Well hey there everyone! My name is Trent Drye and I’m the Senior Pastor here at China Grove First Baptist Church and we’re so glad that you have decided to join us today for a time of worship and study of God’s Word.
I would invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn to Nehemiah Chapter 8 as we continue our series Rebuild and Restore. Throughout the whole book, we have been looking at how God is working in people and through people to rebuild a wall and restore people to a covenant worship, to restore their relationship with Him. A relationship that was broken due to the rebellion of his people. And so as we’ve studied that today again will be in Nehemiah Chapter 8, and we’ll look walk through that text today.
But before I do that, I want to share with you that Saturday, October, the 31st is an absolutely fantastic day on the calendar. I mean, it is one of those “Wow Holidays” that you don’t want to forget about it and you don’t want to miss. I know what you’re thinking. Pastor Trent, Halloween is exciting, but it’s not really that exciting is it? I said, well, maybe we’re going to have trunk or treat here at the church and so that’s going to be pretty cool. But what’s really exciting is it’s Reformation Day. And now all of you are going what’s Reformation Day. I don’t know what that is. Never heard of that before. Well, let me enlighten you. Reformation Day is the day that a monk named Martin Luther picked up a pen and wrote his 95 Theses. And that started what is known as the Reformation of the church. See, Martin Luther set out to restore the church to a Biblical form of worship and a Biblical form of teaching. And so he wrote those 95 Theses to help reform the church. But what happened, a result of that, was Reformation broke out and revival broke out because of what he started and the fundamental phrase, one of the main fundamental phrases of the Reformation was “Sola Scriptura”. That the Bible would be the authority in our faith and practice. That we would look to the Bible for answers to questions about God and questions about theology. That we would use God’s Word as a guide for our life because the reformers came to this realization that it was God’s inspired Word and it was full of truth and it was full of God revealing Himself to His people. And so you know that going back to the foundations of scripture started revival in those communities.
Martin Luther himself made it his lifelong commitment to translate the Bible into the common language of his village, and that was German. Because he wanted everyone to have access to the Word of God. He wanted to the handmaiden, the farm boy and you know, today he would want, you know, the mechanic and the lawyer and the preacher and everyone to have the same access so they were able to read the Word of God, understand the Word of God and apply the Word of God to their life. And it was a fantastic time of revival and restoration. It wasn’t an easy time for the reformers, but revival broke out. Lives were changed and lives were restored.
Thousands of years before that, a guy named Nehemiah and a priest named Ezra did the same thing. They committed to following God. They committed to teaching God’s Word to the people so that they could understand it. They explained it to them and they applied it to their lives and a great revival broke out in the city of Jerusalem. And that’s what we’re going to look at today. And when we think about everything they’ve been through up into this point, you know there was the pre-build where there was the passionate servant, the prayerful servant and Nehemiah, the patiently preparing servant. Then they all started to work together, unified one people, one direction, let us rise and build.
And then they faced three chapters of intense opposition. And thanks to the strength that they had from God Almighty, they overcame the opposition. And what we saw at the end of Chapter 6 was that the wall was finished. The work that they had started had been completed. And then you go into Chapter 7 and it’s kind of they take attendance. They want to see who’s actually in the city, and they set up a government so they can function as a society. And then we get into the revival of Chapter 8. But at the end of Chapter 7, we see a city that is populated. We see a city that is physically secure, a city that is financially stable. But they’re still missing one key ingredient for success. Because they’re going to come to a point where with all their success and with all their security, they still need to be a scripture saturated city. And that’s where we pick up our story in Nehemiah Chapter 8, and we see that God’s people find restoration, find revival in God’s Word, find God’s people, find Restoration an revival in God’s Word.
Nehemiah, Chapter 8:1:
“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.” And right there in those opening verses. We see something very important about revival. We see that God’s people hungered for the Word of God. They wanted to be taught the Bible. They wanted to hear the Bible read to them. They asked for the Book and what you see is like 30,000 or 50,000 people all gathered in this this courtyard, this assembly area, which had a little platform built in it for the preachers and the priest, which we’ll see a little bit later on. And they’re standing there, and they begin to, say, “Bring us the Book! Bring us the Book! Ezra, bring out the Book!”
