Bring The Book
Pastor Tommy Wensil
The book of Nehemiah is one of the greatest books in all of the Old Testament about revival and rebuilding the work of God. There are some wonderful principles as well about leadership and "follow-ship" which are crucial for any work for God to move forward in spiritual progress. The 8th chapter is very crucial to the record for it reveals the emphasis they placed upon the Word of God. There can be no revival, rebuilding or progress in God’s work without a right relationship to God’s Word.
Throughout the ages the need of every hour has been– "bring the book!" Every major awakening in Bible days and history has been accompanied by a return to the Word of God. The church today is bombarded with people who want to advertise their "experience" to the neglect of the necessary "thus saith the LORD." There is yet a remnant today like unto those in the days of Nehemiah who crave and cry out– "bring the book!" There is no greater cry today than that of the remnant of Nehemiah and no greater concern should be upon God’s preachers than to "bring the book!" The elements of these days of meetings are still needed today.
I. Reading– the Book– (8:1-4)
The need of the remnant of Nehemiah’s day is the need of the remnant of believers today. These Hebrew people practiced some essential principles which are necessary for every New Testament Christian.
A. Congregation– "gathered themselves together"
The opening of this chapter brings us to a view that any pastor can appreciate and many members should emulate. It is a view of a united congregation with a worthy motive which meet for spiritual instruction. The meeting of believers should not be treated lightly. The principle of faithfulness to every meeting should be emphasized from every Bible believing pulpit in the country (Heb. 10:25). The promise of the Savior becomes real as we congregate together for spiritual food, fellowship and friendship (Mt. 18:20). Even when believers were gathered in dire circumstances the Lord made His presence known (Dan. 3:25; Jn. 20:19,26).
B. Cry– "bring the book"
Their hunger for the Scripture led them to vocalize their desire. The cravings of our heart always lead to the confession of our mouths (Mt. 12:34; Rom. 10:1). They cried for Ezra to "bring the book!" The crying need of the hour is for the book to be re-read not rewritten. There must be private reading, and public reading of the Scripture for the people of God to progress (Neh. 8:3,8:8; 1 Tim. 4:13). Reading is a necessary part of study, memorization, and application. May the Church cry again– "bring the book!"
C. Comprehension– "all that could hear with understanding"
The congregation was a mixed company of men and women and children. It seems that those were allowed to attend this gathering who could understand the plain reading and explanation of Scripture. The children were not segregated from the congregation of the Lord where the Scriptures were read and expounded upon. Those who were old enough to understand the reading were included in the congregation of the hungry remnant. The entire chapter reveals that the understanding of the people was preeminent in the purpose of the meeting (8:2b, 3b, 12b, 13b). Thus the Levites aided Ezra in the exposition and explanation of the Scripture to those who were in the congregation (Neh. 8:7,8, 13).
Someone has said "If you would read the Bible at standard pulpit speed (slow enough to be heard and understood) the reading time would be seventy-one hours. If you would break that down into minutes and divide it into 365 days you could read the entire Bible, cover to cover, in only twelve minutes a day."
II. Respecting– the Book– (8:4b-5)
The presence of those who craved the book was certainly a factor that made reading and expounding a joy to Ezra and the Levites. Yet there was also manifested a great respect for both the reader and the reading material.
A. Pulpit for the Preacher– "a pulpit of wood" (8:4a)
The first mention and the only mention of a "pulpit" is found in this passage of Scripture. We glean that it was prepared by the people (8:4a) for the purpose of elevating Ezra so that he might be both seen and heard of all the people (8:5b). The priest Ezra and the Scriptures were to be elevated and central to the meeting. There was no other focus for the hungry remnant other than the book and the one who would deliver it and explain it to their hearts. Every church should place a priority upon preaching and the focus of every service should be upon Christ through the Word of God.
B. Posture of the People– "all the people stood up" (8:5b)
The remnant had cried for the book and had prepared a place whereby it should be read. They had requested that Ezra the scribe (Ezra 7:6,10), bring to them the Scripture. When in the presence of one who had so diligently sought the book, obeyed the book, and practiced the book there was no other rightful response other than to stand in respect for the Book and the one who had so diligently lived to teach it. Every service should include a prepared preacher, and prepared people with open Bibles, willing minds and receptive hearts to respect, hear and obey the Book!
III. Responding– to the Book– (8:6-9)
As the reading of the Book took place the minds were illuminated and hearts were changed. Every person responds to the Book whether voluntarily through submission to God’s will or involuntarily by being a hearer instead of a doer (James 1:23-25).
