Nehemiah 8:9-12; 12:27-31a
Harris Malcom, state missionary
Middle Georgia Region
Israel’s past disobedience had seen many of them carried off into exile. For those who remained, their homeland was desolate and the walls of Jerusalem were broken and burned down.
While catching up with a brother and some friends who had come to visit him, Nehemiah learned of his homeland’s devastation. This broke his heart and the fasted and wept over the situation for days. During this time he cried out to God. Through God’s intervention he was able to get permission from the king to return and rebuild Jerusalem.
Nehemiah’s return and obedience to God had been accompanied by God’s favor and blessing. God had used him to unite the people and rebuild the physical walls around the city.
Upon completion, the people gathered to celebrate. As we learned last week, they assembled in unity at the Water Gate. They asked Ezra to bring the scroll of the Law of Moses and read it publicly. They gathered, he read, and they were attentive. That sounds like what would really please God when we gather, especially the attentive part.
What I want us to see here is that this was just the beginning of a celebration that would last for days. One of the first things they did was reinstitute the Feast of Booths. Few of the feasts that were a part of old covenant worship were as joyful as the Feast of Booths (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles). This celebration was the last of the fall festivals and was held at the end of the agricultural year when the grapes and olives were harvested in Israel. This was a time to thank God for all of the preceding year’s provision and to pray for a good rainy season, which lasted from October through March.
The people gathered every day and Ezra read from the scroll. This particular celebration lasted seven days, culminating on the eighth day with a solemn assembly.
The prophet Joel writes, “Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord you God, and cry out to the Lord … And rend your heart and not your garments, now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering for the Lord your God?” (read Joel 1:14; 2:13-14)
They did this and God moved among them. As a result of this awakening the people grieved over their sin. They repented of both corporate sin and individual sin, confessing before God and acknowledging that God was just in His dealings and they were in their present situation because of their disobedience as the people of God.
In short they committed to do things God’s way. Now to do things God’s way you have to know God’s way and to know God’s way you have to yield yourselves to learning God’s way.
What would happen in your life? What would happen in your family? What would happen in your church? What would happen if God’s people “owned” their sin, repented, and confessed?
God is faithful. I believe that He would visit us again. I believe that He would open up the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing.
What would happen if we stopped “doing” church and became the church? What would happen if we committed to gather for an extended period of time for the express purpose of listening to God and then did what He said?
A t some point in revival preparation someone is going to bring up 2 Chronicles 7:14, where God promises to hear and bless for obedience and discipline for disobedience. But don’t miss what is said in verses 12 and 13.
Prayer had being going up and God had heard. What happens next, please don’t miss. It wasn’t the words of the prayers but the condition and contrition of the hearts of the prayers that got God’s attention. He heard and basically said, “My choice is this place where these prayers have been rising to Me. Therefore, when this people pray like this with hearts like this there is not much I won’t do for them.”
So beloved, let’s gather and have church God’s way and celebrate Him and His works and listen for His Word and just do what it says. Let’s be doers and not just hearers who are fooling themselves.