The Revival of the Israelites - Nehemiah 9:1-21
The Revival of the Israelites
Nehemiah 9:1 – 6
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. 2 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. 4 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”
Introduction: Purpose: Every Christ follower must shed their sin as they seek a deeper presence with God.
- I am stuck in certain areas of my life to do all that it takes to eradicate an area of sin in my life. But I know that when I do and it is happened many times over that you grow in great ways to understand God more and to walk more closely in His presence. That leads to personal revival in our lives.
- The question is, do we want to seek a deeper walk with God
- Count the cost of what that means
- Shedding of areas of sin, even the ones we enjoy. Things that have become our idols. Idols are anything that comes between us and our relationship with God
- Asking God to make us more sensitive to sin and for the daily and even hourly putting on of the armor of God
- Doing the hard work of allowing the old man to be crucified – Romans 6 and saying no to sin and the flesh and going against those strong desires
- Count the cost of what that means
- But, enjoying the deeper fellowship and relationship with the Father!!
- The joy of the time together
- The sense of obedience to God and not being a slave to sin
- Avoiding a self-righteous spirit toward others but a genuine humility and prayer for others to be revived.
- That is a little of what personal revival looks like
- Here is a short story about a revival in America called “The First Great Awakening. “from an article in CBN News
- A problem for the colonies was that as they moved into the 1700s, their spiritual fervor was rapidly dying down. So desperate believers began to pray for revival.
- Rev. Eddie Hyatt said both churches and governments joined in this effort. He pointed to the writings of a Puritan pastor in that era, William Cooper.
Quote: "He said from sabbath to sabbath they were praying specifically for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and that God would revive his work, most of the churches set apart days to seek the Lord by prayer and fasting. Even the civil governments were concerned and they appointed days of fasting and prayer." – Pastor William Cooper
The First Great Awakening
- The prayers were answered and this revival, known as the First Great Awakening, hit from the 1720s to 1760s. Rev. Jonathan Edwards, known mostly today for his scorching sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," was right in the middle of this revival. Edwards was a child prodigy, starting Yale at age 13 and graduating at the top of his class at the age of 17. He was known to pray and study his Bible 13 hours a day.
- This colonial pastor watched revival take over his hometown in western Massachusetts.
- "The way he describes it: one day God invaded the town of Northampton," Hyatt said. "The town seemed to be full of the presence of God."
- The bars emptied out and Edwards' home as well as other Christians' homes filled with people anxious to be saved and know God.
- Visitors to the town spoke with amazement about the holy atmosphere they experienced blanketing the town.
- "If you came across someone who seemed to be spiritually indifferent, it would be spoken of as a strange thing," Hyatt quoted Edwards.
- Other towns and regions were also experiencing this spiritual outbreak, but then the powerful English preacher George Whitefield brought his fiery sermons to America.
- Scorned by the established church, he preached salvation to huge multitudes outdoors. Crowds from 10,000 to as many as 30,000 showed up.
Quote: "During this time there were it seemed entire towns repenting and turning to God, it was an incredible movement to Christianity." – Rev. Eddie Hyatt
- Whitefield stayed at Benjamin Franklin's home while preaching in Philadelphia. Franklin wrote of the revival's impact.
Quote: "From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street,"
Transition: This was occurring among the Jews with the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra. Revival was beginning to take place after a drought of reading the Book of the Law. Revival begins with praying people and the reading of God’s Word.
- The Word of God had a tremendous impact on the Restoration community.
- It pointed the people to their sin (8:9)
- Led them to worship (8:12, 14)
- And gave them great joy (8:17)
- Now (In chapter 9)
- The Word led to their confession of sin. – Gene Getz
- The first thing we see in this passage is;
The recognition and confession of sin
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads
- Just so we get our timing right in the sequence of events
- Chapter 8:1 was the Feast of Trumpets coming out of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur
- In 8:13-18 – they heard and began preparations for the Feast of Booths / Tabernacles
- As we get to chapter 9, the Feast of Booths / Tabernacles concluded on the 22nd day of the month, there was one day off or in between where chapter 9 picks up according to verse one.
- The signsof repentance – 9:1
- They were confessing their sins as evidenced by the fasting, the wearing of sackcloth and putting dirt on their heads.
- These were symbols of humility and repentance
- Sackcloth was a dark and coarse cloth made from goat’s hair
But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
- When the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin, are you sorry that you got caught or sorry that you have hurt the Holy One?
- How do you respond to your sin?
- We need to quiet our heart, admit that what we did was wrong. Call it out by name and ask for forgiveness
- We are to make plans on how to not repeat that sin, to look for the way of escape in the future. This is part of repentance
- We don’t fast, we don’t wear sackcloth, we don’t put dirt on our heads but maybe we should!!
- These are signs of mourning and grieving over their sin
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads
- The separation from sin – 9:2
2 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
- Confession means that we agree with God about our sin – I John 1:9
- We don’t soften it
- We take responsibility
- We name it specifically. We own it.
- We desire to turn from it
- Yet, there is a part of us, our selfish, old nature that wants to hold on to certain sins.
- You see that as a part of confessing their sin, they were separating themselves from the ungodly influence of sin, the ways of the world through foreigners and Gentiles at that time
2 Corinthians 6:14 – 18; 7:1
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
- You and I need to stop playing around with sin. It is like playing with a rattlesnake or a loose electric wire. It will bite us and shock us at some point.
