Nehemiah 9:4
And the Levites--Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani--stood on the raised platform and cried out in a loud voice to the LORD their God.
A Prayerful Review of Divine Goodness as Manifested in the Facts of Human LifeJ.S. Exell Nehemiah 9:1-29
ConfessionW. Clarkson Nehemiah 9:1-5, 16-18, 26,28-30, 33-35
The Solemn Fast of Assembled IsraelR.A. Redford Nehemiah 9:1-38
AppealW. Clarkson Nehemiah 9:2, 31-33, 36-38
God's ChoiceDean Farrar.Nehemiah 9:4-38
The Certainty of God's PromisesThomas Jones.Nehemiah 9:4-38
The Divine Promise SureHervey.Nehemiah 9:4-38
The Purpose of the Rehearsal of National ShortcomingsW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 9:4-38
The SuppliantW. Ritchie.Nehemiah 9:4-38
The Te DeumW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 9:4-38
It has been remarked that there is no prayer in this lengthy address to God. And the absence of direct supplication is certainly very noticeable. But it must be remembered that we may make our appeal to God in more ways than by directly asking him for the blessings we desire at his hand. The comparative and almost complete absence of formal petition from this address suggests to us that we may go far towards winning our cause by -

I. PRESENTING THE SOUL BEFORE GOD IN A RECEPTIVE SPIRITUAL STATE. It is only in some spiritual conditions that we can expect to be recipients of his bounty. Not to be in the right state is to lock the door at which we stand. By such an address as this the Jews either showed themselves to be in, or brought themselves into, an acceptable recipient condition. There were -

1. The solemn recognition of God's excellency; of his greatness - "Our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God" (ver. 32); of his goodness - "thy great mercies' sake;"... "thou art a gracious and merciful God" (ver. 31); of his faithfulness - "who keepest covenant and mercy" (ver. 32); of his justice - "thou art just in all that is brought upon us" (ver. 33).

2. Sense of their own ill-desert. "Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly."

3. Readiness to separate from sin. "The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers" (ver. 2). "If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us" (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15).

4. Preparedness to pledge themselves to his service. The Jews were prepared to "make a sure covenant, and write it and seal it" (ver. 38). Thus, on this occasion, the children of Israel presented themselves before God, and not only showed, as they began to speak reverently and humbly to him, but gained more as they proceeded, a fitting spiritual condition for receiving his Divine communications. It is not by" loud speaking," nor by "much speaking" (Matthew 6:7), but rather by asking in a right temper and mode, that we make a forcible and prevailing appeal to the Divine Helper; presenting ourselves before him as suppliants in the spirit of

(1) profound reverence,

(2) deep humility,

(3) genuine consecration.

II. REQUEST IN WORDS (vers. 32, 36, 37). "Now therefore, our God,... let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, and on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day" (ver. 32). "Behold," continues this appeal, "we are servants, and the land thou gavest unto our fathers,... we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us:... they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress" (vers. 36, 37). This is

(1) a direct appeal to the pitifulness of Jehovah that he would have compassion on them who were slaves in their own land - their persons and their property being at the mercy of a foreign prince; it was also

(2) an indirect appeal to his faithfulness and justice. For had not God chastened them very long and very sore? - he who had promised to forgive them their iniquities when they returned unto him; he who would not make his punishment to be out of proportion to their offence. They desired to "see the beauty of the Lord" (his righteousness, his equity), that they might be "made glad according to the days wherein he had afflicted them, and the years wherein they had seen evil" (Psalm 90:15, 17). In making our appeal to God there are two things which will ever be the substance and burden of our plea: -

(1) the soreness of our necessity: our weakness, our want, our trouble, our humiliation, our darkness and ignorance, our repeated failure, our distance from the goal and the prize;

(2) the greatness of his goodness: his pitifulness, his patience, his considerateness, his promised mercy, his faithfulness. We may come hopefully to his throne because he is "a gracious and merciful God," pleading his "great mercies' sake" (ver. 31). But more than that, we may come "boldly" to the throne of his grace, because he is One that "keeps covenant" (ver. 32) as well as "mercy," because he has pledged his word to us in Christ Jesus, and he will be "faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." - C.

And cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God.
The true test of the good received in religious ordinances is their sanctifying effect on the life. Many a tree is gay with blossoms in spring that yields no fruit in autumn; and so many gospel hearers, who appear full of promise in the time of ordinances, show no decided piety in their subsequent conduct.

