we read a family devotion together. We've used various things over the years. Some dailies, some chronological, some eclectic. If Husband is not able to be with us, then I read it. Key to our reading though is discussion with the boys to make sure they are listening and understanding.
Truth be told, if I haven't gotten in the first cup of coffee, the discussion afterwards is helpful to jump start my own foggy brain and make sure that I was listening and understanding.
This January Husband decided to read through some Old Testament books so we could discuss the history of Israel and God's faithfulness to His people. We chose Nehemiah to get started. Chapters 1-12 are all quite exciting and victorious as Nehemiah zealously pursues the rebuilding of the wall. The people pursue helping rebuild the wall. Worship is re-established at the temple. Enemies are persistently defeated. The Law is read and the people repent, promising to this time, obey completely.
All victory, seemingly.
And then there is the 13th and last chapter where once again, the people have, despite their own promises not to, broken God's law and chosen their own way. Nehemiah takes an extremely firm hand with the people and calls them to shame for offending God's word. Again.
As I sat there this morning listening, I thought, "Why in the world does this victorious book have to end like this? Hearing yet again the people's failures to obey?"
Yes. Almost before the thought was complete, it was invaded by the truth that man's unfaithfulness is constantly juxtaposed in God's word to His utter faithfulness. Even in the 13th chapter of the people getting into trouble in the same way as before, God's greatness is shown. He shows us our repetitive sins and depraved nature to reveal to us how very great sinners we are and how very great a Savior He is. How very great His forgiveness. How very great His grace to save anyone.
This past week I taught election, which always causes people to froth. Election meaning that man is so ruined by sin that he will not ever of his own accord seek God or choose God. That in God's saving grace He elects some to be quickened with faith that they must and will respond to His offer of salvation, the hearing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The 13th chapter of Nehemiah teaches election in this way: If these people after 12 chapters of victory, even zealous pursuit, and sanctifying influence would still perversely choose their own destructive ways, then why in the world would anyone believe that someone apart from God's sanctifying influence (God's quickening Holy Spirit) could or possibly would choose God?
The truth is we don't and we won't. Ever. His faithfulness, never ours. Sobering. Humbling. Immensely grateful.