I. Nehemiah 8:13-18, Obedience to the Word of God Brings Joy
A. 8:12, Understanding the Word brings joy.
II. V13-15, Leaders and Teachers Seek to Understand Better
A. V13, On the second day of the seventh month all the leaders of the people come together to study the scriptures even more. Leaders and teachers also need to be followers and learners. Those who teach have an even greater responsibility to learn. To teach something really well you first need to understand it really well, likewise to lead you must understand how God would want you to lead.
1. If a leader or teacher doesn’t understand the word of God correctly it will affect much more than just themselves.
B. V14, Through reading the Law and seeking to understand it they found out that there was a feasting coming up in only a few days that they had apparently forgotten about.
1. This is why it is good for us to constantly and daily be reading the Bible. There are many things that God wants us to be doing that we constantly are forgetting.
C. V15, This is simple obedience. They read it and so they did it. They didn’t have much time to get the word out, thankfully though all the leaders and teachers were already gathered together seeking the Lord through His Word. They came together to understand God’s word, but they left being used by God to bring the people together to obey God’s Word. They went out to their people that they were leading and teaching and announced that they would be celebrating the feast of Tabernacles.
1. What is the feast of Tabernacles?
“The Feast of Tabernacles was all about remembering how God had blessed and provided for Israel in the wilderness during the Exodus. They could see God’s blessing and provision for them right then, and it made something old seem brand new to them.” -David Guzik
2. During this feast the celebrate somewhat of a Thanksgiving Holiday, where they took in the harvest and feasted for seven days then fasted for one day at the end. Whenever the feast of Tabernacles fell on a sabbatical year (every seventh year) they would read the law to all the people. It is probable that this was a sabbatical year, hence we see Ezra studying the Word with the people every day.
III. 8:16-18 Obeying the Word Brings Great Joy
A. V16, The people seeing the obedience of their leaders go out and obey the word of God as well. This is key, if leaders will obey God then the people are much more likely to obey God as well. They made booths where they slept in during the feast, for those that had houses they made them in their courtyards or on their roofs. For those who didn’t live in the city they made them in the streets. The priests and Levites made their booths in the courts of the house of God. It was sort of like camping in your back yard.
B. V17, This holiday probably would have been much more real to them, being that originally it had depicted how God had protected and provided for their ancestors in the wilderness until He brought them to the Promised Land; being that they had just come out of a similar circumstance in the Babylonian Captivity. It is not that this had not been celebrated before, since we see that there was token celebration to it when Ezra first returned, but it had never been fully obeyed as it had been now and in that sense was never really kept until now. Not since the days of Joshua had all the people actually gone out and assembled in booths as God had commanded. This brought a very great joy to the people.
C. Application: Obeying God’s Word Brings Joy.
1. One of the worst consequences of disobeying God’s word is the loss of joy that results from it. When you do obey God’s word though it brings you joy. It is one of the blessings that God gives for obeying Him.
2. The people had heard and understood the Law, and they had joy because of it. But there is even more joy when you go out and obey the Word of God. The leaders spent more time looking into the Law, and in looking into it they saw that there were things for them to do in obedience to it. This is called being a doer of the Word. James 1:22-27, Looking into the Word of God daily is like looking into a mirror, it reveals to you what you look like and shows you things you may need to improve. Reading the Word shows you your heart, but it is no good to know what needs to be changed then stop there, if you really want the full blessing of joy you have to actually go out and obey the Word. In James 1:26-27 we are given just a few examples of ways we can be a doer of the Word.
3. Jesus summed up how to obey God and have joy as a result. Love God and Love others, if you do this your joy will be full. John 15:9-17. Bearing fruit for God is loving others the way He has loved us, we can’t do this unless we first learn to abide in Christ. John 15:1-8, Just as a branch does not bear fruit of itself so we cannot bear the fruit of love and obedience to God in and of ourselves. We must stay connected to Christ, we must dwell and abide in Him if we want to be able to obey Him and have joy as a result. How do we abide in Christ? Obey His Word. How do we obey His Word? Abide in Christ. It sounds circular and complicated, but really it isn’t; it’s progressive. Starting with Jesus as the vine and us as the branches, we will bear fruit as we stay connected to Jesus. Being connected to Jesus will bear the fruit of love, and this bearing the fruit of love is called abiding in Christ. We are already clean (saved) through faith in Him, but in order to bear fruit we must spend time with Him. Just spend time with Jesus, spend time reading the Bible and praying. Spend time abiding in and soaking up His love, if we do this we will obey Him. Without Jesus we can do nothing, but through Christ we can do all things (John 15:5, Phil.4:13). Our bearing fruit for God is simply just a response to the love of God being poured out on our life through Christ. Jesus knows that doing this will make our joy full, and that is why He wants us to bear fruit for Him.
D. V18, Obeying the Word of God brings great joy, but hearing and obeying also brings a great hunger for more of the word. For seven days they studied the word of God and feasted, each day their joy growing as they obeyed God.
1. The more you read the Bible and study it the more your hunger for it grows. For them spending seven days studying the Word of God wasn’t burdensome, it was joyous.
2. “Note, The more we converse with the word of God, if we rightly understand it and be affected with it, the more we shall covet to converse with it, and to increase in our acquaintance with it, saying, How sweet are thy words unto my mouth! Those that understand the scriptures well will still be desirous to understand them better.” Matthew Henry
A. Those who teach must first learn then teach.
B. Leaders who lead in obedience will lead people into obedience as well.
C. Obeying the Word of God brings joy.
D. The more you study the Word of God the more you want more of it.