Summary: It is easy to read or study (or preach) Nehemiah and get so captivated by the qualities of the man that we lose sight of the power of God and His Word that were the foundation of this amazing accomplishment.
In the book of Nehemiah, we’ve seen one man (Nehemiah) come from Persia to the city of his forefathers (Jerusalem) and in a matter of just a few months, take the piles of RUBBLE and turn them into a secure city wall. He has formulated and carried out a plan. He has organized people and assigned functions. Jerusalem has gone from CHAOS to ORDER in an amazingly short period of time.
HOW did he do this?
-Was it Nehemiah and his leadership abilities alone? NO.
-We recognize that God was working through all of this…
...moving the hearts of the Kings of Persia...not ONE king, but THREE: Cyrus sent the first Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem, Darius helped assure the temple was rebuilt and Artexerxes sent leaders and resources back on two separate occasions.
...God was moving in the hearts of the people of Jerusalem so they were willing to take on an overwhelming task in the face of strong opposition.
...God was working in the hearts of the wealthier residents of Jerusalem so that they stopped taking advantage of their poorer countrymen, and led them to give a generous “free will offering” to the work of the temple.
HOW DID GOD DO THIS? He used the faithful ministry of a man named Ezra. A man who had been sent by King Artexerxes 14 years before Nehemiah. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was preparing hearts for the building project Nehemiah would lead..
I’m reminded of remark of Tampa Bay football coach John Gruden after his teams victory in this year’s Super bowl in his FIRST year as their head coach. In the post game interview, one of the reporters asked how his team accomplished such a monumental task in his first season as their coach. His answer- “Six years of hard work by Tony Dungee.” John Gruden came into a situation that was already STRONG and definitely headed in the right direction thanks to Dungee’s years at Tampa.
Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and found that God had already begun to prepare the hearts of the people.
Ezra was a scribe and a priest who had been sent to Jerusalem by King Artexerxes with ONE primary responsibility: To teach the Jews God’s law.
Ezra 7:25 “And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of the Trans-Euphrates– all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them.”
When Ezra first arrived in Jerusalem, the moral and spiritual condition of the people was terrible, but as he taught them God’s Word, they began to respond to and obey the laws. Nehemiah comes years later and challenges them to trust God and build the walls, and they are able to respond in faith!
**What is the role of God’s Word in the life of His people?
**Is it significant that God sent the TEACHER (Ezra) before he sent the BUILDER (Nehemiah)?
**How can we benefit most from it?
“Scripture is like a pair of spectacles which dispels the darkness and give us a clear view of God.” -John Calvin
“This Book outlives, outloves, outlifts, outlasts, outreaches, outruns, and outranks all books. This Book is faith-producing. It is hope-awakening. It is death-destroying. And those who embrace it find forgiveness of sin.” -A. Z. Conrad
1.) God’s Word needs to be COMMUNICATED. (V. 1-6) READ VERSES
· The people gather...evidence of the impact of Ezra’s teaching ministry- The people recognize that the “first day of the seventh month” is the beginning of a special religious observance. The “Feast of Trumpets”:
Leviticus 23:23-25 “The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the Lord by fire.”
· The people request that the Book of the Law of Moses be read to them.
· It’s a family event...all the men, women and children old enough to understand.
· They give it significant TIME...from daybreak till midday (5 or 6 hours!)
· They recognize the SOURCE of the book and praise God...they get excited!
**Think about it and be a little bit ashamed...They are not awaiting a reading of the Sermon on the Mount or any of the powerful Parables of Jesus. They are not about to hear the powerful doctrinal writings of the Apostle Paul...they are waiting to hear the Law of Moses read and they are SHOUTING with joy and FALLING on their faces in worship.
Even with that LIMITED portion available to them, they recognize it as God’s POWERFUL and LIVING Word.
As Martin Luther wrote: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”