The Word of Revival | Nehemiah 8

A Bible-Revering Church

In this message, TA shows a story from Nehemiah 8 that reveals the key to revival. All it takes is a collective reverence of and response to the Word of God.

Timothy "TA" AteekMay 19, 2024Nehemiah 8:1-10

In This Series (4)
Marriage | Ephesians 5:22-33
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 9, 2024
Jesus and the Word | Matthew 15:1-9
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 2, 2024
The Markers of a Bible-Revering Person | Psalm 119:97-104
Jermaine HarrisonMay 26, 2024
The Word of Revival | Nehemiah 8
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 19, 2024

Summary

What if, on Sundays, a miracle occurs that unifies everyone, filling them with joy in the name of Jesus, when Watermark gathers as a church? In this message, TA shows a story from Nehemiah 8 that reveals the key to revival. All it takes is a collective reverence of and response to the Word of God.

Key Takeaways

Revival breaks out in Nehemiah 8, and the catalyst was the reading and teaching of God Word. This passage is so captivating because it shows what can happen when a community of God’s people treasure God’s Word. Observe three things:

  • Their Appetite for God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:1-2). The reason Watermark aims to be a Bible-revering church is because we want to be a people among which there isn’t just a mood of rare responsiveness but a mood of regular responsiveness. We want to be collectively hungry for the same thing: to hear from God through the reading and teaching of His Word.
  • Their Attentiveness to God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:3-4). The people were attentive. Why? Because they wanted to hear from God through the reading of His Word, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. As great as these books are, we have something better. Not only do we have the rest of the Old Testament that points to Christ, but we also have the Gospels that reveal the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus. And, we have the rest of the New Testament which unpacks the wonderful mysteries of Christ and His gospel. Even more, God has given us His Spirit to help us understand His Word and empower us to live it out. We have it so much better than the nation of Israel had it. And yet we can still struggle with attentiveness for the hour and twenty minutes we are here on Sundays.
  • Their Activity with God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:5-10). Through the reading and teaching of God’s Word, their grieving turned to rejoicing. The rest of their day was transformed and marked by joy. Why? Because they understood the Word of God. What can we learn from this? Pay attention to joyless Sundays. Jesus has come. He lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserved to die, and paid the penalty for our sin. He has conquered the grave. He has secured our salvation. He has brought us into relationship with God. He has given us his Spirit. And now we have His Word to hear from God!

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Do you believe that when God’s Word is opened each Sunday, it is like we are opening God’s mouth? How should this shape our expectations when we gather as a church?
  • Do you believe God has something to say to you every Sunday? How can you prepare to hear His voice through his Word? How can you help others prepare?
  • What are the things that make you inattentive to God’s Word on Sundays (e.g., conflict, work, unconfessed sin, a critical heart, personal preferences)?
  • How do you cultivate joy in God’s Word? How can your community group help you? How can you help others?
  • Read Hebrews 1:1-4. How is the Word we have as Christians even better than what they had in the Old Testament? How does seeing Christ from beginning to end strengthen your confidence in God and equip you to walk by the Spirit?

Hey, good to see you. I hope all is well on this Sunday morning. If this is your first time ever with us at Watermark, thanks for trusting us with your Sunday. I hope this place feels like home very quickly for you. We're about to jump into the Word of God. We here at Watermark believe that God has spoken and anytime we open up this book it's like we're opening up his mouth. We have an opportunity this morning to hear from him.

So, let's take a moment, like we do every week, and pray. I want to invite you to pray for yourself really quickly and say, "God, would you speak clearly to me this morning?" Then would you pray for the people by you and everyone else in the room? Say, "God, would you speak clearly to them?" Then would you pray for me that God would use me this morning for his glory?

Lord, we want to hear from you today, so, God, may our ears be open, and may our hearts be receptive. Lord, would you cancel out all distractions in this place. I pray that there wouldn't be one person in this room who leaves without hearing from you today. We're expectant for this time. We're expectant that you're going to speak. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.

On October 9, 2021, my family and I were living in College Station, and I decided to take my boys, Noah and Andrew, to an Aggie football game. The Aggies, on October 9, 2021 (some of you know exactly what I'm talking about), were playing the number-one ranked Alabama. The only reason we were going to the game was we had free tickets. We are die-hard Aggies, but at this point in the season, the only reason we were going was the tickets were free.

