Nehemiah: Studies on Leadership | Week 12

inTerpret: The Power of Forgetting

Try reading this chapter a couple times through. Just as driving into a community for the first time seems unfamiliar and distant, the more times we read through a text, the more acquainted and accustomed we become to the environment and setting.

With each reading, a new theme or a new pattern should emerge. Details that at first seemed insignificant start to change in priority. Parts that were murky in understanding soon clarify. Repetition deepens impression. In the previous section, the goodness of God is seen when tracing through the history of the Israelites. Another obvious pattern of repetition is the usage of contrast adverbs. Words like “yet,” “nevertheless,” “however,” and “but” connect the first thought to the second thought, but in the form of a contra-point to the previous point. In many ways, it reads like a song with interposing parts.

Verse 15 “You gave them bread from heaven…and brought them water…”

Verse 16, “But they and our fathers acted proudly…”

Verse 18, “…they made a molded calf for themselves…”

Verse 19, “Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness…”

Verse 25, “So they ate and were filled and grew fat, and delighted themselves in Your great goodness.”

Verse 26, “Nevertheless they were disobedient…” (bold, supplied)

This continues on throughout the prayer. The conclusion of the prayer is found in verse 33, “…for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly.” It’s one thing to say that God is good and that we are bad. But it’s another thing to remember every single instance of God’s goodness and humanity’s failure. Whereas the goodness of God gives assurance for the future, it’s the failure and disobedience of the Israelites that is disconcerting. Why did they fall? Because they forgot the goodness of God.

Forgetfulness can have dire consequences. This isn’t a single instance, but a continuous habit of not taking the Lord seriously and taking His goodness for granted. Forgetfulness has parallels to presumption, cheap grace, and a false sense of faithfulness. The exercise of this prayer of remembrance brought this spiritual reality to the forefront.