By Nevin Bass
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel (Neh. 8.1).
THERE ARE SOME SIGNIFICANT things that can take place inside the walls of separation and protection that seldom, if ever, take place anywhere else. The work of rebuilding the walls is now complete. The walls and gates have been made secure. There has been a reckoning of the people.
And now the people of God are about to learn something about worship that they had not experienced for over a hundred years. What the people of God learned and experienced in Nehemiah chapter eight is an important reality for you and me even to this day. The people learned that worship can truly take place outside the confines of the temple. Notice the setting for this first portion of chapter eight:
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate… (Neh. 8:1).
This did not take place inside the temple, but out in the street where they lived. I know this is a simple truth, yet it was a truth obscured by generation after generation of oppression. Israel was oppressed by the enemies of God and the lifestyles of those who did not know Jehovah. The reason they were so oppressed by the people of the world is that there were no lines of separation between them and the unbelievers around them. When there are no lines of demarcation and protection from the world, worship is more a ritual than a reality. In this setting worship IS something confined to the temple and seldom found in the street. You see, as long as the wall of Jerusalem lay in ruins, worship was restricted to the temple alone. As soon as there was a clear line of separation between God’s people and the world, worship became the all-encompassing thing God intended.
Where are those who view the walls of God’s city as barriers that restrict worship now? How many of you have heard from your nonbelieving and even perhaps from your professing friends that godly standards of conduct and life are “too restrictive” and are “legalistic”? We are told that drawing a line between God’s people and the world is mean-spirited and restricts the freedom of Worship. Let these folks come with us to Nehemiah chapter eight and explain their position from God’s Word. What they will find is that after the walls of separation were reestablished, worship was renewed as it had not been in the last century. Notice what else happens spiritually when people reestablish God’s boundaries in their lives….
A Hunger for the Word
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel (Neh. 8:1 ).
Inside the walls of God’s city there is a hunger for the Word of God like never before. When worship was confined to a temple ritual, there was not this type of hunger for God’s Word. It is when religion becomes practical that people desire to understand more about the God that they seek to serve daily.
Meanwhile, the worship without boundaries crowd is content with the smidgen of spirituality they express in their weekly visit to the temple. They satisfy themselves by repeating clichés that they have learned from others that may or may not even be rooted in Scripture. They claim that walls hinder worship yet fail to practice worship except as a temple ritual that does not change the way they live in any significant way!
When people set aside their apathy and draw close to God, there will be a renewed interest in God’s Word. Notice that these people came to Ezra the scribe, the man of God, and asked him to read and expound the Scripture to them.
A Unity in Worship
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man… (Neh. 8:1).
When there is unity in building and unity in defense, there will be unity in worship. It is a sad person who never learns the joy and fellowship of the Christian community. The Lord never intended for an individual to be at the epicenter of the walk of salvation, but rather the entire body of believers to he so.
Consider that last statement. Said in other words God never intended you and your family to be the only source of true spiritual fellowship in your life. Many have tried to build a wall of separation around themselves only. What they fail to understand is that a wall this size is small indeed, much too small. God gave you an extended family of believers. To deny the biblical concept of a church family is to deny the purpose of most of the New Testament epistles. With the exception of the Pastoral Epistles, they were all written to exhort a church family in one location or another. Yes, a small church is still a church. But the word “church” means an assembly of called out ones.” if you consider your own family as a church unto itself, where is the “assembly?” And who does the calling? Will you limit the sovereignty of God to call souls other than your little group into salvation?
Your wall of separation needs to take in the temple and all the assembly of people who are called by His name surrounding it. In this way spiritual fellowship must and will call you and me to break out of our own little shell and become a part of something larger than those in our immediate family. It requires unity and fellowship to construct and defend meaningful and strong walls. It also requires unity to have renewal in worship.
Before the Water Gate
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate… (Neh. 8:1).
It is significant that the people gathered at the water gate. It was at the water gate that they sought for the cleansing of God’s Word.
Christ also loved the church, and gate himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Eph. 5:25-26).
Of the ten gates leading into Jerusalem, they chose the water gate. It was near this same spot some five hundred years later that the Living Word of God came to their children and proclaimed:
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me , as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive (John 7:37-39).
