Where To Begin
A daily devotion for August 18th
1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. 3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. 4 Standing on the stairs were the Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani—who called with loud voices to the LORD their God. 5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. "
"Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
7 "You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.
9 "You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.
13 "You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.
Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. (Nehemiah 9:5b)
This prayer in the book of Nehemiah is a great model that will teach us much for our own prayer life. It begins with a great section of praise. First, God is praised as the Creator and Maker of everything. Beginning with the life He gave you is a great place to start when you are praising God. It seems strange to me that people who are dependent every moment on God to give them life allow themselves so easily to forget that fact. God sustains us moment by moment. We ought to be grateful for that. Let us never forget that our very breath comes from Him.
The next section praises God as the caller and chooser of people. He is the one who gives undeserved blessings to those He chooses. God is the keeper of promises. Not one of us would be here today if it were not for that merciful, sovereign call of God. Jesus said,
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44). We are here today because the Spirit of God in wondrous grace has drawn us to Himself.
Then the people praise God as the deliverer from sin and its enslavement. They retell the history of this nation, beginning with the call of Abraham and their deliverance from Egypt. Some of us have forgotten the lessons God has taught us and have returned to the same sins, plunging ourselves once more into rebellion and slavery. Let us never forget that we have been wonderfully, even miraculously, delivered by the great hand of God.
Praise for God as the great provider of wisdom and the necessities of life follows. Here is God's providential care of His own. He taught this people how to live in the midst of great wickedness. He knew he was sending them into a land inhabited by tribes who were morally degraded to a degree that is appalling to us today. They offered their children to the god Molech by throwing them alive into a furnace of fire. It was among these people that the Israelites had to live. Yet God taught them how to avoid defilement from those things. He taught them how to be friends with these people but not be destroyed by their immorality. It is exactly the situation we are called to live in today. God has given us this wonderful book that teaches us the rules of life, health, salvation, and deliverance and the inner strength that can resist the temptations that abound all around us. To neglect it is folly.
God also supplied their needs. He gave them bread to eat when there was none. He gave them water from the rock in the middle of the desert. That is not only an account of meeting physical needs, but it describes the meeting of spiritual needs as well. The New Testament tells us these are pictures of Christ: He is the bread of life; He is the water of life. As the Israelites learned the meaning of these symbols, they began to understand that there was One coming who would fully meet the need of the human heart.
Father, I praise and worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, as the One who has chosen me and drawn me to Yourself and the One who provides all that I need.
Life Application: As we understand God's attributes we are better able to know and worship Him. Are our hearts tuned to praise God as the One from whom all blessings flow?
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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.