I preached in Oak Hill chapel (for presumably the last time) on Nehemiah 9:22-31 last friday. This is a brief outline of what I said.
Two points to aid our life of repentance
1. Grace is the context for extraordinary sin.
Israel’s chief sin across history, from the perspective of this prayer at least, was to take take take grace from God and yet return that with disobedience and rejection of his laws.
E.g. see use of ‘gave’ in 22, 24, 27, 29 & 30.
The contrast is seen most clearly there in the transition from 25 to 26. They gorged themselves on grace. Yet threw the law behind their backs. Hence v25. great goodness of YHWH, and v26. great blasphemies of Israel.
God’s grace highlights the heinousness and unwarranted nature of the sin.
To sin against a gracious God is a terrible thing.
To gulp down his grace and cast away his covenant instructions is a terrible crime.
If for them, how much more for us living AD not BC?
Interesting that it’s this sin of license that they chose to focus on. As they looked at Israel’s history this was the way they chose to epitomise the nation’s sins that had gotten them into the mess they were now in. This was the nature of their covenant-breaking.
That should lead us to consider whether it might not be the same amongst us, God's covenant people today. E.g. Liberalism. E.g. various forms of Evangelical antinomianism.
We would do well to consider whether we need to repent of the same sins as Israel. We must not think we can take grace with one hand and cast aside our Father’s commands with the other. It’s a non-starter. It’s a road that leads straight to judgment.
2. Sin is the context for extraordinary grace.
E.g. God’s patience: ‘Testified/ warned’in 26, 29, 30. Also 'many mercies/ times' in 27, 31, 28, 30.
Three cycles, (26-27, 28, 29-30/31). Sin – handed over – cry out – saved. First two cycles follow the pattern, but third only has no cry, and no salvation. Because this prayer is the cry (32-37). This prayer is expecting salvation. They were expecting God to complete the cycle, to act as he’s acted before.
As they looked back on their history Israel saw the need to repent, for taking grace for granted.
But they also saw the basis for that repentance. v31.
You could say that where sin abounded grace superabounded.
If for them, how much more for us living AD not BC? What extraordinary grace to send His Son to be all that Israel failed to be, to restore, resurrect Israel even and give to his people, Jew and Gentile, the gift of the Spirit.
Repentance is based on grace. We repent because we know God to be a gracious and merciful God. We repent in the expectation of forgiveness and salvation and blessing.