Nehemiah 8-9 part 5

 

Nehemiah 8:1 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel.2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.4 So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; (may-uh-sye-uh) and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, (mal-kie-jah) Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

 

The wall was physical rebuilt in the 6th month and now it was time to start building up the spiritual walls, which began in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar, which corresponds with our August and September. We are not told where Ezra was or what he was doing before this time. Some have said that he was gone and then came back, but we donít know for sure.

 

All the people gathered in front of the water gate. The Water Gate was given its name because an underground stream ran nearby that was used to provide water for the temple. The Water Gate led into the temple area where a ritual bath was taken by the priests to make them clean to do their duties in the temple. This area required the use of "living water" or running water, not just water from a well.

 

While this gate was the pathway to living water, it was now going to be used as place that the living Word of God would be read. Just as water gives life, so does the Word of God.

 

This was a planned event because they had made a platform made of wood for Ezra to stand on so the people would be to see him and hear him better. On his right hand stood 6 men, and on his left stood 7 men. Now we are not told why they were standing on each side of Ezra, but they may have helped all these other men that are named and the Levites who were making sure the people understood what they hearing from the Word of God.

 

Ezra began his reading early in the morning and read until midday. When he opened up the book of the Law Moses, the people stood up and they listened carefully because they wanted to know what Law said, so they could live their life by it.

 

When the reading was done, the people said Amen Amen and they raised up their hands as their custom was, and they bowed their head and they worshipped God. These people had listened to the Word of God being read for 3 to 6 hrs and they did not complain or wonder when it was going to be over. Instead, they glad they were able to hear Godís Word and they showed their respect for what they had learned by worshipping God.

 

We can learn a great lesson from this today. We need to be like these Jews when it comes to listening and learning the Word of God. We should be eager to want to learn what God has to say to us. We shouldnít complain if a sermon goes a little longer than usually. Instead, we should be thankful that we got the opportunity to hear more of Godís Word.

 

We should also have the same respect for the Word of God that they did. They wanted to make sure they were living their lives according to Godís Word because they understood that God is our creator and we must abide by His doctrine. There are far to many today that have no respect for Godís authority and this is why we see some that are adding and taking away from the Word of God. When we disrespect Godís Word and do things our way, we are no longer allowing God to direct our footsteps and we are setting ourselves up for a great fall. As Isaiah said,

 

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

 

Another great lesson can be learned from Ezraís reading of the Scriptures. Notice, he did not get in front of the Jews and tell a bunch of jokes or made up stories. No, the main focus was the Word of God, and this should be the main focus of those who are preaching the Word of God today. There are some preachers who excellent story tellers and they can make you laugh and they make you cry and there is nothing wrong using stories or jokes to make your point. However, the problem is that some are only telling jokes and only telling stories and that makes up 95 % to 99% of their sermon. They only use a few verses if any in their sermon.

 

While they captivate your attention from beginning to end, they are failing to feed you with the Word of God because they are trying so hard to entertain you. This should not be the case. The majority of any sermon should be centered around the Scriptures. The message should not be complicated, but it should be simple and easy to understand so that people walk away feeling refreshed and knowing more about what Godís Word says.

 

Nehemiah 8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.10 Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved."12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

 

Once again, this shows that Nehemiah was the governor of Judea and Ezra is a priest and Scribe. This was a Holy day and not a day of weeping. However, we can understand, why these people were weeping. They had heard the Law of God read and their hearts would have been pricked when they realized they had sinned against God. This would be enough to cause those that are faithful to God to weep because of their sin.

 

This same thing should happen to us today as well. If we are listening to a sermon or reading the Bible and we learn that we have been living in sin or we are reminded of a sin that we have committed, it should prick us in our hearts.

 

While we should be sad about our condition, we must also realize that we can overcome our sin and gain strength from God, and we should rejoice that we have understood the Word of God and our sin has been exposed. Ezra wants these Jews to rejoice because they have understood the Law of God and they can start from this point forward keeping the Law of God. The people listened, and they rejoiced and went off and ate and drank and gave food and drink to those who were in need.

 

Nehemiah 8:13 Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.14 And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,15 and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written."16 Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim.17 So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness.18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.

 

This shows the Jews desire to learn more about Godís Law. They came back the second day wanting to know more, and the Law was read and explained for the 7 Days of the feast of the booths. When they had read in the Law that they were to dwell in temporary booths during this time they obeyed the command, which is found in Lev. 23:40ff. They made sure that everyone was following this command and they gathered all the necessary supplies to build the booths. This feast and these booths were designed to remind them of the forefathers journey in the wilderness were they only had temporary living quarters as they made their way to the promise land. Then on the eighth day there was sacred assembly, which was in accordance with the Law (Lev. 23:36).

 

Our text says for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness.Some, have said this is contradiction because the Jews had kept the feast of the booths on several occasion between the time Joshua and now. But this text is not saying that this feast was not done during this time, but that had not been done like it was being done at this time. They were doing it exactly as the Law prescribes and all of them were involved in this feast and it brought them great joy knowing that they were doing what Law required of them.

 

Nehemiah 9:1  Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.4 Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the LORD their God.5 And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said: "Stand up and bless the LORD your God Forever and ever! "Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise!