We went with no expectations. In fact, I told my wife and my boys, "We will be leaving at halftime. It's a night game. We're not going to screw up bedtime routines to watch a major blowout." In fact, walking into the game, I ran into some friends, and he was like, "Hey, do you have tickets? I have extra." He was calling someone. He couldn't give tickets away for the A&M versus number-one Alabama game.

We went in there expecting to see a blowout. Instead, this is how the night ended. It ended with the Aggies winning and my boys and me illegally hopping over the wall and rushing the field. We contributed to the fine the Aggies had to pay, because we rushed the field. We joined tens of thousands of Aggies celebrating this massive victory. Then we walked out of the stadium with tens of thousands of Aggies all unified, all chanting the quarterback's name. Everyone was on a high and rejoicing because of the victory.

I tell you that because, as I thought about that experience and thought about what we're doing here today, I wondered, "What if the same thing could happen in this room today?" Thousands of people are gathered together. Many of you came with no or low expectations, and many of you have plans to leave early during the response song. We see you every week.

But what if a miracle could happen? What if a miracle could happen, collectively, in this room and it was something so powerful, so incredible, that thousands of people all left together unified and rejoicing in the name of Jesus Christ? What if revival came into this room today? I don't know if you're in a place where you're like, "You know what? It's just fine. It's fine as it is." No. What if we longed for God to do a miracle in this place today, collectively, in our hearts?

The good news is the Scriptures make it clear what would need to happen for that miracle. It's pretty simple. It's a miracle, so it's only possible by the power of God, but do you know what it takes from you and me? This is all it takes: a reverence of and a response to God's Word. That's it. It's a reverence of and a response to God's Word. That's why this morning we're starting a series called A Bible-Revering Church.

If you've been with us since January, you know we're in a year of vision. We've talked about being a praying church. We've talked about being a Spirit-led church. We've talked about being a missional church. Today, and over the next several weeks, we're going to talk about being a Bible-revering church. The only reason we show up on Sundays is we believe God has spoken and wants to speak to us every single Sunday.

So, I want to show you this fascinating story in Scripture, which is going to feel a lot like that Aggie football game. I know some of you cannot be associated with that, but, again, remember, this is not that. This is us seeking the Lord together. It's going to be this beautiful picture of revival among God's people. Do you know the one thing it took for revival to break out? It took the reading of God's Word, and it took the people revering God's Word and responding to it.

If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to turn with me to Nehemiah, chapter 8. I have truly loved studying this passage for this talk. I mean, it's one of those passages that I've read before, and then when I read it for this message, it was like I had never read it before. I was like, "That's in the Bible. That's what it looks like to respond rightly to God's Word." This is going to be very instructive for us.

If you want to know the context of Nehemiah, remember the nation of Israel, the Israelites, move into the land of Canaan, and then they get removed from the land of Canaan. They get exiled by the Babylonians due to disobedience for about 70 years. Then thousands of Israelites begin to move back into the land and begin to resettle Jerusalem. They begin to rebuild the temple. They rebuild the city, and then, finally, under Nehemiah's leadership, they rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Just days after it's all complete, we see about 42,000 Israelites come together for the reading of God's Word.

Now, what I want you to see as we study this text is three things in regard to their interaction with the Word. The first thing I want you to see is their appetite for the Word of God; the second thing I want you to pay attention to is their attentiveness to the Word of God; and, finally, I want you to see their activity with God's Word.

1. Their appetite for God's Word. Look at what it says in Nehemiah, chapter 8, starting in verse 1. "And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month."

I just want you to understand what's happening here. About 42,000 Israelites are coming together. It says they came as one, which means they were unified, and then it tells us who came. It says there were men and women and all who could understand. So, what you should picture is entire families, people of all ages, coming together for one thing: the reading of God's Word.

I want you to notice it was the people who called for Ezra to read the Word. This isn't an event that's being driven by the religious leaders. This is not taking place in the temple so that the priests are orchestrating this. No, the people are the ones calling for Ezra to come and read the Word. What this shows us is that God is up to something. He is stirring the people. Sparks are beginning to catch fire.

