Recently, I have been reading through Ezra and Nehemiah in my personal study. I’ve been reading them together because these books tell the same story of the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, just from two different perspectives. Our pastor has also been walking through Nehemiah on Sundays, so it has been very helpful to have his insight as I read through it myself.
There are so many wonderful parts to this story, from the sovereignty of God in using a pagan king to accomplish His purposes, to the priests’ mighty prayer in chapter 9.
But what I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing a beautiful picture of what true revival looks like.
Sometimes we think revival looks like an emotional experience at a conference where tears are shed and hands are raised, but it usually fades in a week or two after we come down from that emotional high. I had many of those experiences at high school church camps, but there was rarely a true change of heart.
But in this story, we see where long-lasting, true revival starts. After Nehemiah and the people complete the wall, Ezra the scribe comes and reads the Book of the Law before all the people. He read it to the men, women, and all who could understand (Nehemiah 8:2), and it says that “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law (8:3).” Also, while he was reading, the Levites went among the people to help teach and explain the words that were read (8:8). Once Ezra was finished reading, the people wept, mourned and confessed their sin before the Lord (8:9;9:1-3). They understood that they had abandoned their God and had sinned greatly against Him.
But as they wept and mourned, Nehemiah exhorts them and says, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:9). What followed their repentance was great rejoicing and worship, because they fully understood the mercy and grace of God on them: “But you are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness” (9:17b). They exalted God and recalled His faithfulness to their fathers and His continual forgiveness of their iniquities. They then made a covenant before the Lord to obey His commandments and to walk in His ways (10:29).
What a glorious picture of what true revival looks like.
There’s no need of dim lights and emotionally manipulative music. In this story, we see what is necessary for revival to take place:
1) Reading/hearing of the Word
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)
2) Acknowledgement and brokenness over sin.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me (Psalm 51:3).
3) Confession of sin
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).
4) Rejoicing in the grace of God who is ready to forgive
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:8)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
5) A renewed spirit of obedience to the Lord
“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart” (Psalm 119:33-34).
“for I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees” (Psalm 119:47-48)
If we want to see revival like what took place years ago amongst the Israelites, it starts in our own hearts. But it cannot take place without the Word of God being prevalent in our lives. We must be diligent to read it, to meditate on it, and to glean from it. It wasn’t until the people of Israel heard and understood the Words that were read to them that they were able to acknowledge the full weight of their trespasses against a holy God. Once they recognized that, they were overwhelmed by their own sin and they repented and turned to the Lord. It is the same for us today. The truth of God’s Word never changes, nor does its ability to convict and change hearts. May we all humble ourselves and seek the Lord so that we can see revival in our own lives, in our families, churches and communities.