Nehemiah and the Jewish remnant overcame incredible obstacles, both from without and within, and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem in an astounding 52 days! This was a spectacular accomplishment so great that it caused the enemies of God to become fearful. It was obvious to all that the LORD was indeed with His children, blessing and prospering their efforts. In the wake of their great success, a mighty revival broke out among the people. It would be the last such spiritual awakening recorded in the Old Testament.
Ezra the priest had returned with a second group of exiles approximately 13 years prior to Nehemiah’s arrival. He had ministered faithfully in the temple for all of these years, teaching the Jews to observe the Law of Moses correctly and urging them to forsake foreign gods. When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, it is likely that Ezra supported him and may have even helped to rebuild a portion of the city’s wall. Following its completion, Ezra led the great revival that erupted.
The events described in Nehemiah chapters 8-10 took place over the course of about 4 weeks, but it is probable that the spiritual renaissance of the people continued for some time afterward. In this passage, we discover some of the characteristics of a genuine, transformational revival. By identifying these descriptors and applying them specifically to our church, it is my hope that we might experience a mighty move of God also.
If there is one thing that our cities need - that our nation and world needs - it is revival. There hasn’t been widespread awakening or sweeping move of God in America for over 100 years. If we intend to reverse the course our nation is on and to avoid the certain judgment of a holy God, we desperately need revival. And as we seek to rebuild our church, we must understand that a rebuilt church is a revived church - a people on fire for God who are busy igniting others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORD OF GOD (Nehemiah 8:1-9)
All of the people gathered in the square near the Water Gate where Ezra stood before them on a podium that had been built expressly for the occasion. It was the first day of the seventh month, which is regarded among the Jews as New Year’s Day. Could there be a better day for revival to begin than on the first day of the new year?
Ezra began reading from the Law of Moses at sunrise and continued until midday. Several others stood beside him, translating the words he read from Hebrew into the people’s native tongue. Besides simply translating, these men also explained the words as Ezra read so that the people could understand. For several hours the entire congregation listened attentively, stirred by the words of God. At times they rejoiced with hands lifted high, and at other times they worshiped on their knees with faces down.
This was not elaborate and captivating sermon, but rather a direct recitation of God’s Word which was interpreted in a manner that the people could comprehend. There were no gimmicks, no flashy presentations, no catchy high-definition videos, no eye-popping theatrics… nothing of the sort. On the contrary, Ezra’s approach seemed quite ordinary by today’s standards. Yet, it was effective.
If we are going to experience true revival, we must reject the philosophies of men and return ourselves fully to the Word of God. We must revere it above all else, and hold it up as the only source of truth and righteousness. We must get back to the Bible, and allow it to cleanse us and renew us again.
II. POSSESS ATTITUDES OF JOY (Nehemiah 8:9-12)
Throughout the worship service that morning, conviction fell upon the congregation and many wept openly. But when it ended, Ezra and those leading the assembly exhorted the people to rejoice and to celebrate because God had made himself known to them through his word.
Way too many Christians today seem gloomy and downcast. The atmosphere that permeates many modern day churches is, in a word, sad. There is a foreboding sense of guilt and shame, which at times may be appropriate and justified, but it leaves me to wonder - where is the joy? Sure we are imperfect, but we are also the blood-bought children of Almighty God. We have an unfading inheritance awaiting us in heaven and a living hope which rests in Jesus Christ. Now that’s something to get excited about!
If our churches and cities are ever to experience real revival again, we as believers must exhibit genuine and abiding joy. The world is somber and discontented enough already. We as Christians need to stand out. We need to display in and through our lives the joy that can only come through knowing Jesus. The world simply can’t offer it, the lost are desperately seeking it, and only we can show it to them.
III. PRACTICE ACTS OF OBEDIENCE (Nehemiah 8:13-18)
On the second day of the revival, the priests and Levites found that the Feast of Tabernacles was to be celebrated during the seventh month (Leviticus 23:33-36). Quickly they issued a proclamation throughout the entire area, instructing the Jews to observe the ordinance in accordance with the Mosaic Law. For the first time since the days of Joshua, the people lived in booths for an entire week as a memorial of the exodus and God’s deliverance of Israel.
Upon hearing and understanding the words of God, the people put them into practice. They joyfully implemented the LORD’s commandments. To say it plainly - they obeyed. Listening attentively to God wasn’t enough. Responding joyfully to Him wasn’t enough. If there was to be revival, it would also require obedience.
The behaviors of the people changed. The holy words resulted in actions, and the hearers became doers. This is where the rubber meets the road - will we actually apply the Word of God to our lives and live by it? If we won’t, then what is the point really? Revival won’t happen apart from obedience.
Now let’s take a few minutes and make this passage personal. This past year we have seen God do amazing things here at Calvary. He has miraculously turned this church around, and has given us all cause to celebrate and rejoice. Next week we have a great opportunity to do just that during our annual Fall Revival.
A true revival will affect the Christian’s attention, attitude, and actions. There will be a renewed focus on the unadulterated, unfiltered Word of God. This will be accompanied by a pervasive attitude of joy throughout the congregation. Together, these will result in a careful adherence to the LORD’s commands. While there are certainly many other characteristics of a revival, these three provide us with a great description.
If you are within driving distance, we warmly invite you to worship with us during next week's revival. You can find more information about it at www.calvarybaptistseymour.org under the Calendar tab. But even if you are not nearby, please be in prayer for our revival and for an even greater revival to break out across our entire nation. Let it begin in you...