When spiritual revival comes, we recognize it, but what brings it about? So may want to experience it, but haven’t a clue how it begins. I believe Nehemiah has outlined for us, the formula for revival and it is not just some emotional, feel-good moment. I think we need to take a look at what it takes to bring revival as Nehemiah recorded it and pray that it happens in our lives and in our community! Respect for God’s Word The first thing I noticed was that there was a respect for God’s Word. Nehemiah 8:1 note that ALL the people were gathered and Ezra, the scribe came and read the book of the law of Moses. They were together. None of them were saying, “I don’t need to go to church….I watch TBN.” Or “I can do church on my own…I don’t need to go anywhere.” ALL the people were gathered.
The people made it a priority. This first reading of God’s Word after the temple and wall had been rebuilt occurred on the FIRST day of the 7th month. For the Jews, this was New Years’ Day. The first day of the Hebrew calendar. They started their year immersed in the Word of God!
All the families came to hear. Nehemiah 8:3 says Ezra read before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding. That’s probably Pre-School and up. So, the family came to church and heard.
Nehemiah 8:3 tells us that the people were attentive. They didn’t bring other things to amuse themselves while they were there. They didn’t text during the sermon. They didn’t send notes back and forth about where they were going to have lunch. They were attentive.
All the people stood up. That shows a respect for the Word of God. They stood while it was read. How long did they stand? Look at Nehemiah 8:18…Ezra read from the book of the law of God daily, from first day to last day (8 days). How long each day? Nehemiah 8:3. Says that Ezra read from morning to midday. And the Scripture doesn’t mean after morning coffee. Ezra began reading at daylight, which is before daybreak. About an hour before daybreak, he began to read. No cushy seats. No complaints that the air conditioning wasn’t working because there it had to be about 75 degrees if it was during Feast of Booths…in the fall. They gathered at the square (Neh. 8:1) so no shade. No theatre seating and no popcorn. They stood.
Nehemiah 8:9 says “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” He read from a scroll. It was heavy and had to be rolled as it was read. Ezra didn’t spend most of his time telling stories ABOUT the Bible….He Read the Word. There were no psychological agendas or feel-good stories…He read from the Book.
Understanding of God’s Word Secondly, after showing respect for God’s Word, we need to have an understanding of God’s Word.
Nehemiah 9:1 tells us that now, 24 days later, when Israel assembled, now they have “assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt on themselves.”
Now that they have been hearing the Word of God day after day, they have an understanding of God’s Word and how reverent it is. They come having fasted. They are expecting to be filled. This isn’t just a story…they mean business. They fasted.
They came in sackcloth. What does that mean? Sackcloth was a goat-hair garment that covered the bare loins during times of mourning and penance. So, God had been convicting them through the reading of God’s Word and they were mourning. They came prepared in their hearts and the sackcloth was a sign.
They came with dirt upon them. Some translate this as “ashes.” You often see the words “sackcloth and ashes” together. This was also considered a sign of mourning. If they didn’t come prepared in sackcloth, they could reach for the ground and place it on their head as a sign of mourning.
Nehemiah 9:2 says they separated themselves from all the foreigners….why? Probably so they would not be distracted. Probably because the foreigners followed other gods and they wanted to remain focused on the One true God. They were serious about knowing God.
The same verse says they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. When you read the Word of God with understanding, you are convicted by the Word of God. And with conviction comes repentance-- a turning to a different direction.
They worshipped. Their worship included praising to God, blessings to God and it included recounting of history from the beginning of time.
They blessed God: Jews begin their prayers, even today with a blessing that says: “Blessed be the Lord God, King of the Universe forever and ever.”
When we read the pure Word of God; when we come prepared and expecting to hear from God; when we have an understanding of God’s Word, we can expect that confession of sin and repentance will follow. When we understand the Word of God, we can worship fully and we can bless God.
Observance of His Word When Israel read the Word of God and understood the Word of God, they began to observe the Word of God. We see in Nehemiah 8:14-18 that God had commanded through Moses that Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. This is the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, called Sukkoth. This was commanded by God and they didn’t know anything about it. Now that they have understanding, they observe the Feast.
Recognize God’s Compassion For Us Throughout Nehemiah 9:5-38, we see that after the reading of God’s word; after they understood God’s Word and after they observed God’s Word, they saw the compassion of God. Spend some time and look at some of the things noted that God did for these people and their fathers. Look through the list Nehemiah 9:5-38 and write down what they said as words of worship or what God did for the people and how he showed them compassion. Make this YOUR act of worship. Worship the Lord as this is also YOUR heritage. These are also OUR words of worship as we call these out as they did also.
This is the formula for revival. If you have a respect for God’s Word; if you gain an understanding of God’s Word; if you commit to obey God’s Word, then you will recognize God’s compassion for you. This, I believe, is the beginning of revival. Do you want a spiritual revival in your own life? Practice these things….it will come!