When they were frustrated with their circumstances, the Israelites turned away from God.
16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. (Nehemiah 9:16-18, NIV, emphasis added)
When they were frustrated with their circumstances, the Israelites turned to God.
32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress. (Nehemiah 9:32-37, NIV, emphasis added)
I sit with these scenarios. Sin. Choice. Slavery. In the first, wanting to return to it. In the second, slaves again. I read these words, just now, and know that I will sit with them throughout the day.
Lord, help me to keep a kingdom focus. Help me to guard my heart–to remember your goodness and all that you’ve done; to not become hardened or unwilling to serve you. While (kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors) made decisions that affected me, I am still and only responsible for my obedience to you. Help me to live in the free indeed found in you.