That scene still rings true to me today, because it touches something embedded deep into the way God made us. This call to “remember who you are” does not come from Disney; it comes from the Lord and we see the application of it in this week’s reading.
Nehemiah 9 records the moment when the returned exiles regain the will to pursue what is rightfully theirs—the promises God gave to their fathers—and they do this by remembering who they are. The Levites (today we’d call them worship leaders) told the people to “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” So the people stood and praised the everlasting, unchanging, covenant-keeping God by remembering all He had done for them. Reading verses 5-31 is more than a historical overview; it is a template for our own worship and for our own moments when we reengage the call God has placed on our lives.
As I read it, I was struck by how their worldview had the Lord woven into every area of their lives. They knew of no split between the secular and the sacred; God’s hand and purpose were found in every part of their life’s fabric. For this reason, the entire story can be reviewed. None of it needed be hidden. The challenges, the suffering, the abuse placed on them by others and the tragedy that happened to them by nature are all within God’s control and part of God’s unfolding plan for them. And throughout this tale of trial, we see the consistency of God’s unchanging character coming through again and again. He redeems them. He reveals to them what they need to know. He supplies what they need. He illumines, guides and instructs because He “is a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (v.17). He is the gracious, merciful and patient God of great compassion who delivers them “time after time” (vs. 27-31). God’s unchanging character of love is their starting point and the lens through which they make sense of all that has happened to them.
As they reviewed their history, I noticed another theme that we have seen several times before. God’s rest and blessing seems to lead them to disregard God’s ways while struggle and need tend to drive them toward Him. (Well, that last part is not always the case. Sometimes trouble and need drove the people to seek relief from sources other than God, but in the end it is always learned that only the great and compassionate God has the power to truly save.)
“Remember who you are” is more than a great line from a memorable movie. It is necessary part of being able to apply the gospel to our daily lives. If you are in Christ Jesus, then there is now no condemnation for you and no one can even bring a charge against you (Romans 8:1, 31-34). If this is the case, why do you condemn yourself or let the words of another who speaks accusations against you “stick” to you? You are the beloved child of the Father and you carry His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing that you will inherit His full promise (Romans 8:15-16; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14). If this is the case, why do you feel like an orphan, alone and without support or hope in this fallen world? He has made you alive in Christ and made you His masterpiece, commissioning you with purpose to do good works that He prepared in advance for you to do (Eph 2:1-10). If this is so…..you can finish the sentence.
I know one of my tendencies is to move too quickly from one thing to the next, moving so fast that I don’t take the time to notice the Lord’s hand and work in my life. If you are like me, perhaps this weekend of giving thanks would be a good time to pause, acknowledge God’s love and power and then simply review the large sections of your life through the lens of His unchanging character. Remember to review the entire story. There is no need to leave anything out. How did the two of you meet? How did He support you in the hard times? How did He celebrate with you in the good times? As you review, remember to keep your eyes open for the “common miracles,” those things that we take for granted every day (when was the last time you went without food or adequate shelter?). When I read verse 21, I wonder if they marveled at this miracle or if they took it for granted and then I wonder what I might be taking for granted, even today.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has changed our lives. We dare not forget what the Lord has done and we dare not get distracted and begin to drift (Hebrews 2:1). Like the example seen in so many of the Psalms, it helps to reengage regularly (daily?) with the story of God’s work in our lives. In doing so, we may just begin to see more clearly who we are and whose we are so that we might embrace more fully that which is rightfully ours in Christ.
Listening, pondering and remembering with you,