Nehemiah 9

1 The Jews had been through a month of various festivities as they renewed their commitment to God. This day, however, was a solemn assembly as they confessed their sins. Fasting, sackcloth, and dirt indicated the depth of their sorrow for their sins.
2 This occasion was to be observed by the Jews alone. The first thing they did was recognizing the sins of their fathers. The recognition of the cause-and-effect relationship between those sins and the Exile was necessary before it could become a deterrent from future sins.
3 After reading from the Law, the people confessed their own sins before God. Only after we recognize sin in our lives can we call on God to help us overcome those sins.
4 The priests could aid the people in confession that were not accustomed to it. They could also pray about sins that were fairly common. If a confessor heard the priest name a sin that he was guilty of but had not yet recognized, then he could pray about that. The priests might have also named sins that were committed by community groups as a whole that would require the confession of many. Of course, the idea of confession is that the people would then work on correcting those problems and not turn back to the sins that were confessed.
5 Once confession was made, the people were to acknowledge that God had forgiven them and then praise Him.
6 What follows is a brief historical recitation, which is a prelude to a renewed commitment to follow God. This recitation starts at the beginning of the world and acknowledges God as the Creator and rightful King of the universe.
7 The Jews remember that this contract actually began with Abraham.
8 The agreement was that Abraham and his descendents would be faithful to God, and in return God would give them the Promised Land.
9 God kept His promise when he delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and conquered the land of Canaan.
13 God also informed the people how they should follow Him.
16 Despite God's faithfulness and provisions, the Israelites often became discontented and stubborn. Ironically, they desired to return to the harsh oppression of the Egyptians rather than overcome the relatively small obstacles involved in following God to the Promised Land. At times they arrogantly thought they could break their promise with God, only follow the laws that suited them, or circumvent His will. God had many occasions to call the original agreement void, but He remained faithful to His promise, even when the Israelites were not.
18 God has great compassion on all people, and does not desire to punish or condemn them. Idol worship and other atrocities warrant eternal condemnation, but God endures with them, desiring that they will recognize their evil ways and turn to Him. Only when they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge and depend on Him will He finally be required by His justice to punish and/or condemn them.
31 The cycle of disobedience, punishment, repentance, and forgiveness has repeated over and over again for the Israelites.
32 Confessing their stubbornness, they one again ask for forgiveness and ask for relief from their oppression.