With the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt (Nehemiah 7:1), Nehemiah established both the civic and religious leadership in the city (7:1). He appointed his “brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many” (7:2). Nehemiah also appointed watchmen, and set the time for the gates of the city to be opened and closed (7:3).
God then moved on Nehemiah’s heart to take a census by genealogy (7:5). An accounting was to be established of all who resided in Jerusalem and Judah, and establish those who had a legitimate record of their lineage by tribe, clans, and families (7:6-60). The census revealed there were some that claimed to be of Israel, but there was no record of their lineage (7:61-62). Some claimed to be of the priesthood, but their names and families were not recorded (7:63-64).
Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Nehemiah 8-9), and my devotional commentary will be limited to Nehemiah 8. With the walls rebuilt, Nehemiah turned his effort from building the walls of Jerusalem, to rebuilding a people and nation (8:1-13:31). He had served as governor of Judah, under the authority of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. To labor beside Nehemiah, the king had chosen a young priest named Ezra (whom we met in earlier devotions, 8:1; Ezra 7). He was a student of God’s Word (Ezra 7:6), and “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10). Like Nehemiah, Ezra was sent to Jerusalem by the king of Persia, and told to teach the people “the laws of thy God” (Ezra 7:25).
With the people gathered together “as one man,” and with one heart, “they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel” (8:1). As you read Nehemiah 8, consider what I believe are the keys to a spiritual awakening for a people and nation.
Four Keys to a National Revival (8:2-10)
The first key to a spiritual revival is the reading and prominence of the Scriptures (8:1-2). The people requested “the book of the law of Moses” be read in public (8:1). So, Ezra brought forth the scrolls upon which the law was written, and read “the law before the congregation,” that all “could hear with understanding” (8:2).
Secondly, the people respected the Scriptures (8:3-6), and listened attentively as Ezra read “the book of the law” (8:3). Adding dignity to the reading, a raised platform was constructed for the occasion, and 13 men stood beside Ezra as he read the Scriptures (8:4). Elevated above the heads of the people, when Ezra opened the scroll, “the people stood up” (8:5), and he then praised the LORD before he read the Scriptures (8:6a). When the prayer concluded, “the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (8:6).
A third key to revival is revelation (8:7-8), for the Scriptures must not only be read, but also explained. Thirteen men were charged with the responsibility of explaining the Scriptures that the people might “understand the law” (8:7). Fulfilling the role of expositors, those men “read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (8:8). It was not enough to read the Scriptures; the task of a Bible teacher is to give clarity, make application (“the sense”), and convict (meaning to “understand the reading,” 8:8).
Reverence is the fourth step of revival, and is summed up in three attitudes: remorse, repentance, and rejoicing (8:9-10). When the people heard the law and commandments, they “wept” (8:9b), sorrowed (8:10b), and godly sorrow turned to rejoicing (8:10c).
Closing thoughts (8:11-18) – The Levites quieted and calmed the people, and instructed them “to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (8:12). When the people understood they were to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles for seven days, they obeyed (8:13-14), and gathered branches and made booths on their rooftops and in their courtyards (8:15-17). Remembering God’s care and faithfulness to Israel during the wilderness years, the people observed the Feast of the Tabernacles with a joy that had not been seen since the days of Joshua (8:17).
Our devotional concludes with a spirit of revival I wish were true of all believers, for the people with “very great gladness,” gathered every day to hear the reading of “the book of the law of God” (8:18).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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