Nehemiah 7:61-8:18; 1 Corinthians 9:1-10; Psalms 33:20-22; Proverbs 12:1
OT: “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate. They asked the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel. On the first day of the seventh month, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law… Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the law to the people as they stood in their places. They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read. Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all of them, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law… And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, since today is holy. Don’t grieve.” Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them.” (Nehemiah 7:73b-8:3, 7-9, 11-12 CSB)
After the wall around Jerusalem had been fully rebuilt and the workers had returned to their homes and settled in their towns, a solemn assembly was called and all the people returned to Jerusalem and gathered together. Ezra the scribe was asked to stand before all the people and read from the Law of God. As he read, he was surrounded by Levites who would both interpret and explain the law to the people. For six hours, Ezra read, the Levites explained, and the people listened attentively. Nehemiah didn’t explain why the solemn assembly was called, nor why he had Ezra read and teach the law – but I imagine it had to do with some of the challenges Nehemiah faced with the Jewish people as he worked on the wall. There were several times he had to bring correction because the leaders of the people were acting in ways that were contrary to the law. The people were obviously familiar with the law, but they didn’t know it. I wonder if Nehemiah assumed nothing and wanted to make sure everyone understood the law. As the people heard the law explained to them in a way they could understand, they became convicted, were cut to the heart, and began weeping in remorse. Through Nehemiah’s leadership, the people were led from grief to joy as they gave thanks that God’s law had been explained to them, and they could now live it out faithfully. These were signs of genuine revival as the people of God were awakened out of their ignorance and indifference by the life-giving power of the word of God.
I see the church of our day in a similar state. Most “Christians” are familiar with the word of God, but they don’t know what it says, much less understand it. Most have lived their whole lives on scraps from the Word… short bumper sticker sayings taken out of context… hazy memories of Sunday school Bible stories, and the like. Because of this, the church is awash with Biblically illiterate people who don’t know the Word of God, nor the God of the Word… so they form God and Jesus in their own image, and determine in their heart what is right and wrong with no absolute Biblical truth to guide their way. Much of the issues we see in the Church today are because of a lack of Biblical understanding and discipleship. What would happen if we the church did today what Nehemiah and Ezra did in their day. What would happen if we made a concerted effort to read, teach and explain the Bible so that all who were in our churches could understand the Word, understand God, and fully understand the glorious message of the gospel? I dare say that people would be cut to the heart as they grew to understand how far they had moved from God’s truth and purposes. I dare say that people would be convicted and moved to confess and repent, and turn back fully to God. I dare say that our churches would be full of people fully living out all that The Lord has done for us and fully living out His great commission. I dare say that we would see and experience genuine revival.
Psalms: “We wait for the Lord; he is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in him because we trust in his holy name. May your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in you.” (Psalms 33:20-22 CSB)
The word ‘wait’ here is more like the word ‘await’. It is waiting with expectation – not a passive waiting, but an active waiting… on the balls of your feet… ready to move when the time comes. Biblical waiting is framed in trust and faith. Many times, people view waiting on the Lord as doing nothing, thinking that God (or someone else) is going to do everything. Biblical waiting means not getting ahead of God, but being ready to do whatever He calls us to do, when He calls us to do it – much like a server at a restaurant waiting on a customer. We wait for the Lord (and don’t get ahead of Him) because He is our help and shield… but the expectation is that He is going to have us do something that requires His help and protection. As we trust God, our heart will rejoice in Him. As we hope in God, His faithful love and mercy will rest on us. But we miss what revival truly is, if we are just waiting around doing nothing, thinking that revival is just something God magically and mysteriously does. Revival is born out of God’s people waiting on Him in the full Biblical sense of that word: Not trying to manufacture something… not getting ahead of God’s timing, but fully ready to do whatever He asks us to do when the time comes… and remaining prepared and attentive in the waiting. How do we actively wait? By growing in our knowledge of the Lord through studying the word, by cultivating an intimate relationship with the Lord through daily and consistent time with Him in the secret place, by maintaining our relationship with Him through confession and repentance, and by obeying the things He has already instructed us to do (like evangelism and discipleship). The more we do that, the more ready we will be to step actively into the move of God and experience revival as we participate in revival.
Prayer: Lord, in Your word, you instruct me to wait on You – but the waiting You call me to do is not a passive waiting. There are things You have instructed me to do as I expectantly await Your move. So I endeavor, by Your grace, to “keep my wicks trimmed,” obey Your instructions, keep my eyes on You, and remain ready to serve when You call me to step into what You are bringing. In Jesus‘ name I pray, Amen.