Rebuild: Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 – God Is Faithful

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through Nehemiah in our series entitled REBUILD – rebuilding a city and rebuilding a people.  Nehemiah is the man God uses to rebuild the broken-down walls and building.  All of that brokenness a testament to the brokenness of a people – God’s people – who had been disciplined by God during a season of exile, driven out of the city of Jerusalem and inhabiting the land surrounding the broken down city.

But the walls have now been rebuilt, the buildings inside have been rebuilt, and the people are being rebuilt.  They have discovered the Bible and read about their sin and neglect of worshiping the One True God.  They have confessed and repented of their sin.  They have even – as we studied on Monday – they have even covenanted with God, rededicating their lives to love and serve God.  

However, they have not yet entered into the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.  They have largely remained outside the city.  The Bible succinctly captures the situation in a verse from an earlier chapter.  Just before the people hear God’s Word and confess, repent, and renew their dedication to God, there is one verse in Chapter 7, Nehemiah 7, verse 4 that reads, “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few …”

It is time now to do something about that.  May God give us ears to hear His Word today that we may be edified, the church multiplied, and He might be glorified. 

Ardmore, South Dakota is a ghost town.  Ardmore had been founded in 1889, by European-American settlers.  It was once a thriving little town.  President Calvin Coolidge had even stopped in Ardmore in 1927 during a summer trip to the Black Hills.  Former residents included the infamous horse thief Doc Middleton, who briefly owned a saloon in Ardmore.  The town would go on to survive the Great Depression of the 1930s without a single family going on welfare, but today not one solitary soul lives in the town.  Over the years agriculture declined and younger people moved away to look for work in other areas.  The last time the town had a recorded population was in 1980, when the 1980 census showed a population of 16 residents.  Today some 15 to 20 abandoned houses remain eerily vacant in Ardmore.  The town sign is even still up, but the place is deserted. 

Nobody builds a city to become a ghost town.  Yet, that is a bit like what Nehemiah chapter 11 looks like.  The city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt.  Buildings are up, but a census taken would have been much like the 1980 Census of Ardmore – a few handfuls of people living within the city.

As we look at Chapter 11 and into Chapter 12 and we see a census that was taken – a long list of names of those who will move into the city to repopulate Jerusalem.  I do hope you will take time to read all these names later.  The Bible does teach in 2 Timothy 3 that “all Scripture is profitable,” and often as we read through names in the Bible, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and we experience the joy of discovery, a “hidden gem” of truth as we mine the Scriptures.

Verse 1 says, “Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities.”  The majority of God’s people were living outside the city of Jerusalem.  They had been driven out of Jerusalem during the Babylonian exile and were dwelling in all the villages more generally called Judea.  In fact, you can see a breakdown of the people – God’s people, here, there, and everywhere. 

  • Chapter 11 from verse 1 through verse 24 is a list of people who will live inside the city, Jerusalem. 
  • Verses 25 and following, a list of the people and places outside the city of Jerusalem. 
  • Chapter 12, verses 1 through 26, you have a list of the priests and Levites whom God used in the leading of worship.

Verse 1 tells us, “Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem.”  The leaders, just a few folks relatively speaking, dwelt at Jerusalem, so there was a need to bring in more people to populate the city.  The city is, after all, the “city of God,” the holy city, a standing example of the power of the name of God among the people of God so folks need to move in.  But just who will move in?  The city cannot hold all the people of Israel, so who will live there?  How will that be decided?  We are not left to wonder, as we read in verse 1 that “the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in (the) other cites (surrounding Jerusalem, remaining in those villages).”

In the Old Testament God often revealed His will and way through the casting of lots.  This was something akin to our “drawing straws” in order to make a decision of some kind.  The difference is that in those days God actually established the casting of lots as one of the means by which He guided leaders.  Today we have the complete Word of God in book form as the primary way we determine God’s will and way.  Before going further, we should note that the casting of lots here in Nehemiah 11 says something about . . .

The peoples’ belief and trust

In the sovereignty of God.

God’s people had a high view of God’s sovereign providence, believing God truly spoke through the casting of lots.  They genuinely sought God’s plan for their lives and believed God would be faithful to guide them.  We are wise to do the same, turning to God as we search His Word and listen to Him through prayer as we trust Him to guide us.  

Verse 2 states, “And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.”  It seems that those who were chosen – the one out of every ten – were not upset when they were chosen by lot to move into the city, but rather were happy to do so.  At first, we may think, “Well, of course they would be happy!  They get to move into the holy city!”  But remember that they had been living outside the city for many years.  They had families, houses, fields, gardens, and pictures on the walls and neighborhood friends and so on.  As many of you know who have been through it, moving can be a very emotional and stressful time, but verse 2 seems to indicate there was no disgruntled reaction.  The people “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.”

Verses 3-4a say, “These are the heads of the province who dwelt in Jerusalem. (But in the cities of Judah everyone dwelt in his own possession in their cities—Israelites, priests, Levites, Nethinim, and descendants of Solomon’s servants.  Also in Jerusalem dwelt some of the children of Judah and of the children of Benjamin.”  What we have in Chapter 11 is a list of the people who moved into the city.  There are first in verse 4, “the children of Judah,” or the sons of Judah, then down in verse 7, “the sons of Benjamin,” listed there from verses 7 and following, then verse 9, “the priests,” then down in verse 15, “the Levites” and from verses 19 and following what I would call “miscellaneous other people,” not unimportant people!  Real people with real names doing real things.  Like “the gatekeepers” in verse 19.  These were the people who would stand at the temple gate, guarding its treasures and safeguarding its holiness.  We think of the gatekeeper in Psalm 24 who asks the worshiper ascending the hill to the temple, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  That was an important job!  

In fact . . .

Every person had

An important job

Because every person

Comprising God’s people

Has a part in kingdom work.

From these verses we learn three truths about God’s people.  First and most notably . . .

1. Every Person Has a Part.

No one acts alone in God’s kingdom, i.e., no one is a one-man show.  Every person has a part.  It takes all of God’s people to do all of God’s work.  

There is no one person who is tasked to do everything.  That is why a corollary to this truth that every person has a part – that no one person is irreplaceable!  Every person is uniquely gifted to do God’s Work.  Paul says this of the church in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  And he goes on to show how every person has a part in the ministry of the church.  This is similar to Ephesians 4:11 and 12, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  The pastors and ministry staff are not to do all the ministry, but rather to equip the saints for the work of ministry that the church may be edified, or built up.  Every single one of God’s people has a part in the building up of the body of Christ.  Every person has a part.

Many of the people listed here in Chapter 11 are recognized not so much for what they did, but for where they were.  They lived in the city.  They are commended simply for their willingness to be there – nothing more dramatic than that.  Every person has a part if even just to “be there.” 

Secondly . . .

2. Every Person Matters To God.

God cares about every single person.  Every single person is significant to God.

One of those little “gems” that glitters among the verses is found in the second part of verse 4, “The children of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the children of Perez.”  Perhaps you know about the children of Perez.  In Genesis 38, the Bible tells us that Perez was one of the twins born to Tamar in that obscure chapter that interrupts the exciting narrative of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37 to 50.  It is a dark chapter about how a widowed woman deceivers her father-in-law by disguising herself as a prostitute in an effort to conceive a child.  It is a sordid account of sin and neglect.  Yet, it results in the birth of Perez who grew to have a number of descendants – many of whom are included here in Nehemiah 11 as those who are moving into the holy city of Jerusalem.

It is just like God to show how much every person matters to Him!  Some of you have a background that embarrasses you.  You feel insecure when you compare yourself to the pedigree of others.  Every person matters to God!  God often delights in working through the least likely of people.  Remember how Paul sought to humble the church members of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1?  In verse 26 to 29 he says, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

Be encouraged to know that: (1) Every person has a part, and (2) Every person matters to God!  

That is especially important to remember when we feel like our part seems so small, our labor seemingly so insignificant.  We begin to feel as though no one knows or cares about who we are and what we do in God’s kingdom.  But of course, because of the Gospel, because our is identity found not in who we are or what we do, but in who Christ is and what He has done for us, then we can joy even in the obscurity of our part and place among God’s people in the world. 

Here is our third encouragement . . .

3. Every Person Can Have Joy Even In Obscurity.

Among the names in chapters 11 and 12 that are known, the greater majority are those who are not known.  They are the unknown heroes among God’s people. 

The unknowns are just

As important as the knowns.

In the church, some people are more visible than others, and some are nearly invisible. We describe them sometimes as “those behind the scenes” or those who are rarely thanked for their service.

Many Christians have heard the name Billy Graham.  Not near as any have heard the name Mordecai Ham, even though he was a minister ordained in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  It was under Mordecai Ham’s preaching that Billy Graham was saved.  He had a part, then, in the future ministry of Billy Graham.

Many Christians have heard the name D. L. Moody.  Arguably the greatest evangelist of the 19th Century.  Fewer, if any Christians today, know the name Edward Kimball.  Yet it was Edward Kimball who stopped by the shoe store where young D. L. Moody worked for his uncle in Boston, put his hand on Moody’s shoulder, and in tears shared the Gospel with Moody as he was converted.  Just one common man, a concerned layperson, living in relative obscurity, God used Kimball to bring to faith a man who would preach the gospel to 100 million people in an age before radio, television and the internet.  

Some of us labor in even greater obscurity.  Few see us preparing our lessons on a weekday, cutting out cardboard for the children’s lesson, brewing coffee on the Lord’s Day, on our knees in prayer for the church in our Daily Quiet time, sharing the Gospel at home and in our neighborhoods, picking up trash in the church parking lot, praying silently for the person seated next to us, smiling at a downcast visitor.  Many of us labor in obscurity, many of us live in obscurity, many of us minister in obscurity.

In the fall of 2012, a book was released by an anonymous Christian writer entitled, Embracing ObscurityIn an era of what many are calling Christian “celebrity—ism,” the yearnings to be liked and popular, the anonymous author – leading by example by remaining unknown to us – extols the virtues of embracing not popularity, but obscurity – following Christ and serving Him in the way He taught in Matthew 6:1-4 when you do your charitable deeds, do not do them to be seen by others.  If you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven.  Do it in secret and your heavenly Father who sees in secret will reward you later (Matthew 6:1-4).  Embracing obscurity.

Far too many ministers seek validation from others in a never-ending yearning for vocational meaning and significance.  This desperation often finds expression in an especially public way through social media – namely Twitter.  

While Twitter is largely an echo chamber of a very small percentage of users relative to population, it creates the false appearance of “the approval of the world” as represented by each user’s followers and activity.  Many people, even pastors, hunger for acceptance and affirmation.  The Twitter feed is an incessant recounting of unending, if not cringeworthy efforts to be liked, re-tweeted or commented on in some form or fashion.  There is nothing wrong with obscurity.  Our Lord live this way.  During His life he was, “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows” … “acquainted with grief” … “esteemed not” … “stricken, smitten…and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4).  It stretches the imagination beyond absurd to picture the Apostle Paul as a “hip and trendy” preacher with a self-promoting blog, platform, and cool swag.

As always, we must remember to . . .

Find in Christ

Our identity,

Our meaning,

Our value,

Our worth,

Our importance.

If we are Christians, we have been placed in the most prominent position ever to be placed, union with Christ Jesus, united together with the perfect all-pleasing, all-satisfying Prince of Peace.  We are perfectly loved and perfectly accepted in Christ.

If we know that we will be able to joy in obscurity.  We will not care so much whether our name is written down on a long list of notable and popular persons.  We will care only that are name is written down in a far more important register.

If you’re a Christian, rejoice not in your ministry, as our Lord Jesus warns His followers in Luke 10:20, “Rejoice not that even demons are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Rejoice knowing that you will one day inhabit not the old city of Jerusalem, but the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God!” (Revelation 21:2).

If you are not a Christian, your name is not written in heaven.  And there is only one way to get it written down – confess your sin to God, repent and turn from your sin, and turn to Jesus Christ who loves you, lived for you, died for you on the cross, and rose from the dead for you that you may have life in Him!  He loves you and you matter to Him.   So come to Him today and trust Him in the name of Jesus Christ.

I will be taking a few days of vacation and my blog will not be posted while I am gone. I will start posting again on June 7th. Until then stay in God’s Word and be strengthened by His truth.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 9:38-10:39 – A Loving Response To God’s Love

Grace For The Journey

Nehemiah chapter 9 is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible.  Chapter 9 is a six-hour worship service, 3 hours of reading God’s Word and then 3 hours of confession, confessing the sin of not following the Lord God. 

God’s people rehearsed

The ways of God

And then they

Responded to the Word.

They responded rightly to the Word.  They said, in essence, “We confess!  We have sinned!  God has been faithful.  We have been unfaithful.”  That is chapter 9 – God’s faithfulness in the face of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

The people genuinely repent.  I was reading in my quiet time the other day where Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7 that there is a kind of sorrow that does not lead to repentance.  Like the serial adulterer who is sorry only that he got caught.  But then there is a godly sorrow, a godly sorrow that leads to repentance, to a commitment to change.  That is what the Israelites have here in chapters 9 and 10 in response to their sin.  They confess, they repent, and then they purposefully commit themselves afresh and anew to God.  They pledge . . . in written form . . . they pledge their allegiance to God.

