Read Nehemiah 8
1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
In this day and age, many Christians long to see revival take place. We look at the world around us and see evident injustice and brokenness everywhere we look. We live in a war of ideas, ideologies, and opinions. In every headline, in every news source, and all over social media, we see evidence of the way sin wreaks havoc on humanity. Seeing the devastation of sin increases the Church’s longing to see revival and spiritual awakening in America and all around the world.
J. Edwin Orr defines revival as the “Spirit of God working through the Word of God, in the lives of the people of God.” This type of revival is exactly what happens in Nehemiah 8. Right away in verse 1, the people gather together in unity and tell Ezra to bring the Book of the Law. This is wild because apart from the working of the Holy Spirit, people don’t just naturally gather together to hear the Word of God read aloud for six hours. The Spirit of God was already wooing the people to Himself and doing a work in their heart far before Ezra began to read God’s Word.
When Ezra reads aloud the Word of God in the presence of the Israelites, it leads them to deep, reverent worship and obedience to the one true God of Israel. Following the hearing of the Word of God, God’s people repent. They fall on their faces to worship God. They weep as they are convicted of their sin and reminded of their continued unfaithfulness to God. In the midst of this conviction, Nehemiah reminds the people of the strength and joy to be found in the Lord. Though they have sinned greatly against a holy God, He is greater. He brings the dead to life. He redeems the unfaithful. He turns weeping into celebration. It’s who He is.
The same is true for us today. Though the world is dark and without the hope of Jesus, we can experience revival and spiritual awakening as a result of the Spirit of God working mightily through the Word of God.
If you want to see revival in your own life and the world, pray for God’s Spirit to awaken you to the deep truths of His Word. Just as Ezra and Nehemiah obeyed God, consider how the Lord might use your obedience as a means to lead others into undivided worship and joyful devotion to God.
- What inspires you the most about this chapter?
- Does the reading of God’s Word lead you to revere Him and turn from your sin?
- In what area of your life do you need to believe the truth that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10)? The Lord is inviting you to rest in that promise.
“When Satan huffs and puffs and tries to blow out the flame of your joy, you have an endless supply of kindling in the Word of God.” -John Piper
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