REVIVAL STARTS WITH JOYFULLY SUBMITTING TO THE VOICE OF TRUTH
Voice of Truth Lyrics – Casting Crown
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out his hand
But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win”
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
We have many voices calling out to us – which voice will we choose to listen and believe?
– Voice of Temptation
– Voice of Inadequacy
– Voice of Doubt
– Voice of Humanism
– Voice of Pride
Truth floats my boat – there are many things we choose to celebrate in life – maybe some of you have recently celebrated a birthday; certainly the Olympic athletes are celebrating their great victories in the Vancouver Games – God’s people have special occasions that merit celebrations as well
3 WAYS WE NEED TO CELEBRATE GOD’S TRUTH
I. (:1-8) FOCUS ATTENTION ON UNDERSTANDING THE WORD OF TRUTH
A. (:1-2) Desire the Word — Take Advantage of Opportunities to Hear and Understand God’s Word
And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
1. Unified Assembly – And all the people gathered as one man
unified gathering for the purpose of learning God’s truth
Not just for some subset of the people – but all who were of age to understand
2. Symbolic Setting = the square which was in front of the Water Gate
Kidner: The Water Gate was on the east side of the city (3:26), giving access to the principal spring, the Gihon, in the valley below. It is interesting that this assembly, unlike that of Ezra 3:1ff, was not held in the Temple court, where the altar was the focal point, but at one of the centres of city life . . .
Wiersbe: That the leaders chose the Water Gate for the site of the assembly is interesting. In the Bible, water for washing is a picture of the Word of God (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26), while water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (John 7:37-39). When we apply the water of the Word to our lives, then the Spirit can work and bring the help we need. It is refreshing to the soul when you receive the Word and allow the Spirit to teach you.
3. Designated Teacher = Ezra the scribe
Importance of public proclamation of God’s Word – Nehemiah did not mind that Ezra was the better person to play the important role of proclaiming God’s Word. His goal was not to monopolize the leadership.
Swindoll: We have all seen leaders who try to make the project or the job about themselves. Rather than serve the needs of their followers, they turn their position into a means of self-aggrandizement and pride. They are nauseating examples of excessive image building. One authority, speaking of this type of leader, declared rather forcefully:
The leader may consciously enjoy a feeling of superiority and aloofness, showing itself in condescension, vanity, conceit and self-pride. He may demand too much adulation and personal loyalty, and therefore try to surround himself with sycophants, “yes-men” and “rubber stamps.” He may want his own way too much and too often, and be too opinionated and obstinate about taking counsel with his colleagues and followers.
(Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership)
Ezra 7:10 “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
4. Inspired Instruction Manual = the book of the law of Moses
Can you imagine a stadium of thousands of people chanting “We want the Word!”
5. Sacred Stewardship – which the Lord had given to Israel
Privilege of protecting and passing along God’s revelation to others
6. Application Oriented – who could listen with understanding – Tremendous Access
America = Land of Opportunity
Look at Bible smuggling ministries – many countries have limited access to God’s Word
Do we desire to listen and understand and apply the Word of God?
7. Strategic Timing – on the first day of the seventh month Deut 31:11-13
Perfect time for the people to repent and make a fresh start in trying to follow the Lord:
Breneman: The seventh month was important in the Jewish calendar. The first day was the Feast of Trumpets, later celebrated as the New Year. On the tenth day the Day of Atonement was celebrated, and on the fifteenth the Feast of Tabernacles began. According to Deut 31:11-13, the proclamation of the cancellation of debts for each sabbatical year was made during the Feast of Tabernacles. During the same feast every seventh year, the law was to be read to “men, women and children.”
Constable: The “first day of the seventh month” (v. 2) was the day on which the Israelites were to observe the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24). The priests blew trumpets to assemble the people, to announce God’s working among them, and to signal preparation for the Day of Atonement, which followed on the tenth of the month (Lev. 23:27).
B. (:3-4) Listen to the Word — Test the Attention Span of the People
“He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand.”
5-6 hours of reading from the scroll – over a period of a week (v. 18) – Very intensive Bible conference
Had the support of the key leaders of the people – probably not Levites since they are mentioned later
This is a message you desperately need; modern preaching has given in to the short attention span of people in a culture that is driven by visual media; should we just be presenting short video clips; must all truth be packaged in fancy PowerPoint presentations?
Make sure that our method exalts the power of the objective truth of the Word of God rather than just playing on the entertainment lust of an experience-oriented culture
C. (:5-6) Respect the Word — Treat God and His Gracious Revelation with Great Respect
“Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”
Kidner: the royal reception given to the Word of God. This day was to prove a turning-point. From now on, the Jews would be predominantly “the people of a book”
Sometimes we get so casual that we forget that even our posture says something – look at how the TV analysts are focusing lately on not just what someone says … but their body language –
What’s your posture this morning – How attentive are you to the Word?
Everything was arranged and orchestrated to promote respect for God’s Word – thus encouraging submission and obedience
Let’s say “Amen, Amen” before we even understand what God requires of us
How do we disrespect the Word of God? By deciding what is important for us to obey – e.g. maybe we decide that the Feast of Booths is not all that important . . .
