Monday, January 18, 2016

Nehemiah 8: Fruit of Repentance is Joy

KEY TEXT: Neh 8:9-11 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." 

KEY THOT: The reading and exposition of God’s word by Ezra, assisted by the Levites, resulted in repentance and revival of the nation: “For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (v.9). The people wept when they realized how far short they had fallen from God’s standard of holiness. As a result of their repentance, they experienced forgiveness of sins and joy, which is the source of their strength.

The preaching and teaching of the Word of God is critical to restore God’s people to the path of righteousness. However, it is not enough just to read God’s Word—God’s Word need to be explained and expounded in order to be understood: “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places” (Neh 8:7). Even as Ezra read the Law, he was assisted by a group of teachers who expounded the implications and applications of what was read. While the reading of God’s word may increase our knowledge of Scripture, it is the exposition of God's word resulting in understanding that will produce revival to God's people.

The first indication of revival is repentance, resulting in mourning over our sins. This mourning over sins leads to forgiveness and cleansing. But if it just stops there, then it defeats the purpose of revival, which is to restore joy in God's people. So, after repentance must come rejoicing: "Then he said to them, 'Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength'" (v.10).

While bible commentaries are helpful to interpreting Scripture, they are nevertheless historical interpretations of Scriptures to a past generation, that needs to be freshly re-interpreted to feed the present generation. While major doctrines of the past may guide us in our interpretation of Scripture, what will bring revival will not be the mere regurgitation of what was said in the past to a dead generation but what God is now saying today to the living generation, for the issues that face today's generation are not the same as those that faced the past generation. 

Revival only comes when our preaching and teaching are prophetic—by this I mean inspired by the Holy Spirit so that God's Word becomes God's Voice. People need to know what "the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, etc). The group of expositors who surrounded Ezra as he read the Law helped the  people understand Scripture by expounding its implications and applications. That was what brought revival in Ezra's time. And that is what will bring revival today--the Spirit speaking through the Scripture. 

Father, help us to learn to listen to the inspiration of Your Spirit as we read and teach Your Word, so that Your Word to Israel might become Your Voice to the Church today. Amen.

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