About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Chapter - Chapter 9

Previous Section - Chapter 8

Next Section - Chapter 10

The Israelites Confess Their Sin (ch. 9:1 – 37)


This chapter is about Israel confessing their sins.  I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I don't believe this is the same national revival that Ezra speaks about because I believe this is some fifteen to eighteen years or so later.


The whole point to the following prayer is a confession of Israel's constant wandering away from their God and God remaining faithful to them in their wanderings.  Israel forsakes God, turns back to Him in repentance, and then God blesses them, and then they wander away again.  Israel's sin is compared to God's love and faithfulness.     


In verse 1 we noticed that the Jews gathered themselves together.  They were dressed in sackcloth and having dust on their heads.  This is the typical apparel of those who are humbling themselves before the Lord in repentance.  Along with the clothes they were wearing, they also fasted.  Fasting for the most part in the Bible is associated with humbling one's self before the Lord in a spirit of repentance.


Verse 2 tells us that the Jews separated themselves from those who were not real Jews, similar to the revival of Ezra when the Jews went as far as to send their Gentile spouses  into the land they once came from.  The idea of separation is important in repentance.  Both the Jews of old and Christians today are to separate  themselves from the rest of the world.  We are not to be like the world, that is, in the area of character. 


Over the years certain parts of the church have felt that separation from the world had everything to do with the clothes you wore, the food you eat, all the exterior things.  But that's not so.  We are to be different in the way we live, the way we behave, the way we think, the way we act, and in the way we treat others.  It's a matter of personal character and integrity, not clothes.


Another thing to note concerning this separation is the life of Jesus.  He was separated from the world.  That is, He did not live like those in the world lives, but He did associate with the world, even the worst of the world.  There is nothing wrong with having close relationships with those in the world.  Excluding yourself, or withdrawing from the world is not the separation we're talking about here.  Being in the world but not of it, is what we are talking about.


Also in verse 2 we see the usual way in which the Jews confessed their sins.  They confessed their own sins first, and then the sins of their fathers.  Even the most righteous among the people would come before God as a sinner to confess his sin.  Paul says that there are none righteous, therefore all need to confess their sin.


As in the last chapter, here in verse 3 we see the Jews standing as the Law is read.  They actually read and stood for four whole hours. That's a long time to stand.  Then once the Law had been read, they then confessed their sin and worshipped for another four hours.  That's eight hours in total.  I believe only the Spirit of God can cause such dedication.


In verses 4 and 5 we see the same Levites that were mentioned in the previous chapter.  They were standing on some steps crying out to God.  The then encouraged everyone to praise God who lives "from everlasting to everlasting." This speaks to the eternal nature of God. 


The picture that the two words "everlasting" paints in my minds is that of God living from one period of time to the next period of time, to the next, and to the next, on into infinity. 


If you have ever wondered what praising God with your words looks like, we now have an example.  Of course, our whole lives should be one of praise. That means that everything we do should make our Lord look good.  Everything we do should be proper and righteous.  Yet there is a place to speak forth the praises of God, and here is one example, beginning in verse 5.


The words of praise begin with these words. "blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessings and praises."   The Hebrew word that we derive our English word "bless" from, in its simplest form means to kneel.  Kneeling implies reverencing.  So when we say, "blessed by your name", we are saying, "may your name be reverenced", and in this case, "may your name, the name of God,  be reverenced above all other names."  This reminds me of New Testament thinking that states that there is only one name given among men under heaven whereby man can be saved, and that name is Jesus.  


Verse 6 says, "you alone are the Lord ..."   There is only one Lord God of the universe, and He is the God of Israel. When you see the word "Lord" in the Old Testament, it refers to the Supreme One who is above and over all things.  Most religions in this day and age were polytheistic, meaning, the belief in more than one God.  Israel was monotheistic, meaning, the belief in just one God.


Verse 6 carries on by saying that God made the heavens, even the highest heavens, the starry host.  We see that God made the heavens, even the highest heavens.  Some might suggest two types of heavens here.  Paul spoke of being transported to the third heaven, that heavenly place where God is.  I don't think this is what is meant here.  The addition of the words "starry host" suggests to me that the heavens mean they sky above us, and the distant sky beyond that.  The Levites who said these words had no sense of creation by evolution in their words of praise.


Also in verse 6 is the acknowledgement that God created the earth and the seas and all that are on the earth and in the seas.  This is the Biblical mandate concerning creation.  This is how God's people are to believe concerning creation.  God is behind all that is around us, that which we see and that which we don't see.


The last thought in verse 6 is that God gives life to everything.  He and He alone has breathed life into all living creation, that is, humans, animals, and plants.  God created the angels as well, the heavenly host that worship God, as stated in this verse.  The Jews believed in angels and so should we, although by the time Jesus was on earth some parts of Judaism did not believe in such things.


