God’s appointments cannot be cancelled—only postponed.

The book of Nehemiah provides a beautiful chronicle of the reconstruction of the nation of Israel after the exile—the rebuilding of the walls and the people. We read in Chapter 9 that the Levites led the reformed citizens of Israel, cloaked in sackcloth and ashes, as they together repented and recalled the faithfulness of God. The first fifteen verses of that chapter are a prayer of thanksgiving as they praised God with a loud voice, reciting the awesome accounts of Creation, their forefathers’ Exodus out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and God’s miraculous provision and protection in the wilderness.

However, at verse 16, the wind changes, and the once-fluttering banners of praise fall in a dead stillness of penitence. The Levites’ words turned to humble confession: “But our ancestors were arrogant; they stiffened their necks and ignored Your commandments. They paid no attention to the wonders You had done among them. But because You are a God of forgiveness, merciful, and full of compassion, You did not abandon them. You led them by day and night, You gave Your good Spirit to teach them, You did not withhold manna or water, You sustained them in the desert, You brought them into the land, gave them kingdoms and peoples—and You even gave them extra land.” (Nehemiah 9 CJB excerpted)

YET, after all that, “they disobeyed and rebelled against You, throwing Your TORAH BEHIND THEIR BACKS.” (Nehemiah 9:26 CJB)

This is a curious thing to say, but when we look at the Hebraic perspective of “past” and “future,” we see a totally different view than what the words convey to our modern minds.

By “throwing God’s laws behind their backs” the people of Israel DID NOT cancel God’s judgment and punishment for their apostasy—tragically, they only postponed it.

I am not a Hebrew scholar, so I researched the perspective of others who are. I found that, in Hebrew, the “past” is expressed with a word derived from the Hebrew root word meaning “opposite to” or “facing you”—so that “yesterday” is in FRONT of you. In essence, our eyes are focused not on what is to come, but on what has already been.

But the “future” is expressed with the Hebrew word for “tomorrow,” derived from the root word that literally means “to remain behind” or “behind your back.”  So, the Hebrew view is that the PAST is “in front”—but the FUTURE is “behind the back.” No one, but God, can see the FUTURE. Therefore, the Hebrew perspective is that we approach the future literally walking backward.

This peculiar concept completely switches how we, with modern minds, envision our daily walk, but it sheds an illuminating light on the Scripture in Nehemiah 9. By throwing God’s Torah “behind their backs”, they were essentially projecting it from their PRESENT into their FUTURE. They could not bear to face the consequences of their rebellion, so they removed God from their “sight.” But they could not avoid Him—or the consequences—forever.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I am thankful to recall your faithfulness to me all through my past. I see, like the songwriter, a “crimson stream of blood that flows from Calvary,” washing over my sins and following me all the way to Heaven. Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and though I cannot see into the future, Your Word illuminates each step of the path. I trust You with each and every step into the future. Amen.


Barbara Hilderbrand and husband, Derrald, live in Wausau, Wisconsin. They’ve served in various ministerial roles within the UPCI over the past fifty years – pastoring in Illinois, Alaska, Wisconsin, and Global Missions’ Europe/ME region. Barb also served in Ladies Ministries in Alaska and Wisconsin. They now eagerly await their next assignment and/or the NEXT stamp on their passports.

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