Summary: Among all the constant building & attack & stress, Nehemiah and Ezra gather the people together in Nehemiah chapter 8. It is chapter 8 that we will focus on this morning and learn a little about Godâ€™s Word and its deep soul-changing effect on our lives.
REBUILDING THE WALLS
CHAPTER 21, "THE STORY"
"The Story" Teen Curriculum #21 Video
ILLUSTRATION... Safest Place At Church http://c0020248.cdn1.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/082210.pdf
I ran across something the other day that reminds me that what we are doing here at church is really good for us and vital for our lives. It was an article that talked about how to stay safe in the world today:
* Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20 percent of all fatal accidents.
* Do not stay home because 17 percent of all accidents occur in the home.
* Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14 percent of all accidents occur to pedestrians.
* Avoid traveling by air, rail, or water because 16 percent of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.
* Of the remaining 33 percent, 32 percent of all deaths occur in hospitals. Above all else, avoid hospitals.
* You will be pleased to learn that only .001 percent of all deaths occur in worship services in church. So logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is at church!
So what we're doing today is vitally important for each one of us, but not for the reasons I just listed. Great things happen when the people of God are together. In this part of God's Story, there is much going on as God's people gather together. The people of God have been in exile because of their faithlessness for 70 years. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Bible are two of the books that describe the exiled people of God returning to Jerusalem to the land that God had promised them. They didn't all come back at once. The first group of about 50,000 exiles returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel who was the first governor of the area when they returned. A second group of exiles returned under Ezra, the priest and prophet. The final group returned under Nehemiah who desired to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem and ended up being the second governor over the area. The people of God came together once again.
There was a whole lot going on. The people who had been living in the land were not happy that the Jews were returning and reclaiming what had been theirs. They were upset that the Jews were rebuilding the temple of God in Jerusalem. They were furious when Nehemiah arrived on the scene to rebuild the walls. They felt threatened by the Jews.
There were also a whole lot of negative emotions at this time among the people of God. I noticed this even when watching the video clip for this chapter in "the Story." The word "wept" occurs in Ezra twice (3:12, 10:1) and once at the beginning of the book of Nehemiah (1:4) along with the word "sad" which occurs four times (2:1-3) as it describes Nehemiah's state of mind as he thinks about his homeland. "Anger" is mentioned three times in Nehemiah (4:1, 4:7, 5:6) as the people deal with their neighbors.
Among all of this constant building and attack and stress and these negative emotions, Nehemiah and Ezra gather the people together in Nehemiah chapter 8. It is chapter 8 that we will focus on this morning and learn a little about God's Word and its deep soul-changing effect on our lives.
I. THE IMPORTANT GATHERING (VERSES 1-4)
It had been one hundred and forty years since God's people had assembled as a nation united. Nehemiah chapter 8 describes the prophet Ezra reading the Scriptures to the people. This was no easy task. First, there were tons of people gathered and having your voice heard by all of those people was most likely difficult. Second, not all of the people spoke Hebrew. Third, not all of the people were going to understand the meaning of what was read and how it related to their lives and their identity as God's people.
READ NEHEMIAH 8:1-5
"All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. 4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up."