Nehemiah 9:1,2

Opening Prayer Thoughts
Praise and confession.
- Praise God that, even though He is the Creator of heaven and earth, He listens to and answers our prayers, in perfect accordance with His will and for our good.
- Confess the sin of prayerlessness.

Doctrine for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 41 – Where is the moral law set out briefly?
Answer – The moral law is set out briefly in the Ten Commandments.
This is taken from where you will find proof texts.
– The Ten Commandments are a summary of how God wants us to live.
Verses to memorize. 
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word. 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Please ask for the Holy Spirit's help as you read God's Word.
Please read Nehemiah 9:1,2.
Notes previously prepared by Rev. Dr. Tim Donachie, with slight amendments.
Nehemiah 9:1 – Fasting.
The wall was built, the people had heard the Word of the Lord and had sought to obey it, and now they all gather together to confess their sins. There are some very significant aspects to this assembly of the people: It was an assembly of humble repentance – they assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads:
                a. The people had experienced much of the blessing of God – they had been enabled to rebuild the wall, they had been protected from the attacks of opponents and they had experienced great joy in the presence of the Lord as the Word of God was read and proclaimed. Now it was time for the people publicly to confess their sins and to repent before the Lord.
                b. The people assembled with fasting. Fasting was a visible representation of their poverty of spirit and their need of God; it also demonstrated that they were so concerned about their sin that eating did not seem to be that important. Fasting in itself is of little value unless it is a result of the awareness of sin and desire to seek God in repentance.
                c. They put on sackcloth and put dust on their heads. This was another symbol of humility before God to demonstrate their lowly position before the almighty God of heaven.
                All this was done publicly as a corporate act that affected the whole of the people; and whilst public acts of humiliation and fasting may be important in certain circumstances, it must always be remembered that Jesus taught that our acts of fasting and humiliation must be done away from the public gaze of men, in secret (Matthew 6:16-18).
Nehemiah 9:2 Ezra – Separation.
The second aspect of this great meeting of the people was that it was an assembly in which they were to separate themselves from all those who were not a part of the people of Israel. God's people are called to be holy, and holiness is separation – separation from sin and separation to God.
                The first step towards holiness is an awareness of the fact that we have 'missed the mark'. One way of looking at sin is by using an illustration from archery – it does not matter if the target is missed by an inch or by a mile; if the arrow does not hit the target, it has missed! That is how it is with sin. If God's commands are not met in their entirety, we have missed the mark! So, having separated themselves physically from all foreign elements, the people now seek to separate themselves from their sin.
                Once aware of sin, it is important that the sin is confessed. It is interesting to note here that they not only confessed their own sin but also the sins of their fathers. That is not to suggest that there was some kind of 'generational curse' upon them. The Bible makes it clear that God does not punish children for the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18), but it was a recognition that they came from sinful ancestors. This was particularly important for the people of Israel where there was a tradition of glorifying their ancestors.
                The people stood and confessed their sin. They had experienced great blessing both in the completion of the wall and the spiritual rejoicing in the feast of Tabernacles, and yet there was still the need for confession and repentance. As C.H. Spurgeon wrote, 'Repentance grows as faith grows. Do not make any mistake about it; repentance is not a thing of days and weeks, a temporary penance to be got over as fast as possible! No, it is the grace of a lifetime, like faith itself. Repentance is the inseparable companion of faith.'

Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 31A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung.

Thank God.
Thank God that He desires a serious seeking after Him and confession of sin; for it draws us into the real and deeper relationship that we need with Him.  
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC