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Summary: Nehemiah’s reading of the Law to the returned exiles produced a spiritual revival. In today’s materialistic world, do we not need to hear God’s Word afresh

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Nehemiah 8 highlights the fact that after reconstruction there is a great need for reinstruction. We must learn to see life from God’s perspective. We need to change the way we think about ourselves and about life. All of us have been greatly affected by the philosophy of the world, much more than we are aware. We have picked up from the media ideas and attitudes that we are hardly aware of as being wrong. We need to be reinstructed about those matters.

At the start in verse 9 we read that the people wept when they heard the Book of the Law which Josiah had found in the Temple and had read out. For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. {Neh 8:9 NIV}

Why were they weeping? It was because the effect of the Word of God is to show us what is wrong with our lives, what is creating the ruin and the disaster around us. As they listened to the reading of the Scriptures they saw that the cause of their destitution and ruin lay in their own thoughts and attitudes. They saw the beauty of God and the ugliness of man. This is always the ministry of Scripture to the human heart. They saw that the evil in society came from the pride and arrogance of their own lives.

God always lays the weakness and folly of the world at the church’s door, for it is we who ought to be instructing the people. When the church gets it wrong and fails to live by God’s Word. then folly reigns in society, and the corruption of the human heart is laid bare. As Jesus stated in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 7: "What comes out of a man is what makes him ’unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." All these things come from within. But until you hear the word you do not realize that. That is what made these people weep. They saw their own complicity with evil.

I have been noticing recently that some of the secular commentators of our day are growing extremely frightened and disturbed about the conditions of life in America. For example, even before the September 11 events, a New York columnist, wrote.

I can barely stomach the newspapers here in my hometown. In the tabloids, day after day, the first four or five pages are routinely filled with stories of parents beating or starving their children to death, of children plotting to kill their parents, of people being killed by random gunshots, of people chopping up other people, of cyanide being put in yogurt at the supermarkets.

At the time, the events were seen as symbolic of an attack on Western materialism, and I think there’s a measure of truth there, whatever the exact motives of bin Laden are. America, and indeed the western world (in particular) is in crisis

Those words I quoted were written by a Christian writer. Those are the thoughts of secular commentators who see the results of rejecting the wisdom of God but they do not know to explain it. They do not know the cause of the terrible evil they chronicle.

It is only when you open the Book of God that you learn the reason for these kinds of conditions. We learn from the Scriptures that as individuals, and as a nation, we have turned our backs on God’s ways and wisdom. We have ignored his laws. We have missed the glory of his plan. We have messed up the beautiful world that he gave us. When we see the results and hear them poured into our ears continually by the media, it makes us, or should do, weep. It makes us sorrow for all the young people who are being destroyed by these terrible practices.

But the most frightening thing is the lack of a sense of sin in society. People are doing terrible things -- murdering one another, raping one another, hurting each other right and left -- but they do not feel they are doing anything wrong. They have no sense of the wrongness of it. That is what the Word of God is given to correct. It awakens afresh an awareness of what is causing the wrong.

But though weeping is necessary and important, it is not the final message God has for us. To show this Nehemiah and Ezra speak up and correct the people. For verses 10-12 tell us

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve." Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

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