Today’s reading is taken from Nehemiah 11 & Matthew 21:23-32.
The Israelites through the ages have been a people who have had front-row seats to witness the faithfulness and patience of the Lord. Time and time again these ‘stiff-necked’ people tested Him beyond reason. Starting with the ‘golden calf’ incident at Mount Sinai all the way to the Asherah Poles in Josiah’s day, the people responded to His faithfulness with scorn.
Reading Nehemiah 11 the first time round will not give you much, just a list of names which are not the easiest to pronounce. However, what unfolds here is part of the restoration of Jerusalem and the revival of Israel. You see God had made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 and created Israel, a chosen nation through his seed. Turned out this nation had a knack for sinfulness and at every turn they challenged God’s authority and purposes. God himself famously states: “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff necked people”. However, not for one moment did God forget his promise to Abraham to make him into a great nation. Although like a father disciplines his child, God disciplined Israel. But never did He throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’
Throughout the Old Testament God displays his faithfulness and patience to a sinful people despite their explicit rebellion. A part of Israel’s disciplining was the exile to Babylon and Assyria, and after the time was completed emerged a remnant that ensured the Abrahamic covenant didn’t end there. Nehemiah 11 is a record of how God in His Grace restores a people that constantly rejected him.
Now fast forward the story of Israel to the Gospel of Matthew. Chapter 21 reveals to us that not much had changed with these people. They were still as determined to question God’s authority as they were in Nehemiah’s day. God, however had been faithful to Israel and had preserved them through the centuries and had now brought to them their Savior, the culmination of the Abrahamic covenant, to finally reverse the curse of Genesis 3. But even here, His chosen people responded to His relentless faithfulness with contempt.
But because of His grace, even then, God refused to throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’, but instead decided to lay down his very life ‘for the joy that was set before him’. This is what His faithfulness to the Israelites looked like, and this is what His faithfulness to us looks like today. That ‘while we were still sinners He redeemed us’ through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Our God is faithful, although once sinners we have been set free from the bondage of sin by His grace that covers us every time we stumble. Let us be a people determined to trust in Him and not question His authority, to worship Him and not replace him with useless idols like the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.
Have a listen to this song. Blessings!