Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God. – Nehemiah 9:1-3
In Chapter 1, we found Nehemiah on his knees in sorrow for the sin of Israel. He did not make excuses for his forefathers, for his brethren, or for himself. He confessed all, threw himself at the feet of the Almighty, and begged for mercy.
We now see the nation of Israel as a whole doing the very same thing.
The celebration was now over and a period of sorrow for sin had begun. The people, having seen in the word of God that they should not have any form of relationship with the strangers around them, cut off all relations with those that would draw them away from their service to God. This is a sure sign of true repentance. Any person may say that they repent and want to do better. It is a true disciple that first casts away all practice of sin, and then makes confession of his faults.
We once again find that there is no rush to finish these kinds of devotions. They spent half the day in a service of confession and worship.
Confession and repentance are vital elements that attend proper worship. The worship of God is more than singing, preaching, and praying. These are the tools of worship but the substance of worship is a sinner who has seen his need for a Savior.
David understood that the true strength of Zion was not just in its walls and worship services. Those elements are only effective when the people see themselves as sinners.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar. – Psalm 51:16-19
To truly draw nigh to God, we must flee from the sin of the world.