Nehemiah’s Great Distress
My Bible reading this week included the chapters of 9/10/11 of the Book of Nehemiah, which recounts the return of some of the exiled Jews in Babylon to Jerusalem, to rebuild the walls of the Temple mount. It is so very touching to read how the returning Jews are reminded by Nehemiah of Jehovah’s saving hand in all the events of their escaping slavery in Egypt and becoming a great nation ‘numbering as the stars of the sky’; how they felt deep remorse in their hearts, moaned and wept and, to a man, swore to return to full worship of Jehovah, once again ready to ‘…make a binding agreement in writing’ to him. (Nehemiah 9:38)
Nehemiah was adamant in his condemnation of their outrageous disloyalty to Jehovah, adding that in contrast, Jehovah did not do that way to them. In front of the whole congregation, he prays to Jehovah: “You have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have acted FAITHFULLY; but we are the ones who have acted wickedly.” (Ne 9:33)
And then, a few lines later in verses 36 and 37, what I read provided me an eye-opening and heart-rending epiphany of my own. They read:
“So here we are today, slaves—yes, slaves in the land that you gave to our fore-fathers to eat its fruitage and its good things. Its abundant produce is for the kings whom you have put over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they see fit, and we are in great distress.”
Reading those words, it at once became apparent to me that Nehemiah’s assessment of the Israelite’s waywardness, perfectly encapsulated our sorry state of affairs at this very moment in the time of man’s affairs.