Text: Nehemiah 8:1-9
Today is the final sermon in the Series on Nehemiah
Let us remind ourselves of the historical timeline that Israel and particularly the tribe of Judah had been on up to this point.
In 587 BC the Southern kingdom was taken into captivity and 70 years later the first returning exiles returned to Jerusalem and began to rebuild the temple. This was completed in 520 BC.
About 60 years later a Scribe by the name of Ezra returned to Jerusalem and his focus was to rebuild the spiritual lives of those who had returned to the land, his focus was to teach the Jews God’s law. About 13 or 14 years after Ezra returned God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and this took place in just 52 days as we have seen.
We pick up the account of Nehemiah at a time when the walls were completed and the Israelites had settled in their towns.
Ezra, was a direct descendant of Aaron. When he arrived in Jerusalem the moral and spiritual condition of the people was terrible. But Ezra was a faithful witness and teacher, he taught for 14 years with little fruit, however when the people had been inspired to build the walls, it was they, the people that asked Ezra to read the law. Notice this, the people came to Ezra, as we see in verse 1. The water gate was an open public place that was large enough for all the people to gather. Verse 1 says all the people gathered, scholars estimate that it was between 30 000 and 50 000 people. They even built a platform for Ezra to stand on and read the Law. What followed was an amazing church service. As Ezra opened the scrolls and began reading from the Law of Moses, which was the same as the first five books in our modern Bible. All the people stood in reverence and with a sense of expectancy, they listened attentively. Ezra read aloud, probably very loud from daybreak until noon, six hours.
Two things struck me as I read this first part of chapter 8; firstly the reading took place at the water gate. This place was chosen because the temple court was too small, but it is also significant that God’s Word was proclaimed in the Market place, in the streets and in the public square. The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed in the public places, in the market place and in society, as we do that, whole communities will be transformed. All too often the only place that the Word of God is proclaimed is in buildings like this one, we are doing such a disservice to our community by not proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in our communities.
Secondly the proclamation of the Law led to an immediate revival, the people were overcome with remorse and wept as Ezra expounded on the Law of God. Their sins were being exposed by the Holy Spirit and they repented and turned from their ways. This is revival, God’s word proclaimed, the Holy Spirit convicts of Sin and the people respond in repentance. Life change happens.
Let us look at this word revival for a minute, we pray for it, we discuss it, we long for it, but what is it?
Firstly, what it is not is a church meeting. Revival can start in a meeting, but a meeting itself is not revival.
Revival refers to a spiritual reawakening from a state of dormancy and unfortunately many times, stagnation in the life of a believer. Notice how revival is personal, this is not something that we can hope the church encounters, it must start with you and me and our personal walk with God.
As we see from the account in Nehemiah, the people were overcome with grief and repentance as the law was read. This was an unusual encounter with the presence of God.
But this is what happens when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God and of his awesome purity compared to the sin in our lives. None of us is sinless, and as we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins, and we see how far short of the Glory of God we are, we will break down in sorrow and repentance. Revival is a move of God, it is God’s grace and not something we engineer. Revival results in changed lives as people live in holiness and walk in evangelism and social justice.
There have been some incredible revivals that have taken place in the past and these have been well documented.
In the 1730s, a religious revival swept through the British American colonies. Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield proclaimed the word of God and the Holy Spirit transformed the nation.
In 1872 -1873 DL Moody’s evangelism led to the Scottish revival
In 1904 The great Welsh revival took place under the leadership of a coal miner by the name of Evan Roberts.
After the welsh revival there was an awakening in various parts of the world including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, California, South Korea, China, Chile and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.
Every Church needs revival, every nation needs revival, we need revival and that is my prayer for our church and our nation. Turning back to God with an overwhelming sense of his Glory and majesty.
All these accounts of revival and spiritual reawakening are well documented and frequently recalled, but what about today, the American Northeast, where the Great Awakening took place in America is a place where God is all but forgotten, where the church is a historical monument, not a lively representation of the presence of God. What has happened?
When we look at Nehemiah chapter 13 we see that this is not an uncommon occurrence. After serving as the governor in Jerusalem for 12 years, Nehemiah had gone back to Susa. He had gone back to serve King Artaxerxes presumably as his cupbearer. Nehemiah later went back to Jerusalem after what was probably a few years. To his dismay the people had slipped back into lives of disobedience to the Law of God. They were not following the Sabbath day, they were trading and working on the Sabbath. They had also intermarried with the foreign tribes in the region.
Nehemiah took drastic action. He quickly went about restoring order and bringing the city into alignment with the laws of God. In fact his example of church discipline is one that probably would have him thrown in jail in our society (13:25). Nehemiah was angry because he knew the consequences of the sins of the people would lead to further punishment from God. Nehemiah saw things from a heavenly perspective.
So applying this to our lives, how we keep the faith? How do we continue to grow and experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Our lives should be a constant growing experience, becoming more like Jesus. If you are not more like Jesus today, than you were a year ago, something is wrong and you need to re-evaluate your walk with the Lord. You see, revival comes and revivals go, but it is up to you to appropriate that to your personal life, you are responsible for how you respond to Jesus’ call.
I want to give you 4 things you need to do to ensure that you are encountering God on a daily basis and living in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Bible – The first is reading and studying the Word of God, make it the priority of your life. This is the Word of God from which we gain our sustenance; it is the sword of the Spirit. Our primary offensive weapon in this world.
- Confession – unconfessed sin will prevent you from experience revival and it will also ensure that you remain a spiritual infant. Confess your sins before God, and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and lead you to repentance.
- Community – In this day and age, we hear a lot about community, but true community is rare. Even in our church, community is a goal that is seldom achieved. Connect with other Christians and commit to walking together, encouraging and challenging one another in your personal walk.
- Prayer – I cannot stress this enough. Prayer in your own private place, find a place, make it a regular encounter with God every day. And then praying together with other believers. Praying for revival. Worshiping God, thanking the Lord, Confessing our sins and bringing our requests before him.