Jesus directed men back to the Scripture that explains how we are to believe in Kim and what it is we are to believe. And as we do so, we may receive the promise of living water that will flow from our innermost being.
And He Read…
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law (Neh. 8:2-3).
Please notice some things about this first street service conducted in the city of Jerusalem in over one hundred years. It came about as a result of walls. God could now be experienced and worship practiced on the street and in everyday life. When people drew closer to God, they desired to hear His Word.. The same is true today. Those who only want a ritual type of worship are seldom interested and eager to hear the Word.
Also note that the move of God that was being experienced was the result of unity. God does not honor those who get angry and withdraw from community. He honors those who work to build fellowship and promote godliness in the community of faith. They met in the street in front of the water gate. They were thirsty for more of God.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6).
Who was the law bought and presented to? The entire congregation—men, women, and children old enough to understand. There is only one reason for ignorance of God’s Word that is, because one desires to be ignorant.
And he read… (8:3).
The scribe’s responsibility is to read from the Book. Ezra didn’t use God’s law as a “sermon launcher” and then branch off into a long list of his pet peeves. No! He brought the Book, he opened the Book, and he read from the Book. May I say that we need more of God’s Word in the preaching of God’s Word? May I wax bold enough to say that the primary function of a ready scribe should be to read and expound the Word of God? There would be more attentive ears at our preaching if we had more preaching in our preaching and less storytelling and endless conjecture.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (Neh. 8:8).
…and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law (Neh. 8:3).
Understanding what the Book says and applying it is adequate for Christian living. If the message proclaimed is too obscure to he understood, then its principles will not he practiced, and its promises never claimed. In this Old Testament street service, there were no idle spectators. All were active participants; all who could understand were eager listeners and willing praisers.
A few things that are still necessary even in our day and time for a sustained move of God or revival to take place are:
- Strong walls of separation from the world
- Unity of purpose and practice in believers
- A hunger for more of God that takes men beyond ritual
- A ministry willing to embrace and proclaim the Word…all of the Word
- A congregation hungry and willing to take their experience into the streets and the byways of life
The result of these things will be a revival that changes the community of faith and shakes our cities down to their foundations!
When the Word Makes Sense
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (Neh. 8:8).
An important aspect of the overall picture of worship is that the Word of God must he applied to people’s lives. This seems so fundamental, so simplistic, and yet many times something as simple as this is overlooked. In an effort to compete with every type of entertainment and the latest eye-popping situations on the market, many have forgotten that the fundamental need of people is the meaningful application of God’s Word to the issues they face. The goal of a worship service is to bring congregates into a genuine encounter with this awesome God. What better way to do that than by expounding and applying to their lives the Living Word that God has given to meet their needs? I am afraid we have gotten too far away from Ezra’s simple wooden pulpit and become too much like an entertainment industry that caters to folks’ desires instead of their needs. True worship needs not be so much a production as a personal experience.
Verse eight is the result of the direction the outdoor worship service took and the priorities established as the service unfolded. I think the result achieved in this service is worthy of duplication. The result was that the people walked away understanding what they heard. It all made sense to them. When the Word of God makes sense to people, it is very likely that they will feel comfortable applying it tomorrow to the issues they face. This is a prospect worth pursuing because it has the worshiper walking away from the session understanding the Scripture -in its setting. Not only that, but they have examples of its application to their lives today. In addition, there is at least a reasonable hope that they will feel comfortable applying the principles to their lives in the future. This is a worthy achievement for any church and any preacher. I low did the service conducted by Ezra accomplish this remarkable thing?
First, it began with a hunger from the people. Verse one tells us that they wanted to hear the Book. If you plant crabgrass seeds, you can expect a fine crop of crabgrass. If you accept and mimic the latest entertainment gimmicks, you can expect a fine crop of couch potatoes who reach for the spiritual remote anytime you get on a subject that requires any depth. Those who become accustomed to being entertained instead of challenged in church are the ones who tune out anything they don’t like. Give us believers who: come to church.
Chose who become accustomed to being entertained instead of challenged in church are the ones who tune out anything they don’t like wanting to hear the Word of God more than the latest musical style or the latest dramatic production!
