Summary: There is an unspoken desire in the body of Christ today to understand what revival is all about even though we may have never experienced it corporately. Israel was in a similar state in the 500's BC. In fact they did not have access to the Word of God ..
Opening illustration: What would you hear if you could listen to the sounds at your neighbor’s house on Sunday morning? Would it be the sound of boats being prepared for a day of fishing at the lake? Would it be the sound of golf clubs being thrown into the trunk of the car in anticipation of an early morning round of golf? Or would it just be the snoring of those who enjoy sleeping late on the weekend? In some homes you might hear the scurrying about of families preparing to "go to church."
Let us turn to Nehemiah 8 in God’s Word and learn from the Israelites on what they were up to and how the Word of God revived them …
Introduction: In 587 BC the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and exiled all the prominent citizens back to Babylon, present day Iraq. In 539 Cyrus the Great, a Persian from present day Iran, defeated the Babylonians and allowed all the exiles to return to their home lands. Since the Persians were tolerant of religious diversity, Temple sacrifices resumed immediately, and the Temple was rebuilt in 515. Between 458 and 398, two important leaders emerged, Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor. Together they reestablished religious and political stability in ancient Israel. This passage recounts an event in the restoration of Israelite worship under Ezra the Priest. It is intended for everyone - men, women, and children of the age of understanding. It occurs at a place called the Water Gate, where even ritually unclean people could listen.
After many of the Israelite exiles in Babylon returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the walls of the city, they gathered to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law given by God through Moses (Nehemiah 8:1). They listened to God’s Word for hours, while teachers among them “gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (v.8). When they wept because of their shortcomings, Ezra, along with Nehemiah the governor, told them this was not a time for sorrow but a time for rejoicing. The people were told to prepare a feast and share it with those who had nothing, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v.10). Then “all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them” (v.12).
How did the ‘Water Gate Revival’ take place?
1. Desire for God's Word (vs. 1-5)
From morning until the middle of the day, perhaps as long as 6 hours, Ezra read the Word of God; and according to verse 7, the Levites helped to explain it.
• It is amazing to me that throughout all of this, the people continued to pay attention.
• That's a wonder to me since it's hard to keep the attention of my brethren for 30 minutes.
• In reality, a lot of this has to do with one's attitude in the assembly.
• We should always be attentive to what God has to say; the salvation of our souls depends upon it.
We can read from the Bible; we can teach and preach from the Bible; we can have classes in order to study the Bible more in depth; but if we don't pay attention and act on the Word, then how is it going to benefit us?
Here we are shown an example of people who had a deep and abiding reverence for the Word of God.
• As Ezra opened the Word of God, notice, “all the people stood up” – initiated by the people.
• How many churches have you been in where "all the people stood up" when the Word of God was read?
Just think of the souls that could be saved if men would reverence the Word of God as these people did.
• We would have a lot more people making statements like the apostle Paul did: "Lord, what do You want me to do?" (Acts 9:6).
• Those kinds of questions come about when we are confronted by God; and that occurs today through the written Word; even today as people are "pricked in their hearts" (Acts 2:37).
We have good reason to respect and reverence the Word of God – respect for God’s Word. When we think of the importance and blessing of having God's Word in our possessions we should be grateful and thankful, and reverence it!
• How ironic it is that in ancient times the Bible was on scrolls; some of them as much as 27 feet in length when unrolled; so it was not practical for people to possess a copy of God's Word.
• Now the Bible is available in mass quantities. Almost every home has at least one copy, but many do not respect those copies likely because it is so easily and readily available.