Nehemiah 8:1-18

The Priority of the Word


We noted last time that chapters 1-6 of Nehemiah -the focus is on reconstruction.

A) The focus is on the rebuilding of the walls – Building and Battling !


B) But the emphasis shifts in chapter 7, as the focal point becomes reinstruction of the People:

1) This is the focus in the rest of the book.


C) We move from rebuilding the city, to rebuilding the people.

1) Ch.7-8 give us Key ingredients to any healthy Church


D) focus  last time Keys to getting started  – Needs

1) Godly Leadership

2) Active Followers – Those with a Pioneer Spirit.

3) Those with a heart to Give!


AS we come to Ch.8 we see the first thing that they do! – They turn to God’s word

A) IN any true move of God – in every Revival that has every taken place in the History of the Church –


B) There has been a PRIORITY placed on the WORD OF GOD


C) Contrast - Dr.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “The most decadent periods in the history of the church have always been those periods when the priority of preaching the word had declined.”

J. Edwin Orr defined revival as: “The Spirit of God working through the Word of God, in the lives of the people of God.”

A) This chapter is a great example of this!


B) In this Chapter we want to notice 6 characteristics of a church that is giving Priority to God’s word. 

                               Rd v.1-4


1) There is a desire to hear God’s Word.

A) The people were HUNGRY for the Word.


B) They asked Ezra to get the Word and to read to them. 

1) Gathered as ONE MAN – for that reason


C) God’s word is the great unifier – puts us all on the same plain – same playing field

1) Sinners in need of a Savior !


The Sign of a healthy Church – Hunger for the Word

A) There is a growing trend today in many Christian Churches – no more midweek services


B) No more Sunday night services – because people were just not showing up for Bible study.

1) I PTL – that as a Church you have kept your appetite for the Word .


C) #1 Fear – Many of you are so well Fed – been around for 15 yrs –

1) Start to think – don’t need bible study

French author Victor Hugo said over a century ago, “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare but the Bible made England.”


D) Supporting that view, historians tell us that Elizabethan England was indeed a country of one book, and that book was the Bible.


E) Now England is Known more for Shakespeare than the Bible –

1) Unfortunately America is following in her footsteps


It is important as a Church that we continue to cultivate a hunger for God’s word!

A) Thanksgiving this week – Stuff ourselves – roll away from the table – Never eat again!


B) That is what happens when you over eat Physically –

1) Spiritually the opposite is true – The more of God’s word you eat – the more hungry you  get


C) You lose your appetite for God’s word – when you start to neglect studying it.

1) Books rather than Bible –


D) TV rather than Bible Study –

1) Average American spends 121 minutes of each day watching TV – 24 minutes reading –

2) Total reading – including Bible time

You want your appetite for the word to grow – Stay in it – Committed to Bible study!

A) It is Also worth noting - That the leaders chose the Water Gate for the site of the assembly is interesting.


B) In the Bible, water for washing is a picture of the Word of God (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26),

1) while water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (John 7:37–39).


C) SO When we apply the water of the Word to our lives, then the Spirit can work and bring the help we need.


D) It is refreshing to the soul when you receive the Word and allow the Spirit to teach you.


So the first thing we note here is that there was a Hunger for the Word


#2 There was an importance placed on Understanding the Word.

A) Notice who gathered together v.2

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.


B) The implication is that that those who could NOT understand were NOT there.

1) V.3 makes this even more clear !

3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand;


BB) So In v.2 We see a Biblical support here for Children’s ministry


C)  It is important for us to see that our kids who DON’T understand what we are saying NEED to be in a place where they can understand on there own level.


D) Your 5 yr old is not going to be able to sit for 45 minutes and listen attentively to me teach the word.

1) Not Bored listening to me!


E)  But in the Children’s ministry – communicate at his age level and they are going to minister in a way that is very fun


So there was an importance placed on Understanding the Word

A) God’s Word must be understood before it can enter the heart and release its life-changing power.


B) Note that six times in this chapter you can find “understanding” mentioned (vv. 2–3, 7–8, 12–13).


C) In V.7-8 We are told that Special men were appointed, who helped the people to understand the Law.   RD v.7-8         


The word distinctly in verse 8 means that the Law was explained to the people in a language they could understand.

A) The Word was translated and expounded in such a way that the people were able to apply it to their own lives.


B) They gave the sense – They explained the Word

1) Understanding needs to be the first goal of any preacher or teacher.


If you leave knowing five helpful hints to a better life, but do not have a greater understanding of God’s Word, I have failed.


If you leave having been amused by humor, entertained by anecdotes, or captivated by dramatic stories, but do not have a greater understanding of God’s Word, I have failed.


If you leave motivated to action, or praying a prayer, but it is not based on a greater understanding of God’s Word, I have failed.


If you leave admiring me, but do not have a greater understanding of God’s Word, I have failed - and will be accountable before God for my failure!


C) So we see #2 There was a great importance placed on understanding the word.


#3 The people had a proper respect for the Word. V.5-6

.5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God.


Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.


A) When Ezra opened the Book the people stood up.


B) They understood that Ezra was opening the Word of God.

1) Their respect for the Word of God moved them.


