On the twenty-fourth day of that same month, the people of Israel gathered. They did not eat, and they wore rough cloth and put dust on their heads to show their sadness.
Those people whose ancestors were from Israel had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood and confessed their sins and their ancestors' sins.
For a fourth of the day they stood where they were and read from the Book of the Teachings of the Lord their God. For another fourth of the day they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.
These Levites were standing on the stairs: Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Kenani. They called out to the Lord their God with loud voices.
Then these Levites spoke: Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said, "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who lives forever and ever." "Blessed be your wonderful name. It is more wonderful than all blessing and praise.
You are the only Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, with all the stars. You made the earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them; you give life to everything. The heavenly army worships you.
"You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur in Babylonia and named him Abraham.
You found him faithful to you, so you made an agreement with him to give his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. You have kept your promise, because you do what is right.
"You saw our ancestors suffering in Egypt and heard them cry out at the Red Sea.
You did signs and miracles against the king of Egypt, and against all his officers and all his people, because you knew how proud they were. You became as famous as you are today.
You divided the sea in front of our ancestors; they walked through on dry ground. But you threw the people chasing them into the deep water, like a stone thrown into mighty waters.
You led our ancestors with a pillar of cloud by day and with a pillar of fire at night. It lit the way they were supposed to go.
You came down to Mount Sinai and spoke from heaven to our ancestors. You gave them fair rules and true teachings, good orders and commands.
You told them about your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, orders, and teachings through your servant Moses.
When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven. When they were thirsty, you brought them water from the rock. You told them to enter and take over the land you had promised to give them.
"But our ancestors were proud and stubborn and did not obey your commands.
They refused to listen; they forgot the miracles you did for them. So they became stubborn and turned against you, choosing a leader to take them back to slavery. But you are a forgiving God. You are kind and full of mercy. You do not become angry quickly, and you have great love. So you did not leave them.
Our ancestors even made an idol of a calf for themselves. They said, 'This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' They spoke against you.
"You have great mercy, so you did not leave them in the desert. The pillar of cloud guided them by day, and the pillar of fire led them at night, lighting the way they were to go.
You gave your good Spirit to teach them. You gave them manna to eat and water when they were thirsty.
You took care of them for forty years in the desert; they needed nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.
"You gave them kingdoms and nations; you gave them more land. and the country of Og king of Bashan.
You made their children as many as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and take over.
So their children went into the land and took over. The Canaanites lived there, but you defeated them for our ancestors. You handed over to them the Canaanites, their kings, and the people of the land. Our ancestors could do what they wanted with them.
They captured strong, walled cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, wells that were already dug, vineyards, olive trees, and many fruit trees. They ate until they were full and grew fat; they enjoyed your great goodness.
"But they were disobedient and turned against you and ignored your teachings. Your prophets warned them to come back to you, but they killed those prophets and spoke against you.
So you handed them over to their enemies, and their enemies treated them badly. But in this time of trouble our ancestors cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. You had great mercy and gave them saviors who saved them from the power of their enemies.
But as soon as they had rest, they again did what was evil. So you left them to their enemies who ruled over them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven. Because of your mercy, you saved them again and again.
You warned them to return to your teachings, but they were proud and did not obey your commands. If someone obeys your laws, he will live, but they sinned against your laws. They were stubborn, unwilling, and disobedient.
You were patient with them for many years and warned them by your Spirit through the prophets, but they did not pay attention. So you handed them over to other countries.
But because your mercy is great, you did not kill them all or leave them. You are a kind and merciful God.
"And so, our God, you are the great and mighty and wonderful God. You keep your agreement of love. Do not let all our trouble seem unimportant to you. This trouble has come to us, to our kings and our leaders, to our priests and prophets, to our ancestors and all your people from the days of the kings of Assyria until today.
You have been fair in everything that has happened to us; you have been loyal, but we have been wicked.
Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your teachings; they did not pay attention to the commands and warnings you gave them.
Even when our ancestors were living in their kingdom, enjoying all the good things you had given them, enjoying the land that was fertile and full of room, they did not stop their evil ways.
"Look, we are slaves today in the land you gave our ancestors. They were to enjoy its fruit and its good things, but look, we are slaves here.
The land's great harvest belongs to the kings you have put over us because of our sins. Those kings rule over us and our cattle as they please, so we are in much trouble.
"Because of all this, we are making an agreement in writing, and our leaders, Levites, and priests are putting their seals on it."
Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.