You will notice that this praise is actually a remembrance of Israel's past.  It even goes beyond Israel's past, right to the creation of mankind.


In verse 7 we see Abram mentioned.  The name Abram means "father is exalted."  We also see that God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning, "father of a multitude."   Abraham was a direct descendent of Noah's son Shem. 


We see that Abram came from Ur.  Most scholars say that Ur corresponds with the area that is now about 220 miles southeast of Baghdad  in Iraq.   


In verse 8 we see because of Abraham's faithfulness, God promised him a large portion of land east of the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt to the Euphrates River.  We must understand that God did give this land to Abraham and his descendents.  It is my understanding that God has never revoked this promise, and that this promise will ultimately be fulfilled in the thousand year rule of Christ on earth.  We must also note that God did not just give this land for Abraham's benefit, even though he was a faithful man.  He gave the land for His own benefit, because God wanted Abraham and his descendents to be a nation that would respectfully represent Him.  So, although the land was given to Abraham, it was given for a much higher purpose than just a mere gift for one man and is family.


We move on in history in verse 9 to Moses and Israel in Egypt.  The Levites remind God in the time of praise that He saw the suffering of His people.  We note here that God's people do suffer for various reasons.  Some of the suffering is self inflicted, as it often was with Israel.  Some suffering is persecution by the enemies of God. The important thing is that God sees our sufferings.  We are not alone in our suffering. 


In verse 10 we see how God judged Egypt for the arrogance of Pharaoh.  It is interesting to me that God judged a nation for the arrogance of its leader.  He can do the same today.  With great miracles the judgment took place.  These miraculous judgments had two aspects to them.  They were to judge Egypt and make a way of escape for God's people.  This reminds me of the seven years of Great Tribulation at the end of this age.  God brings miraculous judgments against the arrogant nations of the world, and in so doing will bring Israel to her knees in repentance so they can be rescued as their forefathers were in Moses' day.


Also in verse 10 we note that God made a name for Himself by judging Egypt that lasted to the very day these Levites were praising God.  This too is a reflection of what will take place at the end of this age, when God judges the nations of this world, His name will be exalted for all of eternity as a result.


In verse 11 we see that God divided the sea so Israel could escape from the Egyptian army.  Once Israel reached the other side the waters of the sea returned and the Egyptian army was drowned.   Again, at the end of this age, there is a great earthquake that divides Mount Zion.  Many scholars feel that the valley created by the earthquake is a way of escape for the Jews.  It's also noteworthy that much of the armies of the world are destroyed in an earthquake as well.  It's very similar to what we see here.


Once Israel escaped from the domination of their enemy, God didn't stop performing miracles.  He miraculously provided a cloud by day to cool them off, and a fire by night to keep them warm.  The point that is made here is that when God's people do His will, He will look after them.


In verse 13 basically says that God came down from heaven at Mount Sinai.  At that point he gave to Israel the Law by which he wanted them to live.  This Law was more than a list of rules, 613 in total.  It was just as much prophetic as it was rules.  It was prophetic in the sense that much of it spoke prophetically of Jesus, and parts actually prophesied Israel's future, as in the blessings and cursing. In Deut. 28:53 you will see the destruction of Israel in 70 A. D.  prophesied, that is, when the Jews actually ate their own children. 


There is differing opinions on just where Mount Sinai is located.  Most think it was in the Sinai Peninsula, south of Israel.


We see Moses mentioned in verse 14.  It was through Moses that God spoke to Israel.  God gave the commands to Moses who in turn passed them on to Israel.  This is often how God works.  He chooses a man, or even certain men, and then these men lead God's people in God's ways. 


I won't go into it here, but the Law spoken of here, that is, the Law of Moses, is often misunderstood by New Testament Christians.  Because of this misunderstanding, we pick and choose what laws to obey and what laws not to obey.  It is clear to me that the Law of Moses, in its entirety does not apply to Christians. 


Verse 15 expresses the miraculous way that God looked after Israel once they left Egypt.  He gave them manna  from heaven to eat, and water from the rock to drink. 


Verses 15 also states the reason why God freed Israel from Egypt in the first place, and that was to give them the land that was promised to them long ago.  God had not forgotten this promise, and it is my opinion that He has never forgotten His promise.  It will finally be fulfilled in the thousand year rule of Christ and then into the New Earth, as seen in the book of Revelation.


In light of the miracles spoken of in the last verse, verse 16 tells us that the forefathers of these Jews "became arrogant".  The result of this arrogance was the fact that they did not obey the commands of their God.  That is what arrogance leads to.  It leads to independence from God.  That is still true today.


