The book of Nehemiah is fairly well known by most of you I am sure. Nehemiah, one of the many Jews living in captivity, becomes burdened for the city of Jerusalem which has been abandoned for many years. His desire is to rebuild the wall around the city so those who are returning from exile will be safe from the attacks of their enemies.
By chapter six we see that the wall is finally completed; in chapter seven the city is organized; and in chapter eight the emphasis is switched from the building the wall around the city to building up the people of the city. What we see happen in chapter eight is true revival! Revival is not evangelism, but rather it is stirring the coals and rekindling the fire of God within His people.
God's people in every age has come to the point where we have needed to be revived! You and I this morning need to be revived! We need the coals that have cooled off to be stirred up again. Jesus said, "I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." cf Re. 3:15b-16 Take your spiritual temperature this morning: Cold = unsaved; Hot= on fire for God; Lukewarm = in need of revival!
The material needs of the city had been met, now it was time to focus on the spiritual needs of the people. It is important for us to note that Ezra and Nehemiah put the Word of God first in the life of the city. What happened in Jerusalem from that point on was a by-product of the people's response to the Scriptures. May I say that America was put on track by our founding fathers who established this nation based upon biblical principles. And what has happened to this great country is a direct result of our response to the Word of God.
Here is a universal law! The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to cleanse and revive the hearts of the people of God. Look at our society: the family unit is being destroyed because we have departed from the Word of God!
Our schools are in a pitiful shape because we have departed from the Word of God! Our churches are weak and Christians are defeated because we have departed from the Word of God! If God is to work through His people we must respond positively to His Word. Chapter eight describes three basic responses: 1) Understanding His Word 2) Rejoicing in the Word and 3) Obeying His Word.
I. Understanding His Word. v1-8
A. Introduction. (1-2)
1. The Bible is not a "magic book" that changes peoples circum- stances because somebody reads it or recites it.
2. God's Word must be understood before it can enter the heart and release its life-changing power.
3. Six times in this chapter God uses the word 'understanding'.
4. Ezra was the ideal man to lead this Bible study.
a. Note: Ezra 7:10
b. He had returned to Jerusalem about fourteen years before Nehemiah and was already seeking to bring the people back to ways of God.
5. They assembled at the water gate: water for washing is a picture of the Word of God.
6. The time was right: cf Le. 23:23-37
a. It was the first day of the seventh month. cf 7:73
b. On the first day began the feast of trumpets.
c. On the tenth day was the day of atonement.
d. The fifteenth day was the beginning of the feast of tabernacles.
B. The Event. v3-8
1. He brought the Book. (3-4)
a. He had God's written Word.
b. The people needed to hear because many had been born and raised in Babylon.
c. They had not known God as their forefathers had known Him.
d. The way to get to know God is to read and listen to His Word!
2. He opened the Book. (5-6)
a. Ezra stood on a raised platform before all the people and opened the scroll of the Word of God.
b. The people stood up out of their reverence to the Word of God, not Ezra.
c. They stood and listened for five or six hours!
d. They worshipped the Lord.
3. He explained the Book. (7-8)
a. The priests and the Levites joined with Ezra and taught the people.
b. They translated and explained the Word of God so these Jews who had been brought up in the captivity and culture of Babylon might understand God's Word.
II. Rejoicing in the Word. v9-12
A. The people wept when they understood the Word of God. (9)
1. "For by the law is the knowledge of sin" cf Ro. 3:20
2. The law cannot save us, it can only convince us that we need to be saved and then point us to Jesus Christ the Savior. cf Ga. 3:24
3. A revival came about note the circumstances:
a. People were united: division among God's people is the work of Satan.
b. People desired the truth of God's Word: they had a thirst and hunger for spiritual truth.
c. The Word of God was read and explained: not a bunch of stories and experiences.
d. The eyes of the people were opened to their own sinfulness and God's holiness.
e. The people acted upon what they had heard: they responded!
B. Nehemiah and the priests put things in proper perspective.(10-12)
1. Guilt and remorse are effective and beneficial when they bring people to repentance.
2. But after revival occurs in the life of a person and genuine repent- ance has taken place...then is the time for rejoicing!
3. They declared this day to be holy unto the Lord...a time of celebra- tion because they had understood the Word of God and had responded to it properly.
C. The basis for Christian joy is to believe what God says in His Word and act upon it.
1. Faith that isn't based upon the Word of God isn't faith at all, just superstition.
2. Joy that isn't the result of true faith isn't joy; it is just a good feeling that will soon disappear.
3. Faith based upon the Word of God will produce joy that will weather the storms of life.
4. It isn't enough to read and listen to the Word; we must rejoice in God's truth!
III. Obeying the Word. v13-18
A. The quest for more understanding.
1. It takes time. v13a
a. The first day had only whetted their appetites for more.
b. Their desire was not for more knowledge, but for wisdom and understanding.
c. They were not satisfied with a one-time experience...their desire was to know God in a greater way!
2. It takes the right source. v13b
a. They confined their attention to the written Word of God.
b. They came back to Ezra who had previously opened the Word to them.
c. They didn't come to argue with him, but to learn more of what God's Word said to them.
B. The results of the quest. (14-18)
1. They discovered an observance which God had commanded.
2. It was the feast of tabernacles.
a. It is similar to what our 'Thanksgiving Day' should be about.
b. When the harvest is brought in and the people rejoiced at the goodness of God.
c. The people were required to live in booths or temporary shelters for seven days.
d. This was to remind them of the time they lived in temporary dwellings until they entered into Canaan.
e. While they wandered in the wilderness God supplied their every need and the feast of tabernacles was to remind them of that.
3. The people responded with obedience to God's revealed Word.
a. There was a personal involve- ment by the people.
b. There was a willingness to change.
c. And there was great rejoicing.
They had revival! If you are here this morning and you have never received Christ as your personal Savior you do not need revival, you need regeneration. You need to be born again by the power of God. Will you come today and accept the finished work of Christ for an atonement for your sins?
Christians are you hot or just lukewarm? Our spiritual temperature has a direct connection with our attitude toward God's Word. We must understand it, rejoice in it, and be obedient to it. Do you need revival this morning? It can be yours today if you will come.