 

This was just two days after the feast of booths. The people wanted to weep and mourn because they had been living in sin, but the feast was not the time to do this, but now they could. They were ready to show their sorrow for how they had neglected the Word of God and they dressed in sackcloth and put dust on their heads. They confessed their sins to God, and they separated themselves from foreigners. They spent 3 hrs listening to the Word being read and another 3 hrs they confessed their sins and worshipped God.

 

Then these Levites cried out to God and they instructed the people to stand up and bless God and His glorious name. Next the Levites begin to remind the people of what God has done as they continued to cry out to God.

 

Nehemiah 9:6 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.7 "You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram, And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, And gave him the name Abraham;8 You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him To give the land of the Canaanites, The Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, And the Girgashites -- To give it to his descendants. You have performed Your words, For You are righteous.

 

They teach that God is the creator of all things and they begin with Abraham and the land promise. Those who teach the rapture doctrine say that the land promise had not be fulfilled yet, but these Levites have just said that it was fulfilled and this agrees with Josh. 23:14.

 

Nehemiah 9:9 You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, And heard their cry by the Red Sea.10 You showed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, Against all his servants, And against all the people of his land. For You knew that they acted proudly against them. So You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day.11 And You divided the sea before them, So that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; And their persecutors You threw into the deep, As a stone into the mighty waters.12 Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, And by night with a pillar of fire, To give them light on the road Which they should travel.13 "You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments.14 You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant.15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, And brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, And told them to go in to possess the land Which You had sworn to give them.

 

This reminds them of how God made it possible for them to escape their Egyptian bondage and how God provided them the Law and food.

 

Nehemiah 9:16 " But they and our fathers acted proudly, Hardened their necks, And did not heed Your commandments.17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.18 "Even when they made a molded calf for themselves, And said, 'This is your god That brought you up out of Egypt,' And worked great provocations,19 Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go.20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst.21 Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, They lacked nothing; Their clothes did not wear out And their feet did not swell.22 "Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations, And divided them into districts. So they took possession of the land of Sihon, The land of the king of Heshbon, And the land of Og king of Bashan.23 You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, And brought them into the land Which You had told their fathers To go in and possess.24 So the people went in And possessed the land; You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, The Canaanites, And gave them into their hands, With their kings And the people of the land, That they might do with them as they wished.25 And they took strong cities and a rich land, And possessed houses full of all goods, Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, And fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, And delighted themselves in Your great goodness.

 

This shows God mercy and His love toward His people. Even though they sinned on occasion, God was still there to help them and guide them. As they put their faith in God they were able to enter the promise land and defeat their enemies.

 

Nehemiah 9:26 " Nevertheless they were disobedient And rebelled against You, Cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets, who testified against them To turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations.27 Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, Who oppressed them; And in the time of their trouble, When they cried to You, You heard from heaven; And according to Your abundant mercies You gave them deliverers who saved them From the hand of their enemies.28 "But after they had rest, They again did evil before You. Therefore You left them in the hand of their enemies, So that they had dominion over them; Yet when they returned and cried out to You, You heard from heaven; And many times You delivered them according to Your mercies,29 And testified against them, That You might bring them back to Your law. Yet they acted proudly, And did not heed Your commandments, But sinned against Your judgments, 'Which if a man does, he shall live by them.' And they shrugged their shoulders, Stiffened their necks, And would not hear.30 Yet for many years You had patience with them, And testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.31 Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful.

 

During the time of Judges the Jews were constantly falling away from God and as soon as they did this their enemy would oppress them and then they would call out to God. Since God was very patient with them and had mercy, He continued to deliver them even though they did not deserve it. Even when God allowed the Jews to be defeated and taken into captivity for 70 years, He did not make that the end of His people because He allowed them to come back rebuild by His providence.

 

Nehemiah 9:32 " Now therefore, our God, The great, the mighty, and awesome God, Who keeps covenant and mercy: Do not let all the trouble seem small before You That has come upon us, Our kings and our princes, Our priests and our prophets, Our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 However You are just in all that has befallen us; For You have dealt faithfully, But we have done wickedly.34 Neither our kings nor our princes, Our priests nor our fathers, Have kept Your law, Nor heeded Your commandments and Your testimonies, With which You testified against them.35 For they have not served You in their kingdom, Or in the many good things that You gave them, Or in the large and rich land which You set before them; Nor did they turn from their wicked works.36 "Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it!37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress.38 " And because of all this, We make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it."

 

The Levites final plea to God is for Him to know that they have learned their lesson. They realize that all the bad things that has happened to them was because of their sinful ways. If they had not moved away from God, God would not have moved away from them. They caused their own downfall because they thought they could do things better than God. The bounty that was coming from the land that was promised to the Jews was not being used for the king because of their rebellion from Godís Word. Instead of being in control of the land, they had become servants of the land for others.

 

This was a great time in the history of the Jews because they were making a effort to get back to Godís Law so they could be pleasing to Him once again and they decided to make a written covenant with God, stating that they were going to uphold the Law of Moses. This was a public proclamation and all the people that sealed this document are listed in Neh. 10:1-27, which included Nehemiah.

 

We can learn from this lesson how important it is that we remind ourselves of what God has done for us. When we study the O.T., we learn how God wants us to keep His word and if a nation continues to rebel against God, He will allow that nation to fall. God is patient, merciful and full of love, but if we continue to rebel against Godís Word, nothing good can come from it. So, we should be like these Jews and confess our sins to God and make the commitment to do our best to keep His word.