The very first concert I went to as a young teenager was a Carman Concert. And again, this is like the Sunday with me referencing things you don’t know very much about. Carmen was the first Christian, maybe not the first, but for me the first Christian rapper. He was good by the standards of the 90s. In fact, this week the reason I thought of this story was I came across some YouTube videos of his music from him and just kind of spent this week reliving my teenage years as I worshipped, and I don’t know if it’s really worshipful, but as I rapped out with Carmen. I would encourage you, maybe I shouldn’t encourage you, just look at one of his songs OK and just see if you it don’t matter which one, they’re all the same, just you should look at it and see if you like it or not. But I remember being at that concert, and right before the show started we started going “Carmen! Carmen!”. You know you’ve been to those concerts. You know, some might yell “Mötley Crüe! Mötley Crüe!” or, you know, “Poison!” Me and my brother love Poison or go to the Garth Brooks, “Garth! Garth! Garth!” We go to these concerts and were chanting for the concert to start. And it’s so amazing to hear that. And I want you to put yourself in Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah and they’re not chanting for Carmen, thank goodness. You know they’re not chanting for Metallica or Garth Brooks, or in fact there chanting for the Bible. “Bring us the Book! Bring us the Book!” That is an amazing thing. So as a church from now on, every Sunday before I take the stage, it’s going to be “Bring us the Book! Bring us the Book!” No, I’m just kidding. We don’t have to do that unless you want to, but we don’t have to. But they had a desire in a hunger to hear God’s Word preached and explained clearly because they wanted to understand the Law of Moses. And I love that last phrase, they said, “Bring us the Book, the Law of Moses, that God commanded them!” They realized that Moses wrote it down, but God inspired him to write it down. They understood that it was God’s Word.
You know God’s people love the Bible. They don’t allow this Book to become a decorative piece on an end table. They don’t allow this Book to sit on a coffee table and collect dust. God’s people read it, they hunger for it like you hunger for those filet mignon’s from last week at homecoming. Man, it was delicious. We hunger to be sustained and to be satisfied by the words of this Book. It is God’s special revelation to us. He shares with us from Genesis to Revelation about Himself. He shares with us the redemptive plan of Salvation. He shares with us how to live our lives following Him. He gives us commands and encouragement and we should desire to read and spend time in the Word of God. And so the people were calling for Ezra to preach. And this is what I love about it. I mean, I love the whole story, but Ezra spent 13 years preaching and teaching. And in my imagination, I think that day in and day out he had to go invite people to a Bible study. Hey come to this Bible study. That’s what we do as Christians and teachers and preachers. Hey we got a service, why don’t you come and join us? I’m going to teach the Bible on this day. The people invited Ezra come teach us the Bible.
Man it’s such an encouragement when preachers are told, hey, preacher, teach us the Bible. I’ve heard a few people, several people, say that to me since I’ve been here and it’s such an encouragement. And that’s what Ezra did. He brought it out and he began to preach and teach the Bible. So let me ask you this question. Are you saturating your soul with the scripture?
Are you spending time reading God’s Word? Do you value it enough to make time to read it? Do you value it enough to attend Bible studies and attend preaching services?
First thing in the morning when you wake up, do you reach for your phone to check Facebook or do you reach for your Bible to read God’s Book? Or those who have the Bible app you reach for your phone and you have that choice; Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or the Bible app? What’s the first thing you click on in the morning? I’m guilty. Just as anybody else. I look at it like I wonder what’s happening in the world overnight Twitter. It usually makes me unhappy.
Where if I go to my devotions in the Bible app, I’m encouraged and I’m satisfied, and I’m filled with the Word of God.
And so, I love how this kind of story plays out as we continue. So we’ve gotten to, Ezra brings out the Book. They’re chanting, they’re calling for it. They hunger. So he brings out the Book. Verse 2. “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.”
Let me just stop there real quick just to tell you who is here. Men, women and all who could understand. This is the children. They brought the children who are of age to understand to church. You know I love children’s church. I love the nursery. Man, there’s some wonderful saints and some wonderful people who lead that. And they’re raising up our children and they’re doing a fantastic job. But when our children reach the point, and every child is different, but when they reach that point where they can understand, bring him into church.