Verse 38 says, “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”  Basically, the people are saying, “Hey, we have broken Moses’ Covenant before.  We get it.  We failed big time.  But no more!  We will keep all the words of the commands of the law!”  They were not doing this as a means of acceptance with God.  They were not keeping rules and commands in order to get saved.  This is not a covenant of works. 

It is a loving response

To God’s love upon them.

God had called them into a special covenant of grace whereby they became His special people.  In fact, it had not been that long since they had celebrated the Day of Atonement, a day on which a goat was taken and the sins of God’s people were confessed upon that goat and the goat was driven into the wilderness never to be seen again – reminding the people that God had forgiven all their sins. 

The people are already God’s children

Accepted on the basis of God’s grace.

Chapter 10 is their loving response

To God’s love for them. 

Chapter 10 is the covenant, first the people who signed it (1-27) and then the covenant itself in the following verses.   The signatories include the civil leaders Nehemiah and Zedekiah in verse 1, then priestly names and Levite names and then leaders, 84 names altogether.  The point of the long list of names indicates that the people are in solidarity, they are united together on this and they mean business!  In the same way we would sign a church covenant, putting our names down to say, “We are already in this covenant, but this is a way of saying, ‘Yes, I am on board.  Yes, I unashamedly stand together with brother and sister before God and say, I am proud to be included in this number of names whereby we are covenanting together.  We will keep the covenant together that God has made with us.’”

Verses 28 and 29 underscore the seriousness of their intent, showing that the rest of the people following God were behind all the leaders and with the leaders in keeping the covenant, “Now the rest of the people – the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding; these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes.”  They were so serious that they even “entered into a curse and an oath” which means, they even set up some kind of consequence for failure to keep the covenant.

There is a really neat phrase in the last part of verse 28 I do not want us to miss.  Verse 28 says, “Now the rest of the people – the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, and all those who had separated themselves from the people of the lands …”  Did you note that last phrase, “All those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands.”  It indicates the wideness of God’s mercy; a mercy that extends beyond ethnic Israel to all who will leave the false gods of the lands and join with those who worship the One True and Living God.  God’s mercy extends to all who will believe – including you and me!

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

like the wideness of the sea.

There’s a kindness in God’s justice,

which is more than liberty.

Verses 30-39 record the specific pledges.  These are areas of specific application where the people had been particularly negligent in keeping the Mosaic Law, the love covenant God made with His people.  The people acknowledged they were guilty of breaking the covenant in three particular areas: Their failure to recognize that God is Lord of their Relationships; their failure to recognize that God is Lord of their Rest; and their failure to recognize that God is Lord of their Resources.  God’s people . . .

1. Made A Commitment To God About Their Relationships.

Verse 30 states, “We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons.”  This is a pledge of allegiance to God regarding relationships.  Verse 30 acknowledges the danger of mixed marriages.  The law condemned mixed marriages – not on racial, but on religious grounds.  That is important!  God is not opposed to people of different races marrying.  He created all people!  It was not a racial problem, but a religious problem.  The problem was that the people of the surrounding lands did not worship the One True God.  Marrying someone with a different religious worldview was disastrous.  Think of Solomon whose heart was drawn away from God because of following the hearts of the women of foreign lands with foreign gods. 

It is still an issue today.  Paul teaches this same principle in 2 Corinthians 6 where he warns of two people being “unequally yoked.”  He is talking about the wedding of two people who do not have the same biblical worldview.  It is not a racial problem, but a religious problem, a holiness issue.  A believer should only marry another believer.  The Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 7 that a widow is free to remarry but, “only in the Lord,” only a believer.  It makes a difference when husband and wife are on the same page spiritually.

The reason for this principle for the marriage relationship is clearly taught in the Bible . . .

  • Genesis 2:24 teaches that the husband and wife are “one” in marriage, one flesh.  How does that work if the one-fleshness is not in agreement on matters of faith? 
  • Deuteronomy 6 instructs that parents are to teach and pass on their faith to their children. 
  • Ephesians 5 says marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with His people – Christ and His bride the church. 

If one of the two persons in marriage is not a believer in the God of the Bible, how can they carry out these instructions effectively?  How can their marriage adequately reflect the relationship of Christ with His church? 

God’s children pledge allegiance to God in our relationships.  Secondly, God’s people . . .

2. Made A Commitment To God About Their Rest.

Verse 31 says, “If the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt.”  God’s people had broken the fourth commandment, broken the Sabbath, the day of rest, by beginning to do business on the Sabbath instead of observing the sabbath as a day of rest.

Keeping the Sabbath was

An evidence of faith and

Trust in the Lord to provide.

Refraining from work was a way of saying, “God, I trust You to take care of my needs.  I know I do not have to worry about making money today, because You will provide and You want me to show You that I believe that by resting.  So I will rest.”  And the true Israelite would rest on the Sabbath day, trusting God, resting in His promises . . .

Taking the day as a special time

To focus upon the grace of God,

To focus upon the greatness of God,

And to focus upon the goodness of God.

This is the point of the Sabbath today.  It is not a law to be kept legalistically.  We observe the sabbath principle on Sunday because that is the day Christ rose from the dead – It is in Christ where we find our eternal rest!  We are wise to refrain from working on the Lord’s Day where possible, on Sunday, whereby we too indicate that we have faith to believe that God will provide our needs.  We enjoy taking a day to rest, reflection, and a time to recharge, keeping the day as a day unlike the usual routine and rhythm of the week.  

God’s people pledge that He is Lord of our Relationships . . . He is Lord of our Rest, and thirdly, God’s people . . .

3. Made A Commitment To God About Their Resources.

Verses 32-39 declare, “Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God. We cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for bringing the wood offering into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at the appointed times year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God as it is written in the Law.  And we made ordinances to bring the first-fruits of our ground and the first-fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord; to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; to bring the first-fruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the [u]house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities.  And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse.  For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.”   The terms “offerings” or bringing the “first” as in first-born or first-fruits, or “tithe,” occur over a dozen times in these last eight verses.  That is a lot of times!  The people pledge allegiance to God with regard to their resources as the way in which ministry will continue.  The main takeaway here is that the people of God recognize that God is the Lord of our Resources.  They had neglected worship of God though their giving and they are pledging to make it right.  

We too recognize God is the God who owns all our stuff.  He is the One who gave it.  When we tithe – the word means “tenth,” – when we give, we acknowledge God is the rightful owner of everything we have.  God has used the means of His people tithing and giving offerings as the way to fund ministry so that, note last phrase in the chapter says, “we will not neglect the house of our God.”  When we give of our tithes and offerings, we also acknowledge that we are not worried about God’s providing and we are happy to return a portion of our resources to God for the funding of ministry. 

It is a faith issue.

Our giving is one of

The ways we indicate

That we trust God.  

And because of the giving of God’s people, ministry thrives. 

The people in Nehemiah’s day covenanted together to say, “We will do what God says!” but, as we will see in future chapters, they fall back into old sinful habits.  We will see that in Chapter 13.  

Many of us can relate.  We really want to serve the Lord, yet we fail Him.  We sin. 

  • What sin do you need to confess to God as you respond to His Word today?  
  • What does your current obedience to God say about your love for Jesus?
  • What is your initial response when you hear the word “tithing” or “giving?”  

Is there a way you have “neglected the house of God?”  Neglected to find in Christ all that your heart and life needs?   Have you neglected seeking a relationship where the other person shares your biblical worldview?  Take time right now to repent of your sin and turn to Christ who lived for you, died for you, and rose from the grave for you so you could have the best relationship ever – rightly related to your Creator, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Then . . .

  • You will experience and enjoy the blessing of God’s rule and involvement in your relationship.
  • You will experience and enjoy the bliss of God’s rule and involvement in your life that leads to rest.
  • You will experience and enjoy the bounty of God’s rule and involvement in your resources!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 9:18-38 – Marks Of Genuine Revival, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

Times are changing; therefore, should we change with the times?  Should we change, for the sake of peace, compromise? T his is the question facing us today.  Should we compromise in 2021 and in the future years God gives us?  Absolutely not!  What, then, should we do, as a church and as individual believers?  

We must consider and consult the Scriptures,

Which is the pattern, the plumb line,

And the standard for God’s people.

Today, we will examine Nehemiah 9:18-39, and see what God is telling us through this passage.

Ezra Comes to Jerusalem

In 456 B.C. King Artaxerxes of Persia sent Ezra to God’s people in Jerusalem.  Ezra’s long genealogy found in Ezra 7:1-5 tells us not only was Ezra a priest and teacher, but he was also a highly trained theologian, skilled in the Holy Scriptures.  Most importantly, though, Ezra was an uncompromising man. He lived in times of continuous change.  During his lifetime, most of the Jewish people lived in captivity outside of Israel and many years had gone by since the days of great temple worship in Jerusalem.  But Ezra was a man of God, and he would not change his determination to worship, live for,  serve God according to the pattern of the Scriptures.  No wonder the Jews look upon Ezra as a second Moses, as one who centered the Jews in the word of God.

In Ezra 7:10 we read, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study of the word of God.”  

  • The first thing Ezra did was to give himself totally over to the study of the Word of God, even though he was growing up in the faraway land of Babylon. 
  • Secondly, he gave himself over, not only to the study of God’s word, but to the observance of God’s Word – to do what the Word of God told him to do.
  • Thirdly, he devoted his life to teaching the Word of God to others.

If you want power and punch when

You teach the Word of God,

Not only must you study it,

But you also must obey it,

And come under its

Authority and government.

That is what Ezra did.

Ezra was . . .

A man who was well-versed in the Scriptures;

A man who believed the Scriptures;

A man who did what the Scriptures told him;

A man who was uncompromisingly

Centered his life on the Scriptures.

We see these characteristics of Ezra demonstrated by Ezra’s reaction to a situation he found when he arrived in Jerusalem.  He was told that the Jewish people were freely and liberally forsaking their wives and marrying pagan women.  What was Ezra’s reaction to this news?  In Ezra 9:3 we read, “When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.”  

This is what happens to a man of God

Who is immersed in the Word of God.  

Rather than treating sin lightly, he was appalled.  

Ezra was not a man of compromise.

In verse 4 we read, “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles, and I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.”  What did Ezra do next?  Did he tell the Israelites, “Everything is okay.  You can go on as normal?”  Oh, no!  He told the people, in essence, “No deal!  You must get rid of your pagan wives!  You must amend your ways!  You must change, in the light of God’s Word!”  How could Ezra speak so forcefully and clearly to these people?  

Because he knew that God’s Word

Condemned such intermarriage and

There would be serious consequences

For such behavior.  Despite the passage

Of time since the people had gone

Into exile and come back,

Ezra knew that God’s Word

Was unchanging.

Philosophies may change . . . Science and scholarship may change . . . Sociology and psychology may change . . . But the Word of God does not change, and Ezra knew that God would not tolerate such behavior in His people.

We find a similar reaction in Nehemiah 13 when Nehemiah came back after a twelve-year absence and saw people divorcing their Jewish wives and marrying pagan women.  In Nehemiah 13:25, Nehemiah tells of his reaction to those who had married foreign women, “I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair.”  As governor, Nehemiah had the authority to do these things.  He exercised this authority because he recognized the sinfulness of this behavior.

Jesus did the same thing when he saw problems in the temple.  We read that when he came to the temple and saw people buying and selling in the temple courts, he made a whip and drove the sheep and cattle out of the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, saying, “You have made this temple a den of thieves. It should be a house of prayer!”  This is what happens when a person who is immersed in the Word of God sees a life that contradicts the Word of God. He gets angry and begins to deal with the sin.

In Nehemiah 8-10 we read about the real revival brought about, first and foremost . . .

By the people’s desire to

Study the Scripture


Realign their lives to it.

I hope all of us will want to study the Scripture as well.  That is where we must start.  I pray that we will say, as Ezra did, “I will study the Scripture, I will do what the Scripture commands me, and I will teach the Scripture.”

In Nehemiah 8:1 we read, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate.”  You can still see the Water Gate in Jerusalem today, from which one can go to the Gihon Spring on the east side of Mount Zion.  There was a plaza there where the people could assemble.  On the first day of the seventh month, which was the Feast of the Trumpets, all the people – men, women, and children – came in total unity as one man to the temple square.  Ezra had been teaching the priests and Levites, but now the Holy Spirit moved mightily, and the people came together to hear the Word of the Lord as well.  In verse 1 we read, “They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.”  Notice, this Bible study was initiated not by Ezra but the people.  They begged Ezra, “We want a Bible study.  We want to hear what God has to say.  Come on, Ezra, preach to us.”

It is a profound blessing for any preacher when his people tell him, “We want to hear what the Bible says, because we know it is the very Word of God.  Do not tell us about psychology or physiology or any other subject.  We want to know what the God of Israel has commanded, and you know it.  You have the Bible!  Preacher, tell us what God has to say to us.”

Where did this hunger for the Word of God come from?

The Holy Spirit

Was working

In these people.