Next, the preeminence of God’s Word was recognized throughout the service. Ezra stood on a pulpit of wood that elevated him above the people. This elevation was so the people could see him open the Book and hear him read from the Book. In other words, the position of elevation was due to the message he was called to deliver. The elevation was not for the sake of Ezra, hut for his message. And the message was not his anyway—it was God’s. The only reason a man steps up into this elevated position is so people can see and hear him deliver the Word of God. If all you have to deliver are anecdotes, various stories about yourself, or your own ideas about how things should be, step down and let the man of God proclaim what the Lord commands. One who does not carry the Word of God doesn’t need an elevated position. Chat with us about your ideas some other time.
It was also important that the people see Ezra and see him open the Word. Why? Because they knew Era, and they knew how he lived. The popular trend today is for the man who carries the message to be held apart from the people to whom he preaches so much so that he is seldom if ever seen but in this elevated position. If this were what God intended, He would have gladly used angels to deliver the Gospel instead of the imperfect creatures we know men to be. But God wanted the messenger to be part of those to whom the message was delivered. Men should not use the elevated pulpit to escape this. If you desire to be other than those you are sent to minister to, try another profession, perhaps politics or law—anything where it is accepted that the practitioner answers to a different standard than those he serves. This should never be the case in the ministry.
Again, the preeminence given the Word of God is demonstrated by the fact that the people stood up when the Book was opened. Not that standing is necessary, but it indicates the attitude the people had and the prominence given to God’s Word.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground (Neh. 8:6).
Notice the worshipful reception given to God’s commandments. Rather than taking issue with the Word and trying to find exceptions to it, the people responded “Amen,” meaning “it is so.” Rather than dreaming up reasons why certain passages may not apply to them, they lifted up their hands and lowered their heads. Rather than condemning the foundation of their faith through moral relativism, they worshiped the God of absolute authority with their faces to the ground. Such is the attitude of those who would gain understanding and find stability in an unstable existence.
Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabhethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place (Nell. 8:7).
And finally, notice the faithful ministry of those who stood with and beside the preacher. These eleven men as well as the Levites lent their support and their personal testimonies to the voice of God’s Word and the example of the preacher. Every congregation needs faithful men and women who stand with and beside the preacher as he proclaims what thus saith the Word of God. Their testimony and added example serve to help others apply the Word to-their own lives. The value of believers who are faithful to the message as well as loyal to the man of God can scarcely be overestimated, especially when it comes to assisting others to gain understanding through the modeling of godly living and submission to God’s Word.
So they read in the hook in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (Neh. 8:8).
When all these things are present and the ministry is committed to proclaiming the Word distinctly and following on with application, the people of God receive that which is priceless in any age understanding. And understanding specifically of God’s Word. The understanding of God’s Word is an understanding that empowers believers to apply its precepts and principles to practical situations in their everyday lives. This ability is absolutely priceless!
Drying the Tears of Regret
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10).
A time of rebuilding must also be a time of renewing. Rebuilding the walls may he inspired by the vision of God’s leadership, hut the renewing of commitment must come from the understanding of God’s Word. Rebuilding the walls is a strengthening of the lines of separation between God’s people and those outside the city of God. The renewing of commitment is the strengthening of bonds that hind God’s people to the obedience of His commandments. The first may he inspired and motivated by God’s leadership; the second must he inspired by God and motivated by His Word.
Our text gives us the complete cycle of renewal. The cycle of renewal is this revelation, regret, repentance, renewal, and rejoicing.
This is a recipe, not a list. The order of steps is important to the process.
Recapturing the move of God in our life must take us beyond the consecration and dedicated effort that are inspired by man. It must come to a place where renewal of our ancient vows is inspired by God and precipitated by an understanding of His Word, His expectation of us. Walls are great, and there are some things that happen inside the walls of separation that cannot happen in any other place. But unless the rebuilding work continues in hearts and leads to rededication to God’s will, it will soon fizzle.
This is the next phase of a move of God after rebuilding—it is called renewal. Let’s go through the cycle.
The Revelation of God’s Will
So they read in the hook in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (Neh. 8:8).