Worship together as a family. Let them see you as parents. Let them see the other adults worship. Let them learn to hear and to love the Word of God as soon as you can. My mom never put me in the nursery. She had me in the sanctuary from the first day I was there, and I’ve learned how to listen and had I just love soaking in worship in the Word of God. And so all of them are there. The children, the men and the women all who could understand and it’s the first day of the 7th month. And that’s important, but we’ll get to that date in just a little bit later.
Verse 3. “And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
Now we think about the Book of the Law and you’re thinking the 1st five books somewhere of the Old Testament. Specifically, maybe Deuteronomy, maybe Leviticus, and what you need to understand is from morning to midday he preached. I thought my sermons could get long from time to time. This guy preached for five or six hours. That’s a long sermon. I don’t know if I could listen to it today. I don’t know if you could listen to it today, but for six hours, five or six hours, they were attentive to the reading of the law and he could have very well been reading Leviticus. OK, I mean if you’ve read it, you understand what I’m getting at here. It’s it’s a rich book, but it’s not the easiest book to read for five or six hours straight, but he did it and they stood there, and they listened because they just loved God’s Word, they couldn’t get enough of it.
I’m very much aware of the current culture we live in. I understand people’s attention spans really well because I have a short one. Uh, I don’t. I don’t know if I could listen to a sermon that was an hour. Maybe not a sermon that was 45 minutes attentively because we struggle with that in our culture because we’re entertainment driven. I can sit down and watch a 3-hour football game and watch another 3- or 4-hour football game like it’s nothing without batting an eye, but it entertains me. We can go and watch Gone with the Wind or Star Wars or these other movies like Lord of the Rings, which never ended and we could just watch these movies and never bat an eye. I have to be careful not to make fun of Lord of the Rings, but we can do that and it’s OK, but we have a hard time listening to someone read God’s Word. Why is that when God’s Word is infinitely more valuable, infinitely more important than any of those other things, but I believe it’s because we’ve become entertainment driven. We’ve become consumer driven. Many people come to church asking the question what’s in it for me? They want to come to get something. Instead, when we come to church and we hear preaching, we come to meet with God. We come to hear from God and not to be entertained.
You know they didn’t ask to hear Nehemiah’s opinion of the text. They said, preach us the Word. Don’t share with us what you think it says. Tell us what it says. Apply it to our life and explain it. You know that’s something that I’m committed to as a pastor. I want to clearly read the Word of God, clearly explain the Word of God and clearly apply it to the lives of people.
But for the believer who is listening, we have to desire to do that. We have to listen with attentive ears and to pay attention. We have to learn how to listen to God’s Word. So why should we hunger? That maybe you know why is God’s Word so important?
Well, let me just give you a few reasons. First, it nourishes your soul. It gives you strength. It fills you up. When you read it, you learn more about God and His will for your life. If you want to know God’s Will open God’s Book. I mean, that’s an important truth to understand.
The Book tells us about the Savior, the Messiah. From Genesis to revelation, it’s all about Jesus. We see how we are broken because of our sin and our rebellion, and we see that how through history there are consequences for our sins, sometimes dangerous and even deadly consequences for our sins. But we see a God who is actively working in history and through history leading up to the climax of the Bible, which is sending His one and only Son Jesus Christ, to die for your sins and my sins, completing the ultimate restoration so that whoever would believe in Him, whoever would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, whoever would turn away from their rebellion to turn away from their sin and turn towards God, and we call that repentance. Whoever would do that, believe in Jesus, repent and then decide to follow Him will be saved.
We wouldn’t know that without God revealing it to us through his Word. And then as you go into the other parts of the New Testament, you learn about church history and you see how God built His church upon the core theological values of justification and sanctification and glorification. Through faith alone, grace alone through faith alone another key element of the Reformation, that we can be saved. And so it’s crucial that we read God’s Word so we can understand it. It is sufficient for Salvation, because it tells us about the Savior, and it tells us about God’s love.
