1 Now in the 24th day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
In chapter nine the whole picture changes-the tone of chapter nine is realization, repentance, resolve and reform.
We might have said, mourn first, put things right, and then rejoice. But Nehemiah said,
Rejoice first! Joy in the strength of Yahweh-then let us assemble with fasting and sack cloth to make a covenant with our God.
The joy had to come first Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was like treasure hidden in a field; which, when a man findeth-
"For JOY thereof he goeth and selleth all that he hath" (Matt. 13:44).
The joy had to come first. It was the joy that made him sell everything else. The joy is the strength that makes the sacrifice possible-
"For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross and despised the shame" (Heb. 12:2).
We must not limit this joy to the future, for it is the strength of the present The fruits of the Spirit are
"Love, Joy and Peace".
Then follow the others, built upon these-meekness, self control, etc. Until the joy comes-takes hold of us, fills us-we haven't begun to understand the Truth.
The joy of chapter eight is tempered in chapter nine with the realization that the nation's record before God was a dismal one, that their present distressed condition was a result of long abuse of God's patience, and that they themselves had been content to lay so long in ignorance and disobedience.*
*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build
They confessed, and worshipped Yahweh their Elohim.
...the Law is read to them, but the process is different, and the application more personal. For a period the Law is read. Then for a period they confess where they have failed. They examine themselves by what has been read. They pray, and confess, and seek forgiveness.
Their purpose is reconciliation with God, as a separate, purified, faithful people. Most of this chapter is a prayer in the form of a long historical confession of the sins of the nation from the days of Moses forward. It lists the continual manifestations of God's love and goodness toward them, and their continual disobedience and rebellion.
This prayer illustrates one very important principle-when things are wrong they cannot be put right by just ignoring the past. There can be no sound foundation for the future if the facts of the past are not recognized. The past was on record-the continual struggles of the faithful prophets against the unfaithful majority.
They could have said, "All that is passed. We refuse to have it considered. Just take us as we are on our present profession." But that would not have been acceptable. It would not have provided a clean and sound foundation. It would have left the picture confused, and their real allegiance in doubt.*
3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of Yahweh their Elohim one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped Yahweh their Elohim.
And they stood up in their place
The whole assembly was in the appropriate place, so that everything was done "decently and in order" (1 Cor 14: 40). The whole day was spent in demanding religious exercises. From 6am to 9am the Law was read, from 9am to 12 noon the people prostrated themselves and confessed their sins, having been awakened to this need by the hearing of the Law.
"and read in the book of the law" — They probably read portions of the Law selected by Ezra, that were especially appropriate for repentance, so as to provoke them to remember their responsibilities to the Word of God, to which they were committed.
The Christadelphian Expositor
6 Thou, even thou, art Yahweh alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
Ecclesiastical writings upon the subject of Angels are full of absurd speculation.
If we wish, therefore, to consult these writings, let us do so with the greatest caution. To confine ourselves to the infallible Word-Angels are created beings (Neh. ix. 6), having the form of men (Gen. xviii. 2; xxxii. 24; and Hos. xii. 4), and are immortal (Luke xx. 36).
Their glory (Matt. xxviii. 3; Jud. xiii. 6; Acts vi. 15) they can conceal at will (Jos. v. 13-15; Heb. xiii. 2). They are countless in number (Heb. xii. 22; Matt. xxvi. 53), and hold varied rank (Dan. x. 13).
They can work miracles-destroy the wicked; impress their mind on men in sleep; ascend through the air; be seen and cease to be seen at pleasure (Gen. xix. 11; Num. xxii. 31; Jud. vi. 21; Acts xii. 7; Matt. ii. 13, 20). They are styled the sons of God (Job xxxviii. 4-7), being manifestations of His great and holy name (Gen. xix).
And last but not least, they are interested and engaged in God's great work of salvation in connection with the human race (Luke xv. 10; Heb. i. 14; Ps. xxxiv. 7; Matt. xxv. 31).
May it be our happy lot to be made "equal unto the angels"-to be included in God's immortal family!
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Aug 1899
7 Thou art Yahweh the Elohim, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;
Abraham's seed return from the exile
The shock of this divine judgement by exile was salutary and effective, for the experience of the captivity finally purged Israel of the spirit of idolatry, which had been their besetting sin. When they returned to the land in the mercy of God, they would, from this time forth, eschew the gods of the nations and worship only Yahweh.
