On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshipping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites – Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah – said: ‘Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.’ ‘Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.“NIV

If only our leaders would call for such a solemn assembly now. I wonder, what would happen if people were to gather in churches and cathedrals all across the country (in fact, over the whole world), and confess their sins and cry to God for help? It would be magnificent in itself, regardless of any Divine intervention in the wake of it. But why would we not expect something wonderful to happen if we were to truly humble ourselves before Almighty God? If only. But I don’t want you to think I say this in a gloomy, pessimistic manner. I believe we who know what it is to pray should continue to petition heaven for a great turning back to the Lord. Jesus wants us ‘’to always pray and not give up’’ (Luke 18:1).

Well, we are about to experience one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Bible. It covers an amazing sweep of Old Testament history, and summarises God’s dealings with His own people. But before we get into the details, the first few verses describe this gathering which took place a week or so after the end of Tabernacles. It combined a balance of prayer, fasting, praise, Bible reading and confession/repentance. Furthermore, it was not a short, or comfortable, meeting:

‘’They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the LORD their GOD was read aloud to them. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the LORD their GOD’’ (3, New Living Translation).

Many years ago, I listened to a message on miracles given by David Pawson. In it he said something like this: ‘God does not perform miracles over people who get fidgety in church after twenty minutes.’ He wasn’t saying we can earn signs and wonders by lengthy services. But he was observing that’s many congregations in the ‘third world’ seemed to see more miracles than we do in the west, and, generally speaking, when they gathered they didn’t have one eye on the clock.

Both corporately and personally we need to Give God time.

PRAYER: Lord, may we your people take you very seriously; and may we, as a nation, turn back to you. Have mercy on us Lord, for Jesus’ sake.