Summary: PROPOSITION: Because Christ is the living Word, you are able to experience His joy through His Word.
Please turn with me to Nehemiah 8. Have you ever completed a major project at home or at work, a project that seemed humanly impossible at best to complete? And then with an overflowing thankful spirit you wanted to fellowship with God? That is what is happening in this passage: the children of Israel have returned to Jerusalem, completed rebuilding the outer wall under extreme enemy opposition, and now want to fellowship with God through His Word. So, Ezra is called upon and helps them understand how they can continue to experience the joy of the Lord. If you would like to experience the joy of the Lord, please follow with me as we analyze this passage, Nehemiah 8.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am the al-Qaeda attacked the United States. They hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. Two of the airliners crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,998 people and 6,291 injured excluding the 19 hijackers. Both towers collapsed within two hours destroying billions of dollars in office space. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania after passengers and members of the flight crew attempted to retake control of their plane, which was said to have been heading for The White House. No survivors from any of the flights.
The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals from over 90 different countries. The United States responded to the attacks by declaring a War on Terrorism, launching an invasion of Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, and enacting the USA PATRIOT Act.
Aftermath: The attacks had a significant economic impact on the United States and world markets. When the stock markets reopened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (“DJIA”) stock market index fell 1,369.7 points by the end of the week, its largest one-week point drop in history. U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in value for the week.
In a speech to the USA on September 11th, President Bush said, "Today, our nation saw evil." and, "Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me."
America once again was taught the frailness of human joy. President Bush vaguely pointed Americans to the One who is able to provide indestructible joy, God. This morning I would like to point you to the joy of the Lord which is eternal and which is not dependent upon our circumstances but rather on our Savior.
PROPOSITION: Because Christ is the living Word, you are able to experience His joy through His Word.
Nehemiah begins with the rebuilding of the wall and ends with the ordering of community life according to the Law. So, within the newly-rebuilt walls and centered around the rebuilt temple, the Law reorders the life of God's people—the covenant is renewed.
Nehemiah 8 ought to challenge our complacent approach to the Bible and our tendency to associate God's Law with grudging obedience. The completion of the wall in chapter 6 sets the stage for chapter 8. God's people finally have adequate physical protection, so it is time for spiritual rebuilding. And here, after a mysterious thirteen year absence, Ezra reappears to lead the people into renewal as God's covenant people whose lives are ordered by the Law.
2 Chronicles 36:22-23 explain to us that King Cyrus of Persia was willing to allow all the believers to go back to Jerusalem but only 50,000 went about 1 out of 6 who could have gone. This indicates a low spiritual focus, 5 out of 6 said, “Life isn’t so bad here in Persia; so what if it is secular society without the Scriptures; I am not so sure I really need the Word right now.”
Ezra 7:6, tells us that Ezra was prepared to preach the Word, even though it had been 13 years since he was able to in Jerusalem. God brought Zerubbabel (a builder), Ezra (a pastor) and Nehemiah (a planner) to engineer and continue His work in Jerusalem. God’s will is for each of us to bring our spiritual gift to the local N.T. church so that His work can be completed.
Israel’s focus now turns to the Law and to its obedience. They are about to relearn the benefit of a proper relationship to the Law. But, it required they understand the Word, a major emphasis of Ezra in this chapter.