Title: AN OLD MINING TOWN REVITALIZED
Text: Nehemiah 8:13-18
My first glance at this text left me with the thought of passing over it and going to the next chapter. It appeared to me as an old, abandoned mining town…deserted and without life. But it is God’s Word, and so it deserved a deeper look. As I removed the thick layer of dust and began to dig into the rich soil of truth, nuggets more valuable than gold began to appear in my sifting pan. The old mining town of a dry passage began to bustle with activity as the Lord began to show me application after application. Get your spiritual pick and shovel out…we’re going gold mining!
In the first six chapters of Nehemiah we saw the reconstruction of the wall in Jerusalem. Starting with chapter 7 we are seeing the reconstruction of the people of God. Both needed rebuilding. Where it was the people at work in the first six chapters, it is God at work in the second half of the book. Now that the rubble of the city was cleared up, the emphasis now is clearing up the rubble of wrong thinking and old (Chaldean) patterns of living, and replacing them with God’s design for abundant life. Sound like something you could profit from too? Get ready…sometimes God’s ways are not exactly how we would go about it, and to be obedient is going to require the patient persistence and stamina of a tough miner.
Last week we saw revival break out at the Water Gate as the Torah was read and explained to them so that they could understand. There’s noting more exciting to me than seeing the light of understanding come on and people apply it to walk a new path. The Israelites went home that night with many of their old pagan thoughts already starting to be cleared out of their mind. But as with gold mining, clearing away the non-gold yielding rock is only the beginning…much work and refinement is yet needed. The first day of revival began with instruction…it needed to be followed up the second day with application. Read text.
1. 8:13 In Hebrew the word insight means “to be prudent, wise, shrewd in managing practical affairs.” Webster defines it as “the power or act of seeing into a situation, understanding the inner nature of things.” What does it take for you to gain insight into God’s Word in a passage that you don’t understand at first?
Insight: On the first day they were given understanding; now they came back to dig for insight…to penetrate below the surface of God’s Word for discernment.
2. Gaining insight into God’s Word isn’t something that grows up overnight like a weed; it takes time, like the growing of a mighty Oak. Why is that?
Insight: Biblical facts can be learned over night; but there’s a big difference in gaining insight. Learning facts results in knowledge; but insight leads to wisdom. In spite of what the young pup thinks (they know it all)…your rough journey through the years have given you insights they simply haven’t gained yet. Nothing changes your ways of how to drive a nail in a board like a smashed thumb. There’s no such thing as an unwise person becoming wise over night…it takes time.
3. Can you gain insight from just any person? Like E.F. Hutton, do you find yourself stopping what you are doing and listen when certain people talk?
Insight: According to verse 13 Ezra was that kind of person…they gathered around his feet to gather nuggets of wisdom. Ezra 7:10 gives us insight as to why that was…look at the order of the words in this passage. (He studied first, then practiced it, and finally taught it. The wrong approach is to study and then teach, bypassing the practicing; that will result in many a failure.)
4. Next, notice who was gathered around Ezra to listen for insights. Why do you think that was?
Insight: This was no inexperienced group of freshmen that came to listen to Ezra that day…they were the heads of households…dads, grandfathers…leaders of their own families. This exposes another nugget from our mine…they did not allow their age or pride to close the door on their teachable spirit. They came with open, appreciative and eager attitudes.
5. What was the true source of insight according to 8:14? (God’s Word, not Ezra.) Does that make sense when you consider the author?
Insight: After so many years of pursuing insight himself, Ezra knew where to lead the people to find it. For 70 years Israel had been forced to labor in the fruitless mines of a pagan culture…now they were led by a wise, old prospector to enter the shaft where the true mother lode lie…God’s Word. You have the same opportunity to stake your claim on the same mountainside.
6. The mother lode of the Word of God yielded gold-rich ore that is not visible at first sight. This was the ordinary rock that I, at first glance, was going to discard and go on to the next chapter. The hidden gold was in an old celebration that many had forgotten belonged to them. If you were one of the older heads of the household, and Ezra led you down the mineshaft of the Feast of Booths, what would be your first thought?
Insight: This old celebration had been abandoned not just during their exile…this old mineshaft had been abandoned many generations earlier in the days of Joshua (v.17). But this wise priest, Ezra, knew the value of the timing of this feast to a people who were going through the hard times of trying to make a fresh start on little resources. What was the spiritual value of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles)?
Insight: It was a reminder of the Lord’s care and protection during their wilderness wanderings and His promise to protect them in the future. We would be wise to remember God’s faithfulness to provide during our older days of hardship…that reminder keeps us hanging on during our current hardship.
7. Sometimes the word that God gives us through others isn’t the word we expected to hear…or even wanted to hear. It’s the response to the word that sometimes initiates God’s blessing. How so? 8:17
Insight: It’s on the pathway to obedience that God blesses. Lk. 17:12-14 When God sees the heart is right, by faithful obedience, cankerous burdens are lifted by His grace. A person with insight will put forth whatever effort it takes to obey God. (Neh. 8:16-17)
8. Place yourself into the shoes of the Israelites. Can you imagine the ridicule these older men must have endured from their enemies? What kind of criticism do you think they might have endured from the Sanballats and Tobiahs?
Insight: The same enemies that watched them erect strong, sturdy walls were now watching Israel’s oldest gather sticks and leaves to build huts. To build a deeper intimacy with God sometimes we have to be prepared to pay the price involved. The price is choosing to be closer to God, even when it may appear ridiculous to others.
9. You would think that living 7 days in a makeshift hut would result is bitter complaining. According to 8:17, what was the result? (Great rejoicing.)
Insight: This is a valuable insight about embracing obedience when you consider this 7-day event made them uncomfortable and inconvenient…but nothing could quench the happiness that flowed from hearts at peace because they realized they constantly lived in a shelter not made with human hands. Ps. 5:11
10. Put on your miner’s hat and see if you can extract two insight-mining procedures you can still use today. (We each need time in the Word daily; wisdom doesn’t come from occasional window-shopping God’s Word. We need to gather together as an assembly for worship and celebration. Prov. 27:17)
The streets of Jerusalem were transformed overnight into a shantytown of makeshift booths…but it didn’t dampen their spirits…instead it resulted in great rejoicing because they rediscovered the biggest nugget of all…God provides!!! Perhaps you haven’t entered an abandoned mine shaft for a long time…the mineshaft of digging for wisdom and insight in regards to your long struggle. How about putting on the miner’s hat and grabbing a pick and shovel and heading into the mine? All it took was some leafy boughs and a heart of obedience for Israel to be able to stake their claim to God’s precious spiritual resources. Those living in spiritual poverty can strike it rich…even while living in a hut! Isn’t it about time you put a new bumper sticker on the back of your wagon that says, “It’s God’s way…or bust!”?