If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it.
While Nehemiah spends time in broken confession in vs 6-7, he doesn’t wallow in a prolonged introspective examination of his failures and those of his brothers and sisters. He owns what he did wrong and then he quickly expresses confidence in God’s promises in verses 8-10:
“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and mighty hand.”
In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of divine mercy. His words are a skillful mosaic of great Old Testament warnings and promises, with quotes coming from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Psalm 130. What was the promise Nehemiah was getting at? It was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would send them back to Jerusalem. They were still waiting for that to be fulfilled. Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’re in captivity. But Lord, you’ve made a promise to bring us back home and protect us there – and that has not happened yet.”
Nehemiah is saying that since God kept His promise to scatter Israel because of he apostasy, he has confidence that Israel will be regathered because God promised to do that when Israel repented. So Nehemiah is expressing utmost confidence not only in God’s promises but also in God’s character. If Nehemiah doubted God’s character he would not have prayed the way he did.
But what about us? How does this relate to our sanctification?
God promises in Romans 8 to glorify each and every person He calls:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
There is great comfort in knowing that the God who makes that promise to me is the One who will keep that promise to me. I have my part in my sanctification but I can be sure that it will happen based on what God said through Paul in Romans 8. “How can you be so sure Mr. Bald Theologian?” you may ask. In Romans 8:28-30, all those things God talks about – HE “called..justified…glorified” are in the aorist tense in Greek. The aorist is the simple past tense. So if I’m not yet glorified (and who among us is!), then why did Paul use a aorist tense here? Well, it is a grammatical thing with Greek. When one wants to guarantee that a future event is going to happen, one uses the simple past tense. This use is called a “proleptic aorist” or “futuristic use of the aorist”.
Since our glorification is yet future and Paul (under inspiration) uses a past tense to describe it, we can be sure that we will be glorified one day. He who started a work in you will make sure it comes to completion.
Someone has calculated that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The better we know the Word of God, the better we’ll be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Are you as confident of God’s promises as Nehemiah was?