of God is resonant upon your soul, then God's divine nature will do a beautiful work, and that beautiful work is the transforming power to take you from what you were when you were born in the ugly nature of man into that which is beautiful and glorious because God's presence does that. Amen. Let's give Him praise. He is worthy of it all.
By continuing in 2 Peter 1, "Having become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that's in the world by lust, for this very reason, applying all diligence, all diligence now, in your faith, supply moral excellence." God wants you to have moral excellence in your life. You know why? Because that's the greatest blessing, to escape the corruption that's in the world and to live by the moral excellence of God's heart will bless your life.
Then add to that knowledge, and in knowledge, self-control, and in self-control, perseverance, and in perseverance, godliness, and godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. These qualities, He says, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing, God wants you to have these qualities and to have these qualities increasing in your life. They render you neither useless nor unfruitful." That's a double negative. You can say it useful and fruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but he who lacks these qualities is blind.
That's so interesting. God wants you to have His qualities. These are the qualities of God's divine nature in you, but he who lacks these qualities is blind, short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his sins, forgot what God did. God fully intends that your heart will be changed, eyes will be open, hearts softened. People can change. Do you believe it? People can change. Hard hearts can be broken, stones can be moved, thorns and thistles uprooted.
How? Because God can open ears so that you hear what you did not hear before. God opens eyes so you see what you did not see before. God opens hearts so that you understand what you did not understand before. God will change your desire so that you desire what you did not desire before. Simply put, there is no spiritual transformation unless you partake of God's divine nature. It's the very presence of God within the soul that transforms the sinner into that which is glorious. The beautiful work of God is glorious. It's beautiful. You must partake of it.
See, in other words, the only way that food will strengthen you is if you partake of it. It's like this, imagine you go to a restaurant and you sit down and you read the menu and then you get up and leave. No, you didn't come just to read the menu. You came to partake and you're not leaving until you have partaken because you know it's only in the partaking will you be transformed. Reading the menu's not enough. Reading the menu's not enough. You need to be partaking. You didn't come just to read the menu. You came to be transformed by it. You came to partake of it. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Partake. That's why communion is the picture of that partaking.
B. God won’t give up on you
Then lastly, we'll end with this. God won't give up on you. See, one of the things Nehemiah wanted them to see was that God was not done with Israel. In spite of all that Israel had done, God never gave up on Israel. In fact, let me add, and God is not done with Israel today either. Notice verse 17, when they appointed a leader to return them to their slavery in Egypt, God didn't forsake them.
Verse 18, even when they made for themselves a calf of molten metal saying, "This is your God, people," God did not forsake them. No, He continued to guide them on the way. Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night. Verse 20, He even gave them the Holy Spirit to instruct them. He did not withhold manna. He did not withhold the water.
Verse 21, indeed, for 40 years God provided for them, and they were not in want. Their clothes did not wear out. Their feet did not swell. Over and over and over, God had compassion. Nehemiah 9:28, "Many times, you rescued them according to your compassion." Israel would get into trouble, and then they would cry out to God, and God would send a deliverer and save them. Then when they started feeling all good and all that, then they did it again. Then they would cry out to God in their despair and God would send help and then all was good, all was well, and then they did it again. Then God sent a deliverer again.
God does not give up, and God won't give up on you either because God's intent is to transform your soul. God loves you so much that not only did He reconcile you to His Father, He poured his spirit of life that you would have the transforming power of a beautiful soul. May His presence truly fill you with life.
Father, we love you and thank you for showing us the wonderful ways that you have blessed us and how you have revealed yourself, and God, that you show us your desire to transform us and having us to be glorious, transformed by your presence. God, you said that if we ask, that you would give. That if we seek, we would find. If we knock, the door would be opened. You're telling us God that if we want more, that we can ask for more.
Church, how many today would say to the Lord, "I want more of God in my life. I want more of His power that transforms. I want His glory. I want Him to do that beautiful work on my soul. I want more. I want more of God in my life. I'm asking and you said I can ask so God, I'm asking for more." Is that you? Would you just raise your hand to the Lord as a way of saying that to the Lord? You said I could ask for more and I'm asking for more. God, do that in us today. Pour out your spirit. Meet us here in Jesus's powerful name, and everyone said. Let's give the Lord praise and glory.