Some call this “illumination” rather than revelation. We won’t get caught up in semantics. What we are saying is that God’s expectations for His people become reality in their lives…again. This happens by exposure to His Word.
God still speaks to people today! More often than not, in the cycle of restoration and renewal, He will speak through His Word as delivered by His man. This is what happened in Nehemiah chapter eight. Ezra the man of God stood on a wooden pulpit while he read and explained God’s law. And this is why the authority of the ministry is constantly under attack to this very day. It is an effort by the enemy to minimize exposure to that which changes lives- God’s Word.
The illumination of God’s Word includes clear understanding and the ability to apply the principles and precepts to _practical situations and life itself. If one lacks either the intellectual honesty or the moral veracity to apply Scriptural truth to one’s own life, it is unlikely one will ever progress in the cycle of renewal to the next step. In other words, if you are unwilling or unable to apply God’s Word to your own life, there will never he much of-a renewal in your life, if any.
The Regret of Failure
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law (Neh. 8:9).
More often than not, the next step in renewal is that of regret. When one who genuinely loves God and wants to serve Him is exposed to the Truth of His Word, he sees a huge gap between God’s law and his past. What happens at this point is a terrible sense of failure and regret by pretending that it is the preacher’s word? It is all part of his scheme to take authority away from what God says and convince those who hear the Word that they are hearing the words of man. Understand that renewal will not progress if one is only regretful that the preacher found out or that one got caught or any number of other like things. Real repentance originates from an understanding that our actions have been against God’s law. There is no way to come to this place unless God’s Word is what is heard.
Regret may he experienced, hut it regret results because someone else discovers indiscretion in our life or someone else applies Scripture to our life with unfavorable result, our response will be regret of a different sort.
The sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10).
Regret that stems from anything other than the self-administration of God’s Word will likely not bring a good end. Instead of flowing from regret to repentance, the offended one will accuse and blame others for bringing about bad feelings in them.
How often those in dire need of renewal steadfastly refuse to apply Scripture to their own life! When it is done for them in preaching or counseling, they react by blaming those who dared to confront them. They say that it is these folks who are responsible for their feelings of regret and therefore they must be punished! For this reason those who are morally corrupt or intellectually dishonest will seldom experience meaningful renewal. Instead, they will go through life from one wounded ego situation to another. This is unfortunate when renewal would be easier and much more productive. All that would he required for this person to break out of this situation would he honesty and a willingness to apply God’s Word.
Godly regret blossoms into repentance. Regret that comes from another source other than God’s Word will not produce repentance but only hurt feelings and wounded egos. This is why those who refuse to accept the simple truth in a certain area of behavior are unlikely to respond favorably to fierce preaching on the topic. They may feel regret indeed, but it is regret based on the action of the preacher and not their own indiscretions.
There must be repentance. This is an appeal to God to restore fellowship and forgive past sin. This repentance is expressed first to God and second to others if there is opportunity to ask forgiveness or correct a wrong committed against another.
Regret that turns inward becomes bitterness; regret that turns God-ward becomes repentance. Bitterness leads to broken relationships and death. Repentance leads to renewed fellowship and life.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10).
Bitterness defiles the spirit:
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (Heb. 12:15).
If regret never progresses to repentance, bitterness is sure to set in. This is much the same principle that can he observed in the way the human body fights germs. When a foreign object or germ penetrates the skin, antibodies rush to the scene and try to encase the intruder. This causes soreness, swelling, and infection. If the body is unable to expel this infection and thus flush the germs from the system, the result is that infection is absorbed into the body and spreads. Repentance is the flushing of sin that regret has encased in our heart. Unless this infection is flushed from our heart it will be absorbed and travel throughout our spirit in the form of bitterness. Regret is but one step in the process of spiritual cleansing. Unless regret brings about repentance there is no-cleansing.
Next in the cycle of restoration is a renewal of neglected commitment and/or responsibilities. This is a recommittal and acceptance of full personal responsibility for sin.
Spiritual renewal is impossible without a recommittal and rededication of self to God’s commandment. When the cause of regret is surely understood to be one’s transgression of God’s law, only a recommittal to the same can remedy it. This is why it is impossible to repent of sin and yet continue to practice the same. The cycle of restoration goes no further without a renewal of the ancient vows.
