November 6, 2022
The Israelites had been in captivity for 70 years. In the book of Ezra we learn some of the Israelites were sent back to Jerusalem. Once there, the people rebuilt the temple. But the city was still in shambles. The wall around the city was down and there were people living in poverty.
The book of Nehemiah follows the book of Ezra and is also written by Ezra. Nehemiah is one of the last books of the Bible written of the Old Testament. There were more than 400 years between this book and the birth of Christ. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Xerxes of Persia (Nehemiah 2:1). This meant he was a trusted leader in the King’s Court. He was the man who tasted the king’s wine to ensure it was not poisoned. Nehemiah had heard that the Jews, who moved back to Jerusalem, were having problems. The temple had been rebuilt, but their city wall which gave them protection was still not rebuilt and they were having a hard time (Nehemiah 1:1-3). This saddened Nehemiah and he fasted and prayed for forgiveness of the sins of himself and the rest of the Israelites. He then went to the king, prayed again, and asked the king if he could be sent to Judah to rebuild the city wall (Nehemiah 2:5). The king granted his request, made him governor, and went to Jerusalem. Even with opposition from neighboring cities, Nehemiah was able to enlist the help of others and rebuild the city walls in 52 days. Along with the rebuilding, he helped the poor, which were many because there was not enough grain and many did not have enough money to live and so were in slavery.
After the temple was rebuilt the people’s heart needed to be rebuilt as well, and we will be discussing this from chapter 8 and 9 of Nehemiah.
Once the temple was rebuilt and the residents were settled into town “all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).
- Notice that it was the people who asked to have the Word read to them.
Nehemiah 8:2-3 says, “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. 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.”
- Remember in Old Testament time, people did not have Bibles. The priest read from a scroll in the temple where the people gathered.
- Ezra read for about 6 hours (from daybreak to noon). This shows how much the people wanted to hear from God’s Word.
- Everyone listened attentively.
Nehemiah 8:6 says, “Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen, Amen! Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”
- Ezra praised the Lord, and the people showed great reverence to the Lord by bowing down with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:7-8 says, “The Levites – Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah – 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 understood what was being read.”
- Not only did Ezra read the Law, but the Levites did as well. They also helped the people to understand what was being read.
Nehemiah 8:9 says, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy 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.”
- The people were convicted because of their sin and were weeping, but were told not to weep because this was a holy day to the LORD.
Nehemiah 8:10-11 says, “Nehemiah said, Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy 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 holy day. Do not grieve.”
- Again, the Israelites were told to celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness and to not grieve any longer over their sins.
Nehemiah 8:13-14 says, “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters” as it is written. So the people went out and brough back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.”
- They listened to what the God’s Word said, and realized they were not following the Law. Instead of fussing, they followed the Law immediately. They put the Word into action.
Nehemiah 9:2-3 says, “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession an in worshiping the LORD their God…They cried out with loud voices to the LORD their God. And the Levites…said: Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
- They continued to have the Word read to them, even though they had heard it before. They asked forgiveness for their sins, and then worshipped and praised the LORD.
After this, the Israelites went into a prayer that described all that had happened to their forefathers in the desert and the sins of the nation and how there were consequences to those sins.
Nehemiah 9:38 says, “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
- Like a marriage license has a signature stating that you’re are bound together, this was a binding agreement between the Israelites and God.
What can we learn from reading Nehemiah about getting on track with God?
- Read His Word or go to church and get spiritual nourishment.
- Get the help from teachers or study Bibles if you need, in order to understand what the Bible is saying.
- If you are not following God’s Word or living in sin, ask forgiveness, and then take the necessary steps to live obediently to God.
- Celebrate the “joy of the LORD” because He is “our strength.”
- Do not wallow in your sin. Believe God has forgiven you, and then move on.
- Have the appropriate respect and reverence to the LORD. Worship Him.
- Continue to read the Bible, even if you have read it before.
- Make a covenant with God, which looks a little different today. A covenant today means a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Where are you in your relationship with God? Do you want to get back in relationship with Him? Maybe you have never had a relationship with the Lord. If you have not and are interested in a relation with the Lord, please let me know and I will walk you through or answer any question you may have.
Next week we will read the entire book of Esther.