At last they would manifest the spirit of patriarchal fidelity that would mark them as the household of Abraham. Indeed, in the days of Nehemiah, they entered into a solemn oath to serve God with single-minded devotion, by strict obedience to all His laws, and by careful observance of all His commandments.
It was an honourable objective. But had the nation really heard the words of the national confession they had made together on that selfsame day?
...So it was Abraham's faithfulness that secured the divine approval and blessing. And their entitlement to share the promise would come, not by mechanical observance but by showing the same spirit of faith. Would they learn the lesson? Alas, it was not to be so, for when the sun went down over the prophets, and the seers became ashamed, the people of Abraham became obstinate in their pride.
Truly the nation was descended from him, and they could with perfect propriety be described as Abraham's seed. But with that perverse capacity for self-aggrandisement, which is the mark of the thinking of the flesh, they foolishly imagined that entitlement to the land and to the wider blessings of the covenant, were theirs by intrinsic right.
They failed to appreciate that the privilege of association with Abraham rested not so much on descent as in conduct. Their idolatry was gone, but it had been replaced instead with a system of worship that gloried in the meticulous but mindless observance of endless rules.
The laws of God were multiplied into such a plethora of minutiae, that their original spirit and intent was lost. How vastly different all this was to the simple and earnest faith that brought Abraham and Sarah into a land of which they knew not, and moved them to live as one in faithful obedience and loving trust before Almighty God.
This people, this nation that sprang from them, knew not their heritage, for they had never learned that righteousness which is of faith. 4
4 Romans 9:30.
Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 9
13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
But now they were actually to "meet with God" (Exod. 19: 17). So they were commanded to "be ready against the third day; for on the third day the Lord will (not only speak but) come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai".
They were to "wash their clothes ", and abstain from the common defilements of domestic life, and to keep at a respectful distance from the mount at whose base they were encamped. The terrible penalty of death was attached to non-compliance.
The people were entirely compliant; and on the morning of the third day, there were awful tokens of the promised interview between God and a nation. The top of the mountain was concealed in dense cloud, intermittently illuminated by the play of lightning.
From the cloud ascended thick volumes of smoke as from a furnance. Roars of thunder pealed forth at intervals, the earth trembled under their feet. In the midst of all these terror-inspiring manifestations, the steady strident sound of a loud trumpet note was heard from the summit,
"sounding long and waxing louder and louder".
On a sudden the tumult ceased, and in the silence,
"the Lord spake unto all the assembly out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, WITH A GREAT VOICE" (Deut. 5:22).
The whole assembly heard the pealing words which filled the air to the following effect:
"I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Law of Moses Ch 3
30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy [holy] spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.
"RECORD THEIR OWN DEATH"
The questions raised against the Bible on the score of the deaths of the writers of some parts of it being recorded in the parts written by them are of no force against Christ's endorsement of the whole.
This covers all questions of detail. The only question with those believing in him, is, how did it come to pass? And while we have no specific information such as the biography of a modern author might supply with regard to peculiarities in his works, we have enough to satisfy child-like reason, though it may not shut the mouth of the scorner, who is not on the outlook for knowledge, but for out-hanging bits of rags to jump at.
We are informed that the oracles of Elohim were "committed to" Israel, and that the spirit of Elohim was with the priestly and prophetic class who were their immediate custodians (Rom. iii. 2; Neh. ix. 30). This would supply the inference that whatever was necessary to complete a writer's record who could not complete it himself because of death, would be supplied by another writer equally qualified by spiritual guidance: as where Elohim said to Joshua, "Moses my servant is dead," and gave him directions suitable to the fact.
This reasonable inference is confirmed by the express testimony of Josephus-(himself a member of the Aaronic custodian of the Scriptures)-that Ezra, on the return from Babylon, who is described as "a ready scribe in the law of Yahweh," edited or redacted and put into complete form the writings of inspiration in use among Israel, as distinguished from those other writings which are recognised by Josephus as not inspired.
It required an inspired man to do this, and Ezra appears before us in this character.
37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.
And so they concluded the prayer by (v. 7) referring to their miserable and oppressed condition-all their possessions and their own bodies and lives subject to the whim of a heathen king.
But they did not ask for relief. They recognized its justice and purpose. What they did do was to enter into a written, signed covenant, and a solemn curse, and an oath, to separate from all others and to faithfully observe all the Law that God had given them through Moses.*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build