In His message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus expressed restoration in these terms:
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works… (Rev. 2:5).
Remember, repent, and repeat the first works, or renew your commitment to God’s commandments.
Finally, the cycle is completed with rejoicing—rejoicing because the burden of the past has been lifted through repentance and renewal, and now failure can he converted into victory.
Rejoicing is an important part of the overall process because it exposes us to God’s joy and thereby strengthens every aspect of our commitment. When we rejoice in the Lord, we experience His joy in our fellowship with Him. This is something we need, for God’s joy ministers to our spirit. Those who have had sin exposed, experienced the regret of failure, and brought the issue to God in repentance, need also to experience the joy of the Lord. This provides reassurance of our relationship and therefore strengthens faith in a thousand different ways. It is no coincidence in David’s psalm of repentance that he prays, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Ps. 51:12). Salvation without joy can .scarcely he endured when compared to the “pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). Should we not expect and, yes, encourage one who has renewed covenant with God to look and behave unlike one who has just sucked into a sour persimmon? We need to know the joy of a renewed commitment.
Hung Up in the Process
And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe , and the Levites that taught the people , said unto all the people , This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither he ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:9-10).
This entire cycle of renewal is represented in Nehemiah 8:9-12. There was, however, one problem. The people appeared to be high-centered somewhere between regret and repentance. They kept alternating back and forth and couldn’t break forward to experience renewal and rejoicing.
This does happen sometimes when
- The spiritual illumination is complete and powerful;
- The people are totally sincere and gut-wrenchingly honest;
- The abuses are particularly egregious and or long-lived.
A combination of these things may cause the repentant to become “hung up” halfway through the process. They do not break through to experience the joy of full restoration. It is a dangerous circumstance to allow someone to leave the place of worship without breaking through.
This passage demonstrates for us how the ministry should he in tune with the process of renewal and be prepared to move the process skillfully forward to completion. The last phrase of verse ten is one of those that is quoted often but very seldom fully understood.
… for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10).
It appears that after receiving a thorough understanding of their situation in light of the law, the people alternated between regret and repentance. Regret was able to bring about genuine repentance, but the people were unable to break through, renew their commitment to the will of God, and rejoice in what God had done for them. The specter of past failure and the baggage of several generations caused them to grieve repetitiously over lost opportunities. This cycle had to be broken.
How is one to break out of this cycle of regret and repentance? How does the ministry help bring victory in a situation like this? The answer is right here in the text. The people were encouraged to recognize what God was doing.
And Nehemiah , which is the Tirshatha , and Ezra the priest the scribe , and the Levites that taught the people , said unto all the people, This day is hole unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law (Neh. 8:9).
When the weight of failure in light of God’s holiness hits man, it is not uncommon for one to feel overwhelmed by the weight of guilt. David acknowledged this when he said, “my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Many times even after repentance men are overwhelmed with the guilt and regret that accompanies an understanding of sin.
In times like these we must pause and consider that God has allowed us to see the error of our ways for a reason so that we may renew covenant with Him. God’s goal goes beyond repentance and to a renewing of our covenant relationship with Him. In these terms, this day is holy. We should allow our regret to produce that fruit of repentance and move onward to the next step in this holy process of renewal. That includes forgiving ourselves and drawing strength from past failure, which is expressed as resolve, as our covenant with the Holy is renewed.
Part of the recovery process is recognizing the sacred occasion and commemorating it in a festive fashion. Move beyond tears of sorrow and regret and celebrate restoration to full fellowship. Eat the fat and drink the sweet. Use this opportunity to minister to others who are not prepared to enjoy such a celebration. This passage contains one of the most often quoted yet seldom understood phrases in the entire Bible. The phrase “the joy of the Lord is our strength” is preceded by instructions to help break the mournful cycle of regret.
Restoration and renewal are holy occasions, and we must move beyond tears and into the joy of a fully restored relationship with God. If sin breaks fellowship with the Lord, repentance is a restoration of that fellowship. The Word equates the end product of repentance with joy!