C) They knew they would not be hearing a mere man speak his own ideas;

1) But that they would be hearing the very Word of God


Also note The people remained standing while the Law was read and explained

A) (v. 3), Ezra started his reading and teaching early in the morning and continued through midday


B) which means the congregation stood and listened for five or six hours; and this continued for a week



NOTICE: The blend of excitement and reverence.

A) They bowed their faces to the ground & worshipped.


B) There was holy silence as well as loud amens.


C) Sometimes the most intense times are NOT when things are loudest.  { Camp Prayer !!!



#4 They had a proper response to God’s Word.  V.9

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people,” This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.


A) The RESULT of the preaching of the Law is SORROW.  They Wept at hearing it !

1) It convicts us as GUILTY of sin.


B)The Law can NEVER save us. It can only condemn us.


C) Romans 3:19 – We are told that by the law comes the knowledge of sin.

1) Speeding sign – reveals – going to fast !!!


D) Key is to correct it before you get caught

1) That was the purpose of the law – Tutor – a school master – teach us and instruct us

2) How to live how to walk – attitudes & actions

Problem was we couldn’t keep it – So the law also revealed our need of a Savior

Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.


A) So the word was doing it’s intended work here – they wept – because the law revealed their sin


2 Timothy 3:16 tells us two things the Word of God is profitable for: reproof and correction.


B) Sometimes it hurts to be reproved and corrected!

1) That is why they were weeping


C) But what happens next is Beautiful !  Rd v.10-12


The JUSTICE of the Law brings SORROW, but the JOY of the Lord brings STRENGTH.

A) The people felt sad, because they were aware of their own sin;


B) but they could walk in joy, because God was doing a great work.


The Joy of the Lord is your Strength { Consider this Phrase

A) Notice this : It doesn’t say the Joy in the Lord – although there is Joy in the Lord

1) It says the Joy of the Lord –


B)  God is rejoicing over you !!!

C) The Lord looks at you with joy.

1) Your strength revolves around the Fact that God is Joying over You!


Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God in your midst,

The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness,

He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.”


D) We KNOW that the Lord is MIGHTY.

1) But did you know that He rejoices over YOU with joy.... That He joys over YOU with singing?


E) I do NOT understand why, but He looks at everyone of us that have received Jesus as Savior and He rejoices over us.


That is THE SOURCE OF STRENGTH-  God’s Joy Over You

A) I am strong when I realize that the Lord LOVES me, when I realize that He has WASHED me in the blood of His Son and that He LOVES me.


B) HOW Can The Lord Find Joy In Me And You?


Matthew 13:44    

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

C) In another parable Jesus defines the field as the world. God looked at the world and saw a treasure in it that He wanted.


D) That treasure is you and me. And He gave everything to buy the world in order to have you as His own.

1) He gave Jesus.


E) That is why we read of Jesus in:


Hebrews 12:2 who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,             


SO The Lord rejoices over US in the light of what the cross has accomplished.

A) The Cross Created a Bride !!!!


B) God sees us..... As His bride that brings Him great joy.


Isaiah 62:5 And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.


God’s Joy Over Me Gives Me Strength         

A)The fact that God looks at you and me with such love, and because He takes such joy in us, makes us strong


1 John 4:18 but perfect love cast out all fear



Romans 8:31,37 What shall we then say to these things? If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us? )   V.37 We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!


A) Obligation and appreciation are certainly strong motives for serving the Lord, but celebration is even stronger.


B) When we obey the Lord and serve Him because we rejoice in Him, then our service will be a delight and not a drudgery.


The old Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience.”


C) To the believer without joy, the will of God is punishment; but to the believer happy in the Lord, the will of God is nourishment (John 4:34).


D) Composer Franz Josef Hayden, wrote “When I think upon my God “my heart is so full that the notes dance and leap from my pen and since God has given me a cheerful heart,  I will serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”


#1 So they had a Desire to hear the Word

#2 They had a Desire to understand the Word

#3 They had a proper Respect for the Word

#4  They Responded Rightly to the Word

#5 They Rejoiced in the truth of the Word

#6 They obeyed the Word! V.13-18

James 1:22-25

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


As they read the word further they discovered that at this particular time they were to Celebrate the feast of Tabernacles

A) The feast of Tabernacles – commemorated the 40 years that the Children of Israel traveled in the wilderness


B) It was a feast where they remembered – that they were pilgrims – here

1) Even though – their city was now safe – even though their homes were being rebuilt


C) They were to take seven days to camp out – in booths – tents – reminder – of that time


So It was a time for looking back

A) But the feast was also a time for looking around at the harvest blessings from the hand of God.


B) The Lord had given them a good land, and they were never to forget the Giver as they enjoyed the gifts


C) The Feast of Tabernacles was also an occasion for looking ahead to the glorious kingdom God promised His people Israel


D) It was a week-long festival of joyful praise and thanksgiving, focusing on the goodness of the Lord.

Good for us to remember – Pilgrims


Heb 11:13-16

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


Reminder that they were a Pilgriming people


Any true study of God’s word will constantly remind us – This world is not our Home


Pilgrims & Sojourners

14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.



Dwelling in Booths – This world is not our Home -

1 Peter 2:11-12

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,