No one will open the Bible and want to study the Word of God unless the Spirit of God is working in him.  Wife, if your husband is opening the Bible, you can praise God.  Husband, if your wife is opening the Bible, you can praise God.  Parents, if your children are opening the Bible on their own, you should praise the Lord, and rejoice greatly, knowing that perhaps something is happening in their heart and they are beginning to love the Word of God on their own.  What great joy we have when we see people opening the Bible!  When that happens, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is working in them.  These types of attitudes and actions demonstrate that God’s local church family is seeking to center their lives on the Word of God, which is unchanging and everlasting, which is truth, which is the Gospel, which alone is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes!

In verse 5 we read, “Ezra opened the book,” meaning the scroll of the Law.  When people saw him do this, they all stood up out of reverence for the Word of God (this is the example that sets the practice in our church family to stand when we read the Word of God).  In verse 6 we read that Ezra began with prayer for God to bless the preaching of the Word.  That is what we must do before we preach or teach or read.  We should pray, “Spirit of the living God, open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of Your Word.  Enlighten us, we pray, O God.”

In verse 6 we also read that after Ezra prayed, all of a sudden the people lifted their hands and said, “Amen! Amen!”  The word “amen” literally means, “So be it; let it be as it is said.”  Saying “amen” twice shows intensity.  It is not “Amen,” but “Amen and amen,” meaning “We wholeheartedly believe in and accept the Word of God.”  What hunger!  What thirst!  What enthusiasm!  What agreement!  Ezra had not even read yet, but the people were already proclaiming, “God, speak to us: Your servants are ready to hear!”

In Nehemiah 8:3 we learn that Ezra read for six hours.  We are not told what portion of Scripture he read, but perhaps it was the book of Deuteronomy.  All the men, women, and children who could understand stood during that time.  Can you imagine such a revival?  

The Holy Spirit worked

In the hearts of these people

So that they had the mental

And physical strength to hear

The unchanging Word of God

For six hours!

In verse 7 we read that the Levites instructed the people in the Word of God.  I believe that Ezra had trained the Levites, and as he read from the Hebrew text, the Levites went around among the people, translating into Aramaic as well as interpreting the meaning of the Word of God so that these people could understand what the Bible was saying.  That is why, in my preaching and teaching ministry I practice expository preaching – teaching and preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible.  Ministers of the Word should so preach that people can understand the meaning of God’s Word and know what God requires so they can do it.  If you do not get anything from the Word of God as it is preached in this way, perhaps you did not want to get anything.  When we read the parable of the soils in Matthew 13, we notice that the first three soils (representing our hearts, mind, and soul) did not understand or were open to receive what was taught.  But the last soil represents those who hear the Word of God, understand it, retain it, and persevere in it until they brought forth fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.  I pray you will ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind when you read and listen to the Word of God because only when you understand the Word of God can you bring forth fruit. Lack of understanding results in no fruit and no salvation.

These people were so hungry for the Word of God that they did not want to stop.  In verse 13 we read, “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with all the priests and Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law.”  As they read, they discovered that the Law spoke about the Feast of the Tabernacles, which had not been celebrated for years.  The people said among themselves, “We have to do it.  It is in the Book!” Again, that is why we must have serious study of the Bible.  

We must understand the Word of God

So that we can do the will of God.

The people listened to the reading and teaching of the Law of God – not only the first and second day, but for a whole week!  In verse 18 we read, “Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.”  These people were hungry!  

God’s Holy Spirit was

Bringing about a revival,

And it was centered

On the Word of God.  

There will be no reformation,

No revival, no change taking place

Unless we are first gripped

By the Divine Word.

What happened as Ezra read?  

For the first time in their lives,

These people saw themselves in

The light of the Word of God.

As they compared their lives to the light of God’s pattern and plumb line, they realized they had been living disobedient, sinful lives.  They realized they had been doing things all wrong, according to God’s Word.

The reaction of the people of Ezra’s time was like that of Josiah, whom we read about in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34.  When the priests found the long-neglected Book of the Law in the temple, they brought it to King Josiah, saying, “We have found a book.”  When they read it to him, he began to tear his clothes and exclaimed, “We are finished!  Our lives are not right in the light of the Word of God. God’s judgment is coming upon us!”  Oh, how Josiah believed God’s Word and trembled when he heard it!

The Bible says in Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” That is what we will say when the Holy Spirit works in our lives.  Otherwise, if we have no interest in God, the Bible will be the most boring book to us – a book that will put us to sleep the minute we open it.  In Psalm 119:105 the psalmist says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  In verse 111 he says, “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart,” and in verse 127 he declares he loves God’s commands “more than gold, more than pure gold.” In verse 131 he says, “I open my mouth, longing for your commands.” In other words, “it is my food, what I need to live!”  This is the reaction to God’s Word of a child of God under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

On Wednesday, we saw the first two marks of genuine revival.  The first mark is . . .

1. Conviction Of Sin.

Ezra read and taught the law of God day after day.  As the people listened and understood and saw their lives in the light of God’s truth, they were convicted of their sins, as we read in Nehemiah 8.  What is sin?  It is anything we think, say, or do that disobeys God’s desire and design as taught in the Word of God.  That is why we cannot have any true understanding of sin until we come to the Bible and compare our lives to it.  It is the Bible that tells us, “Thou shall  have no other God’s before Me …” and so on.  Through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins.  In John 16:7-11 we are told that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.  The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  The sinner is convicted and convinced of his sin by the mighty work of the Spirit of God.

When people are convinced of their guilt and defilement, they will realize their inability to save themselves.  They will be cut to the heart and cry out, “What must we do to be saved?”  When conviction of the Spirit takes place through the Word, people humble themselves and seek God’s face to know God’s will so that they can turn from, not part, but all of their wicked ways.  Whenever the Holy Spirit comes upon us and convicts us in this way, we will own our sin.  We will not shift the blame to society or to our parents or to our husband or wife or pastor.  When I see blame-shifting, I immediately know that the Holy Spirit is not working in his life.  When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we will own our sin.

In Nehemiah 8:9 we read, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is sacred 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.”  What great conviction, great sorrow over sin, great pain of conscience these people were experiencing!  “We have sinned! We are undone and finished!” they were saying. As the people began to weep and mourn over their sins, Ezra and Nehemiah and others told them, “Please, please, do not do weep or mourn today.  Today is a day of rejoicing.  We can do it another day.” In fact, as we read later, they came together on the twenty-fourth day of the month to confess their sins and mourn over them.

The second mark of genuine revival . . .

2. Confession of Sin.

This Holy Spirit-produced authentic sorrow for sin is an essential component of true revival.  It began with the Word of God – consulting the Scriptures – which produces conviction. Conviction, in turn, causes people to confess sins, and we read the great confession of these people in Nehemiah 9.  The Word of God, when understood correctly, will produce not arid intellectualism or dead orthodoxy, but conviction and confession of sin.  We will unashamedly confess our sins before God and all people.  When Nathan the prophet came and ministered to David, what did David say? “I have sinned.”

Thus . . .

In Nehemiah 9 we find

The longest prayer

In the entire Bible –

A prayer of corporate

As well as

Individual confession.

As we examine a few of these verses we will get a sense of what true confession is.

In verse 16-17 we read, “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God. . . .”  In verse 26 we read, “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs.”  When revival is on, we will open the Bible gladly and read it.  It will always be in front of us.  But when we sin, we take the Bible and throw it behind our backs.

In verse 36-37 we read, “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.”  Notice, the people are not just praying about the sins of their forefathers, but they include themselves in this great confession of sin.  Why did these people need to confess their sins?  In Hosea 14, verses 1 to 2, we find God’s counsel to sinners, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord.”  In other words, they had to confess that they had sinned and trusted in Assyria, Egypt, and everyone but the true and living God.

We must first consult the Word of God, which produces conviction, and then confess our sins. Remember the prodigal son in Luke 15?  He did not just come home and say, “I’m back!” as if nothing had happened.  No, he confessed to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am not worthy to be called your son.”  When there is true revival, you do not have to force a confession out of people.  It will happen spontaneously by the work of the Spirit of the living God in their hearts.  They will be eager to say, “I have sinned!  Not my father, not my mother, not my wife, not my husband, not the pastor – I have sinned.”

In 1 John 1:9 we find this glorious promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  This is the purpose of God. God wants to save us in the right way and He does – through the Word, through conviction, and through confession of sin.

The third mark of genuine revival is . . .

3. The Commitment to Change.

The next thing we see in Nehemiah 10 is the commitment of these people to change in the light of God’s Word.  If the Holy Spirit is working in your life through the word of God, you will first understand the Word and be convicted by it, then you will confess and own up your sins and commit yourselves to change.

Commitment to change – That is what the tenth chapter of Nehemiah is all about, and that is what the Christian life is about.  

It is a commitment to align one’s life to

The pattern revealed in the word of God.

What type of change are we talking about?  

  • A thief becomes a giver.
  • A liar becomes a truthteller.
  • A lazy man becomes industrious.
  • A domineering wife becomes submissive.
  • A passive husband becomes responsible.
  • Disobedient children become delightfully obedient.
  • A Sabbath-breaker becomes a Sabbath-keeper.

Holy Spirit-produced biblical change results in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  That is the kingdom of God.  

Authentic revival brings about measurable

Change of behavior in God’s people.

In Nehemiah 9:38 we read the commitment of the people of Israel.  After listening to the Bible study by Ezra, the people were convicted and confessed their sins.  Now they wanted to commit themselves to change.  So, they said, “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites, and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”  This was a binding agreement-written, signed, sealed, and witnessed.

This was serious revival!  These people were putting themselves under a curse if they failed to keep the covenant.  Their agreement was a promise to God and to one another that these people would separate themselves to live holy lives.

In Nehemiah 10:28-29 we read, “The rest of the people-priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves . . . all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.”  This is what had happened through the Bible study of Ezra.  These people already separated themselves from all sorts of evil, and now they were entering into an agreement with God and with each other in the form of this binding agreement.

The First Issue To Be Addressed Was Marriage.  

In Nehemiah 10:30 we read, “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.”  Family is vital to every other institution. When the family goes bad, everything goes bad throughout society.  The Bible said that God’s people should not marry pagans because they were a holy race, a holy people, as we read in Exodus 34:15-16 and Ezra 9:2.  These people had been divorcing their wives at will and marrying pagans.  But here they were making a solemn promise to God: “We will not do it.  We will keep our marriage and family in the light of your word.”

The Second Issue To Be Addressed Was A Commitment To Sabbath-Keeping.

In verse 31 we find a These Israelites had not kept the Sabbath.  They were buying and selling, working, and making money.  Malachi dealt with this issue also, as did Nehemiah later on, as we read in Nehemiah 13.  Here, though, in this earlier revival we see the people saying, “We promise to keep the Sabbath.”  Additionally, they said, “We promise to not plow or plant the land in the seventh year.”  This demonstrated a lot of trust in God.  Why did they make this promise?  Because the Bible said to do it.  So, they bound themselves not to work on the Sabbath, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to keep the Sabbath year by not working the land.  They trusted in God and His Word that He would provide for them as they kept the Sabbath.

The Third Issue To Be Addressed Was A Commitment To Support Financially The Temple.

This allowed the Levites and the priests to be provided for and allowed them to be fully engaged in leading the worship of the true God.

The Fourth Issue To Be Addressed Was A Commitment Not To Neglect The House Of God.

In Nehemiah 10:39 we read about this promise.  We find similar encouragement to participate in the church in Hebrews 10:25 where we read, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The people of Nehemiah’s time decided not to compromise with the world. They separated themselves from the world and committed themselves to serve God and each other in accordance with the Word of God.  Like Ezra and Nehemiah . . .

We take God’s Word seriously

And are building our lives

And this church

According to it.

We preach the Word of God faithfully and refuse to compromise for the sake of peace. As a church, we have only one purpose: to hear from Christ on the last day, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”  And even if times change, we will continue to preach the timeless truth of God’s Word, which alone is able to save sinners and which alone will give us the great, everlasting life and joy of the Lord that we read about in Nehemiah 8.

Should a true church of God compromise in its preaching, teaching, and practicing of the Word of God?  The answer is an emphatic “No!”  Because only in the Word of God will we see Jesus Christ, who is the true Prophet, Priest, King, Savior, Judge, and our only way of salvation.

What about you? Have you seen and trusted in Jesus Christ?  Have you surrendered your life to Him?  If not, I urge and beseech you to do so from this day on.

May God have mercy upon us this day.  May He sustain and strengthen us by the Holy Spirit, that we may not conform to the world, but faithfully declare, proclaim and life by the Word of God that alone brings salvation to the world. Amen.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 9:1-17: The Marks Of Genuine Revival, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

In an article entitled “Playing Charades,” from Citation, by Dr. Perry Buffington, he released the findings of his research on the lack of transparency in people during certain circumstances.  He found that the average person puts on airs or acts outwardly differently than he actually feels or thinks inwardly most often in three situations:

1.   When individuals walk into an automobile showroom.  They will hide their true emotions in an attempt to protect themselves from being an easy mark to the salesmen.  They will tend to act unaffected with what they see, even though their heart may be racing.