Without it, we don’t know about Jesus. But we also see in 2 Timothy 3:16 several reasons. “All scripture is breathed out by God.” God inspired all these different men to write this Book “and it is profitable for teaching.” We learn and we can be taught by it. “It is profitable, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” It teaches us. It corrects us when we go astray. And it’s important for us to learn and to read it.
But we also see a Nehemiah 8:5-6 that it’s worship. Reading God’s Word, hearing it preached is a form of worship. Look what it says, “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.” Now this is descriptive. You know, some churches have people stand up when the Word is read, others don’t. It’s not a prescriptive thing. We don’t have to do it. But it’s descriptive in verse 6, “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
Now when I read this, it sounds to me like a description of pre-sermon activities in the church. We stand and we sing our songs. We lift our hands and praise the Lord. We bow our heads with our faces to the ground and we pray. And so when I think of this a lot of times we think, well, this is what we do when we’re worshipping. When we’re singing. But here they’re doing it as they’re reading God’s Word, because preaching doesn’t come after worship. Preaching is worship. Reading God’s Word is worship. We could take out all the singing in all of our churches and have nothing but preaching and we would still have worship. And the people were worshipping the Lord as they learned about Him. And it’s so important for us to understand that that it’s not worship and then sermon. It’s all worship. It is all glorifying God.
And so we see that as we move through this and then as we get into the second part of chapter eight, we see that God’s Word led to restoration and revival. See the more the people studied, the more the people heard, they remembered, and they learned the Law of God. I told you that first day of the 7th month was important and it is. The 7th month is the Jewish New Year. It is a time for the Jewish people to start afresh to start new. How awesome is it that God orchestrated these events so that the wall would be completed in time for the New Year? In time to restore the people and start new. They could start new. They can say we’ve made mistakes in the past, but look what God has done for us and they look to the future at what God is going to do for them in the days ahead. And the 7th month is filled with festivals and celebrations and as you start reading down into verse 9 and 10, you see Nehemiah, say stop crying today is the day of rejoicing because it’s the day of trumpets, it’s the celebration of trumpets.
In Leviticus 23:24 we read this that the first day of the 7th month there is a sounding of trumpets and rejoicing is dawn. A day of celebration. It’s a day of worship because they know the day of atonement is coming. On the 10th day, again, this is found in Leviticus, on the 10th day of atonement. On the 10th day of the 7th month is the day of atonement where food offerings are presented and people are denying themselves and, and they’re atoning for their sins. And then on the 15th day is the festival of booths which you see described in this chapter. And what that is is they would take sticks and twigs and olive trees and branches, and they would build little huts on top of their houses on their roofs. And that’s where they would live for several days, and the purpose of this celebration was to remember the wilderness days to remember that God had gave them these little huts, as they went for 40 days in the wilderness, leading up to entering the promised land. It was a time to remember. You could say it was a time to look back at what God had done. For these Israelites, it wasn’t just about the wilderness, it was about the exile to see what God had done, leading them through the 70 years of exile and then restoring them back to their home place. This would be a great homecoming message ’cause God brought them home. I’m just a week late. But we see them looking back and remembering the awesomeness of God, and then we see them looking around as they’re on their roofs in their huts. They’re looking around and they’re seeing what God is done.
And then they’re looking ahead at what God will do. China Grove First Baptist Church listen.
Today we can, every day, we should look back and we should remember what God has done.
God has done some amazing things in this church, some amazing things in this community. God has revived people. He’s restored people and we should look back and we should remember and we should celebrate. But then we need to look around and we can see what God is doing.
I mean, I see it every week how God is moving in this congregation and this church. There’s a. There’s just a such a sweet spirit and such a revival spirit starting to kind of spark up and and burn in the in the hearts of the members. And that leads us to look ahead and say God, what are you going to do next?
God, what are you going to do in the future? God, what can you do through the people of this church as we put our feet to the ground and we go after it, serving you and following you, spreading the Gospel. Where we take the Gospel to the person next door to the person in the next cubicle, to the next classroom, who sits beside us at school, where we take the Gospel of Jesus to the barbershop or to the beauty salon. Wherever we hang out the gas stations, we take it to our friends our family our relatives, our neighbors and we see what God does when we are faithful to follow Him and to spread the Gospel. And we expand that to the ends of the Earth.
