I’ve got a few thoughts on Nehemiah 8 after today I had a conversation about revival.
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. – Nehemiah 8:1-3
The entire nation is gathered as the book of the Law is being read. All the ears of the nation of Israel are turned where? To the word of God.
Where are our ears turned today in the church? Are they turned to word of God, what is the desire of the church? What are we listening to, is it the word of God? God forbid we desire to have our ears tickled, and make for ourselves teachers to suit our ungodliness.
There is hope if we continue to read the rest of the chapter. This listening to the word of God produces results when it falls on open ears.
And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. – Nehemiah 8:4-5
Ezra the priest stands and begins to read from the Law. Note a place for the exhortation of scripture was built as a place for an act of worship. Exhortation is worship! So many people think worship is the thing you do when you sing on Sunday mornings, and thats it. Worship is more than just a genre of music, it is to be giving praise and adoration in everything the Christian does. Then the people rose to the reading of the word of God, the exhortation of scripture is a corporate act of worship. It isn’t just worship for the one attempting to expose the word of God, but for the hearers to. Going to church, listening to your Pastor preach on Sunday morning is an act of worship. To quote Christ, “Let him who has ears, let him hear.” God is speaking through his words, if you have ears to hear. If you have the Spirit of God in you, take heed to what he is saying through his word, it is an act of worship.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. – Nehemiah 8:6-8
Ezra praised God through the reading of his word, and the people respond in worship. The word of God prompts worship, they lifted up their hands to the reading of the word of God. Again I say, worship is more than just the music you sing on Sunday morning. When, if ever, was the last time you saw people raise their hands in worship during the time dedicated to the exhortation of Scripture on Sunday morning or any other time?
It was the word that was taught to the nation that prompted praise, not the ideas of men. The priest interpreted it, and the people gave praise! We must ask ourselves, do we praise God for his word? Do we praise him for hearing from him as he speaks through his prophets? The word of God is meant to be proclaimed, and it is not so distant that we cannot understand it. It is not so far over our heads that it is out of grasp. It is where it can be understood. And when it is proclaimed, and understood, it prompts praise. It exalts God, and brings exultation.
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. – Nehemiah 8:10-12
The joy of the LORD is your strength. Following the proclamation of the word of God, the people went to rejoice in what they heard. It brings joy, you an exult in God on Sunday morning while you heard the word of God preached. Amazing stirrings arise in my soul as I listen to men faithfully exposit God’s words. The people exulted in God’s word because they understood it. Make it a joyful act of worship as you listen to the word of God proclaimed.
Verses 13-18 the people celebrate the Feast of Booths, they continue in their worship and enjoyment of God.
And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule. – Nehemiah 8:17-18
Being reminded of what God had done with his people during their of wanderings they continued to worship. There was great rejoicing. There is joy when you are satisfied in God. The reading of the Law continued, day by day the reading of the Law did not cease, and the people continued to listen. Perhaps we could take note that a sermon on Sunday morning isn’t a fix all for the week, we need to constantly be in the word of God, it transforms and awakens the hearts of men.
The people continue to worship under the reading of the Law and it leads to confession and repentance. We find ourselves in chapter 9.
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9:1-4
The nation separated themselves, and they confessed their own sins, and the sins that came from those who were before them. Including the syncretism of that came from the nations surrounding them worshiping false idols and the worship of the Lord. They were prompted to confession and worship. If you pray for an awakening among the people of God, pray it is an awakening that comes from a turning of the church back to the word of God. When people come before it, they fall face down and confess their sin.
The people confess their sins and worship God. The Nation breaks out in doxology.
Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.” – Nehemiah 9:5
This is just the beginning of the priest telling the story of God’s relationship with his people. The word of God being proclaimed leads to praise and worship of the incredible Creator of all things. It sparks a heart of worship within the people of God, it brings forth reformation into the likeness of Christ.
It stirs hearts to make declarations like, “”Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.” – Nehemiah 9:32-33
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:1-5