2.   When individuals walk into the lobby of an upscale hotel.  They will act with an air that is not their true self in an attempt to come across as a person comfortable and at home in lavish surroundings.

3.   When individuals enter a church.  As they take their seat in the sanctuary, they will act with an air that they have nothing to hide from God and fellow worshippers.  They will put on a sacred air in their conversations even though they are uncomfortable with who they know they truly are on the inside.

In other words . . .

We have become skilled

At acting authentic,

Faking our fellowship with God,

Impersonating the saints,

And simulating spirituality.

And do not ever let anybody

See that you do not

Have it all together.

Like the true story of a rather single-minded, self-confident businessman who always seemed to have it together.  Even though he worked seventy-and eighty-hour weeks, he was a man who seemed organized.  The article I read told that he had a cottage built on a nearby lake to use as a weekend retreat.  To make his plan even more efficient, he learned how to fly and kept another car at the airfield nearest the lake, for weekend transport.  But that plan was not quite efficient enough, so he further fine-tuned his plans by fitting his plane with pontoons so that he could land on the lake and actually taxi right up to his newly constructed pier.  On his first trip in the newly rigged plane, he flew, by force of habit, straight to the rural airport and started his descent.  “What are you doing?” His wife suddenly screamed, “There aren’t any wheels on this plane!”  It was just enough time for the man with the plan to pull up before touching down.  Somewhat taken back, he flew on to the lake and made a perfect landing.  As the plane drifted to a stop at the pier, he turned to his wife and said, “I’m sorry dear. I did know what I was doing . . . just lost my thought for a moment there. I should have planned more carefully and had built-in reminders about the change in flight plans.  It won’t happen again.”  Then, he opened his door and hopped confidently out of the plane and directly into the lake!  The moral of the story is to never let anybody see you for who you really are – including your spouse.  You must come across before people, at all times, as having life under control.  For your information, that happens to be a self-centered, naturally depraved philosophy of life. And, it happens to inhibit everyone! 

Another word for Christianity is exposure.  

  • You became a Christian after being exposed as a sinner. 
  • You grow as a Christian after being exposed to the milk and meat of God’s Word.

One of the chief obstacles to revival in our personal lives is that . . .

We are encouraged

By both our culture

And our sinful nature

To cover up, to fake it,

To walk into a church

And put on airs.  And

Most of all, to never

Expose our guilt and sin

To anyone, not even to God.

But suddenly, our lives are intersected with the living Word of God which, according to Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12, is alive, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword – we read it, and it cuts through and penetrates our true thoughts and true intentions. 

There is no room for charades

When revival comes.

The Word of God

Pulls off our masks,

And demands radical change.

In our study of Nehemiah, chapter 8, we observed the Jewish people hearing, for the first time in their lives, the Law of Moses.  They began to weep and to mourn.  There was no need to fake anything. 

The Law of God’s Word

Was a plumb line; and,

As they held it up to themselves,

They realized how crooked

And how sinful they were.

It was true then, as it is to this day . . .

True revival comes from an

Encounter with God’s revelation;

When God’s Word exposes

Us for who we truly are.

It is a time when you discover

The truth of Scripture and

Radically apply it to your life.

Revival is indeed a time

When a person is literally “re-Bibled.”

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, that process had already begun.

In Nehemiah, chapter 9, something interesting took place that was not a part of the Jewish calendar.  Notice verse 1, “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them.” What strikes me about this action is that it was not prescribed.  It was not commanded by Nehemiah or Ezra.  

It was the outflow of true revival.

What we discover in this chapter is nothing less than a model of confession.  If you want to be real, if you want to stop pretending, if you want to cease the charades, if you want to be “re-Bibled,” there are lessons here to teach you how.  

The people of Israel are God’s show-and-tell.  Do you want to know how to confess?  Do you want to know how to be “re-Bibled?”  God says, “Here, watch them – they will show you how.”  

Nehemiah chapter 8 was

The lesson of revival.

Nehemiah chapter 9 is the

Model of confession

That results from revival.

The first characteristic of true confession is . . .

A Humble Approach To God’s Presence.

Did you notice, in verse 1, that they came clothed in sackcloth and with dirt on their heads and shoulders?  There was no charade of saintliness here; no pretending.  In fact, the dirt was a way of exposing and admitting to God that they knew they were sinners.  The dirt on the outside was an illustration of the dirt on the inside that they were willing to expose to each other and to God.

Notice verse 2, “And the descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.”  By the way, one of the characteristics of true confession is that you do not blame your sin on the sin of your parents. You confess both your actions and your parents’ actions as sinful and admit that both parties have sinned.

The second quality of true confession for us to model is . . .

Complete Admission Of Personal Sinfulness.

Continuing to verse 3, we read, “While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day [three hours]; and for another fourth [three hours] they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.”  James Montgomery Boice was asked, a few years ago, if he believed America was experiencing revival.  He responded by writing, Whenever I have been asked that question, my answer has always been, “No.”  The reason I say, “No,” is quite simple – there is not national consciousness of sin.  In fact, there is hardly any consciousness of sin.  When revival sweeps over a people, the first evidence is a profound awareness of sin and sorrow for it.” 

In other words, confession includes admission.  And admission is an evidence of revival.  G. K. Chesterton, a famous philosopher and theologian, once read a series of articles entitled, “What’s Wrong with the World?”  Chesterton sent a short letter to the editor which said, “Dear Sir: Regarding your article, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’  I am! Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton.”

1 John, chapter 1, verse 8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Verse 10 states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  Right before that in verse 9 John writes, “If we confess our sins . . .”  The word “confess,” is “homologeo” which means, “to say the same thing about our actions as God says; to agree with God.”  He says it is sin, and we agree, “Yes Lord, it is indeed sin.”  The last half of verse 9 declares, “. . . He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

By the way, I believe the most miserable person on planet earth is a believer in sin . . .

He cannot fully enjoy his sin

Because of his guilty conscience,


He can no longer enjoy

Fellowship with God either.

Like the story about the preacher who called in sick one Sunday morning and had one of his associates preach for him, but he actually went golfing.  He is out there golfing on Sunday morning, and the angels are watching and so is the Lord.  The Lord said to his angels, “I’m going to make him very unhappy.”  The preacher teed up and knocked a hole in one.  A hole in one!  The angels said, “Lord, that’s misery?” And the Lord said, “Who can he tell?”  

Would you like to hear from the diary of a believer who was caught in the guilt of sin and the misery of refusing for a time to confess?  David writes in Psalm, chapter 32, verses 3 through 5, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;’ and You forgive the guilt of my sin.” 

Here are the people of Jerusalem, being led by priests who, for three hours, verse 4b says, “. . . they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God.”

The third quality of true confession includes . . .

A Clear Acknowledgement Of God’s Greatness.

The prayer in Nehemiah begins by elevating God, in verses 5b to 6a, “. . . O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!  You alone are the Lord. . .”  This is putting God in His proper place.  He is the God who reigns in the heavens; majestic in splendor; sovereign in all things.  This mirrors the way the Lord taught us to pray, in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 9, when he told us to begin praying by acknowledging the greatness of our God, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” 

That is not a


To His address,

But His attributes.

“In heaven,” literally refers to His elevation above all creation.  He is transcendent; above all; sovereign; majestic.  Although we come to a loving, caring Father, we also acknowledge His greatness.  When you begin your prayer with the words, “Heavenly Father,” you are actually saying, “Majestic, Holy, Sovereign, Creator, Eternal Father.”

True prayer does

Not trivialize God,

It pays tribute to God.

Now notice how this prayer of Ezra, in chapter 9, verses 5 through 38, acknowledges the greatness, goodness, and sovereign power of God . . .

• First, in His superb creation of the universe – Verses 5 through 6.

• Secondly, in His sovereign calling of Abraham – Verses 7 through 8.

• Thirdly, in His supernatural conquest over Egypt – Verses 9 through 12.

• Fourthly, in His scriptural commands from Mount Sinai – Verses 13 through 18.

• Fifthly, in His satisfying covenant with Israel – Verses 19 through 25.

• Lastly, in His steadfast compassion towards His people – Verses 26 through 38.

This prayer reviews the sin and failure of God’s people and the sovereignty and faithfulness of God.  They were blasphemous, stubborn, arrogant, refusing to listen to the Scriptures, stiffening their necks, closing their ears, becoming disobedient, rebellious, scorning the Law, refusing to pay attention to the Law, commandments, and ordinances of God, refusing to serve God, and refusing to repent.  There are no charades here.  In this model of confession, sin is exposed for what it was and God was pled with to be forgiving and gracious once more.

Confession Is A Reminder Of Personal Corruption And Guilt.

The average Christian is in need of revival, because he has learned how to manage his sin rather than confess his sin.  We learn to live with as much sin as our consciences will allow.  We sugarcoat our selfishness, rationalize our disobedience, justify our arrogance, we excuse our lack of obedience to the Law and commandment of God. 

We manage our sin –

We do not confess our sin.

We have forgotten how heartbreaking, how grievous sin, in the life of a believer, is to our Heavenly Father.

A pastor recently sent in a rather interesting article on a problem they were having in a middle school in Oregon.  A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the girls’ bathroom.  After they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.  Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done.  She came up with a rather ingenious plan and told her custodian exactly what to do.  She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the school custodian.  She then explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every day.  To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she then asked the custodian to show the girls how he had been cleaning them.  He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into one of the nearby commodes, and then scrubbed the mirror.  Since then, the lip prints have disappeared. The pastor then applied the story this way, saying, “Try thinking of this story when you’re tempted to sin” . . . “If you could only see what you’re really kissing up to, you might not be attracted to it after all.”

Confession is the fresh realization that sin is corruption and filth.  You shudder to think what you have been kissing up to.  The justification stops; the rationalizing stops; the believer mourns and pleads to be rescued from sin’s allurement – because it no longer looks appealing.  But if that was all confession was, we would be led to despair. 

Confession is not only a reminder of personal corruption and guilt . . .

Confession Is Also A Reminder Of God’s Character And Grace.

Verse 17b, “. . . But Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness . . .”  Skip to verse 28b, “. . . and many times Thou didst rescue them according to Thy compassion.”   Now look at verse 30a, “. . . Thou didst bear with them for many years . . .”  Skip again to verse 33, “However, Thou art just in all that has come upon us; for Thou hast dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.” 

Anyone in tune with God

Is struck by his own guilt

And by God’s grace.

Revival . . .

Commences with . . .

The content of Scripture,

As in Nehemiah, chapter 8.  

Revival . . .

Continues with . . .

The confession of sin,

As in Nehemiah, chapter 9.

Revival . . .

Will be confirmed. . .

By the

Commitment of surrender.

Which we will look at next time as we look at Nehemiah, chapter 10.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 8:13-18 – Very Great Gladness

Grace For The Journey

We are in the Book of Nehemiah.  We will be looking today at verses 13 through 18 of Nehemiah Chapter 8.  The year is 444 BC.  The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins for 140 years while God’s people were away in captivity under the discipline of God because of their unfaithfulness to Him.  But God has restored them to the city.  And the city has been completely rebuilt; the walls being the last major rebuilding project, was rebuilt in a record 52 days.  

Last Friday we saw how revival began to break out as the gathered people of God asked for the man of God to bring out the Word of God.  They said to Ezra, “Bring the Book!”   Ezra brought out the Scriptures and read to the people the Word of God.  It had been some time since they heard the Word preached.  Perhaps as many 50,000 people gathered in the open square!  And they gathered eagerly to hear the Word.  They listened attentively.  They were standing for 5 or 6 hours as the Word was explained. They gathered responded accordingly – The Word changed them; they turned to God in repentance.

We left off at verse 12 of Chapter 8, a verse that recounts the joy of the people in their understanding the Bible.  They had stood there for a six-hour Bible Conference, and after it was all over, verse 12 says, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”  Verse 13 tells us about more study of the Word and how they learn about a long-neglected festival they should be observing, a holiday called, “The Feast of Booths.” 

This sounds like a strange feast, doesn’t it?  The Feast of Booths was one of the great pilgrim feasts, or festivals prescribed by God in the Law.  Leviticus 23 tells how this feast is to be observed.  God’s people were to build little booths all over Jerusalem and they were to celebrate and eat in these little booths.  It is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Tabernacles.  God’s people were commanded by God – through Moses – in Leviticus 23 to construct these temporary shelters, booths, tabernacles, huts, temporary homes, and they were to live in them all week.  They were largely made out of olive branches, palm branches, and other vegetation.  The people of God would live inside these temporary shelters for seven days to remind them of how God had provided for them during the Exodus wanderings.  For 40 years in the desert, living in temporary housing, God cared for His people, ultimately bringing them into the Promised Land.  For centuries God’s people have celebrated the Feast of Booths.

