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READING: Nehemiah 9-10 – National Confession of Sin

Following the celebration of the Feast of Booths and the solemn assembly, the next day the people of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads, prompted by Ezra’s daily reading of the law of Moses given to him by the LORD. 

They stood and read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for three hours; then they made confession and worshiped the LORD for another three hours. 

A national confession of sin for our nation is in order, but how? This confession by the people of Israel came after reading Scripture, for twelve hours on the first day of the seventh month, followed by a daily reading by Ezra during the Feast of Booths plus the solemn assembly. The Scripture reading set the stage for the assembly. We don’t know what happened in that assembly, but we know the next day they came with sackcloth, torn clothes, and dirt on their heads. They listened to Scripture reading, standing for three hours before they began three hours of National Confession of Sins. 

Ezra then prayed about Israel’s sinfulness. God alone had made the heavens and earth. The LORD chose Abraham and made a covenant to give his descendants the land of Canaan. He fulfilled that promise when He saw the distress of Israel as slaves in Egypt. God divided the Sea, so they walked through on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to follow, the LORD “threw their pursuers into the depths, like a stone.”  

In this, God made a name for himself among all nations. At Mount Sinai, God gave His law to Moses. God led them through deserts with the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He fed them with manna and provided water for them as they went through arid deserts. But the people refused to listen to God.  

After forty years, the LORD brought them into the promised land. The land was fruitful, but the people rebelled against the LORD. From the time of the judges through the kings of Israel and Judah, they were in rebellion against Him. God chastised them by bringing enemies against them, but He also listened when they cried out to Him. He gave them Saviors, but they went back into sin. God sent prophets whom they killed.  

Ezra acknowledged Israel’s iniquities and God’s just judgments. He said, “We are slaves in the land you gave us” and are in sore distress. Then they agreed to a covenant before God. A summary is in chapter 10.

They agreed: 

To adhere to the law of God and swore to walk in God’s law.

Not to intermarry with foreigners. 

Each one pays a 1/3 shekel for service in the Temple. 

To bring wood into the Temple for burnt offerings. 

To bring first fruits of the land and tithes of their possessions to the Temple. 

They really didn’t agree to much. All these things should have been “givens.” 

Are we much different? 



My Father in Heaven, I pray that I may bring my brokenness to Jesus at the cross and let Him heal me of my evil desires and tendencies. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus, Your Son, AMEN! 

MY PRAYER FOR YOU (and for myself) 

Holy Father my prayer for all who read this and for myself, is that we consider carefully see how Ezra combined Scripture reading and prayer to confess Israel’s sin. We need to acknowledge the sins of our ancestors, not make excuses for them, for too often our excuses for them are nothing but a coverup for our own sinfulness.  I offer this prayer for myself, and for all who read this, in the name of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah, AMEN! 

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