This day was appointed to be the day of atonement and the children of Israel were told (probably by Nehi) to observe the fast, and to appear in sackcloth in the posture of mourners with earth on their heads. By these outward expressions of sorrow and humiliation, these people gave glory to God and encouraged one another to repentance.
Look at verse 3:
3 The Book of the Law of the LORD their God was read aloud to them for about three hours. Then for three more hours they took turns confessing their sins and worshiping the LORD their God.
That’s some serious worship!
Then, the leaders of the Levites stood up in the stairs and began an amazing recount of the children of Israel from Abram’s travel from Ur to captivity in Egypt to the settling in the Promise Land to the destruction of the Temple. At every point, the men confessed in humility how the children of Israel turned from God when things were going well, and as a result suffered further misfortune.
The Levite leaders offer to God a thankful acknowledgement of God’s mercies throughout the years, a sincere confession of sins, humble submission to God and a vow resolution of obedience for the children of Israel.
How do we apply this to our lives today? Can you think of all the times you’ve promised God something, only to fail to carry out your side of the bargain? How many times have we sinned before God, only to receive His mercy when we confessed and repented? Looking over the entire summary of the adventures of the children of Israel in this chapter, it is good to know how many times He was merciful, and forgave them of their sins. That’s the encouragement today for me – no matter what I’ve done in the past, He is faithful to forgive me if I confess and repent.