Back To The Bible
Both Ezra and Nehemiah begin with building projects that, once completed, allow the focus to shift to the rebuilding of God’s people.
Ezra 1-6 - Rebuilt temple
Ezra 7-10 - Rebuilt people
Nehemiah 1-6 - Rebuilt wall
Nehemiah 7-13 - Rebuilt people
Once the foundations of Jerusalem were relaid and its walls raised up, it was time for the nation itself to be reestablished on the solid basis of God’s Word.
The two closely connected events of the completion of the walls and the reading of the Law occurred within the space of a few days.
The day described in Nehemiah 8 was ‘to prove a turning point.
From now on, the Jews would be predominantly “the people of a book”.’
Like today we are strong or weak depending on how closely we adhere to the truth of the Word of God.
And we really need to know the truth today.
Christian bemoan the fact that we are no longer a Christian nation, but we are becoming more like our society than the Bible.
In a biennial study called “The State of Theology” released this week we need to get back the Bible
Here are few of the results:
52% of the adults agree that Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God and 30% of evangelicals agree.
48% reject the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. In other words, half of adults believe the Bible contains myths and errors.
54% believe religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.
Only 75% of evangelicals believe you are saved based on your faith in Jesus - that means 25% don’t.
42% percent of evangelicals believe that God accepts the worship of all religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
To quote the study in the conclusion section, “While the American population in general appears to be drifting away from accepting the truth claims of the Christian faith, the growing and imminent health and social concerns at the time of this survey in March 2020 may be partly responsible for leading some to reconsider their views. Evangelicals, while exhibiting some hopeful movement in the direction of biblical fidelity, also seem to be influenced by the culture’s uncertainty about what truth is, who Jesus is, and how sinners are saved. These results reveal an urgent need for clear biblical teaching on the person of Christ, the gospel of grace, and the way that the truth of God informs our ethical decisions in everyday life. There is much work to be done in this age of confusion, “
So, let’s see how Nehemiah and the Jews returned to the Bible
Ezra Reads The Law Nehemiah 8:1-12
Ezra Reads The Law Nehemiah 8:1-12
After they settled into their towns and homes, the people asked Ezra to read the Law of Moses.
Ezra we know was a man who diligently studied the law, taught the law and applied the teachings.
The people knew they needed to hear it, so they asked him to read it to them.
So they took the initiative, and that should encourage us to take the initiative in seeking spiritual revival in our lives and our church.
We discover that the living power of the Bible should be more important than any church building.
Through the Scripture, the Holy Spirit brings us to abundant life.
The people assembled and in verse 2 we see that was men, women, and children.
It was unusual to include women and children in these convocations.
This shows the seriousness of the occasion.
The phrase “who could listen with understanding” reflects the Jewish concept of sin and responsibility.
They do not focus on Gen. 3, as the church does, to explain human rebellion and an evil world.
Jews prefer to assert that spiritual responsibility is related to age and knowledge (at 13 years of age the boy’s rite is called Bar Mitzvah and at 12 the girls is called Bath Mitzvah).
Only after a period of study and personal commitment is a Jewish male of thirteen responsible to obey the Law.
This shows us the importance of bringing children to church and teaching them the Bible.
So Ezra read from the law of Moses for about 6 hours
The people had great respect for the word of God
Look at how they responded:
By lifting their hands in worship and showing a sense of need;
By saying, “Amen! Amen!” and thus affirming their submission to the authority of Scripture; and
By bowing down to the ground with a sense of humility and submission before God.
The nation is transitioning from a temple-centric to Word-centric worship
Though they still performed the temple rituals but the study of the Word, as seen in the further development of the synagogue, becomes the focus of daily life.
The Word of God is a recurrent emphasis in Nehemiah.
YHWH does not manifest Himself in the awesome physical ways that He did during the Exodus or dedication of Solomon’s temple, but His power, promises, and presence are fully revealed in His word (by faith).
Then they had small group Bible study in verse 7.
The Levites had the job of making sure the people knew what was being said.
They were helping them bridge the cultural gap between the last seventy years in Babylonia with their cultural heritage as found in Scripture.
It could not have been easy.
