I. Nehemiah 8:1-12
A. From this chapter till the end the book goes from physical rebuilding to Spiritual rebuilding.
II. 8:1-8, The Word Of God Brings Revival
A. 7:73b-8:1, The seventh month was the feast of the trumpets and was a perfect time for Nehemiah to start reviving the religious life of Judah.
1. “”…was the Jewish equivalent of our New Year’s Day. The seventh month was a special time in the Jewish calendar because the Jews celebrated the Feast of Trumpets on the first day, the day of Atonement on the tenth day, and the Feast of tabernacles from the fifteenth day to the twenty-first day (Lev. 23:23-44). It was the perfect time to get right with the Lord and make a fresh new beginning.” –The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, pp 776.
2. “All the people gathered together as one man” All the people had come together for one purpose, to seek the Lord and hear from Him. This is a revival that started in the hearts of the people.
3. “in front of the Water Gate” It is interesting that they gathered in front of the water gate since biblically speaking water that’s used for washing is a symbol of the word of God (John 15:3, Eph. 5:26). Water that’s used for drinking is also a symbol of the Spirit of God (John 7:37-39). Here the people will read the word of God and wash themselves in it, and drink of the Spirit of God as they allow God to teach them the word and change their lives through it.
4. “Ezra the scribe” Ezra the scribe had been in Jerusalem the entire time that Nehemiah was here since he had come to Jerusalem about 14 years earlier. It says in Ezra 7:10 that “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel”. Ezra had become the authority on the Law of God in Jerusalem and so naturally they called on him to teach them, perhaps Ezra had been praying and waiting for this moment for 14 years.
5. “bring the book of the Law of Moses” The first five books of the Old Testament, called the Torah, were called the Law of Moses. The people are asking for the word of God, someone Ezra had only been waiting for them to ask.
B. V2, Ezra brings it, here we find the assembly is made up of men and women and anyone who could understand. Understanding is a key word in this chapter (it is mentioned 6 times). Only those who were old of enough to understand the Word of God came to the assembly. God doesn’t just want us to read and hear from His Word, He wants us to understand it.
C. V3, Ezra read from the Word of God from sunrise till midday, and the people paid close attention to it. This time period would have been for about 6 hours. The fact that they were very attentive shows a hunger for the word of God, despite listening to it for hours and this would go on everyday for a week. To understand and receive from God’s word we must be attentive to it.
D. V4, Ezra stood up on a platform of wood, which they made for the purpose of everyone being able to hear him and see him, which obviously would have been important for people to hear and understand the Word of God.
1. A: We should use all the tools available to us to help make it easier for people to hear and understand the Word of God. This is one reason why we have pulpits today, not to make the person who preaches from it look more special, but for the sake of those who are listening to be able to hear and focus on what is being said easier.
E. V5, When Ezra opened the book all the people stood up. This was a sign of respect and reverence for the Word of God and meant that they likely stood all six hours. To understand and hear rightly from the Word of God we must have a deep respect for it.
F. V6, Hearing from the Word of God caused the multitude to worship and join in on blessing the Lord with Ezra in prayer. We see that the bulk of the time was given to simply understanding and hearing from the Word of God so that they could correctly and intelligently worship God.
1. Also note, worship does not solely consist of singing and prayer, worship is also giving attention to the Word of God. Then, worship is also responding to what to learned from the word of God in obedience. Singing and praying is part of worship, but it is a very small part. God cares more about how we live then how we sing, because how you live will show true worship.
G. V7, Because the multitude was so huge Ezra had some help in the explaining of the Law to the people. They began with reading the word, prayed and worshiped the Lord, and now they are going to spend the rest of the time expositing the scriptures to the people. The people stood in their place, order was kept, but the teachers went to them to help them understand.
H. V8, They read from the Law then gave the sense of it, and helped the people to understand the reading. This is what we call expository teaching, and it is exactly what we are doing right now and more so what we do on Sundays. It is the best form of Bible Study because it takes you all the way through the Word of God, line by line, precept upon precept. It limits the teacher’s ability to drift into opinions and hobby horses and grows the bodies understanding of God’s Word. Unless we understand God’s Word correctly how can we live a life that is pleasing to Him?
