7:1-2 If a leader wants to keep something going in the right direction, he will need to enlist the help of people who are capable, and leaders in the church must also ensure those workers have brought their lives into submission to the Lord. With this principle in mind, Nehemiah picked a military commander who was a faithful man who feared God (7:2). To fear God is not to be terrified of him, but to be rightfully in awe of him. It means taking God seriously. Spiritual leadership that fears God will make a kingdom impact.
8:7-8 Translating and giving the meaning is what we call exposition. Nehemiah broke the people into small groups and assigned leaders to them who explained God’s Word so that the people could understand it (8:8). It is not enough to hear if you don’t understand.
8:9 Remarkably, all the people were weeping as they heard the Word of God read. They cried when it dawned on them that because of their refusal to hear the Word of God previously, they had gone nearly 150 years without progress.
After you have understood God’s Word and wept, you have to dry your eyes and remember that God is good. As Paul says, “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).
8:10 Nehemiah said, Do not grieve. Then, he offered them something in sorrow’s place: the joy of the Lord. What you focus on governs how you feel. The reason why many of us stay grieved for so long is because we stay focused on what is so wrong. Rather than finding our chief joy in the Lord, we turn on the TV to escape. We enter into illegitimate relationships to escape. We get involved with drugs or alcohol to escape. If your focus is properly situated on the Lord, however, he will give you his joy; and his joy will give you strength.
8:11-12 The Levites said, Don’t grieve. Why? Because that day was holy (8:11). In other words, the people were to remember that God was still on the throne, and he was still taking care of business. Thus, the people of God had a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them (8:12). No party compares to the joy of understanding the gracious Word of God that promises salvation and kingdom blessings to all who will believe.
8:13 The men, the family heads, agreed that they had better take their rightful position. They understood that the law of God is hierarchical. If it does not flow through the leadership of the family, it won’t get passed down to the kids.
8:14-18 In honor of the Festival of Shelters, everyone made shelters and lived in them, and there was tremendous joy (8:17). The shelters represented the temporary housing the Israelites erected during their wilderness wanderings. The rejoicing was not over the shelters, but over the renewed obedience to the Word of God, which had been neglected. On this one week a year, they were to be reminded that there was a time when they had nothing, and God had taken care of them.