This feast continues today.  Our Jewish friends call it Sukkot (“Suh KOAT”).  The Feast of Sukkot.  The word “Sukkot” is the Hebrew word, plural form of “booth,” or “tabernacle.”  The modern Jews celebrate Sukkot in late September or early October, depending on where it falls on the Hebrew calendar each year.  It lasts a full week with lots of eating, dancing, and celebrating.  The faithful Jews will celebrate Sukkot wherever they are, all over the world, and of course in Jerusalem. This is a celebration, a party, a seven-day party!  There is an old rabbinical expression that says: “You’ve not seen joy until you’ve been to the Feast of Booths at Jerusalem.”

We looked at that popular verse last week, verse 10 that says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” a verse that does not refer to our joy, but to God’s joy, Yahweh’s joy.  It is the Lord’s joy in you that gives you strength.  God’s joy . . .

  • His delight in creating you.
  • His joy in forgiving sin.
  • His joy in bringing back a wayward people,
  • His joy in restoring them to Himself.
  • His joy in atoning for their sin through Jesus Christ.

It is God’s joy to do that for you.  When you know that God delights in you as His child, you are strengthened!  The knowledge of God’s joy in us strengthens us.  God’s joy leads to our joy.

There is a phrase I like in today’s passage.  As the people celebrate the Feast of Booths it says at the end of verse 17, “And there was very great gladness.”  I like that!  Very great gladness, or very great joy.  I want us to look this morning about what this means to you and me. 

Verse 13 states, “Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.”   You might think God’s children had “gotten their fill” of the Word from the day before, with 5 to 6 hours of standing to hear the Bible taught, but they are back at it the next day! 

A genuinely converted man,

The authentic Christian,

Can never get enough

Of God’s Word!  Never!

Verse 13 teaches that the dads of the families gathered together the next day to study the Word.  It was their responsibility to teach God’s Word to their families.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 God declares, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Here is an important truth for parents today – Read the Bible to your children.  Open the Book and read.  You do not have to be a scholar.  Anyone can do this.  Just open the Book and read.  Read a Bible story to the kiddos at night when you are tucking them in.  You cannot read about David and Goliath, Jonah, and Daniel enough!  Tell them and show them how big God is and how they can trust in Him and live in Him through Jesus Christ.

Verse 14 says, “And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month.”  The way this verse reads, it appears as if the readers are just reading the words of the law and realize they are, in fact, in the seventh month.  So they’re like, “Look, we’ve read here in the law about the feast of booths, it’s supposed to occur during this month, let’s get to it!”  They read what they haven’t been doing and they respond to God’s Word, by doing what it says.

James 1:22 says we are to be not just hearers of the Word, but doers of the word – Doing what it says.  

The genuine believer has

A desire to know and

Obey the Word.

It is just that simple.  If you have no desire to obey the Bible, it is hard to defend that you are a Christian.  Got a desire to do what God says?  That is evidence of a new nature.  God has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh – A spiritual heart that receives gladly the Words of Scripture because they come from the One who gave us that heart.  

They read that they are supposed to be building these booths and living in them for a week.  For seven days, living in “Temporary Housing.”   A shelter in the wilderness.  A booth in the desert.

What did these booths look like?  Verse 15 tells us, “And that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.’”  This was all to remind them of those trees in the desert and how God provided for them as they gathered those branches.  The intent of this instruction is to lead them to think every time they picked up a branch about those years of wandering and how God brought them through the difficulties.  As they spent that week inside the booths they would remember how they had lived in similar structures during those years in the desert.  

This is an exercise that is a bit like our modern Thanksgiving.  To be sure, families today gather together in more permanent dwellings, and we have big TVs on which we can watch football games as we sit in our “booths.”   But we are wise to reflect during that one day, let alone seven days, to thank God for His abundant provision and protection.

Verse 16 says, “Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim.”  What a reminder!  God’s people during this week of booths were continually reminded of God’s care.  Picture this in your mind!  For seven days everywhere an Israelite looked – on top of houses, in the courtyards and in the open square – there were little booths scattered everywhere . . .

Each one a compelling visual reminder

Of God’s provision and care. 

Living in those booths for seven days

Was also a reminder of their

Continual need for Him.

What better way to remind us of the frailty of our lives than by living inside a rustic tent of myrtle branches and palm trees, the wind passing through the leaves and onto our little makeshift beds, the drip of rain and tiny little creatures crawling all around.  Flimsy little tents reminding us of our flimsy little lives.  A tent is temporary and so is our life.  The Bible says in James 4:14, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  A vapor, like the steam rising up from your morning coffee.  Now you see it, now you don’t.  Temporary existence.

We cannot help but think that the Israelites in Nehemiah’s day . . .

Were even more pointedly reminded

Of God’s provision and care as they

Reflected back not only upon God’s care

Centuries earlier during the Egyptian

Captivity of the Exodus years, but also

During the Babylonian captivity from which

They had been more recently delivered.

This more recent history was something of an “Second Exodus.”  God’s people exited Egypt during Moses and Joshua’s time and they exited Babylon during Ezra and Nehemiah’s time.  God delivering them from bondage.

Verse 17 says, “So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so.  And there was very great gladness.”  The Feast of Booths had been celebrated in more recent history (cf. 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Ezra 3:4), but not like this.  Not with all the people celebrating, all the people actually camping out like this in booths scattered everywhere.  There was “very great gladness.” 

Then verse 18, tells us the people had even more hunger for the Word, “Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he (Ezra)read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.” 

The Scriptures became


To the people of God.

They heard from the Word each day of the seven days, day by day, from the first day until the last day.  God’s people can never get enough of God’s Word.

I shared with you earlier that I was struck by that phrase at the end of verse 17, “And there was very great gladness,” or very great joy.  It seems to me most people want that kind of joy.  The Bible teaches that every believer can have that kind of joy.  Let me suggest three things ways this kind of gladness comes about . . .

1. We Obey His Commands.

The phrase, “And there was very great gladness” occurs after the people of God obeyed the Word of God.  When God’s people do what is right, there is very great gladness, great joy.  Doing the right thing, obeying God’s Word, God’s commands, brings joy.  You can do the wrong thing and get an immediate happiness.  The Bible says there is “pleasure in sin for a season,” but it is a season that ends in emptiness and death. Joy – real joy – occurs when we do the right thing, the correct thing, the true thing. 

Know the truth,

Do the truth,

Receive the Truth,

And joy follows.

Joyful obedience to God’s Word results in very great gladness.  

When we talk about obedience . . .

It is so important that we not confuse

The joyful Gospel-motivated obedience

With the slavishly religious works-based obedience.

Obedience is not what we do to become

Accepted by God or “acceptable” to God. 

That is religion – Obey so you can be accepted by God.  We often say . . .

“Christianity is not a religion,

It Is a relationship,”

A relationship built

Upon the Gospel.

I want to share with you some statements that contrasts “religion” with “the Gospel.”  What is the difference between religion and the Gospel when it comes to obeying God’s commands?  These statements from Tim Keller reveals how easily we slip into self-dependence and self-reliance regarding our salvation.  My God use this to remind us of the free grace that bring salvation and probe our hearts to humble ourselves before Him.

  • RELIGION: I obey-therefore I am accepted.  THE GOSPEL: I am accepted through Christ-therefore I obey.
  • RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.  THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful love and joy.
  • RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God. THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and honor Him.
  • RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.  THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while He may allow this for my training, He will exercise His Fatherly love and grace within my trial.
  • RELIGION: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.  THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.
  • RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need.  My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.  THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration.  My main purpose is fellowship bringing Him glory.
  • RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles.  If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people.  If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate.  I am not confident. I feel like a failure.  THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”-simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ.  I am so bad He had to die for me, and I am so loved He was glad to die for me.  This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time.  Neither swaggering nor sniveling.
  • RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work.  Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.  I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’  THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the One who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me.  I am saved by sheer grace.  So, I cannot look down on those who believe or practice something different from me.  Only by grace I am what I am.  I have no inner need to win arguments.
  • RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols.  It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc.  I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.  THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life-family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc.  But none of these good things are ultimate things to me.  None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Secondly, we have very great gladness when . . .

2. We Remember His Care.

We sing the phrase, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.”  This was the major purpose behind the Feast of Booths.  Booths were forcible reminders to God’s people of God’s care for them during the hard times.  God was faithful to them in the past so they knew this unchanging God would be faithful to them in the present, and faithful to them in the future.  He would never give up on them.  

God will never give up on us.  He is faithful!  God never leaves us.  Even if we turn from Him, He still comes after us like the Loving Father chasing after the Prodigal Son. 

Recalling His loving ways in the past reminds us of His loving ways in the present; “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”  Again, the joy of the Lord – God’s joy – is your strength.  God’s joy for you, His delight in loving you, is what strengthens you!  God’s joy in you is your stronghold.  God’s love for us, the love He delights to have in us, is a firm foundation, our stronghold.  The joy of the Lord is your strength.

God’s joy in you is possible only by union with Christ, by your being “in Christ,” in the perfection of His Son.  It is only when we have turned from sin and turned to Christ, dying to the old us and being raised with Christ that God looks at us differently.  He sees us clothed in the perfection of His Son Jesus.  It is like God put a special coat upon me, like the Father put on the Prodigal Son, a special jacket, if you like, that makes us acceptable to God.  Apart from Christ, God sees only my sin.  But if I am in Christ, the Bible tells me in Colossians 3:3 I am, “Hidden with Christ.”  God looks at me and sees me “in Christ,” accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), my sins covered forever by the righteousness of Christ.  

The reason God can smile at me is because He always and forever sees me in the perfection of His Son.  He has clothed with a kind of “Members Only” jacket.  Not everyone can wear it, only those who have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  But when you do, He puts that robe of righteousness, the righteousness of Christ upon you, and it never comes off!  You may not be acceptable to others, but you are always accepted by God!  Always!

You are accepted not

Because of your performance,

But because of Christ’s perfection,

So you will always be

Perfectly acceptable to Him.

God joys in you because

Of the perfection of Christ.

Think about this: As a Christian, what could you do to decrease God’s joy in you?  Nothing!  By the same token, what could you do to increase God’s joy in you?  Nothing!   God joys in you perfectly because He joys in you through His perfect Son.  That is my stronghold!!

We have “Very great gladness” when we obey His commands, remember His care, and finally, we have very great gladness when . . .

3. We Delight in Christ.

God’s people in Nehemiah’s day experienced a kind of “Second Exodus,” having been delivered from their captivity in Babylon.  God’s people today – in Christ – also experience an “Exodus,” having been delivered from their sin.  Jesus celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7.  It is in Chapter 7 and verse 37 that John records that, “on the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink …’”  Real satisfaction comes only through Jesus Christ.  We were designed to be completely and utterly satisfied through the living waters of Jesus Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles also reminded them of a very simple truth . . .  

The more you rely on an

Earthly thing to satisfy you,

The less satisfying it becomes.

The more you rely on

Jesus to satisfy you,

The more satisfying

He becomes.

Sin is largely misplaced joy.  It is a substitute for the “very great gladness” God wants us to have in Christ.  The more you rely on an earthly thing to satisfy you, the less satisfying it becomes.  Every addiction counselor knows that.  Addiction to alcohol and drugs begins with one small indulgence.  It is an earthly pleasure.  It does not last long and the next time you do not get quite as much satisfaction, so you need more.  One drink leads to another.  One drug to more of that drug.  The first pornographic image was relatively modest, but eventually led to an all-out hard-core pornographic addiction.  It has been said many times . . . :

Sin will take you farther than you want to go,

Keep you longer than you want to stay,

And cost you more than you want to pay.

We were designed to delight in Christ.  Purity flows from a heart that recognizes the joy of God’s salvation as a gift more satisfying than any competing pleasure the world can provide.

If you are not a Christian, turn from your sin and look to Jesus; repent, turn from your sin and receive Jesus Christ as the all-satisfying Savior who redeems you and saves you from the wrath to come.  Turn to Him today and be saved.

If you are a Christian, remember that “very great gladness” comes only when you obey His commands, remember His care, and delight in Christ.  

And as God’s people back in the day sojourned on to the fair land of Canaan, the Promised Land, so God’s people today sojourn on to a far greater Promised Land, an everlasting city, the splendor of the eternal city of heaven – and in the final state a new heaven and a new earth – an eternal feast of booths, not temporary, but permanent housing.

As we look to Christ we recall with the hymn-writer: “He took my sins and my sorrows and made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered, and died alone” … “How marvelous, how wonderful, and our song shall ever be, How marvelous, o how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.”  As we respond to God’s Word, may God give you grace to love Jesus more than anyone or anything – knowing that in the loving of Christ we will have “very great gladness!”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 8:1-12 – Rebuilding By the Book!

Grace For The Journey

  We are a series of messages in the Book of Nehemiah.  The year is 444 BC and Nehemiah has completed one of the greatest rebuilding projects in the history of civil engineering.  He has led the people to rebuild the broken-down walls around the city of Jerusalem.  The walls had been lying in ruins over a hundred years since being knocked down by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity.  You will remember God disciplined His children for their unfaithfulness and idolatry, allowing them to be carried off into captivity. 

The time of discipline has ended and

God works through the events of history

To get His people back into Jerusalem.