Verse 17 repeats the fact that Israel became independent and then rebellious.  The prayer goes on to say that the Jews forefathers "refused to listen and failed to remember…"   When you don't listen to the Lord, you certain won't remember what He's done for you in the past.  What the Lord did for these people was miraculous as the text says.  Parts of the church today have followed in the footsteps of these rebellious Jews.  They've failed to remember the miracles of Scripture, and now they don't even believe in them any longer.  This has been traditionally called the "demythologizing of the Bible", that is, liberal theologians have discredited all the miraculous aspects of the Bible.


Verse 17 also says that while the Jews were wandering in the wilderness for all those years after they had been set free by God, they appointed a new leader because they wanted him to help them return to Egypt, return to slavery.  How true that was with Israel, and how true it is with Christians today.  We are set free by Jesus but the temptation is to return to the world and our sin, and some give in and do just that.


Also in verse 17 we see that God is a gracious God, full of compassion and slow to anger.  Note here that God is slow to anger.  It does not say that He does not get angry, because He does.  The thought here is that God would rather express love than anger, and He goes out of His way to do so, but at some point He will express anger.  Expression of God's anger in judgment is what much of the end of this age is all about.


Verse 18 shows us the extent of God's love. Israel made for themselves an idol of gold after leaving Israel and claimed that this man-made idol actually rescued them from the Egyptians.  How horrible of a thing on the part of Israel.  Yet even with this blasphemy, God did not forsake Israe, even though they forsook Him, and this forsaking was intentional.


Verse 19 continues on the thought that God did not abandon Israel in their wanderings in the wilderness.  This is interesting in light of modern day Israel.  Israel is not following their God at this point in time, at least not on a national level.  They are not following their God, nor Jesus.  One might understand to a degree that they aren't following Jesus, but they aren't following the God of their father Abraham.  Israel for the most part is a secular nation, yet it is my opinion that God has His hand on Israel even as He did when Israel wandered in the wilderness.  This only goes to point out that God can still be involved in people's lives, and especially so in the nation of Israel, even though people and Israel are not interested in Him.


How did God show His love to Israel in the wilderness?  Verse 20 says that He provided food and water for them in miraculous ways.  The text also says that "His good Spirit" was with them.  We don't often see the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Old Testament, or at least as often as we do in the New Testament.  But it is clear that though Israel was drifting away from God, God by His Spirit was still keeping close watch on them.  You might say the same about modern day Israel .  Though they are not living as their God wants, you can see His provision for them, and sometimes it is supernatural.  This is clearly seen in some of the battles Israel has fought over the last few decades. 


Verse 21 tells us how many years Israel wandered in the desert.  It was for forty years.  During this time their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not get swollen from all the walking they did.  Once again, the touch of the supernatural to a rebellious people.


In verse 22 to 25 the praise to God continues.  It states that Israel did possess the land as promised by God to Abraham.  The text also says that the number of Jews increased to the number of the stars in the sky, something else that God promised Abraham.  This is an important verse, especially to those who believe that Israel, in New Testament times and right up to the end of this age, have no more special significance.  These people believe that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan.  They even go as far to say that whatever is prophesied about or spoken about Israel in the Old Testament can be interpreted as being spoken to the church.  I personally don't hold to this position. 


One problem about this position is that it seems to neglect all the things God spoke to and about Israel prophetically after she inherited the land and numbers were as the stars in the sky.  All the prophets speak of a time that will come when Israel will find restoration, but of course, these people claim those prophecies are for the church, but in fact they were directed to Israel .


This thinking is called Replacement Theology.  God promised Abraham certain things.  The promise was fulfilled in the glory days of Israel and don't have to be fulfilled again.  Israel lost what God promised Abraham for good.  I don't believe that.


The last phrase of verse 25 says that Israel reveled in the goodness of their God, and so they did, at least for a while.  We know though that this did not last.  Verse 26 tells us just that.  After receiving what God promised, they turned their backs on Him and the Law He asked them to keep.  God sent prophets to admonish them to return to Him but they killed these men sent from God.


Because of Israel's rebellion against her God verse 27 states that God handed them over to their enemies.  This is one way that God judges nations, something I still believe He does today.  Nations rise and fall.  Both their rise and their fall are from the hand of God.   This is exactly what Paul speaks about in the first two chapters of his letter to Rome.  This is a principle of Scripture.  It's not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles.  It's for everyone.  If we seek God, and in these days, seek Him through Jesus, He will be our God.  Yet if we continue to rebel and walk in our own ways, He will give us over to the sins we like committing.  He will hand us over and wash His hands of us.  This does not mean that we can't return, because we can. 


