Welcome to Week 4: Revival
This week we moved into the second half of the Book of Nehemiah. The first six chapters are really focused on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, while the last seven chapters deal with the re-instruction of the people of God.
Nehemiah’s great task is completed, for the moment. Now we see Ezra the scribe coming on the scene here. If you are interested in reading more about Ezra and what he did in Jerusalem, you can take a look at the book of Ezra, which is directly before Nehemiah.
Ezra, as I mentioned, was a scribe who had journeyed to Israel 13 years before Nehemiah. He arrived 80 years after the first exiles returned.
Take a minute to read Nehemiah 8:1-12
The people had just completed the rebuilding of the wall, which we know from our previous chapters took only 52 days. That’s insane, when you think about it. No power tools, no mechanics of any kind and coupled with the fact that they were constantly under threat from outside forces.
Now they are in a state of “what do we do next”. Maybe you can recall feeling that way after a huge task is completed.
Thankfully, they turned to God and asked for direction from God’s Word.
As it says in verse 1, the people gathered as one man at the Water Gate. Can we say that on a Sunday morning we gather as one man; probably not. This assembly was specifically unique in the fact that there were both men and women present. Typically, men were the only ones required to the strict keeping of the Jerusalem feasts.
Now, take note here of verse 3: “He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
The Word of God was not only read to them, but also explained, distinctly and clearly by the Levites. Some of these people were possibly still not fluent in the Hebrew language, so this explaining not only helped them to understand the scriptures itself, but also translating it to the Aramaic language of Babylon.
And as we know the Word of God can do, the people were convicted of their own sins and failures, and they wept. This is truly an amazing thing, because they had just experienced great victory in their work for the Lord, but also felt deep conviction over their discovered failure in light of God’s Word.
It was a step from blind religiousness toward divine-human fellowship. This would not fully take place until Jesus brought the new covenant with His shed blood.
We see the people move in the direction that it is not security or the temple that is most essential to the life of the community; trust in God and obedience to His Word are most important.
God was laying a foundation, through the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah that these people had never known. It had been over 140 years since the exile of God’s people and not only had they lost the language, but they had also lost how to worship and obey the Lord.
We can see, even in the fact that the people themselves called for the reading of God’s Word, He was stirring something in their hearts.
This was revival in the people of God.
There are a variety of things God restores in revival:
- Unity amongst the people of God.
- Devoted teachers of the Word of God to leadership.
- Reverence for the Word of God.
- Corporate prayer.
- Genuine mourning over sin.
- Obedience to the Word of God.
What does this mean for us?
As I was studying these chapters and going over the revival and the people’s response to God, I was overcome with the realization how contrary to revival we as the Church and society in general are today.
We are typically lacking in unity, but instead thrive on picking each other apart.
We do not have an overabundance of Gospel preaching teachers, but instead have to be overly cautious of those who are preaching their own word and not God’s Word.
We have very little reverence for the Word of God. We see this in our governments, our schools and even our homes.
We have a lack of priority for prayer, let alone corporate prayer.
We tend to justify and even celebrate our sin instead of being broken-hearted.
We lack obedience to God’s Word, plain and simple. It’s become commonplace to hear but not do.
So what do we do? How do we get back to a place of revival in our own individual lives, as well as corporately?
The answer to that comes from these questions that we must all ask ourselves:
- What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
- How much do you listen to God in your prayer time?
- If you have a disagreement with another person, what do you do?
- What do you do if you feel God prompting you to move in some way, whether in talking with someone, sharing His Word, or just taking some time to spend in prayer to Him?
- Who do you turn to for answers?
- What do you do if faced with your own sin?
- What priority is the Word of God in your life?
Friends, ultimately it comes down to whom or what are we worshipping.
If we are worshipping ourselves, the almighty dollar or status, none of the answers to these questions will be far from God.
At times, we also have lost our worship in the midst of trials, in the midst of busyness, and sometimes in the midst of personal sin.
We can get so far away from what true worship is. God doesn’t want you relying on the worship on a Sunday morning to get you through the week, because that’s not the only worshipping we should be doing. God wants you wholly devoted to Him.
Now you may be asking, what is worship? Great question!
Here are a couple of quotes:
John MacArthur: “Worship is our innermost being responding with praise for all that God is, through our attitudes, actions, thoughts, and words, based on the truth of God as He has revealed Himself” (The Ultimate Priority [Moody Press], p. 127).
Or, he gives a simpler definition: “Worship is all that we are, reacting rightly to all that He is” (ibid., p. 147).
William Temple: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God” (cited in MacArthur, ibid., p. 147).
MacArthur also says: “Worship, by the way, is not music. Worship is loving God. Worship is honoring God. Worship is knowing God for who He is, adoring Him, obeying Him, proclaiming Him as a way of life. Music is one way we express that adoration.”
Paul also points out in 1 Cor. 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
All of life is to be focus and oriented towards God and filled with a sense of His majesty and glory.
Jesus also pointed out to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:20: “Since God is seeking true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and truth, we should make it our priority to become such worshipers.”
I believe true revival can happen. Maybe you don’t need revival and you are walking hand in hand with God and are in a great place of communication and obedience with Him.
But maybe you’re like me and know that there are areas, both big and small where I need God desperately. I need Him to send a fresh revival on my life.
- Am I experiencing the characteristics of revival in my own personal worship and in my church?
- How can we begin to experience revival in our lives and in our church communities?
- Is God pressing on your heart the need for revival in your own life?
- Do you need to realign your idea of worship with God’s true worship?