Our Great God.
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them.” – Nehemiah 9:17b NLT
The Temple had been rebuilt. The wall had been completed. Now Ezra, the scribe and priest, gathered the people together and read out loud to them the Law of God. The people stood and listened for three solid hours as he read, then they stood another three hours crying, confessing and worshiping God. Then they prayed. And their prayer is a wonderful snap shot of the character of God. It reveals who He is, what He has done, and how He interacts with His people. It describes His majesty, power, grace, mercy, sovereignty, holiness, and love. It reminds us of His transcendence – His otherness and distinctiveness. But it also comforts us with His immanence – His nearness and approachability. Their words focus on God and His involvement in their lives. They look back and see that He had been intimately involved all along the way. From the day He had chosen Abram and promised to make him a great nation, God had been with them.
…you saw…you heard…you displayed…you knew…you divided…you hurled…you led…you came down…you gave… you instructed…you commanded…you did not abandon…you sent…you did not stop giving…you sustained…you helped…you made…you brought…you subdued…you handed them over…you heard…you sent…you rescued…you let their enemies conquer them…you listened…you rescued…you warned many times…you allowed…you sent…you showered…you gave…
The people look back and review their history with God and are blown away at His grace and mercy. In spite of their disobedience, sin and rebellion, He kept giving, rescuing, forgiving and restoring. He had shown extreme patience with them over the years. “But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!” (Nehemiah 9:31 NLT). It is amazing that the people reached these conclusions about God by listening to the reading of the Law of God. As they heard the words of righteous decrees of God, they got a better idea of who God was and is. They came to recognize God through the Word of God. They saw His holiness and righteousness. They understood how serious He was about sin and how adamant He was about obedience. They recognized that God had set them apart and expected them to remain that way. “You alone are the Lord!,” they prayed. “You are the Lord God!” They heard the Word of God proclaimed and they comprehended for the first time in a long time the nature of their God. Their eyes were opened and they saw the beauty and majesty of God. God wants us to see Him as He is. He wants us to recognize His character and to worship His nature. He desires for us to see Him as He is, and one of the places we get a glimpse of God is through His Word. It is the revelation of Himself to man. As we study the Word, we see God. But too many of us read the Word to gain academic understanding. We study the Scriptures to get knowledge. But we rarely spend time in the Word just to get to know God. We are more intelligent than we have ever been before, but in many ways, we remain ignorant of God. “While man has never had so much knowledge about the world as he possesses today, perhaps he has never had so little knowledge of God. That is why our times are marked by a singular lack of understanding, appreciation, and genuine insight into the need of the hour” (Sinclair Ferguson, A Heart For God).
May we determine to know God better. May we decide that our greatest need is not more intelligence, but more intimacy with God. Knowing God is everything. Not just knowing about Him, but truly knowing Him. How He thinks, what He loves, what He expects, how He relates, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Make it your goal this coming year to know God as you have never known Him before.
Father, let me get to know You better. Open my eyes and help me to see You as I have never seen You before. When I read Your Word, let me see You. Give me a growing appreciation for who You are. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men