We celebrate national missions and we celebrate international missions as God uses us to Proclaim the Gospel. That is what we’re looking for. That is how revival starts. Our world needs revival and it needs restoration.
Throughout history, God has had these moments of revival, these moments of restoration, and they’ve been amazing, and they’ve been God centered. And they’ve included confession of sin and repentance of sin. But they all have one very important thing in common. An extremely high value of God’s Word and the preaching of God’s Word. In Acts, chapter 2, Peter stands up at this day of Pentecost and he preaches, and he explains to the people, using text from the Old Testament that Jesus is the Son of God, who they killed. And 3,000 people are saved on the day of Pentecost. That is a revival. And then we see the reformers Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Lattimore and Ridley, and during the Reformation the emphasis on a high value of reading and preaching God’s Word. Then there’s the Puritan preachers of the 17th century who are amazing expositors of God’s Word who preached it an explained it and applied it to the lives of people.
Then in the 18th and 19th century there was John Edwards and Whitfield, and John and Charles Wesley, and we’ve seen what the Lord has done in these moments in history. But you know what? Revival doesn’t last forever. Look at the people in Israel. It didn’t last forever.
They experienced revival here in the closing chapters in Nehemiah, but when Jesus shows up, where’s the revival? They’ve slipped away again.
One pastor I was reading this week said “revivals are a lot like taking a bath. They don’t last forever, but you need ’em every now and then.” It’s important. And so I look around and I think when’s God gonna cause the next revival? Well, maybe it’s just right around the corner.
Maybe God’s waiting for people to begin to pray for revival. Maybe God’s waiting for the church to get out of the buildings and spread the Gospel. It’s interesting we’ve been out of the building for a while. Maybe God’s teaching us something. Maybe God’s ready to use the church for revival, we just gotta go to work.
I heard a really good story this week that just just just touched me and impacted me. There was a professor at Wheaton College named Dr. Orr. Dr. Orr took a group of students from one of his seminary college classes over to England. And they begin to tour some of the historical and theological sites from the past. One of the places they visited was the Epworth Rectory. It is the original home of John Wesley. And the students would tour the house and they would walk around the house and they would see the books that he used to study. And the books that he read and the places where he wrote his sermons. But then they went upstairs and they walked into his bedroom. And as they gathered around and circled around his bedroom, one of the students noticed two imprints in the carpet beside the bed. He said Dr. Orr, “what are these places in the floor?” And Dr. Orr explained to them that this is where John Wesley is believed to have prayed. He prayed for so long and so much that he wore holes, rough spots, divots into the floor next to his bed. He didn’t just pray for a few minutes. He prayed for hours and hours.
So the students continued to tour the rectory and then they left, and the professor noticed one of the students was missing from the bus. So he goes into the house. He looks in the room where the books are. He looks in the study. He then goes upstairs and he sees on the other side of the bed the head and shoulders of one of his students. A student who has his knees on the floor, right where John Wesley had prayed. And what he heard from this student was this,
“Oh Lord, do it again.” The student was saying Lord, do it again. And do it with me. Right where John Wesley prey, a key leader in one of the great awakenings of this world. He said, Lord, do it again. And do it with me. And the professor walks over, puts his hand on the back of the student, and says it’s time to go. And Billy Graham stood up and walked out of the house and join the rest of his students on the bus. And God did it again.
Folks, it’s time for another revival. When I look around, the harvest is right. It’s time for you and I to say, Lord, what You did with the Israelites in Jerusalem and Nehemiah’s Day. What You did during the Reformation, what You did during the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th century. What You did during those centuries with those preachers. Lord, do it again. And do it with me. And it starts with a high value on God’s Word.
Let’s pray together,
Father, we pray that You would do it again. That You would lead the people to revival and restoration. That You would put in us a desire to hear from You through the reading and the understanding of the preaching of Your Word. Father help us to hunger for it and as we read it, and as we study it and as we learn more about it, revive us. Father, we pray for another great awakening in this world. Do it again. And again, and again, and do it through us.
In Jesus Name.