Summary: This sermon is part of a series I did on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
April 29, 2001
“Christians: Party Animals?”
A funny thing happened on the way to the sermon! I had it all lined up and figured out, and then it became clear that God was asking me to change my mind and my approach to the remainder of this sermon series. You know how at the circus the car door opens on the little VW bug and about 30 clowns pile out? Nehemiah 8 is like that. I had figured, heading into this week, that I’d handle this chapter in one week, and that would put us on pace to finish the book by the last Sunday our students were in town. To the students, sorry! We’re not going to get it done; thankfully, we hope to have our sermon stream operative on our web site soon, and if you care to, you can hear the last couple of messages in this series in the privacy of your own home! And by the way, the sermon title for today was chosen when I had in mind to preach the entire chapter as one; frankly, it won’t make much sense at all to you today; come back next week for the exciting sequel when things will start to come together.
When I got into the middle of Nehemiah 8, I realized I was in trouble—at least if I hoped to preach it all in one week, because this is a jam-packed practical chapter that will hit us between the eyeballs if we’re listening to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit. This is a rich mine of truth, and I am very excited today to have the opportunity to share with you, but before I begin, let me answer one question that the more observant of you are asking: what happened to Nehemiah 7? Didn’t we finish Chapter 6 last week? Why aren’t we dealing with Chapter 7 today? Let me say this: every single part of God’s Word is inspired, and according to Paul is profitable, and I believe that that is true. That being said, different parts of God’s Word are profitable for different things and in different ways; not all of God’s Word makes for ideal preaching material—there are portions of it that are good to know but not to necessarily spend time sermonizing about. So I’m going to ask you to take 15 seconds right now to do one thing, and then I’m going to ask you to do another. Take 15 seconds now and scan down Chapter 7. Now, say, “thank you, Pastor Harvey”.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s look at Nehemiah 8, but we’re going to actually begin in 7:73. (HAVE PEOPLE STAND; READ SCRIPTURE AND PRAY)
Sunday, September 16 of this year will likely be a pleasant early-autumn day in the city of Pittsburgh. I imagine that the sun will be shining, the early-afternoon temperature around 70 degrees; people will be in shirtsleeves enjoying the remaining remnants of summer. In downtown Pittsburgh, a spectacle will be taking place, and it might come the closest to approaching a phrase we find in Nehemiah 8:1, where it describes people gathering together “as one man.” Yes, perhaps that warm autumn day yet future in downtown Pittsburgh will come as close as we can imagine to people gathering “as one man”, for down the hill and across the gentle Ohio from Mt. Washington tens of thousands of screaming fanatics will hail the opening of the yet-to-be-named stadium that will house the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, and those fans will cheer “as one man” as vociferously as they can, for in town that day will be the hated Cleveland Browns. I say that the gathered throngs will cheer “as one man”, that is, unless Dave Urey manages to sneak his way in!
Hold that stadium thought for a few moments, for I intend to return to it. “As one man” the people called for Ezra the priest to read to them the Word of God. What a heartwarming sight it must have been for Nehemiah, fresh from the completion of the rebuilding effort, to now see the people desire to be fed from God’s Word, so long neglected. Nehemiah’s ambition was not merely to rebuild walls but to revive a spiritual community to the glory of God, and I wonder if his heart didn’t leap within him as he saw the fruits of his long labor coming full term! Reforming a community is more exciting work than building walls anyway! As exhilarating as it must have been to see the rubble rise into walls, it had to be more so to see these hard-working people eager to hear the Word of God. Now, Nehemiah’s memoirs give way for a few chapters to third-person narratives, and we read of God’s working in people’s lives.