Summary: Nehemiah chapter 8 records one of the most spectacular celebrations of the work of God in the O.T. The spiritual renewal of the people begins with a challenge to the mind, continues with an effect on the emotions & concludes with a people returning to God
[Revivals of the Bible Series] NEHEMIAH 8
REJOICING OVER GOD’S WORD
There were three different groups which returned from Babylonian captivity under three different leaders. The first, led by Zerubbabel in 537-536 B.C., we have already discussed. Eighty years later the scribe Ezra led another return of exiles in 457 BC. This return is described in Ezra 7-10. They brought back about twenty five metric tons of silver and gold vessels taken from the temple by Nebuchnezzar. Without any military protection they made this long, hard, wild and dangerous journey. But they were up for the task because they had humbled themselves before God and God placed His support and protection hand upon them. Under godly Ezra a restoration definitely took place but no real renewal of the inner man occurred. Ninety two years after the first return (& 12 years after Ezra’s return) the third and final return was led by Nehemiah in 445 B.C.
Nehemiah was not looking for a task for he already had one in the upper echelons of the Persian government. But his heart was open to God and sensitive to His leading. So as Nehemiah fasted and prayed and sought God concerning the fulfillment of His promises to Israel in His Word, God touched Nehemiah and told him to go. The story of Nehemiah’s return with a third group of exiles, how he rebuilt the walls and the obstacles and opposition he over came are recorded in the first seven chapters. After he arrived he looked over the city for three days and formulated a plan to accomplish the task. The job was completed in a record 52 days (6:15). If God’s servants will work in God’s way, using God’s methods, great things can happen.
Chapters 8-10 are the core issue of the book though because they deal with the people’s spiritual condition before God. Even though they were no longer exposed to robbers or armies behind the security of new gates and walls they were required to deal with another issue. They needed a deeper spiritual life. Spiritual life only comes from the Lord and comes through His Word, prayer, confession, humbling oneself before God and deliberately turning from our wicked ways (CIM). Here too, they needed leadership. This spiritual leadership also came from Nehemiah, though he was a governmental not a religious leader, he convened the people on the Feast of Trumpets (Num. 19:1-6) for a holy convocation. Nehemiah chapter eight records one of the most joyful and spectacular celebrations of the work of God in the O.T. [Walter Kaiser, Jr. Revive Us Again. Broadman & Holman Publ. Nashville, TN. 1999. pp. 162-164] Chapter eight shows us three preparations that God uses to bring revival.
I. READING AND RETAINING THE WORD, 1-8.
II. RESPONSE TO THE WORD, 9-12.
III. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE WORD, 13-18.
The spiritual renewal of the people begins with a challenge to the mind, continues with an effect on the emotions and concludes with a change of the will.
I. READ AND RETAIN THE WORD, 1-8.
A far more, desperate need than the protective walls around Jerusalem was the people’s need for the Word of God in their hearts and minds. The spiritual energy derived by completion of the gates and walls allowed God to focus His people on His Word after years of suppressing this vital need. Thus when a solemn assembly was called the people all who were old enough to understand (v. 2) came by droves to the Water Gate on the east side of the city.
The festivities occur in the new moon of the seventh month, the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, an eight day festival of thanksgiving. The feast days of Israel were designed to be joyous occasions, (Deut. 17:7,12,18; 14:26; 16:11,14) that brought glory to God, just as His people were designed to be joyous people who bring glory to God. [Kinda like our after church fellowships, but eight days long.] This particular celebration would be especially joyous as they thanked God for enabling them to build the wall.
A large wooden platform had been constructed (8:4) so that all the people in the assembly could see and hear the reading of the Word. The scene was memorable. Ezra was in the middle of the platform flanked by thirteen priests, six on his left hand and seven on his right. Acting on the request of the people, he brought the scroll of the law of God (8:2) and opened it in front of all (8:5). Then a most amazing thing happened. When he opened the scroll of the Word of God, immediately all the people stood up (v. 5). This was more than a token gesture, for they remained standing for the duration of the reading, which consumed most of the morning, except for those times when they broke into small groups for explanations and questions. The practice of standing while God’s Word is read is a God reverencing and honoring exercise. This simple gesture should always be connected with a desire to show thanksgiving, respect, and honor to the God of Heaven. But even more than standing we should give alertness, joy, and full attention to the hearing of the Word of God. The people here gave full attention to the Word of God and their lives were change.