The Revering of Scripture - Part One - Nehemiah 8:1-12
The Revering of Scripture
Nehemiah 8:1 – 4
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose.
Introduction: French author Victor Hugo said over a century ago, “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare but the Bible made England.” Supporting that view, historians tell us that Elizabethan England was indeed a country of one book, and that book was the Bible.
When they arrived in America, the Pilgrim Fathers brought with them that same reverence for the Word of God. “The Bible came with them,” said American statesman Daniel Webster, “and it is not to be doubted that to the free and universal reading of the Bible is to be ascribed in that age that men were indebted for right views of civil liberties.” President Woodrow Wilson said, “America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.”
Is the Bible “making” you? Is it changing you? Are you conforming more and more to the Bible in your attitudes and actions?
When God’s people get away from loving, reading, and obeying the Word of God, they lose the blessing of God. If we want to be like fruitful trees, we must delight in God’s Word (Ps. 1:2–3).
- Nehemiah and the workers took care of the material needs of the people but now was the time to take care of the spiritual needs of the people
- The Bible was front and center in the society of the people of the Jews.
- The people of Israel were known as “The people of the book.”
- The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to cleanse and revive the hearts of the people of God and to bring people to Christ.
Purpose: Every Christ follower uses their mind, body, and emotions to worship the Lord reflecting the joy of the Lord.
Transition: The first point is;
Worship begins with a craving to know God through His Word
- Verses 7:73 – 10:39b is what is called a suzerainty vassal. What is that?
- It is a fancy name for a covenant that was formed back at this time of history in the Near East
- They would have a Preamble or a purpose statement
- Share the history of the covenant, the meat and what was being promised or proposed as a promise
- The acceptance of the covenant by both parties
- And then the specifics or the stipulations as to what the parties had agreed to.
- It was a promise or a contract witnessed by others.
- In the case of Nehemiah and Ezra;
- The covenant was to be read as a reminder at regular intervals and the covenant was from first five books of the OT – Pentateuch - Chapter 8
- In nine in accordance with the reading of God’s Word you see sin confessed
- In chapter 10, you see obedience promised by the people to fulfill the covenant of God’s Word as read by Ezra
- In our case, as we daily read the Bible, the purpose is for us to understand and obey what it says because it promises us blessings if we are doers and not merely hearers of the Word
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
- The Jews sought out Ezra to preach from the Book of the Law
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.
- The Jews met at the eastern wall at the Water Gate on the Jewish calendar’s seventh month which would put it at around our October / November
- It had been two months since they gathered collectively to worship
- They had taken that time to rebuild the wall
- According to 7:73, the people had also taken time to settle into their homes and get themselves situated at commerce, trade, agriculture and all the things that make up a norm for society began. They took care of their personal lives, families and possessions
- Ezra and the priests faced west with the wall and the Water Gate to their back to use it as a sounding board. There may have been anywhere from 30,000 – 50,000 people listening to the reading according to the census taken in chapter 7
- The Water Gate may have been symbolic due to the way God’s Word talks about the Word of God being like water
- In Ephesians 5 it talks about the Word of God being for the washing of the Word in our lives
- In John 4, water represents the Holy Spirit at work and flowing into our lives as well as out of lives to others.
- Who was Ezra the priest and scribe?
- He was a priest who returned from Babylonian captivity in 458 B.C. after King Artaxerxes decreed it
- He came back with a vision to teach the Jewish people left near Jerusalem the Law of God
- Jewish spirituality in the region was deplorable.
- With consistent teaching over time, the people responded, their hearts changed, and they started to obey the teaching of the law
- His preaching and teaching became the motivation to accept Nehemiah’s vision and challenge to rebuild the walls
- But, during that two-month interlude of building the wall, they missed God’s Word, they craved it and they wanted it
- So, they asked Ezra to read from the Book of the Law
- Do you and I crave God’s Word? Do we miss it if we don’t regularly read it for ourselves and put ourselves under preaching and teaching of it? Do you feel hungry to dig deep sometimes into the treasure box of God’s Word?
I Peter 2:2
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God
- We are to revere the Word but we need to be reminded that the Word is not what we worship but the Word points us to God Himself
- The Jews listened attentively to the Book of the Law
2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.
- Notice in verse 2 that adults and all those who can understand
- Men, women, kids, there wasn’t any children’s church back then
- They listened to the reading of God’s Word from early in the morning until midday and that amounted to about five to six hours
- This went on according to Nehemiah 8:18 for one week.
- This day that they began reading was the first day of the Feast of Trumpets – the Jewish New Year
- In verse four you see Ezra on a wooden platform. Some versions say podium or pulpit but it was more than likely a stage that was raised up above the crowd for their seeing and hearing
- There were thirteen teaching priests standing with Ezra on the platform, ready to go out and apply what was said and answer questions of the people
- This, many scholars believe is the model for expository preaching
- Topical preaching – topic driven
- Textual preaching – moved by text to preach on it
- Expository preaching – verse by verse through a book or large section of scripture
- Eisegesis vs. Exegesis
- The power of the Word is inestimable for our lives
Illustration: One New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.
