Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Nehemiah

Spiritual Hunger

“… man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3b)

“… I recall a night years ago when my wife and I were in Argentina. We were traveling about in ministry and had come that day to a community in the interior of the country. We were with a couple from Canada and a missionary. We’d been given the opportunity to minister in a church on that week night. We arrived early and were informed of our assignments. I was to preach, my wife was to sing, the other couple would share their testimonies. Curious people began to gather. When the service started the large sanctuary began to fill up. We sang for what seemed like hours, clapping till our hands felt raw. All the while as we were in the front pew we could hear more people arriving and finding places to be seated. As our friends gave their testimonies I realized the seats must be nearly filled, for the men began bringing in benches and placing them on the platform behind the pulpit. People were led in and filled the entire platform until there was only room left in a small circle around the pulpit. Julie shared in music. Then it was time for me to preach. I rose with the missionary who would translate and as we made our way to the platform I resisted turning around to see how many had gathered. When I finally turned I saw every bench filled—South American style! There were more than twice the people on every bench than any American church could manage. The aisles were filled with a crush of people standing in every available space. I was encircled on every side by people who had gathered to hear God’s Word. Then I saw the two windows in the back of the sanctuary. Where panes of glass should have been, there was instead a montage of faces pressing close to hear. As far as I could see into the street people had gathered to try to catch the sound of God’s Word being preached.

Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I preached that night. I do, however, recall the sight of so many people so compelled to hear what God says. And I remember the fear that I wouldn’t be able to speak for weeping over the privilege of bringing God’s Word to them.” (Revival in the Rubble, pp.169-170)

A Revival of Joy

Revival means “to live again” or “to give life again.”

Apply that to joy—“to live in joy again” or “to give joy to life again.”

Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you agree, consider this tidbit from Nehemiah . . .

“… the joy of the Lord is your strength … And all the people went … to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Nehemiah 8:10b, 12)

See the double reference to joy and rejoicing?

The “joy of the Lord” could mean either: a) the joy the Lord possesses (it is the Lord’s own joy) or b) the joy the Lord gives (the joy the Lord distributes). I suggest Nehemiah has the latter in mind.

So how does the Lord intend to give or distribute this joy that only He can give?

Look at this in context. We have set before us in the middle of Nehemiah the pattern for revival among God’s people:

  1. God’s Word proclaimed to and understood by the people. (Neh. 8)
  2. Confession and repentance of the sin exposed by God’s Word. (Neh. 9)
  3. A new commitment to obedience. (Neh. 10)

Chapter 8, then, concludes by reminding us that all of this flows from joy—freshly out-poured joy! Such joy arises from experiencing God’s voice from His written Word with clarity and understanding.

Two principles emerge …

  • Strength is in direct proportion to joy.
  • Joy is in direct proportion to hearing God’s voice with understanding.

So what would be the pathway to joy?

The pathway to a revival of joy might look like this:

God’s Word heard with understanding → produces joy → providing strength to change and live differently

If I am weary and powerless, I need joy.

If I need joy, I need to hear God with understanding.

When you need joy, the world says, “Indulge yourself!” God says, “Listen to me.”

When joy recedes the world says, “Be yourself!” God says, “Draw near to me.”

The world diagnoses joylessness and prescribes listening to your desires. God spots your joylessness and moves toward you, inviting you to listen to Him.

So you want more joy? What does God’s Word suggest you do to revive joy in your life? How will you take that step toward joy?

A Tear-stained Bible

“… all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:9b)

tears.prayer

“We are not told when the people began weeping; we are simply told that they were. At some point during the sermon they began to weep and could not control themselves. … perhaps God is giving you the ministry of tears. Remember, the revival that began in one heart full of tearful brokenness (Neh. 1:4) had now spread to the people for whom he wept. Maybe the brokenness in your heart is the precursor to the brokenness and blessing God longs to send to a wider circle of His people.” (Revival in the Rubble, p.171)

Duty & Glory

“We all have our dreams, aspirations and ambitions. But has it ever struck you that the only glory you can ever bring to God is to do His will, in His way, in His time, by His strength? I can’t give God glory by doing your job. You can’t give Him glory by finishing my assignment. Neither one of us can glorify God by doing Billy Graham’s duty.

There is no greater glory you can bring to God than finishing the work He has called you to. I can only glorify God by knowing and completing His individual will for my life. Along that path we each will face resistance and suffer attack. If you are contemplating backing off, giving in or jumping ship, consider this—its not just self-protection you are considering, you are attempting to rob God of the glory due His name.” (p.143, Revival in the Rubble)

Clarity & Relevance

“When the Author of the Scriptures is released afresh on God’s people He delights to make His words clear to them as He wrote them. Clarity should be the goal of every preacher and every sermon. Clarity is different than relevance. I don’t aim to make the Bible relevant. It is already more relevant than I could ever make it. The Bible is the most relevant book in the world, because it has been written by the timeless, unchanging God. No teacher makes the Bible relevant. His highest aim is to clearly expose its relevance to those who are listening. That resulting clarity regarding relevance leads to changed lives. The people walked away from Ezra’s preaching and lived differently ‘because they now understood the words that had been made known to them’ (Neh. 8:12b). ” (Revival in the Rubble, p.167)

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