He raises up several people to do this.  One of them was a man named Ezra, the priest.  He is a contemporary of Nehemiah’s which means he is right there in Jerusalem along with Nehemiah.  Ezra leads the rebuilding of the temple and then God brings Nehemiah down from Susa, 1,000 miles away, bringing him to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

A point I have made from the very first study in our series is that . . .

The Book of Nehemiah is not just about

The physical rebuilding of walls,

But about

The spiritual rebuilding of people.

The fact that Nehemiah did not just finish the wall and then go back to the king’s palace in Susa indicates that he was concerned about more than a physical rebuilding project.   

He was genuinely concerned about

The spiritual welfare of God’s people.

Physical structures are not,

In and of themselves,

The most important thing. 

It is what the people

On the inside are doing. 

I have often noted that the church is not a building, but a Body.  Sometimes a visitor will come and look inside the sanctuary and say, “What a beautiful church!” and I will correct them by saying, “Yes, it is a beautiful sanctuary.  The church is beautiful, too; a beautiful Body of brothers and sisters.”

From the opening study I have noted that the Book of Nehemiah can be divided into two main sections, two main divisions . . .

Two (2) Main Divisions of Nehemiah: 

I. Reconstruction of the Walls [Chapters 1-7]

      [Physical Rebuild]

II. Reinstruction of the People [Chapters 8-13]

      [Spiritual Rebuild]

Rebuilding people takes more time.  How many days did it take to rebuild the wall?  Just 52 days to build the walls.  But rebuilding people takes a long time.  I am sure you are familiar with the song, “He’s Still Working On Me” . . . 

He’s still working on me

To make me what I need to be

It took him just a week to make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

How do you go about rebuilding a people spiritually? 

You bring out the Book.

That is the focus of the passage before us today. 

From reconstruction of wall

To reinstruction of the people. 

Re-instruction through the Word of God.

If there is one thing that stands out in this passage it is . . .

The centrality of the Word of God

Among the gathered people of God.

The Word of God, the Bible,  must be central to the gathering together of the people of God.  True revival has always followed the regular systematic teaching of the Word of God.  True revival.  Not revival that is scheduled or calendared.  But true revival is not something that is scheduled. 

True revival is when God shows up

When He pleases to awaken His people,

Reviving them to love Him and live for Him.

I saw a church banner outside a church that read, “Revival is Coming.”  I thought to myself, “Boy, I sure hope so.”  Because if revival comes to that church, revival will come to us, as well. 

Martyn Lloyd Jones in his book entitled, Preachers and Preaching, notes that “the primary task of the church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.”  And he makes this statement about revival: “The decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching had declined”… “What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival?  It is renewed preaching”… “A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church.”

And by “true preaching,” Lloyd-Jones means the kind of preaching that is going on here in Nehemiah 8. 

The reading of the Word,

The explaining of the Word,

And the people’s

Responding to the Word. 

True preaching is that

Which demonstrates a confidence

Not in the speaker, but in

The Scripture;

An absolute confidence

In the sufficiency

Of Scripture

To change lives.

During the Protestant Reformation, for example, there was a renewed emphasis upon the teaching of the Bible.  Going through Books of the Bible and explaining the meaning of the passages.  The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin believed in the systematic exposition of Scripture.  In fact, when Calvin was banished from the city of Geneva, he left on Easter Sunday in 1538, banished from Geneva by the city fathers.  Three years later when he was allowed to return in September of 1541 he entered into the church and into the pulpit and on that first Sunday back he began to preach at the very place where he had left off three and a half years earlier!  Such confidence in the power and sufficiency of the Word to teach the gathered people of God.

In our study this morning we will see what happens when God’s Word is central to the church . . .  

1. God’s People Gather Eagerly.

Verse 1 tells us, “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.”  There are tens of thousands of people now gathering together back in the city of Jerusalem.  They have not as of yet been able to gather in this fashion because the walls were broken down.  There was no defined city of Jerusalem until the walls were built back up.  Now that they are up, the people of God gather together to hear the Word.

They gather together “in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate.”  They are not gathering near the altar of the Temple.  They are gathering in the open square because congregational worship is not about animal sacrifices, but about the Body coming together, gathering around the Word of God.

The Bible says in verse 1 that they “gathered together as one man.”  That simply means, “there is unanimity in their interest in hearing the Word of God, they are united around the Word.”  They are very eager to hear the Word! 

This would have been a scroll.  Codices or books as we know them today did not become in use until after the time of Christ in the early Christian centuries.  Ezra likely pointed to various portions of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and read from them as he preached to the people.  

It is the people themselves

Who are calling for Ezra

To come read the Word:

“They told Ezra the scribe

To bring the Book

Of the Law of Moses,

Which the Lord

Had commanded Israel.”

The people were eager to hear the Word.  God’s people love God’s Word, amen?  I heard about a little boy who asked his daddy, “Daddy, is this book God’s book?”  And his dad said, “Well son, of course it is.” He said, “Well then we had better send it back to Him, because we never use it.” God’s people love God’s Word.  The Word of God is food for our soul!  I get up in the morning get the Word out and just pray . . .

“God, open

Your Word to me

And open me

To Your Word,”

And He does!

I find myself often just pausing as I am reading and saying, “God, I love Your Word.  Thank You!”  Can you relate?  Like the Psalmist in Psalm 19:10, The truths of Your Word are “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

Verse 2 says, So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.”  Note that: “men and women and all who could hear with understanding,” that is children who were able to hear with understanding.  Never underestimate the capacity of children’s ability to understand the Word preached.  Sometimes children get more out of the preaching than adults!  When God’s Word is central to the church, God’s people gather eagerly. 

Secondly, when God’s Word is central . . .

2) God’s People Listen Attentively.

Verse 3 states, “Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”  They were attentive.  When the Word is central to worship, God’s people gather eagerly and listen attentively.  Proof of their listening attentively is provided in the first part of verse 3.  How long were they listening to the Word?  From morning until midday.  That is from the first light of day until noon.  That is a five-hour, perhaps six-hour meeting.  We will note in a moment that the people are standing the entire time the preaching is going on!  No coffee breaks.  Five to six hours of teaching the Word.

Adrian Rogers used to say to his congregation, “I came to preach; I trust you came to listen; and you ought not to get finished listening before I finish preaching!”  Some preachers have capitulated to worldly standards of time, looking to the toastmaster speech model or little “sermonettes” of 10-20 minutes to keep people’s attention.

We have a much more

Important task here! 

We are not giving talks,

We are presenting

The very Word of God. 

To listen attentively is

To prepare diligently. 

We come prepared to hear

The very Word of God.

We come believing God is going to speak to us in His life-giving, life-changing Word of God

James Hamilton notes there are three good reasons to listen attentively to the reading and teaching of the Bible . . .

  • It honors God.
  • It is good for your soul.
  • It encourages the preacher.

That is so true.  I look out as I preach, and I find myself more likely to look at the people who are engaged!  Listening!  Bible open!  It encourages the person who is preaching. 

Verse 4 and 5 say, “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.”

That is what happens as our church family gathers every week!  It is not mandatory to do this.  The verse is descriptive, not prescriptive.  It is merely describing what took place, not mandating the standing up, but it a way to honor the reading of the Word.  It reminds us that we are in the presence of God Himself who will now speak to us from His very Word.  It is an aid to our listening attentively.

Ezra is preaching the Word and he is accompanied by these 13 others with him on the platform, six on one side, seven on the other.  Maybe they took turns reading from the Word.  Ezra is the primary preacher as indicated in verse 6, “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

This is genuine worship of the One True and Living God . . .

As the man of God

Brings the Word of God

To the people of God

For the glory of God.

They are bowing their heads in contrition, worshiping at times with their faces to the ground.  Other times they speak.  They say things out loud!  They say, “Amen, Amen!”  They lift up their hands.  It is biblical.  Some of us do not know what to do when people say amen or lift their hands.  Like the guy who visited one of those cold churches and sat in the back.  And the preacher got up and preached and read from the Bible and the man said, “Amen!”  And everybody turned around and looked at him.  Later on, same thing, the man said, “Praise the Lord!’  And people raised their eyebrows.  Finally, the man again said, “Amen!”  And an usher went over to him and tapped him on the shoulder to quite him down.  The usher said, “What’s wrong with you anyway?!”  The man said, “Well, I’ve just got Jesus!”   And the usher said, “Well, you didn’t get Jesus here!  So tone it down a bit.”

Verse 7 states, “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.”  These individuals are a different group of guys than the ones on the platform with Ezra.  These are Levites who apparently are scattered among the people listening.  The Levites are tasked with helping people understand the Word.  You see that there in the latter part of verse 7, “the Levites helped the people understand the Law.”  Most scholars believe that the way this worked was Ezra was preaching and teaching the Word of God from the platform, and the Levites among the tens of thousands of people made sure that everyone understood what they were hearing.  There would be the reading and teaching of a text and then a pause as this further teaching would take place among the crowd as the Levites moved among the congregation.  It may well be, too, that some of the folks needed a little help with the language being accustomed to the Babylonian language and maybe a little rusty on their Hebrew.  

Verse 8 says, “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”  Here is the preacher’s task week after week. 

  • To “read distinctly from the book,”
  • To “give the sense,” the meaning, teaching the Word,
  • To “help them to understand the reading.” 

Biblical preaching is teaching.

I read about a time when William Still, a preacher from Aberdeen, Scotland had a man visit his congregation.  He met him at the door after his sermon.  The man said, “You don’t preach.”  William Still said, “What do you mean?”  He said, “Well, you just read the Bible and explain it.”  And Still said to him, “Sir, that is preaching.”  And that is precisely what is going on here.  The teaching and explaining of the Word of God.  Notice the stress on understanding in this passage: It is mentioned in verse 2, verse 3, verse 7, verse 8, and we will see in verse 12. 

There is a sense in which we may identify a precedent here for the importance of both big groups and small groups.  We have big group like this, the gathered body for the corporate teaching of the Word, and then small Bible Study groups that we provide on Sunday morning and evenings.  The smaller more intimate gathering for the teaching of the Word, making sure everyone understands.

The best Bible Study classes are those that both edify and multiply, edifying those who gather through careful instruction of the Word, and starting new groups of classes so that more people can learn in a more intimate setting.  Edify and Multiply.  When was the last time your class started a new group?

When the Word is central to worship, God’s people gather eagerly, listen attentively, and thirdly . . .

3) Respond Accordingly.

Every time God’s Word is proclaimed, it calls for response.  When the people understand the Word, they respond accordingly.  We see that here in the following verses:

Verse 9, “And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.”  They understood the Word and it caused them to weep.  There was brokenness which suggests repentance.  And it is this brokenness then, that opens the door to rejoicing.  Verse 10:

Verse 10, “Then he (Nehemiah)said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”  That phrase, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” is best translated as “The Lord’s joy,” or “the joy that belongs to Yahweh.”  It is God’s joy that is your strength.  It is God’s joy in disciplining His children, forgiving His children, moving the hearts of kings to get His children back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem.  It is God’s joy in doing all of this – and giving them understanding of that truth – that serves to strengthen them.

God has given His children favor in their being brought back to the land, their sin forgiven, and their being restored.  It is good that they understand their past sin and the hearing of God’s Word has reminded them of the guilt of their sin which it has been forgiven.  It is the joy of the Lord to do what He has done to get them back to their homeland.  This is a day of rejoicing.

Verse 11 says, “So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.’”  God loves His people!  He delights in His people.  If you are a Christian, you are among His people!  You are loved perfectly in Christ and God delights in you!  Like God’s children in Nehemiah, you have sinned and you feel the weight of guilt and the burden of sin, but in Christ Jesus, you are forgiven.  It brings God joy to forgive you of your sin.  The joy of the Lord is your strength!

Verse 12 states, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”   The people rejoiced.  They rejoiced “greatly” because “they understood the words that were declared to them.”

If you are not a Christian, God wants you to know Him.  He is has chosen to reveal Himself to you through His Word.  It was His Word that spoke creation into existence.  It was His Word that became flesh in the God-Man Jesus Christ.  His Word points to the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.  The most important response you can make today is to respond to God’s Word by receiving the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior.  Turn from your sin and turn to God and be saved from the wrath to come.  Trust Jesus today as Lord and Savior.

If you are a Christian, know that you have far more cause for rejoicing than the people of God in the Book of Nehemiah!  You have far more of God’s Word than did they.  Do you gather eagerly to hear the Word?  Do you delight to hear it in your Daily Quiet Time, and do you delight to hear it Sunday mornings worship and in Sunday Bible Study groups?  Do you gather eagerly, listen attentively, and make intentional preparation to hear from God?  One writer asks, “If you are bored by God’s Words, then whose words excite you?  The words of your friends or family members, your teacher or coach?  What would need to change in order for God’s Word to stir your heart in the same way the words of other people can?”

The hymn-writer says . . .

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

The hymn goes on to extoll all the wonderful truths of God’s Word.  Like, “Fear not, I am with thee,” I’ll strengthen and help thee, and so on. 

