Most of the time when people think about Nehemiah, they immediately think of how he rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. The wall itself was very important to the health of the city by providing protection and regulation regarding who came in and who came out. In fact, the walls even served as meeting spots for important governmental purposes. However, Nehemiah didn’t stop with the wall; he felt there was much more to Jerusalem than a protective structure. Nehemiah understood something that we would do well to also recognize–God’s city needed godly people. At this point in Israel’s story, they have returned from the violent and sinful nation Babylon. Previously, Babylon invaded Jerusalem, left the city in ruins, and brought its citizens back to serve them in a pagan land for 70 years! When these people came back to Jerusalem, it was a rough life to say the least. Not only did they live in a barely surviving wasteland, but they came back to a remnant of people who had lost sight of their God! In reality, the city’s physical state of ruin displayed the deeper spiritual ruin of the people.
That is why this chapter of Nehemiah is so powerful and beautiful. Nehemiah gathered the nobles, officials, Levites, priests, and musicians to help rebuild the spiritual status of Jerusalem. The scene we see in chapter 8 is basically a sunrise service where Ezra, the scribe, reads God’s word and law to people who probably couldn’t remember a time when they last listened to it. Ezra, the other Priests, Levites, and Scribes were also giving clear instruction regarding the law as to set the people up for as much success as possible. Nehemiah and those devoted to Yahweh wanted to do everything they could to rebuild Jerusalem’s relationship with God. This chapter makes it clear how the people responded to this desire to rekindle their faith with God! They were attentive, they shouted “Amen, Amen”, they lifted up their hands, and they bowed their heads in worship! Keep in mind that this was in response to reading what we sometimes see as a boring section of scripture called the “Old Testament laws”. These people finally got a chance to know their God and how to live in his wisdom after years of poverty, depravity, and sinful living. The rest of the chapter contains the joyous celebration of worship as they began their process of reuniting to God’s will and rejuvenating their strength in “the joy of the LORD”.
But does this story only apply to a particular group of ancient Jewish people? Is there wisdom here that worked in their day as well as ours? I believe so. God did miraculously create and preserve these words so all people of all time can grow in their relationship with God after all. I’m not suggesting that we have to follow all of God’s ancient laws. I’m not suggesting that we need to have a sunrise service in our town squares for all to hear. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we need to see our role in the church and our community the same way Nehemiah saw himself in his community–as a workforce building a godly city by building up godly people. We too should do everything we can to set others up for success. We too should see our efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and rebuild the impoverished community as a platform to bring people closer to God! I encourage you all to keep this in your mind and heart today as you read this chapter. I encourage you all to see what you personally can do to help rebuild the world around you to be a more godly place.
We asked Isaac to introduce himself…”My name is Isaac Cain, and I’m married to my wonderful and beautiful wife Madison Cain (( Cisler). I am the pastor of the Rock Solid Bible Church. I love spreading God’s word and playing DiscGolf.”
This week we will finish hitting the highlights of the Old Testament books of history – and then begin the New Testament gospel of John, as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday!
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Can a godly people be created without a firm connection to God’s Scriptures? In this chapter how often and how long did they read from God’s word (vs.2, 3, 13)? What accompanied the reading (vs. 8)? How does this compare to your use of God’s Scriptures?
- What was the people’s response (vs. 6, 9)? When was the last time you said “Amen” or wept or worshiped while hearing/reading the words of the Lord?
- When is the time for mourning and when is the time for celebrating the words of the Lord? What do you think Nehemiah meant when he said, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (vs. 10)? How can the joy of the Lord be your strength? How is that related to your use of God’s word?
- Prayerfully consider what you personally can do to help rebuild the world around you to be a more godly place.