Although God’s Word is authoritative for life and faith and all matters of knowing God, it frequently takes hard work to understand the message of God written in a foreign language in a distant time and place.
This is why we are doing the Personal Bible Study Methods class.
The people’s reaction
It seems as the people began to weep as godly sorrow over their apathy and non-performance concerning the word of God.
So they began to repent for disobeying the law.
The Word of God, when read, has the power to transform lives today just as it had in the time of both Josiah and Ezra.
The Bible convicts, changes, and guides lives.
In the time of Ezra the people realized that the Babylonian captivity was a result of disobedience.
Only genuine repentance before God could bring about a real change in the community.
The living power of the Word of God still liberates people from their own various forms of captivity.
We need to teach God’s justice and the need for repentance but must not forget to emphasize God’s love and mercy more than ever today.
But this was not a time for sorrow, but joy.
Our faith is optimistic because of God’s power.
Real joy is an expression of faith in what God can do and is doing in our lives.
What a difference it makes when God’s people “understand” God’s Word and apply it to their particular situations.
When we allow the use of the Bible to become routine and ritualistic is a violation of its nature and message.
The Bible needs to be applied by each generation and in each situation without falling into legalism
Or accepting a blending with societal beliefs in which one loses the Scripture’s authority and distinctive message.
Jesus used the same Old Testament Scriptures as the Pharisees, but the people listened with attention and marveled because he taught with authority (Matt 7:29).
The Festival of Booths Nehemiah 8:13-18
The Festival of Booths Nehemiah 8:13-18
The first day they met as an assembly of all the people
Then on the second day, just the elders, leaders of the tribal groups, and heads of families had a special time of training.
They had the responsibility to teach their children the commands of God
Today, even more, all believers should “do theology,” reflecting together on the application of biblical, ethical principles to every area of life.
To do theology or theologize is to apply biblical principles to every aspect of life.
The Bible must never be allowed to become the sole property of scholars and ministers.
Such occurred during the Middle Ages and the people were at the mercy of those “elite.”
The Bible was given to all believers, and all believers have the responsibility to study God’s Word and need the grace to live by it.
Since this was to be a time of joy for all that God had done for them, it was right for them to celebrate the Festival of Booths.
Israel’s Festivals commemorated what God had done for them in the past.
As they celebrated Passover, Booths, and Weeks year after year (see Deut 16), they re-enacted what God had done for them at the exodus from Egypt, in the sojourn through the wilderness, and upon their entry into the land to enjoy its fruits.
Re-enacting the past in this way would shape their view of the world, and this no doubt contributed to how the Old Testament authors constantly compare the way God will save His people in the future to the way He saved them in the past.
By celebrating the festivals every year, the narratives of what God had done for His people in the past became the basis or schematic models of the type of thing God does for His people.
Those who had been preserved through the return from exile and the effort to rebuild the wall would naturally think of what God had done for them in the present in terms of what God had done for previous generations in the past.
When was the last time you just celebrated what God has done for you.
As a result, how are you living your life.
God provides, I know it because I’ve seen it.
Trust when it comes to politics, he’s in charge, I know it because I’ve seen it.
As we study the Scripture it helps us adjust our traditions according to the divine standard.
We see in Nehemiah 8 an emphasis that all the people of God must know his Word.
As the State of Theology and other surveys have shown the appalling lack of biblical knowledge among Christians today.
At the same time there is a deep hunger for the Word among Christians.
We need to teach the word!
So What That Mean For Us?
So What That Mean For Us?
Like Israel, we need to listen to the Bible
Listen as a group or family - the church.
In small groups
We need to listen as one, united together
We need to listen attentively - paying attention not allow the mind to wander
We need to listen reverently - realizing that it is God speaking to us through His Word.
We need to listen intelligently - Seek to understand what you are confused about, learn through small groups and personal study.
We need to listen joyfully!
God’s Word makes known God’s good pleasure, and God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people show them that He loves them.
Those mighty acts are then celebrated in the memorials that God gives His people so that they remember what He has done for them and how He loves them.
Have you felt the joy of the Lord?
Do you believe His Word?
Do you see what He has done for you?
Will you be one who receives the Lord’s Word, feels His joy, and has that as your stronghold?