This return is spoken of in the last part of verse 27.   The judgment of God on Israel, that is, God handing them over to their enemies had the desired effect.  They knew they were in trouble and they saw their error of their ways and repented. Because of this, God returned to them in love and compassion.  The same can be said of us today.  If we stray from Jesus, and if we repent from our sin, He will take us back into the fold.


We're now beginning to see the seesaw effect of Israel in verse 28.  God promises are fulfilled in them.  They are blessed.  They then get lazy and way too relaxed.  They get self confident which leads to out and out rebellion.


With this rebellion comes judgment again.  Israel finds herself in the hands of her enemies again which leads them to understand that they've messed things up again.  Then they understand the error of their ways and repent again.  With this repentance comes love and compassion again by their God.  As it says here in verse 28, time and time again the cycle went on.  God's compassion always won out in the end, and it will win out again for Israel at the end of this age. God's compassion for Israel has not disappeared 


In verse 29 you see once again the inherent sinful nature of Israel.  They were arrogant, as they were in times past and they disobeyed God's law that led them into all sorts of troubles.  You see a progression here, or so I think.  First comes arrogance, and then comes out and out disobedience.  They became stubborn in this disobedience and turned their backs on God.  This suggests to me more than simply a drifting away from God.  It was an outright, and thought out decision to forsake their God.  Again, once arrogance and pride sets in, denying of God soon follows.  This is what is happening in the modern church.  This is what has happened in western culture, from education, science, politics, and all that makes up our culture.


The cycle continues in verse 30.  From Israel's rebellion to God's judgment.  God hands them over once again to the enemies of Israel, but not be4fore sending prophets to them to admonish them to return to Him. Once again the Holy Spirit is mentioned here connection to the Holy Spirit's activity in the life of these prophets.  I don't believe the ministry of prophets have ceased.  I believe when the time is right, God sends prophets to His people today, that is, to the Jew and to the Christian.


Verse 31 makes it clear again.  Even though God hands Israel over to judgment, He still loves them and is still gracious to them.  I don't believe this graciousness and love has ever stopped.  As Paul says in Romans 9 through 11, God will have a remnant of Jews who will serve Him, and in the end, all the remaining Jews on earth will be saved. 


There is a shift in this prayer of praise in verse 32.  The prayer turns to a plea for the present time in which it is spoken.  The one praying directs this prayer to "God, the great, mighty, and awesome God, who keeps His covenant…"  The prayer is a petition, directed to the great and mighty God who keeps His covenant,  The one praying is reminding God of who He is.  Even though Israel has so often strayed and God has always shown love and compassion, he asks for this not to stop. I just need to remind you that even though God shows love and compassion, He also demands repentance. 


This should always be our type of prayer.  A prayer of humility, expressing our sin and God's greatness, and reminding Him of His covenant.  God does not mind us reminding Him of His covenant.


In verse 33 Israel admits that she has done wrong.  She admits that God has acted both justly and faithfully.  They deserved every bit of judgment they got from God.  They deserved all the hardships. 


One thing we note here about God's faithfulness and that is He is faithful to both love and to judge. We often think of God's faithfulness in terms of Him being faithful to love us.  That's kind of self-centered on our part.  But the reverse is true as well, though we may not want to think much about it.  God is faithful to judge us.  He is faithful to bring us to a place of repentance, and if we don't repent, He is faithful in His wrath and judgment.


Verse 34 is yet another confession of past sins.  Israel 's forefathers, their leaders, their priests, their kings, and all who had any kind of authority over Israel were at time disobedient to God.  This reminds me of what Paul once said, and that is, "all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God."


Verse 35 is sad.  Even when Israel was being blessed of God. They had entered the land God promised.  They were at rest and peace.  Even in such a state of blessing, they turned their backs on God.  How many Christians have you seen over the years do the same.  And how many Christian movements have been blessed by our Lord and have gone astray into liberalism. Christians are no different than these Jews.


In verse 36 the prayer states that Israel is a slave.  All the people of the land are slaves.  Who are they enslaved to?  They are in their land, or at least a portion of it.  They are in bondage to Persia.  They are not autonomous.  They aren't their own nation.  The good old days of Jewish dominance is long gone.  It had never returned until 1948, and even then and now, you can't really say they've returned to the glory days.


In verse 37 we see that Israel realizes that the abundance of the land doesn't really go to them.  Much of it goes to the king of Persia.  Their slaves in one sense of the word in their own land.


The prayer goes on to say that the king rules over their bodies and their cattle.  The Jews have little freedom.  Of course, they do have some freedom.  They were given freedom to build the temple and the walls, yet, they aren't really free.  They are in "great distress" according to verse 31.  You might remember that they are in the midst of a famine.  This might account for some of the distress.

Next Section - Chapter 10

Previous Section - Chapter 8

Home Page