VI. Requirements for a Real Revival (Nehemiah 7:1–8:18)
VI. Requirements for a Real Revival (7:1–8:18)
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.
7:3 Nehemiah got everyone involved protecting their territory, some at their posts and some at their homes. This is a reminder that the church must be ever vigilant. Later, Paul would warn the Ephesians elders that “savage wolves” would rise up among them and “distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them” (Acts 20:29-31). The pastors and elders of local churches are to protect God’s people by teaching what is faithful to God’s Word and exposing what deviates from it.
7:4-69 Nehemiah had restructured the community and provided protection and security and welfare, but there were few people actually living in Jerusalem (7:4). What they needed was a reinvestment. Nehemiah wanted a census of the people so he could bring families back into the city. God put it into [his] mind to do this (7:5), a reminder that when you have a dynamic prayer life and an obedient life, the Spirit of God will move your heart to accomplish his will, too. Nehemiah found a genealogical record of those who came back first from exile (7:5); this was exactly what he needed.
7:70-73 God never ordains things that he does not fund. The funding problems our local churches face often come down to management: we, as believers, are not theological with our money. We must remember that all we have is his and give generously.
8:1 When all the people gathered, they asked for the preacher. Soaking in the word of God is like taking vitamins. Over the long haul, it provides a sense of well-being. Ezra had been preaching among the Jews for fourteen years (Ezra 7:10), creating a spiritual environment, softening the ground with truth, and orienting the people toward a standard. That, in fact, was why Nehemiah had found the people open to the possibility for rebuilding the wall—for family renewal and community development. By this point, the people had seen the miracle God had done in fifty-two days when they obeyed God’s word. They wanted to know what else God could do.
8:2-3 Ezra read out of [God’s Word] from daybreak until noon (that’s six hours!) and the people listened attentively (8:3). Should you find yourself saying “I can’t pay attention to the Word of God for six hours at a time,” consider whether you can watch TV for six hours. Or hang out with your friends. You can do what you want to do. You can do it because, once you perceive a benefit from a thing, “long” becomes “short.” The Israelites perceived the value of the Word of God.
8:4-5 Such respect was given to the Word of God that they literally lifted it up. They built a platform (8:4). And, when Ezra opened the book, all the people stood without being asked because they understood that God was speaking through it (8:5). The Word of God is worthy of your reverence.
8:6 Ezra blessed the Lord and all the people said, Amen! Amen means, “I agree.” They also lifted their hands palms up, which is to say, “I am now ready to receive.” And, they bowed their heads—that is, they went high and they went low—with their faces to the ground. When God shows up, humble yourself.
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.