- You cannot be a friend of the philosophies of this world and friend of God. There is no neutral ground in God’s sight. You are either with Him and for Him or you are against Him when you choose to habitually practice your sin.
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God
- We don’t have time to delve into all the differences of this world’s philosophy vs. God’s worldview
- Abortion – Unplanned
- We live in an ever growing illogical, amoral, feelings-based world. We no longer live in a fact-based society in many ways.
Illustration: Actor Terrence Howard, on the set of the show “Empire” believes one times one should equal two and he has his own secret system of why that works. He thinks it will revolutionize math in the decades to come if his system is taught.
Quote: Thus, does the world forget You, its Creator, and falls in love with what You have created instead of with You.” – Augustine
Application: Are we seeking to be holy and blameless in our lives?
The reading of the law and worship
3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day;
- The powerof the Word
- Three hours they heard what the Book of the Law said. They had people there to explain it to them so they could understand.
- The plea for forgiveness
For another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God.
- We are not to continue to walk around in morbid introspection of our sin after we confess and ask for forgiveness.
- We are to enjoy a clear conscience and a renewed relationship with the Father
- We are to focus on God’s perfection and the righteousness He has put in us and not in our imperfections
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
- Notice at the end of verse 3, it said they worshiped the Lord their God.
- The praise of a worthy God
Nehemiah 9:4 -6
4 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
- The glorious name in verse 5. - literally splendid!! He is beyond worthy of our praise.
- Notice their worship as one commentator puts it.
- 1. God’s greatness is seen in His holiness. We are to draw near to God and away from the world – 9:2
- 2. God’s greatness seen in the fact that He is God alone – 9:6a; Deuteronomy 6:4-6
- 3. God’s greatness is seen in that He created the universe – 9:6b. We are to worship the creator and not the creation.
Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
- 4. God’s greatness is seen in His providential care for His creation – 9:6c
- 5. God’s greatness seen in the hosts of heaven worshipping Him – 9:6d
- The Jews had a new city, the Holy City was being restored and they had clean hearts after confession and forgiveness of sin.
- They were sensitive to their sin and they dealt with it according to God’s terms. They were becoming renewed
Application: Are you seeking a new sensitivity to the Spirit of God?
The retelling and remembrance of God’s faithfulness – 9:7-21
Dr. Arthur T. Pierson said, “History is His story”; and this chapter bears that out. “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach,” wrote Aldous Huxley; and philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.” – Warren Wiersbe
- That is why we cannot allow for history to be revised and things left out as we teach history because it is to our peril that occurs
Illustration: The Democratic party in 13 years showed a statistic that it has become 14% more liberal since 2006 and the predominant growth has been among white college educated young people. What you teach in our schools is what is produced in society.
Quote: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” Abraham Lincoln
- The Jewish people knew this all to well. They passed on the faith by oral tradition and God repeats over and over in the OT the history, good and bad of Israel to bring them back to the teachings of God and the importance of adhere to all of His commands.
- The priests assembled by Ezra’s side as he read the Law began to pray. Here is the prayer they prayed.
- The keeping of the promise to God’s people
7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
- God called Abraham out of idolatry and gave Him the promise of the nation of Israel. Amazing!!
Joshua 24:2 - 3
2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac
- The deliverance of God’s people
9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.
- The Jews were perpetrating the idea that their God, Yahweh, was a universal, monotheistic God that was personal and wanted to be known.
- The guidance and direction of God’s people
13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
- The God who reveals Himself directly to man. Many religions, angels come and speak the words of God to them
- Zoroastrianism – Zarathustra Spitama – Vohu Manu – 9 x the size of man spoke to Zarathustra – written as hymns called Gathas
- We see God spoke directly and communicated what His people were to go in the wilderness
- He also provided for their needs
- The grace and mercy of God
16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
- At some point, they got complacent and careless and worshiped idols as they disobeyed God.
- Even in their disobedience God was providing for them and protecting them
- We can step out of God’s will but we are never out of His care and the opportunity to return to Him.
- We become like the Jews when we get complacent, careless, filled with blessings and then we begin to think that it is based on us and not Him
41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.42 They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy. (KJV)
- We need to be continually mindful of the grace and mercy of God as found in verses 17-19
Illustration: The story is told of a man who once went to Alexander the Great and asked for some financial help. Alexander told the man to go to his treasurer and ask for whatever he needed. A little later, the treasurer went to Alexander and told him he was hesitant to give the man what he asked for because he asked for an enormous amount. Alexander replied, “Give him what he asks for, he has treated me like a KING in his asking, and I shall be like a king in my giving.”
- That is how God wants to treat us!
- Humility, honesty about our sin, forgiveness, and dependence upon God is so essential to the life God wants us to continually live. He desires to pour out His grace and mercy on us so that we can be holy and blameless in His sight
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Application: Are you rehearsing God’s past grace so you can rest in His future grace?
Key Thought: The closer you get to God, the more aware you are of your sin. Are you willing to go there?
Questions to Ponder this Week
- Do you ask God to make you more sensitive and aware of your sin?
- Are you seeking God’s face of holiness or His hand of blessing only?
- In your prayer time, do you rehearse the goodness of God to you in order to give you confidence in an uncertain future?