In Nehemiah Chapter 8 we can clearly see the place that the Word of God played in the spiritual renewal and revival of the community of Gods people. The rebuilding project in Jerusalem was complete and all the people gathered in the square to celebrate during the feast of Trumpets, and the people were calling for the law of Moses to be read.
‘… all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.’(8 v 1)
Something is stirring in the people’s hearts. The people of God are the ones who are calling for the Word of God to be brought out, read and explained.
‘He [Ezra] read it aloud from day break to 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.’(8 v 3)
Picture the scene: five or six hours stood in the increasing heat of the day, up to 50,000 people crammed into the city square, listening attentively to all that was being read. Wow!
Now, we happen to live in a day and an age that is blessed with more resources to help us read, learn and understand the Bible than at any time in history, yet we have a generation of Christians in the West who probably know their Bibles less than at any time in history. That is a sobering and challenging thought. What are we doing with our privilege?
We need to reawaken our desire and delight in the Word? Let me share four simple encouragements from Nehemiah 8 that will help us to do that;
1. Open the book.
Let’s start with the obvious. Do you want to hear from God? Do you want to reawaken your delight in the word? Open the book. Or open the Bible App. It’s that simple. “Ezra, opened the book.” (v5)
When is the last time that you opened the book? Do you open the book other than on a Sunday? Take the initiative, open the book and position yourself to receive.
2. Make it a priority.
During a Jewish New Year celebration, all the people gathered in the city square, and what did they want? What are they calling for? To have the Book opened. That’s the priority.
A Priority is defined as a thing that a person regards as more important than others. We need to carve out times in our day and our week where we can give God’s Word the attention it deserves and demonstrate that it is our priority. And remember, the goal is not to just read and rattle through a Bible plan, the goal is to listen attentively. So we actually need to try and find a good time to read God’s word when we are fresh, unhurried and attentive.
I’m acutely aware that, as a pastor and teacher, I’m in a privileged position, whereby I actually get to do this for a living, so you may well be thinking; ‘its easy for you to say we should make it a priority, but we don’t have 8 hours a day to read the Bible?’. However, I haven’t always worked for the church, and so I do know what it’s like to work long days, in a secular job, as a teacher, leaving the house at 7am and returning home at 7pm, with a young family and growing responsibilities. How do you get the word in your heart when time seems so limited?
The answer is the same for everyone; You have to make it a priority, and you have to make choices that enable you to read and receive God’s Word.
- Maybe you need to redeem your commute and listen to the audio bible, or sermon podcasts on your phone on your way to or from work.
- Maybe you need to be disciplined and find 15 minutes a day to read and pray through a psalm (that will keep you going for 150 days), or to read a chapter a day through the New Testament (the point is, commit to something. something is better than nothing).
- Maybe you need to try different translations, some are easier to read than others.
- Maybe you need to try reading Scripture with your favourite cup of coffee in hand, or some other enjoyable treat. Make it part of a good moment in your day. Create a way of reading a small portion that will help you look forward to it.
- Maybe, if your married with kids, you need to come to some arrangement with your spouse so that you can hide away for half and hour, undisturbed, to read and pray. If you do this, you’ll be itching to get to that point in the day for some peace and quiet!
A word of advice; don’t get stuck in the more difficult and dry bits of Scripture. It is much better to fast forward through the difficult bits and arrive at those parts that are easier to read and more engaging, than to just get stuck and give up, you can always return to what you missed when you’re feeling more confident and energised.
The big idea is, make it a priority; and that won’t happen without your involvement. No one else can do that for you, but you.
3. Slow down.
The Israelites were not in a hurry. Ezra read it aloud from day break till noon (v3), day after day (v18), 5-6 hours they stood and listened. I’m not suggesting we could all do that, but I am suggesting that we read slowly, deliberately, and attentively.
Don’t read just to get your quota in, don’t read quickly to get it done and out the way. I would rather you read a few verses slowly and think about them, and reflect on what they are teaching you about who God is and the implications of that revelation for your life and future, than for you to cram in 4 chapters every day for a week and not have stopped to ponder any of it.
Here’s another tip; approach your reading with the goal of getting the words moving from your head to your heart, because this goal will cause you to slow down. I would encourage you to journal, to write, to read with a notebook and pen close by, because to write you have to pause and think, but to read you don’t necessarily have to stop, or think, at all.
4. Be expectant.
As Ezra opened the book, the people all stood up(v5). You need to read God’s Word with an expectant heart. Believe that God wants to reveal more about Himself to you, for your growth and His glory. Believe that God wants to teach you and speak to you and He wants to show you wonderful things in His word. If you open the book with this kind of expectation it will affect the way you read, it will affect your openness to the Holy Spirit.
Every Christian needs to understand that no spiritual renewal or revival, no maturing in life will ever come about without exposure to the Word of God, without a growing desire and delight in the Word of God. You can’t live without it, you can’t grow without it, so open the book.
‘They told Ezra the Scribe to bring out the book.’
Post by: Martin Coleman