Often, Christians neglect their spiritual maintenance of getting into the Word and praying, going to church and using their spiritual gifts, and though they are "clothed with power" (Luke 24:49) find themselves out of gas. - Steve Blankenship in God Came Near by Max Lucado, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 95.
Application: The power of the Gospel and the Christian Life is found in God’s Word
Transition: Are you experiencing daily power to live as an overcomer because of the Word working in your life?
Worship should create a response
- Worship is coming to give honor and reverence and praise to God but also is an opportunity to receive from the Lord and to personally respond with our hearts, minds and emotions.
Nehemiah 8:5 – 8
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.
- The Jews stood in reverenceto God and His Word
- Notice their response in worship to God’s Word. They revered the Book of the Law and showed their honor and respect for it by standing
I Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
- It begs the question of how much do we honor God and His Word
- Some churches Bibles are used as coasters, to put under things to balance.
Illustration: Ravi Zacharias story of the Vietnamese translator who went to prison who cleaned the latrine and read God’s Word and became a believer in Jesus Christ
- Notice also that they praised the Lord at the opening of the Book of the Law
I Timothy 4:13
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
- Revelation 1 talks about a blessing upon those who read God’s Word
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
- I hope that you pause and think about from time to time, how blessed we are to have the Word of God and that when you open it, it is so different than a history book or a book you buy at the store. It is the very Words of God written to you. It is His love letter and it should be your go to book for wisdom, guidance and direction for life
- God wants to give out a blessing to those who read His Word and who obey what it says
- I want to remind you of what you have at your disposal with the Bible
- The Word of God is God – Breathed
2 Timothy 3:16 – 17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
- The Word of God is an agent of salvation
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ
- The Word of God is eternal
18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
- The Word of God will accomplish its intended purpose
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
- The Word of God is sufficient and the complete revelation
2 Peter 1:3
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
- The Jews expressedtheir emotions through worship
- Posture is certainly a welcome way to express your worship
- We are not just cerebral people. We are made up of emotions, personality and will
- We see in verse six that people lifted their hands and said Amen and Amen which means so be it. They agreed with what Ezra was about to read
- They showed their humility by bowing low in worship
6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground
- As I said before, Ezra begins to preach and there may have been as many as 30,000 to 50,000 people including women and children
7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places.
- The Jewish priests helped the people understand the Book of the Law
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading
- The priests went out to the crowd when there was a break in the reading by Ezra of the Book of the Law and broke the people into small groups and explained God’s Word to them
- Sense – to make distinct / interpret / translate / discretion / insight
- Understood – application / how to live it out
- Expository preaching – read / explain / apply
Application: The experience of worship takes in all the senses
Transition: The people responded with their emotions and posture in worship and then as the Word was preached, explained and applied they were ready to go out and obey.
Worship should be a time of celebration
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
- The Jews first response was weepingover their disobedience
- Their response at first was conviction of their sin. The way we know is they wept.
- They showed remorse and a desire to be sorry and repent of their sin
- They were broken
- When was the last time you and I wept over our sin?
- In this season of Lent, are we examining our hearts and seeing how Jesus suffered to pay for our sin?
- We also have to make sure in our presentation of the Gospel that people understand that because of their sin they are lost and separated from God because of their sin. You can’t be saved if you don’t realize you are lost.
- Their response at first was conviction of their sin. The way we know is they wept.
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith
- The Jews second response was joy over hearing the Book of the Law
10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
- The people were admonished to stop weeping and remember that they had just celebrated the Day of Atonement where their sins were forgiven.
- They were told it was to be a time of joy and celebration. After the Day of Atonement was to be a week of celebration
Quote: “It is as wrong to mourn when God has forgiven us as it is to rejoice when sin has conquered us.” Warren Wiersbe
- They were to eat and drink
- They were to give to those in need
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
- They were to “make great rejoicing” because the joy of the Lord is their strength.
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.
- They are going out and applying God’s Word!!
- The goal of preaching / studying / teaching is;
- Read it - mind
- Teach it - mind
- Apply it - heart
- Do it – will
- Worship may include
- Conviction / Cleansing / Encouragement / Celebration
- Christian joy comes when we have faith in God’s Word and obey what it says!
Application: When we gather on Sunday, it should lead you to a place of joy!
Key Thought: Worshiping is giving of ourselves to God first and second, receiving the joy from God that gives us strength
Illustration: The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn't know what to do. Napoleon's massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church. The pastor rose and said, "Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord's resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us." The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left. - Source Unknown.
Questions to Ponder this Week
- In comparison to the Jews, how desirous and attentive are we toward God and His Word?
- How can we experience worship more sincerely and freely?
- Are we celebrating the joy of the Lord when we worship?