Whenever a true follower of Jesus takes the time to recount the history of their life with a view toward their relationship to God, there are certain themes that often emerge. Anyone who has consistently read through the Bible knows that there are times that God has His people recounting their history and as they do certain themes start to become apparent. Nehemiah 9 is such a chapter in Scripture. The setting has to do with the returned captives of Israel rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In chapter 8 Ezra reads the law to the people and there are reforms that are instituted in accordance with the Word of God. In addition, the Word had the effect of producing godly sorrow over their sins and there was confession to the Lord for their sins as a nation. In that confession there is a recounting of their history and certain themes come to the forefront about how God had been dealing with the nation of Israel.
In this historical summary there is a remarkable contrast between God’s people and Egypt. Consider what we are told about Egypt: “You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, And heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 “Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, Against all his servants and all the people of his land; For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, And made a name for Yourself as it is this day” (Nehemiah 9:9-10). In one word you could say that the Egyptians were “arrogant” toward the Lord. Fast-forward down to verses 16-17 regarding Israel: “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. 17 “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them” (Nehemiah 9:16-17). In one word you could describe Israel as what? They were also arrogant. So the Egyptians were arrogant and the Israelites were arrogant, but the way that God dealt with them was markedly different. The arrogant Egyptians were judged by the plagues and at the Red Sea, but arrogant Israel experienced this about God: “But You are a God of forgiveness Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, and you did not forsake them” (9:17b). What is the difference? The Egyptians were not in covenant with God, but Israel was. The Egyptians stood before God based on their own standing, but the nation of Israel stood before God based on their covenant relationship to God.
There are some very helpful parallels here for those who are part of the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus often still struggle with arrogance to others and even God Himself, but if someone is part of the New Covenant then they can be sure of this: God will be refining them away from this arrogance and He will not forsake them. He will discipline, allow the bitter fruits of sin to be tasted, and He will even withdrawal the personal enjoyment of His presence all for the purpose of humble acknowledgment of pride before Him, but He will not forsake them. Both the Egyptians and the Israelites were sinfully arrogant. But only Israel knew the God of saving forgiveness and compassion. There is only one reason why God’s people do confess their sins and do eventually turn from arrogance toward God and others. This one reason has everything to do with God’s covenant loyalty; His faithful love bought by the blood of Jesus. God’s people are sinners still, but redeemed sinners and sinners in covenant with God through Jesus. There is a great divide between those who are arrogant, not repentant and not in covenant with God and those who are arrogant, repentant and in covenant with God. God’s grace is what transfers anyone from one side of the great divide to the other. Which side are you on? Are you on the side of arrogant, repentant and in covenant with God? Then you will never be forsaken. Now that is grace: “Grace unmeasured vast and free” bought by the blood of Jesus.