One of my favorite commentators, Derek Kidner, says, "There was a mood of rare responsiveness." Do you hear that? He says there was a mood, something that was happening in Israel in this moment. There was a mood of rare responsiveness. What was happening was their hearts, collectively, were being stirred, specifically for the Word of God to be read. There was a collective hunger for the Word of God. There was an appetite for God's Word.

The reason we want to explicitly state that we want to be a Bible-revering church is it is the desire of the elders here at Watermark for there not to just be a mood of rare responsiveness to God's Word but there would be a mood of regular responsiveness to God's Word here every single Sunday. What I'm talking about is that we, as the people of God at Watermark, would come with a collective hunger, that we would all hunger for the same thing, and it would be to hear the Word of God read and taught.

The problem is that many of us show up hungering for something different. There are a bunch of different appetites in this room this morning. I'll explain it like this. I have three boys, and I've learned that if we're going to pick up a meal on Saturdays, by far the worst thing I can do is ask the entire family what they're in the mood for. It's the worst thing I can do, because I'm going to get five different opinions.

One boy is going to be like, "You know what? I want Chick-fil-A." Then another is going to be like, "No, no, no. I want Rosa's." Then the other one is going to be like, "I want McDonald's." Then I'm going to ask Kat, and she's going to think of something, and the whole while I'm just thinking, "Torchy's. Torchy's. Torchy's." That's how it's going to go.

That's what Sunday mornings can be like for us. Just think about it. What did you come here hungry for today? Some of you are like, "I just want to be inspired." Others of you are like, "You know what? I don't really need anything. I'm just here because it wasn't worth the fight with my spouse." Others of you are like, "I just need you to fix my marriage." Others of you are like, "I just want y'all to start preparing us for the upcoming election." Others of you are saying, "I just want a fresh touch from God." People are here with different hungers.

Revival happens when we collectively hunger most for the Word of God to be read and taught. Revival happens when all of us collectively come, saying, "I want to meet with God. I want to hear from God. I believe that when we open up this book it's like we're opening up God's mouth. God has spoken, yet as he has spoken, he wants to speak through his Word to my heart today. So it's worth it for me to fight traffic, park in a garage, get all 10,000 of my steps just getting in, check in my kids, and fight traffic out. It's worth it, because I want to go and hear from God with his people." That's when revival happens.

So, my question for you this morning is…Did you come this morning expecting to hear from God? Even right now, do you believe God has something he wants to say to you? Do you believe that or did you just come to hear from me or to sit and zone out? What are you hungry for today? We see their appetite for God's Word.

2. Their attentiveness to God's Word. Watch this in verse 3. "And he read from it…" Ezra is reading from the book of the Law. Just so we're clear on what the book of the Law was, it was the first five books of the Old Testament…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. "And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law."

Just make sure you're understanding what's happening here. Ezra is reading excerpts from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He's just reading excerpts for six hours straight. I love Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I just read them recently in my Bible reading plan, but six hours is a long time.

The text is clear. They were attentive to the book of the Law. I have to be honest. That's really convicting for him to read those books for six hours. There were no church consultants there yet who were like, "You know what? Gen Z's attention span is shorter than a goldfish's, so you'd better wrap this thing up." Costco wasn't a thing, so no one was like, "Man, we've got to beat the crowd. We've got to get there and get out."

They were attentive, men, women, and children, for six hours as the Law was being read. That's convicting to me, because we don't just have Genesis through Deuteronomy; we have the rest of the Old Testament. We now know the whole Old Testament is pointing to Christ. Then we have the Gospels, which chronicle the life of the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and then we have the rest of the New Testament, which unpacks the beautiful mysteries of Christ and his gospel.

Not only that. Because we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God has put his Spirit inside of us, so we have God's Spirit, who leads us and guides us and stirs our hearts to know, understand, and apply his Word, yet we can still struggle with attentiveness for the hour and 20 minutes that we're here on Sundays.

So, I at least want to ask the question…What are the things that still hinder us from being attentive to God's Word on Sunday mornings? Right now, just evaluate. Some of you guys have been half in or some of y'all are like, "No, it's not even half. I've just been out." What is it? What's keeping you from being fully attentive even now? What are the things that hinder us?

