Today’s reading is Nehemiah 1-5, Psalm 141, and Revelation 15-16.
While 2020 will be known primarily for the pandemic, there are many more events and issues which will standout as we look back on the start of the 2020s, some related to the pandemic and some not. We will look back on the wildfires in both Australia (January) and the west coast of America (September) and the ways we have not cared for our planet. We will remember the economic disparity that continues to widen as people continue to loose their healthcare and be evicted from their homes as those who could have helped continue to get richer, purchasing another yacht and luxury home. We will remember the police brutality, the killings of people like George Floyd, and the protests which were spawned in their memories. We will look back at the rallies which were in the name of religious freedom but really were about pushing a political agenda. And in general we will remember how divisive we were, how much we ignored Jesus’ call to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The book of Nehemiah begins with repentance. After hearing that much of Jerusalem still laid in ruins, Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed (Nehemiah 1:4). After recognizing God as great and awesome, Nehemiah also recognizes their sins:
I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.Nehemiah 1:6-7
This confession and recognition leads to Nehemiah approaching the king, asking to return to Jerusalem for its rebuilding.
There is a lot of work we have to do in our own lives, in the lives of our communities, and in the world around us. But before we get to work, we need to remember who God is and confess ours sins.
Advent is a time to prepare for Christ’s coming, both His first and His return. While we can prepare with trimming the tree and wrapping gifts for each other, we need not to forget to be humble before God. Let us enter this fourth week of Advent with humble hearts and clean hands.
Just as Nehemiah confessed sins and humbled himself before God for sins he personally did not commit, we, too, must recognize those sins we, our forbearers, and world around us has committed and call all of us to repentance.
Repent with me.
We have sinned in how we have treated God’s earth. The wildfires this year demonstrate how we have ignored the forests and wildernesses, allowing them to dry out, becoming a tinderbox. We have added fuel by dangerously bringing flammable material into these dry areas, ignoring the health of the land and igniting the earth.
Lord, to you we confess our sins of not being good caregivers to your earth.
We have sinned in our selfishness. While many of our brothers and sisters, neighbors and coworkers lost their jobs, healthcare, and homes, many have become more and more wealthy, using the pandemic to their advantage to gain more for themselves without using what they have received to bless others.
Lord, to you we confess our sins of selfishness in not sharing what we have with others.
We have sinned in the ways we have treated people differently. We acknowledge the ways we treat people of color as less than, how people of color have been targeted, hurt, and killed by the police, how people of color have higher rates of imprisonment, and how people of color have been used, belittled, and ignored.
Lord, to you we confess our sins of inequality and not loving our neighbor as ourself.
We have sinned by worshipping idols. We acknowledge the ways we put our hope and trust in politicians and ideologies instead of in you. We confess that we have made someone other you be our Messiah. Like the people of Israel, we have prostituted ourselves to others and been unfaithful.
Lord, to you we confess our sins of idolatry.
We have sinned by putting ourselves first above our neighbor. We have refused to wear masks, social distance, and isolate when needed, putting our most vulnerable neighbors at risk. We have exposed ourselves to this horrible virus, putting ourselves and our loved ones in the hospital to the point that there is no more beds for those who truly need it. We have ridiculed those who have had to live in prolonged exclusion from the world while flaunting our outings, group visits, and vacations on social media.
Lord, to you we confess our sins of selfishness, of putting ourselves first.
Once Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem he rallies the people to work on the walls. We are told that each section of the wall is built and protected by a different family, all working together to complete the wall and rebuild the city. While all work on the walls, many cannot work in their own fields to produce crops and the wealthy begin to take advantage of them. So not only are they sacrificing their labor for the good of the city, they are sacrificing their livelihoods as well.
Nehemiah listens to the poor and approaches the wealthy:
What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.Nehemiah 5:9-11
They wealthy agree and they give back what they had profited during the economic crisis. Then when Nehemiah is made governor, he refuses to take all of the perks that governors took, such as acquiring more land and placing a heavy burden of taxes and allotment of food from the people. Instead, he continued to devote himself to the work of the wall, helping his fellow Israelites.
We have been given the opportunity during 2020 to work together, to make sure all people are cared for, have places to live, and enough food to eat. But instead, we have continued to greatly sin.
Nehemiah knew that the only way to finish the wall was to work together and for all to have their share of the land and of the food.
We must start with repentance like Nehemiah. Now we need to move into a place of sharing and working together. If we do not, we will continue to live in sin and our confession will be for naught.
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.