1. The word “distinctly” carries the meaning of fully explaining words that they didn’t understand, especially when the words had come from a different language. A lot of the people had come back from the captivity speaking Aramaic, whereas the Law was in Hebrew. Even if the people still knew some Hebrew the language most likely had changed some over the past 400 years and it would have been necessary for the scribes and Levites to help them understand the law in such as way so that they could apply it.
III. 8:9-12 The Joy of the Lord is our Strength
A. V9, The Word of God brought conviction of sin. It was a good thing that the people were convicted and wept, but it was a bad thing that they stayed there. The Feast of Trumpets was to be a happy celebration, they had just observed the Day of Atonement and God had dealt with their sins. It was a time of happy celebration because their sins had been forgiven. The people saw their own sinfulness and were sad, but they should have been rejoicing because God had forgiven their great sinfulness.
1. The Word of God is like a mirror, we look into it reveals to us our heart. It shows us the defects that we were unaware of. The more you look into the mirror the more you will see things you don’t like or things that you think need improvement. We should not stop there though, we must go to God and ask Him to change us by His Spirit and conform us into His image.
2. When you are convicted of your sin and you see how wicked you really are as you read the Word of God go to Jesus and confess it, then rejoice because you are forgiven (1 John 1:9). God does not desire for us to stay feeling condemned, when He forgives He forgives completely and that is something to rejoice in.
B. V10, We often think of Holy Days as somber days, but actually Holy Days are supposed to be days of celebration, days of giving, and days of rejoicing. (Christmas for example is a Holi-day). We think of worshiping and knowing God as times of sad reflection, but in reality that is only but for a moment to bring us to the joy of knowing the love and grace of God. We must start there, but we must not end there.
1. Many Christians are weak spiritually because they do not have the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord comes from believing the promises of the Lord and allows us to continue on even when we feel sad or feel condemned.
2. “The secret of Christian joy is to believe what God says in His Word and act upon it. Faith that isn’t based on the Word is not faith at all; it is presumption or superstition. Joy that isn’t the result of faith is not joy at all; it is only a “good feeling” that will soon disappear. Faith based on the Word will produce joy that will weather the storms of life.” TWBC, pp777.
3. Joy is different then happiness. Happiness is based upon temporary circumstances; for example, when I have a coffee in my hands I am happy but when I haven’t had my coffee for the day I am sad. We can have the joy of the Lord simply because we know the Lord, and in His presence is the fullness of joy. This joy will come when you place your faith in the promises of His Word, despite your circumstances being not so great. For Israel they were convicted of their sins, and probably felt condemned for so much disobedience, but they were able to go out and in the joy of the Lord after the believe the promise of God’s forgiveness from the day of atonement. To still have joy despite feeling condemned or feeling sad or feeling depressed is a great strength indeed.
4. The word “strength” means “place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold” in Hebrew. Their real walls would be the joy of the Lord, rejoicing in their relationship with Him, the promises of His Word, and the forgiveness of their sins that resulted from that.
C. V11, The leaders had told the people to rejoice in the Lord, but the Levites who were out in the crowed helped the people to be still and calm their emotions, reminding them that this was a holy day to celebrate and not to grieve. It is wrong to grieve over your sin once you know God has forgiven it and if you continue to grieve over your sin after God has forgiven it then it means you are letting your emotions control you.
1. “Whoever [has] no rule over his own spirit [Is like] a city broken down, without walls.” Prov. 25:28, putting your faith in the promises of the Lord gives you strength and makes you like a fortress. Yet, on the other hand, not doing so will cause you to have no control over your own spirit, which the Bible says is like being a city without walls. The only way to properly have control over our spirit is to learn to put faith in the promises of God, then we will receive the fruit of the Spirit, one of which being self-control.
D. V12, Understanding the words allowed the people to be free from their condemnation. They had heard the high requirements of the Law, understood their sinfulness, but forgetting the context of the Law they were grieved and saddened by their sin. Once reminded that the day of atonement had already passed and their sins were forgiven then went out and continued on with the feast.
1. Understanding the scriptures correctly is key to having the joy of the Lord. How can you believe the promises of the Lord and have joy in them unless you first understand them?
A. Understanding, reading, hearing and expositing God’s word brings revival, both in us and in our community.
B. To understand God’s Word you must first desire it, receive it, pay close attention to it, honor it, and then put your faith in it. This will result in true worship.
C. Putting faith in God’s word brings joy, a joy that is a strength no matter what you feel or are going through.