I heard about a preacher who used to say nearly every week, at the conclusion of the sermon, that it was his desire when he preached that people not say, “What a wonderful sermon,” but, “What a wonderful Savior.”  I agree with that sentiment.  Preachers are not here to impress, to entertain, to desire that you remember only how skilled they were in speaking, or in telling memorable jokes or stories.   At the end of the sermon, may it always be, “What a wonderful Savior.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuild: Nehemiah 8:1- – Lord, Send A Re-Bible

An anonymous author penned these words: “The paradox of our time in history is that . . .

We spend more, but have less;

We buy more, but enjoy it less;

We have bigger houses and smaller families,

More conveniences, but less time,

More medicine, but less well being;

We read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions,  But reduced our values.

These are times of tall men, and short character;

Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes, But more divorce;

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

We’ve added years to life, not life to years;

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life.

One magazine article I read put it this way: “There is much to celebrate.  We now have, as average Americans, doubled our incomes and what money buys.  We own twice as many cars per person and eat out two and one-half times as often as our parents did. We have espresso coffee, the World Wide Web, sport utility vehicles, and caller ID.  New drugs are shrinking our tumors and lengthening our lives.  Yet, at the same time, our divorce rate has doubled.  Teen suicide has tripled.  Violent crime has quadrupled. We have increased, by six times, the number of babies born out of wedlock, and cohabiting couples have increased from 500,000, twenty years ago, to 4.2 million today.”

Our economic good time has become dwarfed by our moral recession.  One civic leader correctly stated the problem, when he said, “The accumulation of material goods is at an all-time high, but so is the number of people who feel an emptiness in their lives.”

Pollster George Gallup, Jr. detected the same thing as he wrote, “One of the two dominant trends in society today is the search for spiritual moorings” . . . Surveys have documented the movement of people who are searching for meaning in life with a new intensity.”

At the very time when the church of Jesus Christ can step up to the microphone and announce that it has the answer in a personal Redeemer named Jesus Christ, it has, instead, lost its voice.  One author compiled a list of clippings and mailings sent out by a number of churches that, by the way, are often attended by thousands of people . . .

  • One pastor commented, “There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages.”
  • Another said, “Services at our church have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome.”
  • And another, “Our answer is God – but we slip Him in at the end, and even then, we don’t get heavy. No ranting, or raving. No fire, no brimstone. Our pastor doesn’t even use the h-word. Call it Light Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt.
  • Another, “The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin. Preaching here doesn’t sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk.”

The church of our generation promises that the consumer will be satisfied rather than that God will be satisfied.  If this is true, then God is no longer the audience of our worship, the audience has become god.  The church is feverishly trying to make this new god happy, comfortable, and satisfied.

I have recently heard of one church that has as their motto the words, “It’s all about you.”  My friends, church is not all about you, and it is not all about me – it is all about God.

Our mandate

From God is,

Not selfishness,

But surrender that

Leads to servanthood.

It is about giving ourselves to the mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  It is about becoming passionately committed to the fact that man is sinful and on his way to hell.

The church has the answer in the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We communicate that Gospel to our world as if we were throwing life preservers to drowning people.  We do not warm the water to make them more comfortable; we do not offer lessons on how to float; we do not give self-help tips on how to manage the water.  We tell them they are going to drown, if they do not come to the Savior.

The church has lost the moral courage to communicate that message.  It makes people

uncomfortable.   The church has lost its moral convictions as well.  In our generation, the materialism of the believer matches the world.  The promiscuity and unfaithfulness of the believer mirrors the world.  The self-centered believer mirrors the world.  The values and plans of the believer are the same as the world’s.

At the moment of greatest need for an answer of our generation, many churches does not have the answer.  It is in need of revival.  So were the people of Jerusalem.  They had finished the walls.  They were secure behind gates and gatekeepers.  But there was a spiritual void in Jerusalem.  They had everything but a right relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Today we are going give our attention to a revival meeting.  It is found in Nehemiah, chapter 8.  In these verses we will discover Six Ingredients of Revival.  As we study through this chapter, I want to provide at least six characteristics, or ingredients, of true revival.  And by the way, revival has nothing to do with unbelievers.  

According to Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 1, an unbeliever is, “… dead in [his] trespasses and sins.”  In other words, his spirit has not been brought to life by regeneration.  He is spiritually dead.  He does not have a revival because you cannot revive a corpse.  You revive a living person who is unconscious, out of it, in a coma, who has been under water or without oxygen for some time.  You revive someone whose heart may have even stopped beating, but the possibility of resuscitation is still there.  He can be revived because he is not yet dead. 

Revival has nothing to do

With winning the unbeliever;

Revival is warning the believer

Who is living like an unbeliever.

Their heart for God has stopped beating.  They have grown cold in their affections for God.  They need resuscitating and reviving.

Like David, in Psalm 85:6, we plead with God, “Will You not revive us again?”  Can we pray like David, in Psalm, chapter 119, verses 33 through 34 and verse 37, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes” … “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with all my heart” … “Revive me in Your way.” 

There was a great revival in Nehemiah’s day, and it began with the first ingredient to any revival . . . A true revival is revealed . . .

1. By A Revived Appetite For The Scripture.

Verse 1 says, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.”  Did you notice the reappearance of Ezra, who was, by now, an old man?  He had led a group back to Jerusalem years earlier, and they had rebuilt the temple.  Ezra will become the preacher, as you will see in a moment, reading, translating, and applying the text of the Law.  Notice what the people of Jerusalem have asked Ezra “to bring the Book of the Law” which God gave their nation through Moses!  Verse one tells us this was their unified cry!

When a person, a group of people, a family, or a church begin to demand the Scriptures, revival is soon to happen.  A native of India, writing to a friend about a revival they were having, wrote, “We are having a great re-Bible here! “  What a perfect slip of the pen.  A revival is indeed when people are “re-Bibled.”  They hunger to hear, read, learn, and live by the Word of God. 

Verses 2 through 4 tell us, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.  Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.  So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand …” (then the Bible mentions all the other priests who were present with him).

For six hours they listened to Ezra read the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, the book of Moses, the book of the Law.  In verse 5 we read, “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.”  They listened for six hours standing up. And, by the way, this will continue every day for an entire week. Imagine that kind of hunger to hear the Word of God!

The second ingredient of revival is revealed . . .

2. By A Respectful Attitude Toward God.

Verse 6 says, “Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God …”  That is, he praised God for who God was – the great, the awesome, and sovereign God.  There is no revival if you have a little god – A small god who can be coerced and bribed; a petty god who exists to do your will and fulfill your every wish; an understandable god who is not mysterious or transcendent; a weak god who can barely keep up with his creation.

If you want reviving,

You need a great God.

Isaiah described his great God, in chapter 40 of that book, starting at verse 15, “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”  Verse 18 says, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?  Verses 22 and 23 declare, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.  He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”

Verses 25 and 26 proclaim, “To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?” says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing.”

 And verses 28 through 31 state, “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

The word “wait” is a reference to contemplating or meditating on God’s character; trusting in His attributes, relying on His power and provision.  The believer who is given strength is the believer who has Isaiah’s perception of God.  Believers who have a small god run out of gas, but those who contemplate the awesome character of God, as described in Isaiah chapter 40, have strength for their daily walk.

Revival comes on the heels of an appetite for Scripture and an approach toward God based on the great and sovereign God that He is. 

Verse 6 continues by saying, “And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’”  That sounds like a lot of Baptists I know.  “Amen” is a word that means, “so be it; let it be so.”  The verse continues on by saying, “… while lifting up their hands.”  That sounds like some Pentecostals I know.  The verse concludes with, “… then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”  I do not think any denomination does that.  The issue was not how they revealed their respect for God, that will vary from culture to culture and from generation to generation.  When I went on a mission trip to Johannesburg and Swaziland, South Africa, they worshiped their great God differently than I do.  The point is the same for people in Africa and France and Romania and America as it was in Nehemiah’s day.  

The people in chapter 8 showed respect to God; and

Ultimately, like so many people throughout Scripture

Who have an encounter with God, they ended up

Flat on their faces on the ground.

If you want to say, “Amen,” and raise your hands, go ahead.  Are you willing, as well, to lie flat on your face in the dirt, so moved out of deep respect for your sovereign God that you dare not whisper or even look upward?!

Revival comes from a revived appetite for the scripture, a deep reverential approach to God, and the third ingredient . . .

3. By A Radical Application Of Biblical Truth.

Verse 8 says, “And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.  You ought to underline the word “understood.”  It appeared in verse 2 and verse 3, and it will show up again in verse 12.

Why would they need to explain anything?  Attempt to the following translation of Matthew 11:28-30 by John Wycliffe.  It happens to be the first English translation put into print, in the year 1382 – “Alle ye that trauelen & ben chargid come to me & I schal fulfille you. Take ye my yok on you & lerne ye of me for I am mylde and meke in herte; and ye shulen finde rest to youre soulis for my yok is softe & my charge liyt.” 

If you try hard enough or have it memorized this passage, you can make some sense of most of the words.  Approximately six hundred years separate us from John Wycliffe’s English world.  Six hundred years have brought a lot of changes to our English vocabulary.  Consider the fact that between the time of Moses writing the book of the Law and the time of the people of Nehemiah’s day was a span of, not six hundred years, but one thousand years.  Consider, also, the fact that these people no longer spoke or understood Hebrew.  They had Hebrew hearts but Babylonian ears.  They simply needed to know what the words meant.

But that was not all.  Notice verse 13, “Then on the second day the heads of fathers’ households of all the people, the priests, and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law.”  The word “insight” is translated from a Hebrew verb that means “to be wise or prudent.”  In other words, they wanted to understand the Word so that they would have the insight or wisdom in how to apply the Word to their lives.

In Mark’s Gospel, the Lord breaks the fish and loaves and feeds over five thousand people.  He shows His miraculous ability over the elements of nature by creating fish and bread.  A few hours later, the disciples are terrified in a storm.  Eventually,

Jesus walks on the water to where they are and climbs into the boat and the storm ceases and the wind stops. Chapter 6, verses 51 and 52, say it all, “… and they were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves . . .”  They had seen Christ’s power demonstrated earlier, but they had not connected it with how they should live and act because of it.  

Some people go to church nearly every Sunday, even attend a Bible study and go to a conference or two, and nothing about their lives changes.  My friends, there is a vast difference between biblical input and biblical insight.  Guess what happened when they gained the insight and applied the meaning of the Bible to the way they were living?

But that is not all, there is a fourth ingredient that contributes to revival taking place . . .

4. By A Repentant Awareness Of Sin.

Verse 9 tells us, “Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’  For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.”  They heard the words of God’s standard, and they began to mourn and weep.  We avoid the Word because the Word convicts and challenges us to the very core of our being.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, once had a Bible.  Four years before he died, in 1950, he sold it to auctioneers, who, in turn, sold it for fifty dollars after Shaw’s death.  One of the selling points was an inscription on the flyleaf by the playwright

himself, “This book is a most undesirable possession” . . . “I must get rid of it. I really cannot bear it in my house!”  The Bible is a penetrating sword and he could not stand the guilty verdict that pierced his heart! 

Eventually Nehemiah stood and told the people to stop mourning and begin rejoicing.  It was the day the Feast of Tabernacles was to begin.  Notice verses 10 through 12, “Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.’  And all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.”

The final ingredient that contributes to revival is . . .

5.  An Attitude of Joy.

Matthew Henry wrote a century ago, “Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience.”  Notice how the people of Jerusalem obeyed.  Verses 14 through 17 state, “And they found written in the law how the Lord had commanded through Moses that,

the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month.  So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches, and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.’  So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate, and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them.  The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day.”  And there was great rejoicing.”  God said for them to build little shanties and lean-to shacks out of sticks so they could remember their journey in the wilderness.

It does not make much sense.  They need to be rebuilding their homes inside the newly constructed city walls.  But God said, “Build a booth.”  So, they built a booth.  And guess what?  There was great rejoicing.  Insight led to obedience and obedience led to joy.

Let me draw a few points of application.  When “re-Bible” occurs, the following happens . . .

  • Excuses Are Replaced With Confession.

In 1992, the Texas educational bureaucracy reviewed and approved a new set of history textbooks for the public school system.  A group of parents, concerned about the information their children were coming home with, conducted their own review.  They found two hundred thirty-one errors.  The textbook reported Napoleon actually winning the battle of Waterloo, President Truman dropping the atom bomb on Korea, and General Douglas MacArthur leading the anti-Communist campaign in the 1950’s, instead of Senator Joe McCarthy.  When called to account for these errors, the Texas officials studied the texts again.  They found more than the two hundred thirty-one errors the parents first found.  Then the parents found more, until the tally stood at five thousand two hundred mistakes in texts published by Prentice-Hall, Houghton Mifflin, Rinehart and Winston.  How did the publishers react to this mess?  The publisher’s spokesperson argued that, “Except for the errors, these were the finest textbooks they had ever seen.”

The believer who wants revival throws away the list of favorite excuses for his, or her, sin.  Excuses are replaced with confession.

  • Selfishness Is Replaced With Servanthood.

When we confess and forsake our sin, we no longer have to focus our attention of hiding our sin, or being concerned about obeying and pleasing anybody but God.  Confession opens the door for compassion and allows us to be concerned about what God can do to help us carry another’s burden, walk with someone to encourage and strengthen their faith, or show God’s kindness and care to others in tangible ways.

