Summary: A straightforward message on the joy (and necessity) of simple obedience to God’s Word. We have become great "knowers" but miserable "doers" of the Word.
Nehemiah 8:1-6 The Word of God must be READ (personally/devotionally and publicly proclaimed) Ezra stands on the platform and reads the law of God.
Nehemiah 8:7-8 The Word of God must be EXPLAINED (taught, interpreted, preached, and translated) The Levites do this after Ezra reads.
Nehemiah 8:9-12 The Word of God must be TAKEN TO HEART. As the Law is read they WORSHIP but then the words cut them to the heart and they begin to WEEP and MOURN…but Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites stop them and remind them that this is a day for THANKSGIVING and for JOY.
BUT THERE IS ONE MORE STEP and it’s found in the last 6 verses of Nehemiah 8:
4.) The Word of God must be OBEYED. Even this state of emotional brokenness at the reading of the Law is not enough. As Oswald Chambers said so well, “The best measure of spiritual life is not ECSTASIES but OBEDIENCE.”
It is the Second day of the Seventh month…and TODAY the HEADS of the families, the PRIESTS and the LEVITES gather to “give their attention to the words of the law.” THESE are the people that are going to lead the people into the next steps of their return to God.
(1.) Leaders must take the lead. (Verse 13)
Though NO Christian is exempted from having a personal responsibility to STUDY and KNOW God’s Word…there is a clear directive in Scripture that those in a position of Spiritual leadership or authority have a clear charge… “LEAD and do so by EXAMPLE!”
-It’s hard to “exhort” someone to do something that you don’t practice.
-Or to teach something that you are not trying to exemplify
…Whether pastors and elders providing leadership for a church
…Or teachers in classrooms teaching the Word
…Or parents or grandparents training up children in the home…we need to be the FIRST ones to demonstrate a HUNGER FOR and a GRASP OF the Bible. (We ALL know how well “do as I SAY, not as I DO” works!)
(2.) They see what God’s Word says and they DO IT as fully and accurately as possible. (Verses 14-17a)
They are OBVIOUSLY studying the portion of the Law that gives direction for the upcoming FEASTS and HOLY DAYS.
They come to Leviticus 23 and read this about the upcoming “Feast of Tabernacles”: (vs. 39-43)
“So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
**I don’t want to give you the impression this morning that they read this and went “Oh! A Feast of Tabernacles…We’ve never done that!” Ezra 3:4 tells us that during the time of Zerubbabel…when the exiles first returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, they observed this feast…BUT it’s clear that THIS TIME when they read it, something was different…
--Maybe it was the WAY they were celebrating it (some Bible scholars believe they got away from the use of BOOTHS made of palm fronds and tree branches and had begun to use “CUSHY” tents made of goats skins!!
--Maybe it’s more a matter of their heart attitude. But they are DETERMINED to do it exactly the way God told Moses it should be done.
· Seven days of living in booths made of branches.
· Seven days of being displaced from their homes and normal beds.
· Seven days of remembering that God led their people out of Egypt by His might hand BUT that being “led by God” didn’t always mean ease and comfort.
**May I point out ONE MORE THING before we move to the last point?
I notice, in verse 17, that “The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them.” (This does NOT diminish the truth of the first point I made, which is that leaders must take responsibility to lead and do so by example.) BUT the real power and blessing comes when EVERYONE says, “I’ll do what God said to do.”
God told Moses- “Every native Israelite is to do this.” And these people ALL do!