It's been only nine months since Nehemiah first heard the
word while in Shushan about the total state of disrepair of
the wall around Jerusalem. He spent the first four of those
nine months praying and fasting about what to do about it.
So, in five months he has gathered supplies, crossed 800
miles of desert, rallied the people and built the wall. Now
wouldn't you think after that it would be time to take a
little bit of a break? At least a three or four month
sabbatical? But no, Nehemiah now begins to focus on the
greatest task of all. He focuses on the transition of
leadership. Nehemiah didn't come to Jerusalem to become a
little monarch. He didn't come to be king for 30 years. He
came to build a wall. King Artaxerxes even asked him, "When
are you coming home after you finish?" So now he's got to
move the people from the construction phase to the
Therefore it is time to appoint leaders. He appoints a
fellow by the name of Hanani to be responsible for the
daily governing of Jerusalem. Then he appoints a man named
Hananiah as the military commander to be in charge of the
defense of the nation. The Bible specifically points out
that he chose these two men because they had integrity and
because they had a fear of God. He has gone from
construction to consolidation, and now he looks for
leadership for consecration.
Nehemiah had come to build a wall and then to build a
people. The wall was important only in terms of what it
meant to the lives of the people. Many people today assume
that construction and structure will guarantee a vibrant
life. We tend to think if we just get everything built, get
everything organized and get everything set up we will have
revival. That's wrong! Nehemiah realized that the wall only
created the needed environment for his objective. His real
objective was the reconstruction of the hearts and minds of
the people. He wanted what Peter would call hundreds of
years later "the living stones" to be in place so that God
could truly bless the nation. So how would he do that?
Just as Nehemiah appointed leaders over the civic matters
and leaders over the military matters, he needed to appoint
a leader over the spiritual life of Israel. Nehemiah knew
that he wasn't that man. So Nehemiah steps back and lets
another come to the forefront to lead the people
spiritually. That man was Ezra. "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. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the book of
the Law of Moses which the Lord had commanded to Israel. So
on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest
brought the law before the assembly which was made up of
men and women and all who were able to understand."
A church can easily make the mistake in thinking that its
life is in its structure and organization. If we are not
careful, we will make the mistake of thinking that that's
where our power comes from; that it comes from our
organization, our building, or from our numbers instead of
remembering our empowerment comes from God and His word.
That's the only place it comes from. How did Nehemiah go
from building limestone to building living stones?
1. A hunger for the word of God.
There will be no revival until one craves the word of God.
He got them all together and they all had this great hunger
to hear the word of God. The reason they were so hungry was
because they had been in the midst of spiritual famine.
Back in the days of the kings God through prophets said
that if they would disobey Him, He would send them into
captivity. In captivity they were going to have a spiritual
famine. In fact the prophet Amos prophesied "The days are
coming, declares the sovereign Lord, when I will send a
famine through the land, not a famine of food or of thirst
of water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord."
(Amos 8:11) Sure enough they went into Babylonian captivity
followed by Persian dominion. The people had gone through
decades of not being able to hear the word of God like they
had when they lived in their native country. Can you
imagine living in an environment where you and I did not
have access to the word of God?
For a Christian with a heart on fire for God, he doesn't
have his arm twisted to feed on the word of God. It's just
not an option. In our present culture, we are in the midst
of spiritual famine because we're convinced that God
doesn't speak anymore, so we don't come to listen.
2. Honored the word.
"He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the
square before the water gate in the presence of the men,
women and others who could understand. And all the people
listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra, the
scribe, stood on a high wooden platform built for the
occasion. Beside him on his right stood a lot of other men
". (v. 3): "Ezra opened the book. All the people could see
him because he was standing above them, and as he opened
it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the
great God, and all the people lifted their hands and
responded, 'Amen, Amen'. Then they bowed down and
worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (v. 5)
Isn't that incredible? Revival occurs when the people treat
the word of God as a treasure.
All across America, there are churches that devalue the
word of God. It would amaze you how many churches in this
city are meeting that do not believe or teach that the
Bible is inspired. You would be shocked at the number of
places where preachers either totally ridicule or
trivialize the miracles and say, "Aw, those fictitious
stories are to just teach us the good morals." Let me tell
you when that attitude is prevalent there is no life-there
is no revival.
Look at how the Jews honored the word of God. The first
thing I see that really impresses me was their lack of time
consciousness. For six hours, Ezra read the law and they
stood and they listened. I can't even begin to imagine
that. I realize they developed better listening skills than
we have as a people, but they stood and they listened
because they were eager to have God speak to them. Even the
teenagers were soaking it in. They didn't have a time
They honored the word of God by their respect and by their
expressiveness. Nobody had to ask them to stand. Ezra
didn't say, "Will you all stand for the reading of the
law?" Nobody had to ask them to raise their hands. Nobody
had to ask them to say, "Amen, Amen." Nobody had to ask
them to bow their faces to the ground.