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PRAYER. It is often easier to act for God than to pray to Him — to work in His vineyard than to wait at His throne. Activity may afford occasion for excitement, and scope for display, and opportunity to attract the admiration of others; while prayer calls to the exercise of faith, to cultivate humility, to live under the eye of God. Spiritual work, indeed, might be expected to draw the servant near to the Master for communion and help. It soon discovers human weakness and want, and dependence on almighty power for strength, for supply, for all blessing. But, instead of proving an incentive to prayer, it is often made a substitute for it; and the labourer feels as if too busy in service to find time for unceasing supplication. And thus the people of Judah here set a high value on prayer. They have laboured to restore the walls and temple of Jerusalem, and success has crowned their efforts. But activity in these sacred undertakings, so far from cooling their devotion, inspires them to growing fervour in prayers and supplications to God. In reference to the circumstances of this prayer, it may be remarked —

1. It was offered immediately after the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month this festival commenced, on the twenty-second it was closed; and "on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled" for this prayer. The time of meeting is proof of the ardour of their devotion. Formal worshippers are soon wearied in spiritual exercises, and ask, "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn; and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?" It is a frame of devotion much to be desired. Protracted meetings like this, for religious exercises, may be expedient only on extraordinary occasions, but habitual love of communion with God is both the strength and joy of a holy heart. It is not one intense momentary influence, flowing from the summer sun, that covers fields with corn and trees with fruit, but the daily glow of his genial beams; so it is not a single hour in the presence of Christ, receiving one full manifestation of Him in the soul, that saves it from the fears of guilt, and beautifies it with His image, but it is an abiding in Him, a "looking unto Jesus," a "coming unto God by Him." "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. Further, this prayer was offered in a season of solemn fasting (ver. 1). In the pilgrimage to the better land, the valley of humiliation lies near the delectable mountains; and the goodly prospects of Emmanuel's land obtained from the one prepare for walking in safety through the rugged paths of the other, while the same life of faith is maintained in both. Moreover, the prayer was offered amid earnest desires after new obedience. "The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers" (ver. 2). This sincere desire to put away sin, and to obey the Divine Word, is essential to effectual prayer. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."


1. An adoration of the Divine majesty (ver. 6).

2. A review of past mercies, The mercies celebrated are — God's choice of Israel; His deliverance of them from bondage; His guidance of them through the wilderness; and His bestowal on them of spiritual privileges.

3. We notice in the prayer confession of numerous sins (vers. 16-35). The light of Divine mercy here shows the dark cloud of their iniquities. They confess their obstinate disobedience to God (vers. 16-19). They hardened their necks, and hearkened not to the Lord's commandments. They confess their slighting of almighty goodness (vers. 20-26). They confess their refusal of Divine warning (vers. 27-30). They confess they did not glorify God in His gifts (vers. 34, 35).

4. We observe in the prayer a plea for sovereign mercy (vers. 32, 36, 37).


1. The duty of prayer in public distress. The people of Judah were here in public distress, and they offer united prayer to God for His help in their time of need.

2. The blessing of prayer to a community. This prayer for Jerusalem was succeeded by times of prosperity in the holy city, and all it represented.

3. The power of prayer for the revival of the Church.

(W. Ritchie.)

Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven
In this we have perhaps the fullest setting forth of the glorious and manifold character of Jehovah which is to be found in any single passage of Scripture, and in it also is brought out in striking contrast the sinful conduct of His chosen people. The Almighty is here recognised as —

1. The God of creation.

2. The God of the covenant.

3. The God of redemption (vers. 9-11).

4. The Leader of His people.

5. The Lawgiver.

6. The Sustainer of His people.

7. The God of compassion and the hearer of prayer.

(W. P. Lockhart.)



(W. P. Lockhart.)

Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram
My strength during all my life has been precisely this, that I have made no choice. During the last thirty-six years God has twelve times changed my home and fifteen times changed my work. I have scarcely ever done what I myself would have chosen.

(Dean Farrar.)

And hast performed Thy words
All means are in His hands. A father may promise his son that he will make something of him when he grows up, but his business declines, he is made bankrupt. But the great Father will never become bankrupt, never fail; His power is infinite. Many a sea captain has had, during a storm, to tell the passengers, "I have done all I can; there is now nothing but the boat." God has never to tell His people that.

(Thomas Jones.)

Corporations may be disfranchised and charters revoked. Even mountains may be removed, and stars drop from their spheres; but a tenure founded on the Divine promise is inalienably secure, and lasting as eternity itself.


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