Nehemiah 8 Responding to God’s Word

After the wall was completed the people were all back into their towns, businesses and farms. There were not enough homes within the city walls so many of them lived in outside villages and towns. After they leave it seems they all just reappear back in Jerusalem.

Read Nehemiah 8:1-8

1)    Desire for God’s Word

The People, who just finished a huge accomplishment came back because they were longing for something more. They all congregate at what is called the Water Gate which would have been the gate closest to the spring. Some make a parallel that  water is a symbol for being thirsty for the word of God. (John 7:37-39; 15:3; Ephesians 5:26)

Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

God’s Word is what will satisfy because the word of God is life (Proverbs 4:20-22). No matter what you accomplish in this world and no matter how many great feats you overcome we are created to be in a loving relationship with God and therefore we are thirsty or longing for Him. The word of God is how we experience God and so it through Gods word that we can have the desires of our heart filled.

Jesus tells us that He is the living water (John 4:10-11) and he told this to a woman who was trying to find fulfillment in the ways of the world. Relationship after relationship only left her longing for more.  Jeremiah 2:13 says we have built our own broken cisterns. We go through life trying different things in this life thinking that once we get it that we will find happiness and contentment. Jerimiah tells us that they are broken cisterns because although they seem to bring fulfillment for a moment they will eventually run dry and leave us back in the same place we were.

The people came back to Jerusalem because,  just like many people in our world, they were longing for something more. The completing of the wall is not mentioned one time in this chapter. How do you complete such a great accomplishment and not talk about it anymore? They knew that they longed for something more. Many people have tried to find fulfillment in other things of this world only to have regret at the end of their lives. We are devoted to many things in this life and we sometimes miss out what is really important.

“Bring the Book” is what they shouted to Ezra the priest. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and active. The words of God do something to our soul and if we would really take the time to examine them we would see that the Bible truly is a Word from God to the people He loves and longs to be in a right relationship with.  

The People would stand for 5-6 hours while Ezra read and explained to them what God was saying. All of them could not read and there were not many copies of God’s Word for them to hear so this would have been a very special moment in their lives.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly[a] for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men[b] but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

The Bible really is God’s Word which works in you. If you take any medication you may not fully understand how it works. You take a pill that goes into your stomach that relieves the pain in your back. That does not make sense to me but that is exactly what God’s Word does in us. This is why I always encourage people as much as I can to read the Word of God because it will do more in them then they will ever realize. (Isaiah 55:11)

The ears of the people were attentive to the Book of the Law

Do you go to church wanting to hear God’s Word? Do you read your Bible at home expecting to hear a word from God? If we are going to be attentive to the Word of God then we have to block out the distractions of life. Cell phones, television, music etc. continue to draw our attention away from what is really important.

“If you are not hungry for a close friendship with God, you are probably filling up on the cheap stuff of life. If you are not hungry to sit at the feet of Jesus, …perhaps you are devouring parts of life that will never truly satisfy.” (Identity, Eric Geiger  Pg 123)

Many people eat every day at a fast food restaurant. Nothing wrong with them but they are not as good as someone who either knows how to cook a home cooked meal or a fancy restaurant. Many of us are not filling up our lives with junk food we just are filling it up with things that are not the best things. It is not a choice between right and wrong it is a choice between good and great.

Ezra did not gather the people to hear the Word of God they requested that he bring the Word of God. Thirteen times from verse one through twelve the people are mentioned because God was stirring something in their hearts. Too many times we wait for someone else to encourage us to read the Word of God but we see that they were the ones encouraging the priest to read it.

This was not in the temple but in the courtyard which means that we do not have to wait for Sundays or for times we meet at a church building to open up the Word of God.

2)   Understand God’s Word

They read clearly so the people understood the reading. Levites helped the people understand the word of God.

Making the scriptures clear literally meant to go  paragraph by paragraph. Many passages of scripture can be taken out of context simply by not understanding what God is really saying in those passages. Although it is good to take a verse for encouragement we have to make sure that we are not making that verse say something that it is not really saying. Make sure you understand what God is saying to you because Jesus gives us a warning to what happens when we do not understand Gods Word.

Matthew 13:18 Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.

Do you ever wonder why you can leave church or your devotional and not remember a thing you just read or heard? Jesus says that when you do not understand Satan comes and takes it away so that it does not become part of your life. The way the Word of God works is that you have to allow it to change you from the inside out. When you do not understand or when you flippantly read the Word of God and not take it to heart, then Satan will make sure you forget about it.  This does not mean that there are not difficult things to understand but we should try and understand them because that is how we get to know God more intimately.

As followers of Christ we have a responsibility to explain the story of Jesus Christ to others so they can understand it. Would you be able to explain Christianity if someone came up to you and asked?