A. Recognition– "answered, Amen, Amen" (8:6)
The word "amen" is used twice in their response as an affirmation, agreement and recognition of the truth of God found in His Book. They said "amen" for it means "faithful, truth, or so be it." It is therefore an interjection into the worship service and an affirmation of the truth being proclaimed. We still say amen when the cords of truth ring the bells of agreement in our hearts! Amen– is still in order in the house of God!
The lifting up of the hands signifies two primary things in Scripture (1) Praise (Ps. 134:2) and (2) Prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). True preaching should be accompanied by prayer and praise. This divine trio was the hallmark of the early church, and though "out of season" today it must be kept as the unswerving program of the local church.
B. Reverence– "bowed their heads" (8:6b)
The remnant responded first with recognition then with reverence. Their reverence is evidenced by their bowed heads. We are told that this is more than the resting of the chin upon the chest as we would do today in the west, rather when these bowed their heads they went all the way to the ground and touched their faces on the ground. Their prostration before the Lord evidenced their great reverence for the Holy Scripture and its message which had so deeply touched their hearts. Hearts should be touched when the message of God is delivered!
C. Remorse– "the people wept, when they heard the words" (8:9b)
The process of reading, recognition, and reverence led to a deep remorse in their hearts. The mirror of the law of God revealed the thoughts and intents of their hearts (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 3:20). Thus there was great sorrow stirred in their hearts and a deep sense of unworthiness in the presence of a holy God. In the outworking of the chapter they discover even more that they must do in response to the Scripture and set aright the course of their lives (Neh. 8:14,15).
IV. Rejoicing– in the Book– (8:10-12)
The same book that broke their hearts would also eventually bless them immeasurably. The two-edged sword of God’s word has judgement for our sins and grace for our forgiveness, justice for God’s nature, but justification for the sinner, condemnation for the rebel, yet comfort for the redeemed!
A. Holiness is First– "this day is holy unto our Lord" (8:10b)
The next response to the Book is quite amazing. Though the reading of the Scripture these were exposed to the holiness of God and therefore led to weep and possibly even confess their unworthiness and failure. When brought into the Scripture we are brought into the presence of God himself. All those in Scripture who sensed the holiness of God realized how unworthy and unholy they were (Job 40:4; 42:6; Isa. 6:5; Lk. 5:8). We must emphasize holiness again in the church today. Biblical holiness is the missing doctrine of modern believers. Yet the only route to Scriptural happiness is personal holiness.
B. Happiness is the Fruit–"the joy of the Lord" (8:10b)
The emphasis on holiness is often lost in preaching to a ploy for happiness. Yet true holiness always produces happiness (Prov. 28:14; Prov. 29:18). True holiness will produce true happiness, yet those who bypass holiness and seek to manufacture happiness will only produce the frivolity and mirth of fools (Prov. 14:9,13; Ps. 4:7; Ps. 97:11,12). "Holy joy," said Matthew Henry "oils the wheels of obedience." The joy of the Lord can only come as we submit to Him and follow His plan for our lives (Jn. 13:17). The joy of the Lord is not centered in worldly entertainment but in the godly contentment of a soul that is right with the Savior.
V. Reapplying– the Book– (8:13-18)
The final portion of the book reveals the perspective of this meeting. Their reading must not end at a mere intellectual exercise.
A. Dedication– Neh. 8:2; 13; 18 (first, second, day by day...8th day)
The first day they spent several hours reading the Book (Neh. 8:3) then the Levites helped the people to understand the book (8:8). The Word of God worked mightily in the individual hearts of the people so that they desired to carry the blessings of God to those "for whom nothing is prepared" (Neh. 8:10). We shall find that they were dedicated enough to the Book that this process carried on for seven days (Neh. 8:18). They had to be dedicated to stay with it for the entire period. The second day there was additional exposition and explanation of the Scriptures. This led to a wonderful factor called.....
B. Discovery– Neh. 8:14-15
It is remarkable that during the revival that took place under the reign of Josiah a priest named Hilkiah found the "book of the law in the house of the Lord" (2 Chron. 34:14,15). They discovered the Word of God which had been lost in the House of the Lord. They found the Book! We who have the preserved Scriptures today should take out our Bibles and experience the process of discovery in the Word. We should find what is in the Book for us today. As the Holy Spirit speaks through the Scriptures the process of discovery thrills the heart of the believer (Ps. 119:18; Ps. 39:3). Inspiration and preservation are accomplished facts in relation to the Scripture, but illumination is an ongoing process. We need the light of illumination to shine in our hearts always.
C. Duty– Neh. 8:16-18
Their discovery led to duty. They learned what the Scripture said about the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:39-43). Tabernacles was a feast that commemorated their wandering in the wilderness and God’s providential care. What we learn we must live, and what we discover should turn to duty. Even the great discovery of America was motivated by the precious Word of God: "It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures." (Christopher Columbus)