Confessing the Sins of a Nation

There are many great examples of humility and repentance in scripture. One of those examples is found in the opening chapter of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah is a man of Jewish heritage who is in exile in Babylon. He has just learned that the city of Jerusalem, the center for worship to the LORD, is in ruins. The scripture tells us that Nehemiah “sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” with these words:

“‘I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.’ Now I was the cupbearer to the king.”

It is interesting to see that Nehemiah mentions not only his own sins but also “the sins of the sons of Israel” which “we” have sinned, including “I” and “my father’s house.”

Normally we think of confession as something that we would only do for ourselves. Passages like Ezekiel 18:20 teach us that sons are not responsible for the sins of their parents, nor parents for the sins of their children. If this is so, what is the benefit of confessing sins that other people have done, as if they could gain forgiveness based on our confession instead of their own, or as though we bore the guilt for what they did in ourselves?

One benefit that might come from confessing the sins of our forefathers and of the communities in which we live, is that it can help us to recognize how pervasive and serious the brokenness of the world around us really is.

This might also help us to recognize how we got in such bad shape and what must be done to turn things around.

Furthermore, in attributing these sins both to “I” and “my father’s house,” Nehemiah may also be articulating the fact that he learned a lot of his bad habits from the culture and the environment into which he was born, and thus rather than “inheriting” their sins automatically, he has nonetheless adopted their sins into his own life and replicated them for himself by his own free will.

We tend to think of past generations as being the backward ones, while our generation has learned from the mistakes of the past. But often times, we are making our own mistakes that may be superficially different, but are in many ways analogous to the sins of those before us.

Isaiah said “Woe is me! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” Before we point the finger solely at our forefathers or at the world around us, maybe we should make sure that we ourselves are not doing the same kind of things.

Biblical Womanhood

If society is confused about what make a real man, it seems equally confused about the true meaning of womanhood.

Pop culture, even with its endorsement of “feminism,” still uses women’s bodies pervasively to sell products. Music videos, television, and movies reinforce the idea that a woman’s most valuable asset is her looks, and that this determines her worth.

Even those who are deeply concerned with women’s rights are often confused about the meaning of womanhood. Rather than arguing for a powerful and beautiful picture of strong, biblical femininity, they argue for the abolishment of “gender roles” altogether so that women are free to act and think like men, and men are free to act and think like women.

The truth is that God designed men and women to be different but equal, to compliment each other. Here are some Biblical insights into womanhood.

Women are:
Strong – “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” (Proverbs 31:17)
Helpful – “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
Capable – “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” (Proverbs 31:15)
Deserving of love and respect – “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:19)
Compassionate – “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” – (Proverbs 31:20)
Submissive, yet persuasive – “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1)
Wise investors – “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:16)
Modest – “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:9)
Dignified – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:25-26)

There is understandable concern among some in regards to the Biblical model of wives submitting to husbands, but before we complain too loudly, let us remember that submission is a beautiful thing. The submission of men and women to governing officials preserves the peace. Each man and woman must submit themselves to Christ. Christ Himself submitted to His Father in His death on the cross.

Let us never be ashamed of God’s picture of womanhood. It gives honor and dignity to her body, her daily work, and her purpose in a way that contemporary society does not.

Beautiful Rose