We are not like that because our culture has taught us to
control our emotions. There are times when God's word is
burning a hole in your heart and you are about to explode,
but you are not going to because you are more worried about
what someone will think than about what God's word is doing
in your heart. Now, lest you misunderstand, I'm not
encouraging disruption or chaos or personal shows that are
bizarre. I also know that some people show their greatest
reverence by their stillness and silence.
"The Levites instructed the people in the law while the
people were standing there. They read from the book of the
law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that
the people could understand what was being read." (v.
3. A proper handling of the word.
First, they read it from the original language, Hebrew.
Second, they translated it into the tongue, language, of
the listeners which would have been Aramaic. Then it says,
"They made it clear what the point was." All the way
through the chapter, you see an emphasis on the word
"understanding." All too often, preaching is not generated
by scripture but generated by the preacher or by some
agenda of the church. You must not decide what to say and
then see if the Bible agrees with it. Instead, teach the
Bible and then decide whether you are going to agree with
it. That's the way it works. That's the proper handling of
That's exactly what I think Paul was trying to tell
Timothy. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one
approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who
correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) That
doesn't mean to handle your agenda or to manipulate it for
what you want to get across, but just helping the people
clearly understand what God wants them to understand. You
don't get revival by a pre-conceived agenda and
manipulation. You get revival by accurately releasing the
power of the word of God. Revival occurs when people have a
hunger for the word, when they honor the word, and when
they properly handle the word.
4. Humbled by God's word.
"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.'" Nehemiah said, "Go and
enjoy choice food, and sweet drinks, and send some to those
who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord.
Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength. The
Levites calmed all the people, saying be still, for this is
a sacred day. Do not grieve. Then all the people went away
to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate
with great joy because they now understood the words that
had been made known to them." (Nehemiah 8:9-12)
There it is. Revival broke out.
1. The people
heard the word and they recognized their own
brokenness and sinfulness. "They had been weeping as they
heard the law read to them." (v. 9) Why? Because as they
heard the law read, they realized they'd not done what was
required. We had not obeyed God. No wonder we were in
captivity. No wonder we were just in squalor down here. We
were broken. But their weeping turned to joy as they
realized that even though they had left God, God had not
left them. Their sorrow turned to celebration.
There are so many people who are scared to death of the
word of God because they know it will show them their
brokenness. They know it will convict their hearts and make
them hurt. I don't want to see it; I don't want to look at
it. I don't want to know, let me do my own thing. What they
don't understand is that when they face their brokenness,
there is celebration just on the other side because the
Word and the power of God take them there. They'll never
know any real life happiness or celebration until they go
through that brokenness by the word of God to the other
side. That's how you are humbled by the word of God.
2. Let God's word
speak to you. If you will let Him speak to you. His
word will convict. God's word cuts through the facades that
we tend to put up and it forces us to look at who we really
are. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper
than any doubled-edged sword, it penetrates even to
dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
Everyday, we need to be examined by the word of God.
Mark Twain once said "Some people get upset about parts of
the Bible they can't understand. It's parts that I do
understand that give me difficulty." God's word is a mirror
that reflects us so we see what we actually are, sinful
people. It convicts.
consecrates. "For everything God created is good,
and nothing is rejected if it is received with
thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God
and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:4-5) We don't use the word
"consecrated" everyday, but it just means to pull aside and
prepare for a special purpose. That's what God's word does.
Once it convicts us of our own weakness, then God's word
pulls us aside and begins to prepare us for a special
purpose. It prepares us for great things that we couldn't
and wouldn't do otherwise. It is that living sword cutting
to the core of our being that cuts us away from that which
is evil and pulls us to the light.
4. The word of God
completes. It completes our life. We get so
concerned with the tangible and material that we neglect
the spiritual. In reality we are spiritual beings wrapped
temporarily in a material tent of flesh. You are made in
the image of God. That means you cannot be fulfilled
without the word of God. You need soul food. No way around
it. "For you have been born not of perishable seed but of
imperishable through the living and enduring word of God."
(1 Peter 1:23) You exist because of the word of God. God
spoke all things into existence, and you have a saving
relationship with Jesus today because of the word of God.
The word of God didn't just create you, it will re-create
you. The only way that you will feel whole is with a
genuine relationship with that Word.
Revival is necessary. It always is. We don't need it once a
decade, or once a year, we need continually. The key to
revival is the word-the very breath of God that we need to
hunger for, honor, and handle correctly so that it will
humble us and make our lives a celebration to Him.
I don't know what your individual need is today but turn,
repent and build or repent, return and rebuild your
relationship to God. Lesson
#1332 September 21, 1997