STEPS FOR SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
Steps To Spiritual Renewal
Text: Nehemiah 8:1-18
The need for spiritual renewal or revival in Nehemiah’s day was apparent, even glaring. The report came to Nehemiah through Hanani, a fellow Jew, that “the remnant that are left in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3). How it broke Nehemiah’s heart just to consider that God’s people and the holy city were in such a condition.
That the people were in great affliction and reproach meant that they were in great misery and shame. The word translated “affliction” means “evil, misery, distress–the very opposite of good or well. They were outside of the original and ongoing intention that God had for them. These folks were in great misery and distress. The word “reproach” means “objects of scorn, contempt, shame and condemnation.” They were living in disgrace and dishonor because of the condition of Jerusalem and their own condition as the holy people of God.
Nehemiah just could not stand it, and he determined to do something about it. He said, “When I heard these words…I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” Neh. 1:4. “Wept” points to a spontaneous expression of strong emotion. He wept aloud with the weeping that comes out of distress or sorrow. “Mourned” describes a deep mourning as the mourning for the dead. Notice that he mourned for “certain days.” “Fasted” means that he abstained from food because his burden was so heavy that he had no desire for food. “Prayed” is the word for intercession. He interceded for Jerusalem and for the people there who were in such distress. His prayer is recorded in 1:5-11. Weeping, mourning and fasting led to prayer, confession of sins, and petitions for mercy. God heard Nehemiah and used him to bring restoration and renewal to the people and to the city.
The walls of the city were repaired first. There was opposition to the work from within and without. The nobles of the people refused to have any part in the work (Neh. 3:5). The people of the land laughed at them (Neh.2:19; 4:1-3), and conspired against them by devious means (Neh. 6:1-5,10-13). Prayer, faith and persistence won out in the end and the walls were
However, there was still a spiritual need to be met. Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe gathered the people together and opened the Book of God. As they read and explained the law of God to the people, they experienced spiritual renewal. The people repented of their sins with weeping. Revival broke out!
There are some principles in this passage, which, if they are heeded and adhered to, will bring spiritual renewal to the people of any era. And while our need for spiritual renewal may not be as obvious to us as the need was to Nehemiah, there is a great need for revival today. God help us to see it as clearly as Nehemiah saw it and determine to do something about it
as he did. God help us to weep, mourn, fast and pray as he did. Perhaps God will then give us revival as well.
Are we agreed that we need a revival, a spiritual renewal in our country, our community, our church? This passage tells us how to have spiritual renewal. The words of a well-known hymn tells us as well:
Send a revival, O Christ, my Lord, Let it go over the land and sea, Send it according to thy dear word, And let it begin in me.
How does revival come? It begins in me.
There is nothing new or secretive about these steps to spiritual renewal. These steps or principles come out of the Word of God. They are things that we already know to do. Once we consider them, they become obvious. The steps to spiritual renewal are: Affirm the Word of God (8:1-8), Adore the God of the Word (8:6), Acknowledge the Lord’s Day (8:9-11) and Act like the people of God (8:13-18).
I. AFFIRM THE WORD OF GOD (NEH. 8:1-8)
The completion of the wall of Jerusalem marked a tremendous victory and great achievement, but it was not time for relaxation for the builders. At this moment of achievement, the people needed to be brought to an understanding of the Word of God so that they would know the secret of their strength for the future. After all, this was the commencement of their mission for God, not the culmination of it. So Nehemiah and Ezra gathered the people, read the Word of God to them and expounded it distinctly and clearly. The people responded positively. They affirmed the Word of God in their lives. How do you affirm the Word of God?
A. By Reverencing It (8:5)
1. That the people stood up when Ezra began reading signified their reverence for the Word of God.
2. They reverenced the Word of God because of what it was—the very Word of their great and gracious God.
3. Spiritual renewal has always come in on the heels of a renewed reverence and hunger for the Word of God.
a. We need to understand what God’s Word is. It is the very “God-breathed” Word of God, which is given for our profit. II Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Bible is:
1) The “holy Scriptures” – the sacred writings – “which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15).
2) The Bible is “given by inspiration of God” ” – it is “breathed out from God,” and it “is profitable…” (II Tim. 3:16).
3) It makes “the man of God…perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:17).
b. We will not experience spiritual renewal until we develop a reverence for the Word of God.
B. By Receiving It (8:3-7)
1. The people were very “attentive” to the “book of the law” (v. 3).
a. The literal reading is “and the ears of all the people unto the book of the law.”
b. This simply means that they were all ears. That is, they paid close attention to the Word of God.
c. They made sure that they listened and understood what God was saying to them.
2. The people understood the law and stood in their place (v. 7).
a. The Levites caused the people to clearly understand the Word of God.
b. That the people “stood in their places” seems to indicate that they did what the Word said to do.
3. The Bible cautions us to receive with meekness the Word of God. James 1:21–“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”
a. “With meekness” is placed before the verb in the original order in order to stress the needed inner attitude for receiving the Word. “Meekness” describes an inner gentleness, humility and teachableness.
b. “Receive” denotes a welcoming and appropriating of the Word. The tense of the verb gives it a sense of urgency.
c. That the Word is able “to save your souls” means that God’s way is the only way to be right with Him.
