In Nehemiah 8, we see the beginnings of spiritual revival, which comes as the people return to the Word of God. At this point, the Jewish people have been in exile for many years, but they have begun to return to Jerusalem. This return did not come all at once, but in two waves, separated by 58 years. During this span of time the events of the book of Esther took place, which we learned about last week.
Like Esther, Nehemiah was a Jew who found himself in Persia, in the capital city of Susa—and in the palace of the king. Nehemiah’s name means “Jehovah comforts.” Through the ministry of this man, God would bring comfort and new hope to His people. He would rebuild the walls of the city, and lead them in spiritual reformation.
The book of Nehemiah opens with him receiving news from his brother. Jerusalem is in a sad state. Its walls are broken down. Therefore, even as the exiles return, they are vulnerable to their enemies. Immediately, Nehemiah prays to God. He confesses his sins, and the people’s sins. And he asks God to grant him favor in the eyes of the king, as he prepares to make a request. Hearing Nehemiah’s request, the king gives him a leave of absence to return to Jerusalem. He also gives him letters bearing the king’s seal, which serve as a passport for travel, and as the promise of the king’s provision of all the supplies he needs to rebuild the city walls.
Chapter 2 also introduces the antagonists, Sanballat and Tobiah, who make Nehemiah’s job as difficult as possible. But in Chapters 3-7, we see Nehemiah persevere through much trouble, and the people rebuild the city walls (see 6:15-16).
Now, Chapter 8 begins with the people all gathered in the city square, in front of the Water Gate. Here we see the people listen and respond to the Word of God. It’s been 70 years since the captivity began. It’s been a long time since they attended Bible study. And they are starving for the Word.
God is now moving among them. He’s orchestrating a revival. And the revival will be the direct result of their response to the Word of God. From this passage, God wants to speak to each of us. He wants to start a revival here at Cornerstone. But for that to happen, you and I must return to the Word. Nehemiah 8:1-12 reveals four ways God wants us to return to the Word.
- Return to the Word with resolution (vv. 1-3).
- Return to the Word with reverence (vv. 4-8).
- Return to the Word with repentance (v. 9).
- Return to the Word with rejoicing (vv. 10-12).
The lovingkindness of God is the underlying hope we see in this period of Israel’s history. But the lovingkindness of God is not just for Israel. God’s grace and mercy is available to sinners of all kinds. It comes to us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died for sin, and rose again, grace and forgiveness are received through Him. If you feel you have messed up your life too much for God to accept you, then you are wrong. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. And Jesus invites you to come to Him.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)