Have you ever been reading a book and realized at the end of the page you weren’t really concentrating, and you have glazed over so you’ll have to read it again? It used to happen to me all the time when I was studying for exams. It can be really hard to stay focused, even if you know that what you are reading is going to be important.
Sometimes, this can happen when we are reading the Bible. We read, but we aren’t eager to hear what it says, nor are we expecting it to have much of an impact on us! So easily we can slip into an attitude of Bible reading being a task to be added to our to-do list, and we are eager only to tick the job as done for the day. Forgive us, Lord.
However, this is not the case in today’s reading from Nehemiah. God’s people had not heard God’s Word for a long time. They all came together to hear it: men, women, and children who were old enough. From dawn until noon Ezra the priest read Moses’s books of the law to the people. The people were eager to hear the book of the law.
I was reading Christian biographies with my kids last summer, and we read one about Brother Andrew from Open Doors. He traveled behind the iron curtain into various countries in eastern Europe, bringing Bibles into places where, at the time, they were banned. He also encouraged many Christians as he traveled. The reaction of God’s people in Nehemiah, their eagerness to hear someone read God’s Word caused them to stand and listen for so long, it reminded me of the Christians Brother Andrew met. Both had a hunger to know more of God from His Word. It is a challenge to us. Do we have a hunger to know God more deeply?
In Nehemiah, as God’s people heard His Word it caused them to worship Him. The Levites taught the people, “explaining it and imparting insight so that the people gained understanding from what was read” (Nehemiah 8:8). I was struck as I read this at how similar this is to our church services today (apart from the standing from dawn to noon!). Church should be a place where God’s Word is read and explained, insight is provided, and God’s people gain understanding. Pray for your church leaders as they seek to do this, and pray for your own heart to hear and for your own understanding to grow.
As the people heard God’s Word, it caused them to weep. Why? They knew they hadn’t been obeying God, and they were repentant. Tears tumbled down their faces. Sometimes, God’s Word can cause strong emotions. Tears of sorrow fall as we realize that we are far from who we are called to be, and we repent. The law was given to point us to our need for a Savior.
The priests declared that day a holy day—a day of celebration and joy because of all God had done. This reminded the people that though they weren’t faithful, God was faithful. Our joy and delight is in Him and all He has done for us. The joy of the Lord truly is our strength as we can rely on and rest in Him.
The people could rejoice, as their repentance led to forgiveness from God. We also know this joy. Jesus has set us free. We can have joy despite our past failings, current circumstances, or future uncertainties because of Jesus. He forgives our past, transforms our present, and provides a wonderful and sure hope for our future.
The Bible helps us to know God better, to love Him more, and be transformed by His great love which causes us to live differently. Bit by bit we are becoming more Christ-like.
As you approach your Bible to read it, still your heart and remember whose Word you are reading. Take time to pray, asking God for an eagerness to hear what He is saying to you.
Week 4 Challenge:
This week we begin studying how the people were renewing their hearts and their worship of God. Take time to reflect on the condition of your heart. Is there any sin you need to repent and turn from? Is there a pattern or habit distracting you from spending time with God? Have you over-committed your schedule? Ask God to reveal how you can grow in your relationship with Him.
Week 4 Memory Verse:
Join us as we study God’s Word using the From Broken to Restored study!
Grab your journal today and dive in!