Royalty and Ruin


The Joy of Forgiveness and Healing

This chapter is based on Nehemiah 8; 9; and 10.

It was the time of the Feast of Trumpets. Many were gathered at Jerusalem. The wall had been rebuilt and the gates set up, but a large part of the city was still in ruins. RR 234.1

On a platform constructed in one of the widest streets, surrounded by sad reminders of Judah’s departed glory, stood Ezra, now an old man. At his right and left his fellow Levites had gathered. The children of the covenant had assembled from all the surrounding country. “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen!’ ... And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord.” RR 234.2

Yet even here was evidence of sin. Because the people had intermarried with other nations, the Hebrew language had become corrupted, and the speakers needed to use great care to explain the law in language everyone could understand. Certain priests joined Ezra in explaining its principles. “They read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” RR 234.3

The people listened intently and reverently to the words of the Most High. They were convinced of their guilt and mourned because of their transgressions. But this was a day of rejoicing, a holy gathering that the Lord had commanded the people to keep with gladness and to rejoice because of God’s great mercy to them. “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep. ... Send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” RR 234.4

Part of the day was devoted to religious services. The people spent the remainder of the time enjoying the abundant food God had provided. They also sent portions to the poor. The words of the law had been read and understood. RR 234.5

On the tenth day of the seventh month the priests performed the services of the Day of Atonement. From the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the month the people and their rulers kept the Feast of Tabernacles. “In all their cities and in Jerusalem ... the people ... made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their court-yards or the courts of the house of God. ... And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, [Ezra] read from the Book of the Law of God.” RR 234.6

As they had listened from day to day to the words of the law, the people had been convicted of their nation’s sins in past generations. It was because they had departed from God that He had withdrawn His protecting care and the children of Abraham had been scattered in foreign lands. Now they determined to pledge themselves to walk in His commandments. Before entering into this solemn service, they separated themselves from the heathen among them. RR 235.1

Their leaders encouraged them to believe that, according to His promise, God heard their prayers. They must not only repent, they must believe that God pardoned them. They must show their faith by praising Him for His goodness. “Stand up,” said these teachers, “and bless the Lord your God.” RR 235.2

Then from the great assembly, standing with hands outstretched toward heaven, arose the song: RR 235.3

“Blessed be Your glorious name,
Which is exalted above all blessing and praise!
You alone are the Lord; ...
The host of heaven worships You.”
RR 235.4

When the song ended, the leaders related the history of Israel, showing how great had been God’s goodness and how great their ingratitude. They had suffered punishment for their sins. Now they acknowledged God’s justice and pledged to obey His law. They wrote out a memorial of the obligation they had taken on themselves, and the priests, Levites, and princes signed it as a reminder of their duty and a barrier against temptation. The people took a solemn oath “to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes.” The oath included a promise not to intermarry with the people of the land. RR 235.5

The people still further showed their determination to return to the Lord by pledging to stop desecrating the Sabbath. In an effort to save the people from yielding to temptation, Nehemiah bound them by a solemn promise not to transgress the Sabbath by buying from the heathen traders, hoping that this would put an end to the Sabbath commerce. RR 235.6

They also made provision to support the public worship of God. In addition to the tithe, the congregation pledged to contribute a stated sum each year for the service of the sanctuary. “We made ordinances,” Nehemiah writes, “to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord.” RR 235.7

Israel had returned to God with deep sorrow for backsliding. Now they must show faith in His promises. God had accepted their repentance. They were now to rejoice in the assurance that their sins were forgiven and that they were restored to divine favor. RR 235.8

Nehemiah’s efforts had met with success. As long as the people were obedient to God’s word, the Lord would fulfill His promise by pouring rich blessings on them. RR 236.1

For those who are convicted of sin and weighed down with a sense of unworthiness, this story contains lessons of faith and encouragement. The Bible faithfully presents Israel’s apostasy, but it also shows the deep repentance, the earnest devotion and sacrifice, that marked their return to the Lord. RR 236.2

When sinners yield to the Holy Spirit, they see themselves as transgressors. But they are not to allow themselves to despair, for their pardon has already been secured. It is God’s glory to encircle repentant human beings in the arms of His love, to bind up their wounds, to cleanse them, and to clothe them with salvation. RR 236.3