Nehemiah 1:8-9 – “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.”
Nehemiah, serving in the palace of the King of Persia, had been informed of the deplorable condition of Jerusalem and his people. His heart was broken, and the immediate response was to pray with fasting, beseeching God for mercy and help. God’s people were in bondage as a direct result of their disobedience and rebellion. The Scripture records Nehemiah’s prayer. We hear Nehemiah as he is reminding God of His promise to restore His people when they genuinely turn to Him in repentance. What a merciful God that we serve! He is willing to forgive if we repent.
Repentance is vitally important and powerful as it has a profound influence on the one doing the repenting. We know that we do not have the power to effect lasting change in our weak and sinful constitution. We need God’s help in a real way. Repentance includes a change of mind or attitude about our sin. When we are willing to admit we are wrong and repent, He is ready to forgive and restore.
Repentance also influences God. God declares in His Word that He is compelled to move in the heart of the penitent. For instance, Psalm 51:17 says, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” True repentance influences us, but it also influences God.
In addition, our repentance can impact others. Nehemiah reminded God of His promise: that if His people were scattered and divided, but would turn to Him in repentance, He would cause them to be delivered and restored. When there is sincere repentance on the part of some, others will be affected. This was the position Nehemiah was taking in prayer. He was confessing and repenting for his nation’s sin and claiming that God would in turn do a work in His people. What might God do if more of His people followed Nehemiah’s example, turning to Him in sincere repentance?