Time After Time
A daily devotion for August 19th
16 "But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, 'This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,' or when they committed awful blasphemies.
19 "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
22 "You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 Their sons went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you handed the Canaanites over to them, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.
26 "But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.
28 "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.
29 "You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
32 "Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
36 "But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.
But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time. (Nehemiah 9:28)
What a marvelous picture of the patience of God! He lets us taste the results of our evil. He gets our attention sometimes by letting disaster strike. But it is only in order that we might hear what He is saying and be delivered. He warns us in order to keep us free.
One evening the president of the Gay People's Union of a university was invited to come and speak to a church's group of young people on what the Bible says about homosexuality. The group gave him the opportunity to defend the position that the Bible endorses homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle. Although this man was the president of his university's debating club, he struggled as he tried to present his case. He went all through the Bible trying to prove his cause, but he floundered and could not get anything together.
The group leader made an agreement with him that when he finished, one of the church's pastors would speak on the same subject. The pastor graciously opened the Scriptures and pointed out that when God forbids something it is not because He wants to limit us or narrow our lives. It is because He is protecting us from something that we cannot handle, something so devastating it will ruin us. He demonstrated from the Word how homosexuality destroys human beings and turns them into something God never intended them to be. Eventually those embracing a homosexual lifestyle would be locked into pain, hurt, misery, loneliness, and death.
Out of that episode came opportunity for members of this church to reach out to those who were struggling with homosexual tendencies. A great number of these people were delivered by the mercy and grace of God. That is what this passage describes--the tough love of God, who will not let ruin overtake us without adequate warning.
The closing paragraph, beginning with verse 32, connects the history of earlier generations with the present generation. Here we find a change of pronouns from they and them to we and our as the Israelites begin to look at their own generation.
This is where we find ourselves today. Our cities are torn with violence and strife of such intensity that people hardly dare to go outside their homes. The only recovery is to do as these people did--confess our wrongdoing to God and praise Him for His compassionate mercy.
Notice how specific the Israelites are.
You have acted faithfully, but we did wrong. There is no
if in true confession. You say,
Lord, I did it. I walked in my own willful way. Then God hears, forgives, and restores.
Lord, thank You for Your promise that as I confess my sin, You are faithful and righteous to forgive and restore.
Life Application: How do we respond to God's tough love in others' lives as well as our own? Are we able to recognize and be thankful for the tough love of God?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.