Sometimes it's unfinished business from the parking lot. You were fighting with your spouse on the way to church. It was a rough morning with your kids on the way to church, and you're still rattled from that. You're not able to focus or concentrate. Maybe it's unconfessed sin. Your heart is hardened to Jesus right now, and you don't want the conviction. You don't want to deal with it.

Maybe it's a habit of checking your phone. You're just in the habit. You have to pull it out and open up your email app, close that, open up Instagram, close that… It's this habit. Maybe it's workaholism. You're working even at church. You just need to check something really quickly. You need to send a quick text. You need to shoot off a quick email just because.

Maybe it's a spirit of critiquing or criticizing. You're constantly evaluating and never worshiping. You're just focusing on the things you would do differently if you were in charge. Or maybe it's your personal preferences that get in the way. They're just not the songs you want to be singing. It's not the sermon series you want our church to be doing.

Let me encourage you. If it has been a while since you have come to church and heard from God through the teaching of his Word, I want to invite you to evaluate. What is it that is stealing from your attentiveness? What is it that is preventing you from engaging and hearing from God? I'll encourage you. I don't say this to shame anyone. I do say it in hopes that someone might hear it and need it.

My friend Oren Martin, who's here on staff, said something that has really stuck with me. He said, "A mature Christian is easily edified." So, if you're sitting there, saying, "Yeah, I'm definitely a mature Christian. I've been walking with the Lord for a long time. I would consider myself spiritually mature…" A mature Christian is easily edified. What that means is a mature Christian would never come into this place and let unconfessed sin linger.

A mature Christian wants to come before the Lord, confess, and be renewed. A mature Christian knows what it looks like to put the phone away, to put work aside, because Christ is so much greater than anything that could be on this device during the hour and 20 minutes that we're here. A mature Christian is easily edified even when we're not singing the songs you like or the message or the sermon series isn't what you want it to be.

Anytime the Word of God is opened or taught, you can get something from it. A mature Christian is easily edified. So, if you've been walking with the Lord for a long time, yet week after week, you come here and are like, "Eh, I didn't get anything out of it," then I would say sit with the Lord and ask if it is them (meaning, Watermark leadership) or if it is you and something is off and needs to be addressed.

Now watch this. Verse 4: "And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose." And beside him stood a bunch of people whose names shall not be named today. Did you see that wording? It said there was a wooden platform they had made for the purpose. This tells us this isn't a spontaneous event. It's not like someone just opened up the Bible and started reading it, and it was like, "Oh, crazy! Revival." No, they planned for this.

They built a platform. They were like, "Okay. We're going to have Ezra come, and he's going to read, and we're all going to respond." Sometimes attention takes preparation. I promise you your most meaningful and attentive Sundays at church will start long before you even get to church. It starts the night before. Like, when you're setting your alarm, you're praying and saying, "God, I want to wake up and go to church, and I want to hear from you tomorrow."

Then, when you wake up on Sunday morning, before you even get out of bed, you say, "God, my intention this morning is to go and hear from you with your people." As you're driving to church with your spouse or your kids or your roommate or driving by yourself, you're praying and saying, "God, we want to meet with you. We want to hear from you. Would you cultivate a craving in our hearts that can only be satisfied by you through the teaching of your Word?"

Then, after you've worshiped and during worship, you're asking, "God, help me to see you. Help me to see you clearly. Help me to stand in awe and wonder of who you are." Then, when I give you that moment to pray for yourself and for people around and for me, you do it authentically. You say, "God, this is that moment. We're going to open up your Word together. Speak to our hearts. We want to hear from you today."

3. Their activity with God's Word. This is what grabbed me this week as I was preparing. When I read this, it was like I was reading it for the first time. I was like, "This is crazy! This is convicting and inspiring all at the same time." Remember, Ezra is reading Leviticus. He's reading Numbers and Deuteronomy. There's no music playing. There's no one on the keyboard just padding to make it hit the heartstrings. He's just reading.

Look at how the people respond. This is fascinating. Verse 5: "And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood." That was a custom. They stood in reverence for the Word. Verse 6: "And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground."