The proclamation of the Word of God remains a focal point of our worship; we too are people of the book; it is hypocrisy to make some grandiose claim that you love Jesus deeply and yet pay very little attention to the Word of God which reveals Him
One way we respect the Word is by being careful to explain it accurately; some people are very careless and slipshod in their interpretation and application; we need to value workmen that get it right; we cannot put up with error or shallow teaching; we have a lot to cover and very limited time to get the job done (cf. pressure on teachers to cover material – you throw in some snow days and you wonder how you can get the job done)
Let’s come in humility and in an attitude and heart posture of worship of the great and awesome God whom we serve
Not worshiping the Bible; but having a very high view of the Word of God – corresponds to a high view of the great God who reveals Himself through this channel
Truth engages our Intellect, Emotions, Will
D. (:7-8) Explain the Word — Teach the Meaning and Application of the Word of Truth
“Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
People say that the Bible is not relevant – nobody wants to hear this outdated message anymore
Explanation of expositional instruction – dig out the one meaning and explain it; then apply it
Kidner: The basic meaning . . . is “to make distinct or separate”, which could denote either that the reading was well articulated or that the law was read and expounded section by section. . . The whole occasion emphasizes the clarity and candour of God’s dealings with His people
MacArthur: This may have involved translation for people who were only Aramaic speakers in exile, but more likely it means “to break down” the text into its parts so that the people could understand it. This was an exposition or explanation of the meaning and not just translation.
Constable: Not only did the leaders read the Word of God, they also translated it from the Hebrew language into Aramaic, the common language of the Persian Empire. Some of the Jews present did not know Hebrew (13:24) having grown up in Babylon and elsewhere away from Jews who maintained fluency in the Hebrew language.
You need to understand so that you can submit to the Word and apply it to your life
II. (:9-12) FEAST ON THE WORD OF TRUTH WITH GREAT JOY RATHER THAN PROLONGED SORROW
A. (:9) Being Convicted by God’s Word Brings the Danger of Despair
“Then 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 were weeping when they heard the words of the law.”
Kidner: holiness and gloom go ill together . . . To be altogether joyful was the prospect held before the guests of God (Dt. 16:15), and words that went most naturally with “holiness” were not only “justice and righteousness” but “glory”, “beauty”, “strength” and “joy.”
Swindoll: The people began to weep because they knew they were guilty. They thought back over the years they had lived with no spiritual guidance. They also recalled the sins of their forefathers that had caused them to fall into captivity. The depth of their guilt brought weeping. (And that’s a good sign, by the way. At times, guilt is an excellent motivation. Not all guilt is wrong. Sometimes God uses guilt to bring people out of sin and into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.) In this moment of guilt, Nehemiah stood and said, “Now stop that. God is forgiving. Let’s move on. This is a holy day. This is a day not to cry but to celebrate.”
Famous Tom Cruise line: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
We need to make sure that we move quickly from conviction of sin to a heavy dose of the grace of God and the sufficiency of His power and His resources
B. (:10) Submitting to God’s Word Brings the Joy of Revitalization
“Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Lev. 23:40 – Commanded to rejoice … start obeying NOW
There is a time to celebrate – do that with all your heart
– eat some of your favorite foods
– have another Orange Freeze
Be generous towards those who need some practical help so you all can rejoice together in the Lord; never lose sight of the community aspect of the body of Christ
Understand the connection between Consecration and Joy
Breneman: 2 reasons to rejoice:
– the people had repented
– this was the first day of the seventh month, the Feast of Trumpets, which was a day of rejoicing (Lev 23:23-25; Deut 16:15)
In what way should the joy of the Lord be our strength?
– joy based upon forgiveness
– joy nourished in affliction
– joy that is dependent on obedience to God and not upon successful Christian service
– joy that is independent of circumstances
The secret of JOY is Jesus … Others . . . Yourself – in that order
Joy that finds its satisfaction in Christ so that we are not so tempted to find our joy in the pleasures of this world, in sinful pursuits; then joy will strengthen us against temptation; will fortify us for perseverance; will help us to endure trials; will be an encouragement to others; you need more Joy – get more of the Word and meditate on the precious promises of God and His pledge of sufficient resources to meet our every need as well as the prospect of future glory and rewards
Ultimately you lose a loved one in the Lord – but you don’t sorrow as the world sorrows … you have the joy of the Lord as your strength
Jer. 15:16 “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
Ps. 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart”
Ps. 119: 162 “I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great spoil.”
C. (:11-12) Understanding God’s Word Brings Great Celebration — Summary
“So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.”
III. (:13-18) FOLLOW THE WORD OF TRUTH IN COMPLETE OBEDIENCE –
WITH SPECIAL APPLICATION TO THOSE AREAS WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN NEGLIGENT
A. (:13-14) Study the Word Diligently to Gain Insight into Necessary Behavior Changes
Not some type of academic interest; they wanted to discover what God had commanded and change their behavior accordingly; especially important for the head of each household to take responsibility for his family; look how easy it had been for them to be neglectful of God’s requirements; the clear teaching was there all the time – they just had not been interested in obeying
Parable of the Soils – same message to different groups of people; what makes the difference in terms of the impact of the Word? Whether there are prepared hearts to receive it and obey it – you need good soil
Branam: It had to do with the difference in how the Word of God is received. In Luke chapter eight he told a story about a sower who went out to sow. And he said the seed was like the Word of God. And he found four different types of soil. And in the story the seed never changes, but the soil changes four tines. You have one soil that was rocky. You had one soil that was thin. You had one soil that was full of weeds and then you had one soil that was good soil.
B. (:15-17) Submission to the Word Brings Great Joy
Important to study the details; need to follow through with practical application; need to encourage the entire community of believers to follow suit
“And there was great rejoicing”
C. (:18) Summary of Their Joyful Submission to the Word of Truth
“He read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.”
Now you no longer had just empty walls of the city of God; Instead you had people who have been revitalized; you have a revival of focus on the Word of God; you have a celebration of God’s Truth and you have joyful submission in obedience to the voice of truth
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.