Summary: This sermon was part of a series I preached on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
May 13, 2001
“Christians: Party Animals?”
Here is the recipe: boil strong, black tea leaves. After you’ve made the tea, stir in rich milk—and…yak butter. And there you have the delicacy of Tibet: yak butter tea. When you visit a family there, good manners says that you must drink at least 3 cups of yak butter tea. To drink only 2 cups would be deeply offensive to one’s hosts. Question: could you drink 3 cups of yak butter tea—with the joy of the Lord in your heart?
Nehemiah 8 has proven to be a chapter rich in material to challenge and convict us, as it focuses us again on the centrality of the Bible in the life of the believer.
3 Responses to the Word of God
I. Understanding the Word - vv. 1-8
The first few verses of chapter 8 focus us on the importance of understanding God’s Word. We have said that the Bible is a book penned by men but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God; its final form is such that it reveals to us exactly what God intends for us to understand so that we might be completely equipped to live lives that please Him. The Bible gives us our marching orders for life. As such, we are obligated to read and understand it, and are reminded that growth as believers will not take place apart from the intake of the Word of God.
II. Rejoicing in the Word - vv. 9-12
We saw last week that, understood properly, the Bible reveals to us our sin, the ugly reality about ourselves and our natural desire to go our own way, but it also reveals to us the cure for our sin. We find in the Word the plan of forgiveness authored by God Himself, and when we experience that forgiveness of sin, we have cause for real joy—and for sharing that joy with others!
III. Obeying the Word - vv. 13-18
Today we talk about the importance of obeying the Word of God. We’re reminded by James that it is not merely the hearers of the Word—nor even those who intellectually grasp it—who are blessed, but rather those who fashion their lives in such a way as to come into line with the priorities the Word sets forth. We will look at the situation given at the end of Nehemiah 8 in order to be challenged by the example of the people in Jerusalem.
Stand with me, if you would, and let’s read Nehemiah 8:13-18!
If you know me, you know I’m one of those “get back to nature, get in touch with the outdoors, live off the land” types of guys…not! My family is planning vacation for late July this year, and the plan right now is for us to go…camping. Now understand, when I go on vacation, my idea of roughing it is when
The hotel doesn’t have ESPN 2.
My room isn’t ground-floor level.
The continental breakfast has only 3 choices of pastries.
The water in the hot tub isn’t warm enough.
But alas, we got a brand-new tent for Christmas this past year—a 3-room tent. Although I doubt one of those rooms is the Jacuzzi room, I’m going to have to find a way to enjoy this back-to-nature brand of vacation, I suppose.
Why do I bring this up? Well, because God, in Leviticus 23, had essentially commanded the children of Israel to have a once yearly, everybody included, weeklong, nationwide campout! And in Nehemiah 8, we see the people being reminded of this. Let’s explore
a. The Circumstances
We find, on the day after the celebration, that the men of Jerusalem make their way back for another reading of the Law of God. It was their desire to “gain insight” into the Law, the Bible says. They wanted to know more about what it held for them, more about what God wanted them to do to please Him. The men came back; ostensibly, it was supposed that the women and children would be too worn-out from the previous day’s activities to come back again, and I imagine that some of these guys were pretty tired as well. So great was their desire to know the ways of God that the men made their way back to the square at the Water Gate to learn more. We get the impression that the words of Leviticus 23:39-43 (p.109) came to them as something of a discovery, if not a first time discovery, then certainly a re-awakening to the significance of this command of God. Let’s read together there. Notice
b. The Command of God
They were to have a gigantic campout every year, and to feast in the middle of it. Here’s God again commanding His people to have a big party! Now, in those days, there was no Dick’s Sporting Goods, so they would go and collect leafy branches and fashion their own makeshift tents. Basically, this was to be seven days of rejoicing and of hearing God’s Word—sort of the old camp meeting concept, I suppose! Then, at the end of seven days of feasting and partying before the Lord, they were to get serious for a day, calling a solemn assembly.