4. The admonition is that we are to receive God’s Word gladly, knowing that we need it, and we are to take it into our lives with the intention of obeying it.
C. By Retaining It (8:8)
1. That they understood the Word also means that they retained it.
2. There was no slipshod listening and promptly forgetting what they heard as we sometimes do.
3. They took it to heart because they reverenced it as God’s Word, received it into their lives and retained it in their minds and hearts.
4. When revival comes it will be a revival of the Word of God.
a. It was said of God’s people of old: “Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19, 20).
b. Let us reverence, receive and retain the Word of God and revival will come.
II. ADORE THE GOD OF THE WORD (NEH. 8:6)
As God’s people affirmed the Word of God, they were led to worship the God of the Word. As they came to know the nature of God and as they came to know what He required of them, they worshipped Him.
A. The Worshipped
1. They worshipped the LORD, their covenant God.
a. The term LORD denotes self-existence, immutability or unchangeableness and eternity.
(1) They worshipped the God who was, who is, and who is to come–the one who is complete within Himself.
(2) He is eternal in existence and He never changes.
b. The LORD delivered them from Egypt, established them in the land and blessed them greatly.
c. The LORD also chastened them with captivity and then delivered them again.
2. They worshipped the great God – Elohim, the Creator, the great one – great because of who He is and what He does.
B. The Worshippers
1. The people worshipped the LORD – in spirit and in truth. They worshipped Him according to the Word of God.
2. The people who knew Him worshipped Him. God’s people worship Him when they are right.
3. This was not an elite group of God’s people; it was God’s ordinary people.
C. The Worship
1. The Bible says, “Ezra blessed the LORD.” That is, he worshipped God by giving Him praise – verbal praise.
2. The people responded to Ezra’s praise by saying, Amen! Amen! They affirmed all that Ezra said and let it become their praise to God as well.
3. The people “lifted up their hands” in the symbolic gesture of prayer and supplication.
4. The term translated “bow” in “they bowed their heads” denotes the deepest kind of worship. The term emphasizes devotion and obeisance at crucial times.
5. “Worshipped” means that they got on their faces before God. What humility and reverence they displayed.
6. Genuine revival will be a revival of praise, worship and reverence before God.
III. ACKNOWLEDGE THE LORD’S DAY (NEH. 8:9-11)
That we have gotten away from the Lord may be seen in the facts that we do not affirm God’s Word, and thus we do not adore the God of the Word and consequently, we do not acknowledge the Lord’s Day. Sunday has become just like any other day. How sad this truth is!
A. The Description of the Day (8:9, 11)
1. The day is described as “holy,” separated to God and for the worship of God.
2. The day of worship was described as “holy unto the LORD your God” (v. 9). That is, it was set aside for the purpose of worshipping the Lord.
3. Again in verse 11, the day of worship is described as holy. This means that the day of worship is set apart to the Lord – it is His day – a special day and a day of worship.
B. The Design of the Day (8:10)
1. Worship of the LORD brings joy. People who are right with God rejoice in Him.
2. Worship is celebration of the Lord and to the Lord.
a. Joy and rejoicing is the strength of the people of God.
b. Those who do not know God and who do not worship Him cannot know this joy and strength.
3. Genuine revival will bring about an acknowledgement of the Lord’s Day as His day. Acknowledging His day will bring joy.
IV. ACT LIKE THE PEOPLE OF GOD (NEH. 8:13-18)
The sure outcome of revival is that God’s people will act like God’s people. The problem is that often times the people who say they are God’s people are just like everybody else. Those who say that they are God’s people are too worldly. They look like the world, act like the world and talk like the world. The Israelites may have been that way before the revival, but they were different after the revival. They were:
A. A People of Commandment (8:13-16)
1. The leaders of the nation convened for Bible study and discovered the
commandment concerning the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles (vv. 13-15).
a. This feast was observed by living in booths of branches for a period of seven days. It began on the 15th day of the seventh month.
b. This feast commemorated the wilderness wanderings after being delivered from Egypt.
c. It was to be a time of celebration and rejoicing.
2. When the leaders discovered this truth, they led the people to observe this feast (v. 16)
B. A People of Celebration – Worship (8:17-18)
1. Their obedience to God in this matter led to celebration and great rejoicing (v. 17).
2. They celebrated by reading the Word of God and worshipping as that Word commanded them to do (v. 18).
3. In other words, they acted like God’s people. God’s people of any day should be characterized by:
a. Powerful living or Spirit-filled living
b. Personal Bible study
c. Private prayer
d. Public worship
e. Plentiful giving
f. Purposeful witnessing
g. Praiseful joy
The steps to spiritual renewal are neither secretive nor complicated. Spiritual renewal comes when God’s people affirm the Word of God, adore the God of the Word, acknowledge the Lord’s Day and act like God’s people. The result of spiritual renewal is consistent, Christ-like, joy-filled living.
Now that we know the steps to spiritual renewal, are we willing to take them? May God help us to be willing and to take these steps.