As a young musician, I found it frustrating when I would practice a piece all week and return to my lessons to find out that I had been practicing it wrong the whole time. It was my fault; I would carelessly count out the rhythms or not pay close enough attention to the key signature. The problem still remained that I was playing it wrong and didn’t know it until my teacher pointed it out to me. Once I knew that I was playing it wrong, I was able to fix the mistakes so I could play it correctly. The exiles were learning about their sins, and in this chapter we see a very humble nation go before God.
In chapter 8, the Israelites were very upset after reading the law because they realized they had not been following God’s law for generations. They were instructed by Nehemiah and the priests not to mourn because it was a sacred day and were told to celebrate. Chapter 9 lays out the scene of Israel’s corporate confession. They spent a quarter of the day listening to a reading of the Law, and then they spent another quarter in worship and confession before God. They had prepared for this occasion by fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads as though they were in mourning. The priests then prayed before God and laid out their history as a nation and confessed their sins as a nation.
Isn’t life like that? Unless we are in the Word, it is impossible to live a life congruent with God’s plan. To me, chapters 8 and 9 show a very humble nation that wants to live a life that is in line with God’s Law. They didn’t want to walk away from God, they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. This is exactly why God said in Deuteronomy 6: 6 – 9, “The commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” God wanted them to eat, sleep, and breathe the Law so they would know the Law. Once they realized they were not following the Law, they confessed.
Confession is important, because we can’t move forward and fix things if we can’t admit and recognize that we are doing it wrong. It is hard when we realize we are operating outside of God’s desires, but we can always confess and move forward living a life that reflects a Godly life. Has God been working on your heart to show you areas that need work? He has been working on mine.