READ THE MANUAL – THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Men are notorious for throwing away the instructional manual. It comes in the box but who needs it. But as they say, “when all else fails, read the manual.”The Manual for everything in life is the Bible – the Word of God. “When all else fails, read the manual – the Bible.”
Nehemiah 8:1-3 “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
Overall Background: Until Chapter 7, Nehemiah’s focus was on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. But starting in chapter 8, he shifts his focus to a different kind of building project. This project was not about repairing broken walls; it was not about brick and mortar; it was about rebuilding the broken lives of the people of Israel. Nehemiah knew that as wonderful as it was for the people to have well-protected cities, thick walls and high gates, none of them could repair their spiritual brokenness. The answer to their deepest needs was found in the BIBLE. So in chapter 8, Nehemiah re-introduces them to the Creator’s Manual. Listen to verse 1 “Now all the people gathered together as one man (meaning: it didn’t matter who they were, what they looked like, and where they came from) in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.
Application: This is the same message for all of us this morning—There is nothing wrong with having well-protected cities, nice houses and good jobs but none of them can rebuild broken lives. You and I come into this world broken. The answer to all our problems is found in this book – the Creator’s manual – the Bible. What we need, what our community needs, what our nation needs, what our world needs is to hear from God. This is the Book that tells us about Him; this is the Book that gives us the plan of salvation.
If you find yourself broken this morning, listen every carefully to this message. Three important things we will see in this passage.
I. THE PEOPLE WERE HUNGRY FOR THE WORD OF GOD.
Background: First of all, the people did not care for their comfort. They did not look for the most shaded place. They did not grumble that the reading was not inside the temple. They stood from morning until midday, which is about 5-6 hours.
What else? and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
Meaning: No one budged. No one skipped out. They all listened with rapt attention.
Why were they so hungry for the Word? In 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and shut down the sacrifices. He had taken the people of Judah into captivity to Babylon. They were in exile where they did not have the Word of God. They had to rely on their memory. They had to rely on the songs of Zion they had memorized growing up. But they didn’t even want to sing those old psalms about the Lord. Psalm 137: 1-4 1“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land?
In 539 BC, Babylon fell into the hands of the Medo-Persians. The new king Cyrus freed the Jewish people and gave them permission to go back home. About 50,000 returned to Jerusalem and tried rebuilding the temple but gave up when they faced opposition. For the next 16 years, the temple remained unfinished.
Meaning: Again, for the next 16 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!
At the end of the 16 years they tried again and after altogether 20 years, they finally finished the temple.
Meaning: For another 20 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!
Now the temple was ready but still there was no one to give proper leadership.
Meaning: For the next 60 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!
Finally Ezra came and helped them but the walls of Jerusalem were still down. Without the walls, there was no stability, no security, and no hope for the future until Nehemiah came in 445 BC and rebuilt the wall and brought some security and stability to their lives.
Meaning: For another 13 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!
Meaning: From 587 BC to 445 BC—that’s about 140 years—the people hadn’t heard the Word of God. They were in a spiritual drought. They were hungry for the Word!
That is a long time to go without the Word of God. Is it any wonder that they did not move and listened with rapt attention!
For e.g. Even today there are people in some villages in India and parts of China who will walk miles and put their own selves in harm’s way just to hear God’s Word.
Why is it that we are not hungry for the Word of God?
For e.g. When kids come home, they immediately go to the fridge or the pantry and look for a snack. We have to warn them to get only one because they will spoil their supper.
The reason we are not hungry is because we have no appetite for the Word of God. We are so full of the junk of this world so when a home-cooked, hot, delicious, nutritious meal of the Word of God is offered we have no appetite. We are up on every TV program and every new movie and every new song but we have no deep concept of the Word of God. We get mad when we cannot find the remote but our Bibles are usually on the dashboard collecting dust.
So what do we have now? Spiritual Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Gallstones, Gout, and the list goes on and on. Even though many of us are saved, we look just like the world.
Application: Are you hungry for the Word of God? Are you desperate to hear the truth?
II. THE PEOPLE WERE SUBMISSIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people (he was on a platform/pulpit); and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
Background: Isn’t that powerful? They all stood up. This was a mark of respect. This was not just Ezra the scribe reading some book. Ezra is just the mouthpiece. This is the Word of God that was about to be read.
This is why we stand up when we read God’s Word at the opening of every message. It visually demonstrates that God is about to speak. His word is inspired; His Word is inerrant; His Word is Authoritative; His Word is Clear; His Word is Necessary; and His Word is Sufficient.
Application: What attitude do you bring to the church? If you’ve already made up your mind that you will not agree with anything that is preached, more than likely, you will walk away hating the Word.
There’s more – 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Background: The Word “Amen” simply means “So Be It” or “I Agree.” Furthermore, they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped God by getting on their faces. Can you picture that?!!
- Some churches are all emotions and no Word.
- Other churches are all Word and no emotions.
- Here is the ideal – As the Word is being read, the people respond to the authority of the Word and they are not afraid say Amen, lift their hands, bow their heads, and get on their faces before God.
Bottom line: They were completely submitted to the Authority of the Word of God.
Application: Are you submissive to the authority of the Word of God? Do you come with objections or do you come with obedience?
III. THEY WERE TRANSFORMED BY THE WORD OF GOD
Background: It was not enough to just read the Bible. It was also important to understand the Bible. What was the result? 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Why were they weeping? They realized for the first time how guilty they were before God. They were mourning for their sins. They saw themselves in the mirror of the Word of God. Romans 3:20 “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” For the first time they realized that they had broken their covenant promise of love to God.
Application: As you read this book and as you hear these messages, there will come a time in your life that you will come face-to-face with your utter sinfulness. When that happens, you can either harden your hearts or you can respond with godly sorrow. What happens if you harden your hearts? You will have to weep one day. What happens if you respond with godly sorrow? Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”
That’s exactly what happens here – 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Background: In just a few days they were going to celebrate the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was a day of national mourning, fasting, and repentance. What were special about this day were the two goats. One was sacrificed and the blood was applied to the mercy seat in the temple. The second was kept alive and the sins of the nation were symbolically laid on its head. Then the goat was taken out of the city and driven away, never to return. This was the “scape goat.” Since the Day of Atonement was on the way the people had no need to mourn any more.
So also with us – if Jesus Christ is our Atonement; if you have received Him as your sacrifice for our sin, there is no need to mourn any more. Now all you need to do is live in the Joy of the Lord – that is our strength.
Are you joyful when you should be mourning?
Are you mourning when you should be joyful?