But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. – Nehemiah 9:16-17
God had been abundantly merciful to Israel in delivering them out of bondage in Egypt, but they answered that blessing with pride and sin. They were willing to return to slavery rather than follow the will of God Who had delivered them. They forgot, or ignored, the miracles of the Red Sea, the manna, the water from the rock, and the other wondrous things God had done for them. In their pride, they lost their rational minds! God was blessing them but they were choosing slavery under an defeated king rather than service to an all-powerful and merciful God.
But how did God answer? In wrath? No.
Nehemiah reminds us that God is not eager to seek vengeance upon His people. He is ready to pardon. He is full of grace and mercy. He is actually slow to anger. And, as Jesus said, He will never leave His children nor forsake them.
If we truthfully consider the pattern of our own lives, we must all admit that we act just like the Israelites at times. We are happy with what we are doing and don’t want to change! We should rightly expect a Holy God to wipe us out for our unthankfulness and pride. And yet, He shows mercy and pardon instead.
This should move our hearts to seek His will and love Him all the more. He has granted mercy and not vengeance. He has given grace and lifted us to heavenly places in Christ. He has chosen us by His sovereign will and will bring us to Himself at the end of time.
Let us consider the actions of the Israelites as an example of what not to do when we sin and God still has mercy. Instead, let us live of life a joyful thankfulness in obedience to His will.