Summary: Revival is not something we can plan to happen on a particular week. It is a movement of God among His people, and it has specific characteristics. Here in the last few chapters of Nehemiah, we find some powerful events taking place in the context of re
Well, the Ten Commandments have certainly been in the news, haven’t they? The big thing down in Alabama, taking out the monument of the Ten Commandments and so some people are all excited and interested about the Ten Commandments and would like to put them back. But, you know, the removal of that monument is just a symptom of the deeper disease. The disease will not be healed by the return of that monument. It might make us all feel better, but the disease is the same. Americans aren’t interested, by and large, in what God has to say. But Americans aren’t the only ones who aren’t interested in what God has to say. For centuries, for millennia, people have been disinterested in what God has to say. Even the people to whom those Ten Commandments were given in an awesome display of thunder and lightning and smoke and trumpet blasts, rejected those Commandments over and over and over again. The rejection of God’s Word, the rejection of God’s principles, His plans, His Commandments, is really just a symptom of a deeper disease which is the rejection of God Himself. "We will not have You rule over us. We will do our own thing." As The Humanist Manifesto says, "There is no god who will save us. We must save ourselves."
In what is a wonderful summary of Israel’s history, here in chapter 9 of Nehemiah, there is one particularly telling statement. Speaking of the forefathers of the people of Nehemiah’s time, they said, "They were disobedient and they rebelled against You. They put Your Law behind their backs." "Put it behind me. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to read it. I certainly don’t want to obey it. It bothers me. It makes me nervous. And so, I’ll put it behind my back." And, because of that decision, the once proud kingdom of Israel (it used to be a major power in the Middle East) was reduced over the centuries to a small group of slaves living under the control of a foreign empire. Look at what they say at the end of this chapter. "But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land You gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress." That was the state of the once proud nation of Israel -with their armies of millions, their cities of splendor, their fantastically powerful worship of God, their trading, their economic power – all gone.
Nehemiah was more than a wall-builder. We’ve seen over the last few weeks how Nehemiah came to build a wall, a wall that was nothing but rubble; a wall that had to go up in the face of tremendous opposition. Nehemiah was more than just a builder of walls. Nehemiah was a man who was passionate about returning God’s people to God. He was passionate to right what had gone so terribly wrong for the benefit of those people who were slaves to a foreign king and whose money went to him. For a nation or a person or a group who are heading, and oftentimes unknowingly, into the terrible danger of deprioritizing God, which is exactly what landed the Israelites in the state they were in, the decisions into which Nehemiah led these Jews are very, very instructive to us.
We talk a lot about revival in this country. "Oh, Lord, send a revival!" Well, chapter 8 of Nehemiah is what a revival looks like. We would like to have a revival that was whiz-bang, fast, flash, power, everybody a super-Christian tomorrow morning. Well, that’s not how it works. Let’s see the steps, the decisions that these people made. And notice, these people that made these they were led by Nehemiah, yes. He laid a foundation. But, you’ll notice that it’s the people who have grabbed a hold of this idea and are taking it. First decision they made: they committed to rediscovering the truth that they have lost.
We’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, the Jews of Nehemiah’s day were living in poverty. They were defenseless vassals of a foreign nation. They had even had to ask permission to rebuild that wall. They couldn’t just build it. "Hey, let’s rebuild the wall." "Hey, okay!." They had to get permission from Artaxerxes and even financial help from him to rebuild the wall. But on October 2, 445 b.c., that small group of people looked up where they used to see sky and now saw a wall. Twenty-five, thirty feet high (no one ever gives the height), a thick, strong, gated wall that they had built. And only 6 days after that, on what was the New Year’s Day of the Jewish nation on October 8th, 445 b.c. look what it says. Verse 1 of chapter 8, when the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their town, after everything was cool, "All the people," verse 1, "assembled together as one man in the square before the Water Gate." And look at this, "They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had commanded for Israel." You notice that? They all gathered together in this square and said, "We’re gonna have church! Where’s the preacher? Get your Bible and get out here!" That’s a little unusual. "All the people assembled as one man" – you see, this was a grass roots movement. This was not what we commonly call ’top down.’ Nehemiah had laid a foundation, but it was the people who said, "We’ve had enough of living like we’ve been living for the last multiple decades." "They told Ezra." And what did they tell him to do? They told him to get the Book and get out there.