Nehemiah 9 (The prophet Ezra prayed to God on behalf of the gathered people of God) 32 “Now therefore, our God—the great and mighty and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love—do not treat lightly all the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 You have been just in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly; 34 our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors have not kept your law or heeded the commandments and the warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and in the great goodness you bestowed on them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you and did not turn from their wicked works. 36 Here we are, slaves to this day—slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts. 37 Its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; they have power also over our bodies and over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.”
I’m struck this morning by this passage. When you read this entire chapter (the passage above is only the end of the chapter) a sense of heart-felt repentance comes through. It’s such a thorough and clear articulation of the covenant between God and the people, God’s faithfulness in that covenant over generations, and the peoples’ corresponding unfaithfulness and disobedience.
Let’s face it. When we have problems or struggles we often try to point the finger somewhere else. “It’s his fault.” “It’s her fault.” “It’s their fault.” We want to place the burden of blame outside of ourselves. It’s simply human nature.
I’m father to three teenage/young adult children. To me, one of the clearest indications that a child is growing into an adult is that person’s capacity and readiness to accept responsibility for themselves. They stop blaming others for their circumstances. Instead of trying to change other people, or other things outside of their control, they begin by asking “What do I need to change about me in this situation?”
That’s what I hear when I read this passage. Ezra is leading the people to take responsibility for their own unfaithfulness and their subsequent defeat by other peoples leading to conquest and exile. Too bad this posture of repentance did not last after his death.
Question: Where are you blaming others for your situation? How might you be contributing to this problem yourself? What would it look like for you to go forward focusing on changing yourself rather than changing persons/elements outside of your control?
Heavenly Father, give us grace to accept responsibility for our own lives. Help us avoid getting stuck in the trap of confessing other peoples’ sins while ignoring our own complicity. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.