3)   Humbled by God’s Word

Lifting up their hands, and they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground

Bowing one’s head was a sign of humbleness. To humble oneself means you place yourself under or below them. When you approach the scripture humbly you are admitting that God’s Word is superior to you. When you approach God’s Word humbly you are adjusting your life to it and not making the Bible say what you want it to say.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

There should be times as you read or hear God’s Word that you are humbled by it.We should never forget that we are undeserving of His Grace and Mercy but grateful that He loved us so much He did something about our sin. We should never forget that we cannot earn favor with God on our own ability but only because of the free gift through Jesus Christ.(Ephesians 2:8-9). The word of God can be convicting and so we humble ourselves before God and realize the areas that we have failed and ask Him to forgive us and thank Him that we are already Justified.  (Luke 18)

Read Nehemiah 8:9-12

4)    Rejoice because of God’s Word

Do not mourn or weep.. the joy of the Lord is your  strength

The people were brought to tears as the word of God was spoken  but even though that is a correct response to sin you cannot stay there because the whole point of redemption is about being in a right relationship with God. You are not to stay depressed in your sin, even though it may have consequences, you are to rejoice that you have been forgiven and rejoice that all of your sins, from God’s perspective, are gone. (Psalm 103:12)

It was the feast of Trumpets(Leviticus 23:23-25; Deuteronomy 16:15)  which was  to be a time of rejoicing and so the priest wanted to make sure they did not dishonor God by mourning over their sins.

And the people went their way to eat and drink … and to make great rejoicing

In God’s presence, where the worshipper becomes aware of His past mercies, of His present forgiveness and the prospect of His great blessing, the expression of deep joy seems to be natural and spontaneous. While it is important at times to be grieved over ones sins in God’s presence, it is perhaps more normal to rejoice at all His gracious benefits. (Deuteronomy, J.A. Thompson pg 198)

As Christians we should come together to rejoice in what God has done, is doing and will do. Walking around sad over your sin does not bring Glory to God, rejoicing in His grace and Mercy does. Christianity is called Good News for a reason because the debt we owed has been paid by Jesus and we do not have to earn our way into favor with God. Christ earned our favor with God when He died on the cross and we are declared Holy in God’s sight because of Christ. (Colossians 3:3)

We are the only religion that assures our way into Heaven because of what God did for us. We stand everyday as believers in Christ as Holy and Perfect and Just as if we never sinned or as Dr. Jerry Bridges says, Just as if I always obeyed every commandment of God.

Many people want to know why God does not fix some of the problems we face on this earth. God fixed the ultimate problem which was our sin that separated us from Him and He conquered death when Jesus rose from the dead. Even if all of the problems on this earth were gone we would all still die one day. What happens after we die is the biggest issue we face not the things we face on this earth.

Jeremiah 15:16 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.

Read Nehemiah 8:13-18

5)   Obey God’s Word

We do not obey to get God’s approval we obey out of a love for Him and because He loved us. If you try to serve God without understanding you are forgiven totally and accepted by Him because of Christ then you will always serve with wrong motives. ( see Luke 15 and the Older Brother)

The people realized that they were not celebrating the feast of booths / Tabernacles (Leviticus 23) like they should have. (This followed the feast of trumpets) The Feast of booths was a celebration remembering how God had brought them through the desert after they escaped from Egypt . They were to live in these huts/ booths for 7 days. They wanted to obey Gods word simply because they had been changed by Gods word.

“When God intervenes, the attention shifts to him. Divine intervention, when it is recognized, results in authentic worship and unquestioned obedience.” (Visioneering, Andy Stanley, PG 241)

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Understanding what Christ has done for us should always change the way we live.The word “doer” is not just about what you do but who you are. (Mind, Body and Spirit) I am a Pastor and most people call me a pastor or a preacher. I also do as much of the mechanic work on my own cars but no one calls me a mechanic. Who I am is what God calls me what I do sometimes is not who I am it is just things I do. So as a Christian I am called Holy and Righteous because that is who I became when I accepted Jesus work on the cross for my sins. When I sin that is not who I am it is what I do from time to time on the side. A doer of the word is who you are when you do not do what God says then that is out of character for you.

To be a Hearer of the word all has to do with how you apply it. In college you can take a class for a grade or you can audit it. When you take the class for the grade then the information is more than likely to be absorbed because you know it is going to matter to you later. When you audit a class you may get something out of it but you do not pay as close attention because there will not be a grade on the material.  We are to be hearers of the word as if the information we are receiving from listening or reading Gods Word is going to be crucial to our day.

How are you with making time for God’s Word?

Are you desiring to even be in Gods Word or are you full from the junk of life?

We need to be humbled but yet rejoice over what God has done for us. When is the last time you rejoiced for being forgiven of all your sins?

Why are you obeying Gods word? Out of duty or out of a love relationship?

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