Title: A REVIVAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
Text: Nehemiah 8:1-12
Have you heard stories from the previous generation that you wish you could experience? In our next passage of Nehemiah we see a whole generation that was raised in captivity and heard from their parents the stories of visiting the temple in Jerusalem and hearing the Torah read. After the wall was completed and their safety is secure, they realized they could begin to fulfill some of their dreams. It seems that all the evacuees had the same dream…they wanted to hear from the Torah…the Word of God that was given to their ancestors. No longer were they in a famine for bread…no longer did they thirst for water…now they had a new famine gnawing away at their soul…a famine for the hearing of the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). They were spiritually starving to death within sight of a rebuilt temple well stocked with the Law of Moses.
In our study tonight we will see a revival begin to sprout as the Word of God rains down upon their parched hearts and minds…and they knew who they wanted to hear those precious words spoken from…the deeper, aged voice of their beloved priest, Ezra. Tonight, put yourself into the shoes of this wise, old teacher and experience the tears in his eyes and the strength of a young man returning to his heart as he stands before a wooden podium on top of the Water Gate to read the Words of God to a whole generation that stands on their feet as he unrolls the scroll. Then put yourself into the shoes of those standing before their priest and tears begin to wash away the years of spiritual malnutrition as the words from the Torah begin to penetrate into their thirsty soul…words that they hear perhaps for the very first time in their lifetime, if it were not for a verse here and there that was memorized and spoken by their fathers while they were in captivity. Finally, put the precious Word of Great Jehovah on your lap and thank Him for the inspired words that can bring fresh life to your parched soul any time you choose to pick it up and read it. Try it in a new version you’ve never read before…and you will experience a new “hearing” like you’ve not had for a long time. Maybe…just maybe tonight a revival will break forth in your soul. Oh yes, you’re spiritually alive…but perhaps you’ve grown faint in your love for the Lord. If you listen to the Word of God as if it were the first time you ever heard it…maybe that revival will burst forth with a shout and a renewed love for your Lord. Read Text.
1. What do you glean from verse 1 as to the size and caliber of the spiritual famine among the people? (It was widespread…all had the same hunger and thirst…they gathered as one man, asking one request: “We want to hear from the Word of God!”)
Insight: You can’t stop a revival from breaking out when you have an entire generation begging to hear the Word of God. What preacher wouldn’t give anything to be in Ezra’s shoes that day?
2. Do you think it’s any coincidence that the place they gather to hear the Word of God is called the Water Gate?
Insight: Water Gate is not synonymous with revival in America, but one man who found himself in the depths of a depressing prison from his own Water Gate (Chuck Colson), turned to the Word of God and experienced a revival that God used to bring many a desperate man back to God. Ps. 63:1-8
3. What is the expectation the people have of the priest (Ezra)? Mal. 2:7 Does revival spring forth from priests & preachers if it hasn’t already entered their heart? Matt. 23:13
Insight: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (2 Pet. 2:9) As God’s priest, we are able to enter the Temple and represent the people before God.
4. How important is the ingredient of personal hunger for God for revival to spring forth? 2 Chr. 34:14-21 What can we do in the meantime if there is no personal hunger in those for whom we pray? (Pray that God would make them dry and thirsty; that their way of life without Him would be empty; that God would make them desperate for Him.)
5. In verse 2 Nehemiah is careful to note the timing of this revival – the first day of the seventh month. Does anyone’s Bible have a footnote as to the significance of this?
Insight: For the Jews, it is significant because it marks the beginning of their most sacred month of the year, one in which they will celebrate three important occasions: Feast of the Trumpets, Feast of Atonement and the Feast of Booths.
6. Verse 2 says that Ezra brought the Torah before all those “who could listen with understanding.” What is meant by that phrase? (Not all those gathered would necessarily know the old Aramaic in which it was written; a whole generation had been raised as slaves in a foreign country under a different language. Chances are some would have lost familiarity with the ancient language and would not understand what they heard Ezra reading.)
Insight: Perhaps this gives us precedence for different translations of the Bible. As long as the translation is true to the Word of God, different translations bring “understanding” for those who choose a particular translation.
7. How long did Ezra read from the Torah? (From early morning to midday.)
Insight: During this whole time it says the people were “attentive to the book of the Law”…and STANDING at that…for several hours of listening to the Word of God and it’s explanation. Now THAT’S a famine for the Word of God!! Oh that there was a famine of this caliber in our souls!
8. At the end of the reading of the Scriptures, there was a great ground swell that arose from the people in 8:6. Put yourself in that crowd. What do you hear? What do you feel?
Insight: The Israelites responded in a spontaneous, unguarded expression of praise and gratitude…the kind of thanks that only people who have been deprived so long of their deepest needs know how to give. Instead of asking God to bless them, they directed the blessing towards God! Ps. 72:18-19
9. 8:8 What an honor and high responsibility it is to explain the meaning of the Scriptures. Without it, people are lost in the shuffle of words that are written in an ancient language to a people who long ago have changed and been scattered. Have you had the awesome experience of seeing the “light” of understanding turn on in someone as you explain the Scriptures? Awesome, isn’t it?! Luke 24:32
Insight: Flippant preparation of God’s Word is causing many in our country to slowly starve on the dry morsels of watered down philosophies and tasteless church policies. For the full nutritional value of God’s Word to transform people’s lives, it must be served accurately, clearly and seasoned with practicality.
10. When the people heard the Word of God, they wept. Now, for the first time in this story, Nehemiah steps in and expresses an important leadership principle in verse 8:9-12. What is it?
Insight: This man of insight has witnessed with his very eyes (and perhaps felt in his own heart) the grief that comes with the precious conviction of the Holy Spirit that their lives have not been conforming to the Word of God. But with the precious conviction comes revival, and he knows its time to celebrate! A feast unlike their old feasts (Trumpets, Atonement, Booths) is spontaneously celebrated! Isa. 61:3
When revival breaks forth, there’s a visible difference…and the affect is immediate…the once flat-line heartbeat experiences a miracle comeback and the vital signs are that of someone who has had a shot of spiritual adrenaline. Jehovah is more than a word spoken from their ancestors…it’s a name celebrated, endeared on the lips of those who have experienced the fresh wind of his Spirit blowing out the cobwebs of their dusty soul. The light of His presence has broken the sin of their hearts…now those cleaned-up hearts endear a new owner…the God of all creation has taken up residence in their soul. Remorse has been exchanged with a fantastic joy that erupts when you experience God’s grace and forgiveness.
It must have been an exhausting day. It started out with hungry people…moved on to full, but remorseful people…and ended with rejoicing and revived people. How did your day begin? How will it end?
No life is complete unless the spiritual dimension is attended to. No spiritual dimension is complete without input from the Word of God. No scriptural input is complete without personal obedience. No personal obedience is complete without great rejoicing.
Do you know the Source of life for your spiritual hunger? There’s only one source that can satisfy it. Fast food dining won’t cut it. You need to sit at His table and deeply take in all that He has to say to the areas of your life that have been neglected for a long time. Let me usher you into His dining hall…let me take you past all the place settings of this long banquet table…let me take you to your place at the right hand of the Father…and let me urge you to lay it all out before Him. When you do, He will dish you up a full-course dinner that will satisfy your hungry and thirsty soul……..and the satisfaction will last you for eternity!!