These are things we normally associate with singing. They're just reading. The reading of the Word fueled worship. Ezra, as he's reading, is blessing the Lord. He's worshiping as he's reading. He's not even preaching; he's just reading. As he is reading, people are worshiping in response to the reading of the Word. As he's reading, people are like, "Amen! Amen!" People are like, "Oh, it's too charismatic." No, that's just the Bible, and it wouldn't hurt us to be a little bit more expressive sometimes at the reading of God's Word.

Just imagine men, women, and children… Ezra is reading. "Amen! Amen!" As he's reading, people just start lifting up their hands, like a little child lifting up his or her hands to his or her mom and dad just wanting to be picked up, to be held closer by their mom or dad. As he's reading, they're lifting up their hands.

As he's reading, people instinctively get on their knees and bow their faces to the ground out of submission to the authority of God in his Word, bowing down, saying, "Yes, God. I hear you through the reading of your Word. You are worthy of this. You are worthy of humility. You are worthy of me bowing myself before you, because you are King. You rule. You reign."

Then watch this. Verse 9: "And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and 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 or weep.' For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law." So now, as people are just hearing the Word read, their emotions are stirred. People are weeping because the Word is hitting them in a way that it convicts them. They're seeing their disobedience that led to their exile. Verse 10:

"Then he said to them, 'Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.' So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, 'Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.' And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them."

Their grieving turns to rejoicing. The rest of the day is marked by rejoicing because they had understood the Word when it was read. Do you know what I take from this? Don't miss this. Pay attention to joyless Sundays, because if you go to all that effort to get here, and then you leave and there's no joy, something has misfired. Something is malfunctioning.

Christ has come. Christ has borne the weight of our shame. He has been punished in our place. He has conquered the grave. He has secured our salvation. He sits at the right hand of God. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has given us his Spirit. He has brought us into right relationship with God so we can meet with him and hear from him every time we gather together on Sunday mornings.

So, we want to be known as a Bible-revering church. That has to do with how we teach the Word, because we want to teach the Word in a way that says, "Look. This is the supreme and final authority in our lives. No matter how much culture disagrees, we will always submit to what Scripture says."

So, when we talk about being a Bible-revering church, we're talking about how it's taught, but we're not just talking about that; we're talking about how we respond to God's Word. We're talking about not just spectating. We're talking about worshiping through the reading and teaching of God's Word. How is our appetite for God's Word? How is our attentiveness to God's Word? What is our activity with God's Word?

All it takes for revival in our church is a collective reverence of and response to God's Word, all by the power of his Spirit. So, here's how I want to respond this morning. I want to respond to this text simply by doing it. So, if you have a Bible, turn to Leviticus. Not really. I'm just kidding. I actually want to invite you to turn to Ephesians, because Ephesians is the gospel, the reality of the gospel and the implications of the gospel, jammed into a very small space.

I'm going to simply read, and as I read, I'm going to trust the Spirit of God to move and work in us to respond rightly to the reading of God's Word. I'm going to ask you to put yourself in a position where you're ready to hear, and I'm going to ask you to be expectant for the Lord to do something through the reading of his Word.

As I'm reading, my hope is to be worshiping myself, but as I read and there's something you agree with, if you want to say, "Amen," just say, "Amen." If you want to stand, you can stand. If you want to raise your hands as a way of saying, "God, I need you. I want you. Pick me up…" If you want to get on your face and kneel down in reverence before the Lord, you can do that. If there's joy and you express it through clapping… I don't want to manufacture anything here, and don't do anything that isn't authentic, but let's respond to God's Word. If he convicts you, don't resist it; lean into it. The book of Ephesians.

[Reading of Ephesians 1-3]

Chapter 4 begins how we respond. Are y'all ready for this? If something in you is fighting against it, like, "Oh, that's a good place to end; let's just end there," I want you to push back against that. The first three chapters are addressing our belief. Chapters 4-6 are how it works itself out. Don't miss this. This is how the world sees people changed by the gospel. This is my hope for us.

[Reading of Ephesians 4-6]

Have a great week of worship.


About 'A Bible-Revering Church'

God’s word is our authority, conscience, and guide.