When The Word Reads You
Nehemiah 8: 1-10

What pastor or evangelist has not preached from
the first six chapters of Nehemiah using the rebuilding of the wall
of Jerusalem to launch into the deep with the necessity of rebuilding
life, character, church or society? But, when the last stone was put
in place there followed a revival in the purest of terms. It is not
true as stated in the movie, Field of Dreams, that “If you build it
they will come”. A building standing alone regardless of its
architectural beauty will never bring men to Jesus. The empty
churches and cathedrals of Europe are a testimony to this. Therefore,
the Word must read the people.

I. A Hunger for the Word (vv. 1-2)

Usually when all the members of a church show up
at the same time it is either to welcome the new pastor or dismiss
the old one. What would you be your reaction if all the members of
your church showed up for worship? Someone would have to call 911.
The people came together because they had a hunger to hear the word of
God. This hunger was so intense they told the preacher, Ezra, to
simply open the Book of the Law of Moses and read. No drama. No
skits. No big screens. No power point. Just read God’s word. How
novel. What do your people hunger for?

II. A Hush in the Presence of the Word (vs. 3)

This took place in September 398 BC. The ancestors
of these people had been lead into captivity 188 years earlier. A
holy hush fell over the 49,942 former prisoners of war who had
returned to the home land of their departed loved ones. The
reconstruction of the wall was complete. Jerusalem had once again
become the center of praise and promise for the Jewish people. This
worship service started in the morning and concluded mid-afternoon.
It was probably a nine hour service. However, the scriptures tell us,
“and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the
Law.” A stillness, a silence and an air of expectancy filled the air.
How would you like to preach to a congregation like that every Sunday?

No one was looking at their wrist sundials. No one
left. No one was worried about beating the Baptists or Methodists to
the nearest McMoses or David’s Deli. According to verse two only
those, “who could hear with understanding”, were in attendance. So,
apparently the first nursery and children’s worship was begun that
day. Perhaps those who had been left behind by king Nebuchadnezzar
served as the children’s workers. Either way, those present were in
no hurray to leave. How refreshing it must be to attend a worship
service where the only concern of those present is to hear a fresh
word from the Word.

III. A Holding High of the Word (vv. 4-8)

There was another first that day. The first
platform and pulpit was erected. Ezra stood above the people and when
he opened the Book of the Law all the people stood up as an
expression of reverence and respect. When we who are called to
proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ hold high the Word before a
hungry people they will also respond. We are not called to be
politically correct as some who embrace the hidden things of shame.
We are called to be spiritually correct and renounce the hidden
things of shame. When God’s word is held high in our personal lives
as well as our lives of proclamation, then we will witness the
outpouring of God’s spirit as it was that day.

In verse six we find the three essential elements
of true worship. It says the people spoke up, lifted up and bowed
down. The current trend of worship today finds plenty of people who
are willing to do the first two, but very few who are willing to
commit to the third. Singing the first, second and last verses of the
traditional hymn or repeating ad infinitum the seven line choruses
while lifting our hands is external. It is the internal, the bowing
of the heart to almighty God that is missing in modern day worship.
When the Word is held high the heart is brought low.

Notice in verse eight the Word was read distinctly
and it was explained carefully to the people. It matters not how
eloquent or exegetically correct our sermons may be if those in front
of the pulpit do not understand the content. Jesus spoke so that even
a child could understand. It requires more skill to do that than it
does to put a congregation to sleep with theological jargon.

IV. A Holy Conviction Upon Hearing the Word (vv. 9-10)

Some where between Ezra’s first word and his last
something most unusual happened. The people began to weep. This is so
like God to break in upon His people when they have a hunger for His
Word. When all pretense melts away and open hearts precede open
mouths God can then proceed to open the windows of heaven and release
the convicting power of His word. Why were the people weeping? Was it
because they were tired and hungry? No. Was it because Ezra was
taking so much time in reading the Word? No. It was because that as
Ezra was reading the Word, the Word began to read the people. Anytime
there is a hunger for a word from God it brings conviction when it is
heard. And as in this evangelistic gathering conviction is always
followed by brokenness and repentance. So great was the presence of
God that day that Ezra had to release the people so they could return
to their homes in order to share their blessings with others. May those
to whom we preach have such a hunger for the Word that when we hold
it high a holy hush will descend and God’s holy conviction will fall
upon that place. Awesome things take place when the Word reads you.

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Sermon brief provided by Jerry Drace,
Evangelist, Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association, Humboldt, TN

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