Summary: Worship that pleases God loves God's Word and lives God's Word.
Many times when people find out I’m a pastor, one of the first questions they ask is “What kind of church is it?” I’ve also had quite a few people who have visited our church ask the same thing. In most cases, I think what people want to know is if our church belongs to a particular denomination. So perhaps they are surprised when my answer to them is something like this: “We are a church that values the Bible as the Word of God and attempts to operate the best we know how according to the Scriptures.”
I think that based on what we’ll see in Nehemiah chapter 8, we could conclude that Nehemiah and his fellow Jews would say something similar. They valued the Bible as the Word of God and were attempting to operate the very best they knew how according to the Scriptures.
In the first six chapters of Nehemiah we’ve seen how Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. And, as we’ve pointed out frequently, what looked like merely a construction project on the surface was being used by God as part of the process of God rebuilding His people. But in chapter 7 there is a transition to the last six chapters of Nehemiah where the rebuilding of God’s people takes place in a more direct manner. Now that the walls have been completed the people can shift their focus from just protecting themselves from their enemies to their own spiritual development.
We’re not going to spend a lot of time on chapter 7, not because it isn’t important or not because of the long names of people that I don’t want have to read but because it is primarily a chapter of how the people were accounted for and organized in preparation for what is going to happen in the last six chapters of Nehemiah. But go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Nehemiah 7 as I make a few brief comments about that chapter.
First, as we’ve pointed out previously, the fact that God causes all these names to be recorded in His Word and to be preserved is a testimony to God’s love and care for individuals and families.
This chapter also gives us a feel for how many people are involved in the corporate gathering of worshipers that we’re going to read about in chapter 8. According to the summary in verse 66, there were nearly 50,000 people included in the enrollment when the slaves were included. And, according to verse 4, the people had apparently been so busy rebuilding the walls they hadn’t had time yet to attend to the rebuilding of their own houses.
Finally we see in verses 70-72 that many of the people had given generously to the work of rebuilding the walls. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take the time to read that entire chapter this week.
That brings us to chapter 8. Since the elders read the first part of that chapter at the beginning of this gathering of worshipers, I won’t read that entire passage again, but you will want to have your Bibles handy as I refer to portions of that passage.
When I look at chapter 8 as a whole, here is what I would suggest is the main message we find there:
Worship that pleases God loves God’s Word
and lives God’s Word
I sure know I would have loved to be part of the worship service that day. The entire community gathered together as one before the Water Gate to worship together. We know that those gathered there included both men as women as well as children who were old enough to understand what they heard. So, like TFC, this was truly a family church where the entire family worshipped together. We don’t know exactly how many people attended but a substantial portion of the nearly 50,000 Jews who lived in Jerusalem would have been there. And somehow they pulled this off with no sound system, no microphones, no lighting and no projectors or TV screens with PowerPoint slides.
But what they did have is the one thing that is still absolutely essential for our corporate worship – God’s Word. Everything they did as they gathered that day was centered in God’s Word. And with their words and their actions the people demonstrated a love for God’s Word and a commitment to live according to His Word. In particular they did seven things that we can learn from as we seek to love and live God’s Word.
HOW TO LOVE AND LIVE GOD’S WORD
1. Relish God’s Word
As far as we can tell this was a spontaneous worship event. It hadn’t been advertised on the marquee at the Temple or on radio or TV. No one had gone to the website to find out when to come. The people all just gathered at the Water Gate, which was quite appropriate, since as we learned several weeks ago, water is often used as a symbol for God’s Word in the Bible.