After at least three starts on the wall under Zerubbabel and Ezra, Nehemiah gets permission to take the immigrants and travel to Jerusalem.
Prayer for grace in the moment- Nehemiah breathed a powerful prayer:
When the building began, it was an all-hands operation. Each section was built by a different group and it is a great example of how diverse the work of the Kingdom can be: 1) religious leaders and their people, 2) families and extended families, 3) a group of sons, 4) a group of daughters, 5) different trade groups like perfume-makers, goldsmiths, 6) groups of neighbors, 7) politicians, 8) worshipers, 9) merchants and marketers.
Chapter 4 & 5
Don’t fear; keep building. To the vigilant, to the multi-tasker is the victory.
Chapter 6 and 7
Discourage their hearts, confuse their minds, weaken their hands.
52 Day project to complete the wall.
Ezra read and the people were enthralled.
What happened at the first Water Gate.
Men and women, later sons and daughters – all who could get it, got it.
Mic drop in Jerusalem.
Revival in the city.
v. 11 Key verse.
(PRT – Nehemiah 8:1-12)
7:73 And so the priests, Levites, doorkeepers, singers, and a remnant of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel lived in their cities. And on the first day of the seventh month (around October) the children of Israel lived were living in their hometowns.
8:1 And the people came together in unity with a purpose in the streets in front of the Water Gate and the pleaded with Ezra the scribe to bring out Moses’ Book of the Law that the Lord has commissioned and given to Israel.
Ezra was part historian and annalist, part accountant, part teacher, and part priest. The word scribe has a complicated meaning. He kept up with the people, the story God was working out in them, and how His Word related to their story.
He had been in Jerusalem since the beginning of the return from captivity. He’d weathered the accusers, deceivers, and obstructors from the outside; and he’d encouraged the complacent, greedy, and selfish from the inside.
- Nehemiah 1 God breaks his heart for his city and God’s people, they are just a remnant.
- In Nehemiah 7 Only a few but God brings them together.
- In Nehemiah 8 all who could came together. But God was still not done with gathering His people.
8:2 Then Ezra brought the law out on the first day of the seventh month (around October) to the gathering of men, women, and all who could grasp its meaning.
This day is the beginning of the celebration of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement. The wall is finished; the people takes a few weeks to resettle; and they return to worship.
God’s Word is for all; God’s Spirit comes on all; even the children and anyone who could comprehend.
8:3 And he read from the book right there on the street before the Water Gate to the men, women, and all the people from daybreak to noon and those who could grasp its meaning were focused on the Book of the Law.
The word for “all” is used ten times in these 12 verses. The gathering has gone from a remnant of faithful, a few who would not give up, to all who lived there. But God was not done; the gathering of His people continued as more and more returned to Jerusalem. The same today: God’s people are still being gathered.
8:4 And Ezra stood on the wooden stage they had made for this very purpose. Standing to his right were: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. And standing to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchiah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
These were the qualified leaders and teachers from among the Levites. The significance of six on one side and seven on the other is likely scribal – someone got moved or left out.
8:5 They stood above the people so all could see them, and when Ezra opened the Book from the stage, they all stood up.
The people prepared for God’s servants to be heard. They built a stage. At dawn at the Water Gate, the sun would be streaming down on the faces of the listeners. The sight for those on the platform must have been awe-inspiring.
8:6 And Ezra kneeled and worshiped before the Lord, the Great God; and the people responded “Amen! Amen!” They lifted their hands and they bowed down with faces to the ground all while they worshiped the Lord.
And his response at the sight was humility. He was down on his face worshiping. The people did likewise, not because they wanted to do what Ezra did, but because they were overcome by God’s presence. They heard truth, they worshiped, they lifted hands, they shouted, and they fell down before God’s presence.
8:7-8 Also, Jeshuah, Bani, Sheribiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Henan, Pelaiah, and all the Levites helped the people understand the meaning of the Law. And the people stood still as they read from the Book of God’s Law; and they gave clear insight to help the people comprehend what they were reading.
“Clear insight” could also mean that they “translated” to those who had been in foreign lands.
8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe made sure that the Levites taught the all the people: “This day is holy. This is from the Lord your God so do not grieve or cry, for all the people wept as they listened to the Words of the Law.”
The people were so loudly grieving and overcome by tears that the leaders were concerned the would miss the most important element of worship: joy.
8:10 And he said to them: “Go, eat and drink richly, and share your abundance with those who are without. For this day is holy to our Lord; don’t be sorrowful, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Our joy is our strong place of refuge. When we are tempted, run to the refuge. When we are accused, run to the refuge. When we face dark times, run to the refuge and rejoice that Jesus is near and loves us.
8:11 So the Levites soothed all the people: “Be at peace and don’t be sorrowful, for this day is holy.
When God’s Spirit falls in awakening power, convicting and persuading His people to know and seek Him above all, it changes His people forever. Nothing like it; no experience compares.
8:12 And all the people left there to eat and drink, and to share from their abundance, and to celebrate gladly, for they understood the words that were taught to them.
This was the day before Tabernacles begins and celebration is in order. And celebrate, they did! It was an eight day worship service.