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall he in heaven over one sinner that repenteth… (Luke 15:7).
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 1 5: 10).
Truly, if repentance and restoration cause joy among angels, can we believe the cycle is complete in man if it does not produce joy here as well?
The ministry was determined that the sacredness of the occasion be recognized and acknowledged not with tears of regret and grief, but with the laughter and joy of reconciliation.
So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved… (Neh. 8:11).
Let this be a lesson to us today. The goal of conviction is not to move people to tears only, but to move them beyond tears and into the joy of fellowship. Unless folks complete the cycle they will not experience the joy of the Lord that is the source of strength.
The people departed from an experience of renewal changed, strengthened, and joyful.
And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them (Neh. 8:12).
We are told that the reason for this joy was that they understood the words declared to them. Part of those words are included in verses ten and eleven. The same message that convicts and brings about repentance must also contain words of hope, joy, and restoration. We are forbidden to speak one without the other.
The Feast of Tabernacles
And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the hook of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner (Neh. 8:13-18).
With a renewed commitment comes a rebirth of interest in the things of God. This is what is commonly called “revival,” yet it is really only one result of the overall renewal process. The Feast of Tabernacles had not been kept with such solidarity since the days of Joshua.
Please remember that all of this took place after the wall of separation had been rebuilt and the people had been made secure in the city of God. If spiritual declension exists in its advanced stages, there can be no renewal without rebuilding the wall and redefining the ancient landmarks first. Then, within the security of these bulwarks, renewal is sparked as a result of the illumination of God’s Word to the people.
The Feast of Tabernacles speaks of dwelling in God’s perfect will. God’s perfect will in your life can never be accomplished so long as worship is limited to a temple ritual. God’s purpose for your life will not he achieved until you are able to relate to Him through His Word and in your everyday life.
Yes, I am a churchman, and as such I am prone to notice things that have significance to believers as members of the body of Christ as a whole. Should we not understand the Feast of Tabernacles in these terms? This event was one of rich spiritual significance in which all Jewish families were required to attend. They would gather with the other members of God’s family, dwell in temporary booths, and enjoy fellowship for a full seven days. Unity was the order of the day. Contained and implied in the feast ordained by Jehovah to celebrate dwelling in His perfect will are the concepts of unity and community. Community is the celebration of unity in the company of other believers.
May I say to you that you cannot dwell in God’s perfect will if you steadfastly refuse to be a part of God’s family! The process of renewal and rededication must cause us to renew our commitment to the things and ways God speaks to us. You cannot dwell in and experience God’s best for your life if your relationship toward the things of God is not strong. Renewal makes us want to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. We cannot keep this feast without understanding the importance of Christian fellowship or being willing to take our place in the family of God.
Chapter Eight Summary
What happens when people seeking spiritual renewal respond to the call to establish and strengthen boundaries in their lives? What happens is exactly what took place in Nehemiah chapter eight. Worship begins to take on a whole new dimension. The desolation and reproach that were formerly a part of everyday life are replaced by a relationship with God that is viral and vibrant.
True worship is about relationship. When relationship is restored and boundaries put in place to protect that relationship, worship is advanced in ways and areas never before dreamed. People desire to know God in a more intimate way. They turn to His Word that they might learn of His character and His ways.
Chapter eight of Nehemiah contains the most remarkable worship service to take place in Jerusalem since centuries before the captivity. This situation could not happen in Jerusalem without walls just as this situation cannot be duplicated in your life without boundaries.
The complete cycle of repentance to restoration is found in this chapter. Each one of the following steps is necessary to complete the cycle:
- Revelation of God’s will
- Regret for past failure
- Repentance toward God
- Renewal of relationship with the Lord
- Rejoicing in the restoration that results
The cycle of repentance and restoration, as it relates to spiritual renewal, begins when our relationship with the Lord causes us to open our hearts completely to the ministry of His Word. There are no weekend warriors here. Sunday-only saints seldom breathe this rarified spiritual air. But then spiritual restoration is not for the spiritually reluctant.
The above article, “What Happens Inside the Walls” was written by Nevin Bass. The article was excerpted from chapter eight in Bass’s book, Building God’s Wall.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.