Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. – Nehemiah 1:8-10
In this portion of his prayer, Nehemiah gives three reasons why God should have mercy on Israel again. You will notice that none of them are based upon what Israel has done but solely upon the grace and mercy of God.
- The covenant that God made with Israel is that He would bless them if they would repent of their sin and turn back to Him. On the surface, this may seem like God owes Israel a blessing for obedience but that is far from the truth. As we learned in our previous study, the ability to repent only comes from God. It is His act of mercy that breaks our hearts and allows us to mourn for our sins against Him. You will also notice that Nehemiah rightly points out that it is God alone Who will gather the people scattered all over the heavens. Grace is not doing our part to meet God half way. We cannot come to Him first. We love Him because He first loved us!
- The second detail, that is often overlooked, is the place where the blessing will take place. God chose Jerusalem as the place for Israel to worship Him. Israel would have chosen, and did choose, many other places to try and worship, but God had a specific location. It is by His sovereign choice when and where blessings will pour out on His people. In the New Testament times (which is today as well), God has filled out the shadow of Mount Zion in His church. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is now where God has sovereignly chosen to commune with His people. As it is recorded in the Book of Acts, The Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved.
- The last reason Nehemiah gives for God’s blessing is that Israel is His chosen people. God had sovereignly chosen them, delivered them, and redeemed them from bondage by His mighty power. They are His people! The mercy of election makes us God’s people. In Romans chapter 9, Paul reminds us of God’s own word, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” It was His sovereign choice of us that made us sons of God, and it is His sovereign mercy that brings repentance to the hearts of His people.
Nehemiah’s prayer truly is an excellent example of our humility and reliance on an Omnipotent God to show everlasting mercy.