They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, (Nehemiah 9:17 NIV)
Here the Levites of Nehemiah and Ezra's day are briefly recounting the history of Israel as a part of the return of Israel from exile.
What jumped out to me is the part of their history around the 12 spies. Moses sent 12 spies (one from each tribe) into the promise land in anticipation of them conquering the land The Lord was to give them.
10 of the 12 spies came back showing their lack of faith in The Lord and declaring that there were giants fortified cities. Therefore, there was no way (in their minds) that they could take the land. Only Joshua and Caleb would have the faith to take the land (and would actually live to that).
The 10 spies represented the bulk of Israel and their lack of faith in the Lord's promise. Here is how Nehemiah records it:
"They (Israel) refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you (God) performed among them."
They apparently were refusing to listen to Caleb and others who were calling Israel to trust and follow the Lord's leading into the promise land. They were not remembering that just a few weeks before The Lord brought them across the Red Sea on dry ground and led them by a pillar of fire and pillar of cloud (not to mention the 10 plagues).
"They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery."
This is the verse the got my attention. They were so afraid of what they (the 10 spies) saw and what they (the rest of the people) heard the 10 spies say about the giants and walled cities, that they couldn't hear reason or remember what God had just done for them.
This was so bad that they "appointed a leader...to return to their slavery." They actually selected an anti-Moses to lead them back into Egypt and slavery.
They were so blinded by their fear that they saw returning to Egypt (their slave-master for 400 years) as a better idea than to forge ahead by faith into the land that the God--who just delivered them from Egypt--was giving them.
It's so easy to be critical of Israel here. It's so clear to us that God was working on their behalf. Hindsight is a great advantage.
But we do the same thing.
We "refuse to listen" to people of faith in the word and fail "to remember the (past) miracles" in the word in our willful and fearful "rebellion." We often trust God no more than these Israelites did.
And we have the words and works of Jesus to look back to. We must realize what we're capable of even as God's people and repent.
This verse ends with encouraging words.
"But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them."
Yes, he did discipline them. But he didn't abandon them. That's what a loving, faithful father does for his children--for their good and his glory.
Ask God to search your heart and reveal the fear and doubt that lives there. Confess it.
Step out in faith and take the "land" that God has promised you. Don't settle for going back into slavery. That never ends well.
What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?