Recently, after reading through Nehemiah 8-10, a couple of prevailing thoughts came to my mind. First, I thought of Hebrews 4:12 (NLT), “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” We see the life-giving, conviction of the God’s Word on display!
God’s Word is different than any other book written in history. Why? Partially because of what Hebrews 4:12 states. But also because of 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NLT), “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” God’s Word is ‘breathed of God’ (from the Giver of life), therefore it is living. What we read in Nehemiah 8-10 illustrates this very truth.
First, consider verses 8 & 9 of chapter 8. “They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.”
I am convinced, as I am sure you are, that many who claim the name ‘Christian’ are not in the Word of God on a regular basis, if at all. Why do I say that? Well, because of the impact of its truth. Sure, anyone can ‘read the Bible’ and find it to be a curious, interesting read. Many can quote its verses and recall its stories. But if one comes desiring to know the truth, I believe the Spirit of God will illuminate the truth of the Word to a seeking soul.
My wife and I had a friend in college who was a single woman, had graduated from college, and began a career in teaching. When I met her, she had just purchased her second Corvette! I, being raised a conservative and practical young man from New England, had wondered how and why someone would make it their determination to have a Corvette. Why not a more practical car? When I asked her about it, her response was, “Once you have ridden in or driven a Corvette, you cannot settle for less – there’s no turning back!” At an earlier time in her life, a ride in a Corvette was life-changing for her! So much so, it altered her life to where it became one of her life’s goals – to own a Corvette!
This is what we see here in Nehemiah 8-10 with the people of Israel. The Word of God is read and explained, and it was life-changing! In these chapters it is clear this encounter with the Word, became life-altering. The initial response of the people was weeping, then confession. It is one thing to be convicted by God’s Word, but it should then lead us to confess our desperate need. Confession is agreeing with an accusation of guilt, “Yes, I am a sinner.” Or “Yes, I am guilty.” Once these Israelites were exposed to the truth, they were ready to confess. A life-changing encounter.
If you continue to read through the chapter, a prayer is recorded. The prayer includes praise to God the Creator. Then it goes on to include a history of all that God had done for the people of Israel – how God was faithful, powerful, and loving all along the way. In verses 15 & 16 there is admission of their ancestors’ pride and stubbornness. They refused to obey and had forgotten all that God had done. The prayer continues with acknowledging God’s forgiveness, grace, patience, and mercy. In spite of that, their ancestors continued to drift away from dependence on God to trusting themselves. Ultimately, it is that sin, self-dependence, that has put them where they were.
What follows in chapter 10 is a vow to obey the Lord – to get back on track. Repent and obey.
Why do we have a tendency to drift away from the Lord? Why do we find ourselves stuck in a place where we are dull to the Word of God? Let me suggest that the reason has been the same since Adam and Eve were tempted in the Garden of Eden. We believe we know better than God. We believe we are the best one to determine what we need. In a sense, we believe we are autonomous. When we drift from what we know to be true, from what or who we know we should prioritize, we end up miles away, dull to the truth and values that we once held close. Typically, Christians do not choose this path intentionally. We miss one day, one week, three months, then 6 years of prioritizing our relationship with the Lord and His Word. That lack of priority then shows up in our marriage, our relationships, and our church.
Perhaps you do not feel you have drifted. Look at what takes up your day, your week, your schedule and ask yourself “Where is God in this?” Does His glory still determine your schedule? Does His Word, His calling, and your relationship with Him still determine what matters most in your life?
Take time to read Nehemiah 8-10 on your own – in your own time. It is a great read to reflect, evaluate, and return to what matters most in life.
Walking with you,