Summary: This is the first of four messages titled, "Understanding God"s Word." Today, we will see that in order to understand God’s Word, we must have the right message.
I have looked forward to this chapter ever since I started preaching in Ezra, two years ago. When we were in Ezra, we looked at what I consider to be my life-verse. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” That verse sums up the mission that the Lord has called me to do. He’s called me to study God’s Word as thoroughly as I possibly can. But it’s not just a scholar’s call. Because He’s called me to live it. That’s the same thing He calls all of us to do. We are to live God’s Word before a watching world. But here’s the unique part of the call. God called Ezra to teach and preach God’s Word to God’s people in Israel. He’s called me to teach and preach God’s Word to you. That is my mission in life. The reason I like Nehemiah 8 so much, is it is the clearest example of Ezra putting that mission into practice. Throughout the book of Ezra, we saw examples of how he knew the Word and especially how he lived the Word. But here is where we get to see how he preached the Word. It’s going to take us four weeks to make it through this chapter. I think the rest of the book will go fairly quickly, but we need to spend some time here. These four messages are titled, “Understanding God’s Word.” They are going to answer the question, “What does it take to understand God’s Word?” They’re going to answer it by giving us four things that are absolutely essential to understanding the Bible. First, you have to have the right message. Second, you have to use the right method. Third, you have to have the right response. Finally, you have to have the right follow-through. Of course, it goes without saying that you have to have the right messenger. Ezra was that man in Nehemiah’s day. Without sounding egotistical, I trust that I am the right messenger for us here now. Seeing that, tonight we’re going to look at the right message. In order for us to properly understand the Word of God, we have to have the right message. I think the best way we can understand what the right message is, is to contrast it with what the right message isn’t. Tonight, we want to look at 5 of those contrasts.
The first contrast is that the message we preach is not a secret message, but a revealed message. Notice what happened in verse 1. The people had just finished the great accomplishment of rebuilding the wall. Their enemies were at bay. God had shown Himself strong in their weakness and the task was complete. But that wasn’t the end of it. They still had work to do. They just had to figure out what that work was. So they turned to the only place they could go to find out their purpose in life. They went to God’s Word. God doesn’t do things in secret, does He? Did He do His great act of creation in secret? Did He call Israel out of Egypt in secret? No, He used Moses and Aaron and a stick to bring the mightiest nation in the world to its knees. Did He give His law in secret? No—He covered Mount Sinai in clouds and lightning. He physically carved out stone tablets and physically carved the Law into them, on the front and back so anyone could read it. We’ve talked about this before, but God’s will is not a secret. He’s not playing hide-and-go-seek with you. He has revealed His good and perfect will to us in His Word. We might not like what we find there. We might choose not to believe it. But we can’t deny what it says. When 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that anybody would perish, but that all should come to repentance—that’s pretty clear. When the Bible says in Romans 12:2 that we should not be conformed to this world, but should be transformed by the renewing of our mind—that’s pretty plain. When the Bible says that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves as the manner of some is—that’s clear. When the Bible says that God has given us gifts to use in the service of ministry within the local church—it’s clear. Is it God’s will for you to buy a car? I don’t know—use your head. Can you afford it? Do you need it? Will buying the car take away from the things that the Bible clearly reveal that you’re supposed to do? If you can’t afford to tithe and make car payments, then buying the car is not in God’s will. Do you see how it works? God’s will is for us to do the things that He clearly reveals to us in His Word. Once we’re doing all of those things, everything else will fall into place. It’s not a mystery. It’s not a secret. We’re not in the business of giving people mysterious insight into their future. We’re not fortune-tellers who have some kind of mysterious secret knowledge. We preach a message that has been clearly revealed to us in the Bible. Not a secret message—a revealed message.