Summary: Sermon #4 in the Nehemiah series from chapters 8-9 focus on how responding properly to the word of God brings us great joy.
#4 in the Nehemiah series: Nehemiah chapters 8-9
Show me the JOY!
CHCC: May 25, 2008
Nehemiah is not the best known book of the Bible by any means. One of the reasons we’re studying it right now is that it’s one of the parts of the Bible I never preached from in the 36 years I’ve been in ministry. I’m enjoying the chance to take a look at this interesting bit of history … and getting to know what an admirable leader Nehemiah was.
The book Nehemiah wrote may not be that well-known, but it has one famous verse in it… and it’s found in the chapters we’re going to look at this week Nehemiah 8:10 says this: The joy of the Lord is your strength.
No wonder that verse is popular. Who wouldn’t want JOY? People try to find JOY in all kinds of ways. But if you want the kind of JOY that gives you STRENGTH, you can find it in only one place. According to Nehemiah chapter 8, the Joy of the Lord comes from hearing the Word of the Lord.
1. Hear God’s Word
When we get to chapter 8, the Jewish exiles had already built a new Temple in Jerusalem. The people who came out of their captivity in Babylon had already settled in their homes and started building a new economic system in the city. Now, thanks to Nehemiah’s leadership, the walls of Jerusalem had been completely rebuilt.
But Nehemiah knew that the Holy City was not just made out of wood and bricks and stones. Jerusalem would never be the true “Holy City” until it was filled with Holy People. So Nehemiah called for Ezra the Priest, and here’s what they did:
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.
Notice who came to this assembly to hear God’s word: both men and women --- all who were able to understand. In other words, anyone who was old enough to get the meaning of the words, they ALL came.
There’s something wonderful that happens when we ALL congregate to hear God’s word together. That’s one reason it’s important that everyone in our church family makes it a habit to meet together regularly. This wasn’t an easy thing for them to do. And it’s not always that easy for any of us to get to church on time. It makes me so happy to see some of our older folks who make worship a priority. We see them every Sunday, rain or shine … whether their health is good or not … they’re going to be in God’s house.
And I feel the same way when I see our young couples with kids at home. It’s not easy to get a house full of people up and ready for church every week. Sometimes I have trouble getting my SELF moving … and I’m the preacher! But have you noticed how much better you feel when you start your week with worship? When we ALL get together it increases everyone’s JOY.
Besides our Church Services, we have all kinds of opportunity to HEAR God’s word in our daily routines. Last week Susan and I rode to our Pueblo Group with George and Sandy. (They moved into our neighborhood about a year ago, so now we’re neighbors.) I noticed they had Christian music playing in the car. I was glad to know that they find it important to listen to Christian music. Perhaps they have learned, as we have, that it makes a huge difference what you expose your eyes and ears to.
Verse 3 goes on to say, 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. Nehemiah 8:3
What do you think would happen if we changed the sign out front to say, Church services weekly: 6:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon … ? Would YOU be there? Well, all these men and women stood and listened to God’s Word from daybreak until noon.
These people did more than just HEAR God’s Word. Verse 8 says, They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Nehemiah 8:8
These people did more than open their ears … they opened their MINDS. They STUDIED God’s Word.
2. Study God’s Word
Ezra was reading the books of the Law in Hebrew, but for many of the people, Hebrew was their second language. Some of them spoke Aramaic … which was the language spoken on the street. Besides, most of them had not EVER heard the words of the Book of the Law in ANY language. So they broke up into small groups and different Priests and Levites helped to interpret and explain what was being read.