  • Compromise Is Replaced With Commitment.

You might say, “I’ve confessed and tried and failed and tried again, but revival does not last.”  Someone once asked evangelist Billy Sunday, in the early 1900’s, if revivals lasted.  He replied, “No, neither does a bath, but it’s good to have one occasionally. If you want friends, you probably ought to bathe every day; if you want fellowship, you need reviving every day as well.

  • Complacency Is Replaced With Devotion.

You might say, “Oh, but my love for God ebbs and flows; it seems to come and go.  My devotion and affection for God is affected by my inconsistency, brokenness, and sinfulness.”  I know.  The Bible says of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-19, 24-25, “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, them, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice!” . . . O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank ‘god – through Jesus Christ our Lord! …”

Someone wrote, “The only way to keep a broken pot filled with water is to keep the faucet running.”  To have a revival:

  • Approach God with due respect and adoration.
  • Be willing to apply what you learn.
  • Repent, repent, and repent some more.
  • And, know that obedience will lead to joy.

It is always in that order.  But it does not end there . . . We must stay under the faucet – of God’s Word – of God’s Spirit – of God’s wisdom – and in the company of God’s people.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Rebuilding: Nehemiah 7:4-73 – Each Of Us Have A Name . . . Praise To His Great Name

Grace For The Journey

Nehemiah Chapter 7 is this long list of names.  Just names.  Chapter 7 is like preaching through the Jerusalem phonebook.  The names of gazillions of the men of Israel and their sons.  As we go through these verses, I am praying that . . .

What we know not, teach God will teach us;

What we do not have, God will give us;

What we are not, God will make us . . .

All through Christ Jesus our Lord and for His sake!

Have you heard of Jim Croce?  He was an American folk and rock legend in the late 1960s early 1970s.  He died in a plane crash along with five others 1973 at the age of 30, tragically at the height of his popularity.  Many of you know his song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.”  His song, “Time in a Bottle,” was an artful writing, thought-provoking lyrics, sung with ease on a simple acoustic guitar.  The day after he died, the lead single to his fourth album was released and became another hit.  It was the song, “I’ve Got a Name.”  Do you know the lyrics?  Those of you my age and older probably do?  I don’t what.  All the good music ended with the 80s!

Like the pine trees lining the winding road

  I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name

Like the singing bird and the croaking toad

  I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name

And I carry it with me like my daddy did

  But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

It is a song that inspires gratitude for the gift of life and the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, grateful for the blessing of our ancestors and how we are shaped by their legacy.”  

Nehemiah 7 is a list of the names of men and the names of their sons.  There is a legacy of faith here in chapter 7 . . .  A heritage of faith . . . A tradition of families . . . of following the One True and Living God and their names are recorded here in Scripture.  At first glance, we see a list like this, and we want to just skip over it.  More names we think!  But imagine if you had a personal interest in this list.  Imagine you are a Jewish family living hundred years later and you gather together with your family one evening.  You are all huddled there in your home next to a small oil lamp that’s burning and giving off just enough light to your spouse and kids seated around the table.  Your family nudges a little closer together as you unroll a scroll there in the dark.  You carefully unroll the scroll of Nehemiah and you open it up to this chapter and slowly trace your finger through the lines and stop and read your family name aloud.  Your kids are wide-eyed and the family smiles as they see the name of your father and their grandfather and know that they are one of the “sons” numbered in this list.

Long before God’s people painstakingly recorded the names of family members and their connection to other families in the greater family of God.  Genealogy was an especially important work for these many descendants of Father Abraham.  It is from these descendants God’s Promised Seed would come – the promised Messiah we know by the name of Jesus Christ.  Names matter.  

That is what we are going to talk about this morning – How names matter . . . How your name matters . . . How my name matters.  What we are going to do is study this passage and think of it along the lines of how our name matters in two main areas . . .

The life we lead


The legacy we leave.

We start our study in verse 4, “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.”  Before the walls were completed God’s people were living here and there around Jerusalem or in nearby towns.  They were not living inside the city because there was no inside.  There was only outside.  The walls are finished now, and Nehemiah is wanting to get folks inside the city gates, repopulating the city.  This will take some time because we are told in verse 4 that “the houses were not rebuilt.”  They are going to need to get those houses built and then figure out who can live inside the city as the houses are going up.  When we get to Chapter 11, we will see that Nehemiah has a plan for this – He is going to have the folks cast lots to bring in one out of every ten to live in the city and the other nine out of ten will remain in other towns.  Nehemiah gets a list of names together to figure out who all is scattered around Jerusalem. 

Verse 5 tells us, “Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it.”  That phrase “the first return” refers to the people who returned from exile after King Cyrus allowed God’s people to go back to Jerusalem.  Remember God’s people were exiled during the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.  They were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC and then the Babylonians in 586 BC.  God was behind this.  He was disciplining His children because of their sin of unfaithfulness to Him.  And after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God caused the Persian King Cyrus to issue a decree in 536 allowing the people to return to Jerusalem.  The Persian People Group are a people whose lineage can be traced to King Cyrus, King Artaxerxes, and in the Book of Esther King Xerxes and Queen Vashti.  The Persian People Group; only 2% Christian today.

In the last part of verse 5 again, the phrase “those who had come up in the first return” refers to the first of three waves of God’s people returning to Jerusalem.  You can read about this in the Book of Ezra.  In fact, Ezra chapter 2 gives a list of names that is essentially this list here in Nehemiah.  The list was most likely updated a bit from the list in Ezra to allow for births and deaths since the original list.  

Before we proceed in out study, it is interesting to see how Nehemiah was led to get this list together.  It was not his idea.  The first part of verse 5 tells us, “Then my God put it into my heart…”  Notice those two phrases that Nehemiah says, “.. my God”“my heart.”  Nehemiah has a very close, personal walk with the One True and Living God!   He saw God at work all the time, God’s hand moving through circumstances, God’s hand moving through His prayers.  Nehemiah is a man’s man, but Nehemiah walked with God.  Some of us men need to spend more time with God.  Taking time to pray; taking time to read God’s Word.  Reading God’s Word to ourselves, reading God’s Word to our wives, reading God’s Word to our kids, to our grandkids.  Real men love the Lord and spend time with Him often. 

Nehemiah finds this registry of names and verse 6 introduces the list, “These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city.”  And then the list of names.  I hope you will take time later to read these names.  It does not seem fruitful to do so this morning given our limited time together, but remember when you read them later how meaningful it would have been for these folks to have their name literally in print in both the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Warren Wiersbe . . .

“The important thing is not

To count the people but

To realize that

These people counted.”

And your name counts.  Your name matters.  You were created in God’s image.  You matter to God. 

The big question we want to answer today is, “How Do I Make My Name Matter?”  Let me suggest two areas where your life matters . . .

1. The Life I Lead.

    a. My Living.

There are so many names here in this list, names of just regular folks here who walked with God and lived their lives for Him.  Names of believers.  

How many of you got up this morning and thought about how the way you live your life today will affect others?  Our living will have some effect – good or bad – upon others. Your name matters.  Your name matters in the life you lead – your living . . . but also your giving.  

    b. My Giving.

When people mention your name, do they think of you as being generous?  We have talked about the generosity of God’s people before in Nehemiah and we come to it again in this passage.  Look down at verses 70 through 72 where it says, “And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work.  The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas (that’s like 20 pounds of gold), fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments.  Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas (several million dollars by today’s standards), and two thousand two hundred silver minas.  And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments.”

There is a lot of giving here!  Our names should evoke gratitude for our giving and generosity to the work of God.  Think of it: your money helps people come to Jesus, has helped people get their names on the list of those who are in heaven.  It is an investment that never goes south!  It never loses value.  It is an eternal investment that yields eternal rewards.

Secondly, your name matters in . . .

2. The Legacy I Leave

    a. My Family.

Each church exists to develop generations (note that) of God-glorifying disciples who make disciples from our communities to the continents.  The road map to fulfilling that vision comes from our mission of strengthening the family in the Word and in their walk.  The greatest impact we will make is on our family, and future generations of those who have our name.   We are talking about a legacy of faith.

That is why when we date others or court someone for marriage we are not interested in just anyone, amen?!  Not just anyone.  We want someone who loves Jesus, who is surrendered to His will and purpose.  Rather than physical appearance, scholastic achievements, social prowess, or talents, the real issue should be – Does they love Jesus, will they a godly person, are they living for just this earth or eternity? 

You are going to leave a legacy,

So let the Lord make it a good one.

Some of you were raised in Christian homes.  Some of you were not.  If you were not, then be the one who says, “It will start with me.  I will be the person who starts a legacy of faith.  And I will read the Bible to my wife and kids and we will build our lives upon the rock of Jesus Christ.”

Are you divorced or abandoned, hurt or hurting, has your life crashed and burned through sin?  Remember: it is never too late for a new beginning.  God will take the rubble from your past and rebuild you in the present.  From this point forward say, “I am following Jesus and doing all I can to ensure that my family lives for the Lord.”

  1. My Future

Are you living with the eternity in mind, your eternal future?  Hebrews 13:14 has a great word about that, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come.”  Here, in this life, we have no lasting city, no continuing city – it will be gone when we die and it will eventually fade away when God creates a new heaven and new earth.  Here we have no lasting city, but we see the one to come!  Heaven!  If you are living merely for this world, you are a fool.  Jesus says that.  Look up the parable later of the man who wanted to build bigger barns for his grain.  Awaken to the need to live with the future in mind, your eternal future.

Nehemiah is going through this list, establishing who the Jewish citizens of city of Jerusalem are.  He is doing this to find out who is allowed to live in Jerusalem; who will be able to move in from the surrounding towns.  Only those whose identity was validated as pureblood Israelites, the “authentic people of God” were permitted entrance.

I was struck by mention in this list of some priestly folks who were in a bit of jam as they could not prove their Jewish ancestry as priests.  In verse 64 we are told, “These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled.”  They could not locate their family records, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.  Their names would not be included on the list of those who could enter the city.

Do you see the spiritual implications here?  Who is allowed to enter heaven? Revelation 22 tells us – only those whose names are written in the Book of Life.  Only true believers are given access to the eternal city.  Only those who are followers of Jesus, whose “identity” are those who are “the people of God” who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  In Luke 10:20, Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

This is why church membership is so important.  Only those who are truly regenerate, new creations in Christ, comprise the spiritual Body of names that enter into heaven, those who have been saved and are growing in the faith in Christ.  These are the only ones who are allowed “in” the eternal city.  And all others are excluded, they remain “outside.”  There are only two groups of people, those who are in and those who are out.  You cannot be both – You are either in or out . . . Lost or Found . . . in Light or Darkness . . .  have Life or Death.  One of the main purposes of the church is to bring more people “in” to the body of Christ.  Many are still “out” and God has given us the mission to bring them in.  Jesus says in Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.”

There are so many people we walk right by.  We will walk right by maybe a couple hundred people before the day is over.  People who have names.  People who are “outside.”  People God loves and wants to bring “inside.”  We have neighbors who are “outside” the kingdom of God.  People in the highways and hedges of work and play.  People we need to compel to come in.  There are people whose names are not written in the Book of Life.  People you will sit next to you in class this week.  People in the office cubicle next to you at work.  People working the line at the warehouse.  What are their names?  People who need Jesus.  Churches must both edify and multiply because of names.  Names of people who are outside and need to be brought inside.  Get to know the names of the people you see this week.  Talk to them about the name of above all names, the great name of Jesus Christ.

Nehemiah knew God.  Nehemiah knows God by name.  Verse 5 tells us that Nehemiah called God, “My God.”  Do you know him?  God has a name.  He is personal.  He is not some impersonal, generic higher power or force.  He has a name.  He has a name above all names.  He is Lord.  His name is Jesus Christ.  

If you are “out” you can be “in” today.  The Gospel means Good News.  The Gospel means that you can go from being an outsider to an insider; you can go from being lost to being found; you can go from being “in sin” to being “in Him;” united together with Christ through glorious union such that God is in you and you are in God. 

This is far better than getting into an ancient city with newly rebuilt walls around it.  Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come.  You can live in the city to come even now in the sense that you can enter into the spiritual realm of God’s reign.  The kingdom of God is both now and not yet.  Enter into His reign now and live with the future in mind when you will live with him in a literal kingdom forever and ever.

There is a list in heaven.  Is your name on that list?  The only way to make sure our name is written down in the Book of Life is to place our name under the great name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is calling you to follow Him.  Repent of sin and turn to Him.  Tell Him you are a sinner and ask for His forgiveness. 

Thank God for His love for us.  Thank Him for giving us this day to live.  Thank Him for loving us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to live for us – fulfilling the laws that we have broken – and to die for us – taking our punishment for sin upon Himself, drinking the entire cup of wrath that was meant for us.  Thank God that on the third day He arose from the grave in a demonstration of life and the life that we can have if we will place our name under His great name.  It is true: ‘the lost are saved, and find their way, at the sound of Your great name.’  We rejoice in His great name!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”