I’m currently studying in the OT book of Nehemiah. Every time I go through Ezra and Nehemiah, I am struck again by their hearts to see their city – Jerusalem – miraculously rebuilt and transformed by the living God. And each time, I think of Spokane County and our passion to see our communities transformed and rebuilt. How does something like community transformation even begin? What prompts Almighty God to bend low from heaven and reach down to a community or a nation and move in dramatic/Book-of-Acts/eye-popping/mind-blowing kinds of ways?
The book of Nehemiah records just such a time for us, and it’s worth a brief look as we ponder and hope for what God could do in our community. Before we do that, think about what the American Thanksgiving holiday means to you? To me, it has always meant a day of gathering food, family, and friends to reflect on and show thankfulness to God for His provision.
God moved in the leadership of Nehemiah to create such a day in his time. Ezra and Nehemiah had gathered the Hebrew remnant in Jerusalem for a giant Bible study. They took significant time to study the Word, which they hadn’t done as a nation for many, many years. After this time of reading the Word, check out what Nehemiah called them to do in Chapter 8:
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. – Nehemiah 8:10-12
Nehemiah called on the Jews to spend a day giving thanks and celebrating with food and drink. Sound familiar? But here’s the kicker: Nehemiah didn’t stop there. They didn’t simply celebrate and then move on with life and the rebuilding of the city. They pressed in to the Lord. For we see, 24 days later, they spent an entire day in a completely different posture before the Lord.
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9:1-3
It is my understanding that revival begins when we show God we are so serious about it, that we are willing to individually and to corporately confess sin. Have we sinned as the Spokane community? You bet we have. Does each church in Spokane have some sin they need to work out before the Lord? Of course, for “there is none righteous, no not one.” Our churches are full of sinners who need God’s grace and mercy every day. I have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ, but God still calls me to times of repentance, does He not?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9
At the risk of sounding like I am putting us back under the law, let me point out that the Lord was so serious about corporate repentance in the Old Testament that He created a Day of Atonement for just that purpose and called the Israelites to honor it annually.
“And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the Lord commanded Moses.
– Leviticus 16:29, 30, 34
Now, I’m not suggesting we are required to remain under Mosaic law. Rather, my point is that revival and transformation will occur in Spokane County when we, the Church, spend some time in corporate repentance and confession of sin.
What would it look like in your church if you spent one Sabbath day leading your congregation in confession and repentance? Can you imagine folks in your congregation confessing to each other in prayer? Can you picture leaders from your congregation standing on stage and confessing any sin of your church congregation or of the Spokane Body of Christ? Do you think God would respond to churches in Spokane County in Holy Spirit filled transformation?
I’d like to suggest two dates to you:
– 24 days after their “Thanksgiving Day” in Nehemiah, the Israelites spent a day in confession and repentance. 24 days after our Thanksgiving Day happens to land on Sunday December 18th. That would be a great day to spend before the Lord in a ‘confession and repentance’ church service.
– Another great date would be New Year’s Day, which happens to land on a Sunday this year. Imagine if your church body spent the service worshipping the Lord, confessing over sin, and praying for the New Year. Do you think God would respond? I am convinced that He would.
I’m not asking you, Pastor, to do anything that beyond what God is calling you to do. However, I am suggesting that you to prayerfully consider: If we, the Spokane area Body of Christ, spent significant time confessing and repenting, we would see revival in our community.
What do you hear God calling you to do?
I’m praying you have a blessed and joy-filled Holy Day of Thanksgiving this year.
Executive Director Anthony V. Carollo