The people are going through the process of learning and reinstituting the Word of God in their lives. Nehemiah 12:24 says the Levites did, “praise and give thanks, group alternating with group, according to the command of David the man of God.” David had instructed that there should be praise before the presence of the LORD all day, every day and they had begun to do this again.
Chapter 13 records many things Nehemiah did to lead the people back to righteousness living. When Nehemiah saw how the people of Judah had intermarried with the other nations he said to them, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin” (Nehemiah 13:26). When our life is aligned with the wrong people, it will cause us to error in our ways as it says in Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.”
Ezra gathered with the people on the first day of the seventh month (The Feast of Trumpets) and read the Law of God to them from morning till midday and the result was all the people began to weep. (See Nehemiah 8:1-9) Ezra said to the people in Nehemiah 8:10, "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." It’s true that we need the fear of the LORD in our life to go on to live holy, but we also need the “joy of the LORD” to have strength. Joy comes from the LORD, but we should realize the joy of the LORD is more than just an emotion God gives. In the joy of the LORD we find our joy in Him. It’s when “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), and we delight to do His will (Psalm 40:8), because “his love is better than wine” (Song of Sol. 1:2). Nehemiah 8:12 says, “all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” The people understood they needed the joy of the LORD; they “rejoiced greatly” in the goodness of God.
During the feast of Tabernacles the whole assembly “made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness” (Nehemiah 8:17). People don’t do God’s Word for one reason or another, but all those reasons are lame. God’s Word, and His ways, were given for our benefit, and we will find “great gladness” as we trust His ways and walk in them.
We read in chapter 9 how after the Feasts of the seventh month were over, the people gathered to hear God’s word, fast, confess their sin, worship, and to renew a covenant with the LORD. The people feared the LORD, but now it was much more than fear: they found their joy in the LORD and desired to live in His ways.
I love their words at the end of Nehemiah 10:39: “we will not neglect the house of our God.” They recognized how they and their ancestors had been negligent and they made a decision not to let that happen again.
These chapters in Nehemiah give us some necessary principles to fulfilling a God given task and vision.
When Nehemiah heard of the distress of those in Jerusalem and that the walls were still broken down, Nehemiah said in chapter 1, verse 4, “I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” If more God given tasks were responded to like this, more would get done. Nehemiah didn’t take things lightly; his heart had passion for the glory of God and compassion for his people. The rest of what we see him and others do in the following chapters began in prayer with fasting.
Nehemiah 2:10 says, “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.” If you don’t have opposition and critics, you’re probably not doing anything significant. You can’t be discouraged by those who oppose and despise you when you are doing a God given task. Critics are not proof you’re in the will of God, but you’ll always have them in the will of God.
Nehemiah said in chapter 2, verse 16, “the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.” When Nehemiah first came to Jerusalem, he didn’t tell anyone what he was doing until he had time to survey the land and see what needed to be accomplished. In the initial stages of a vision and God given task we can error by talking to people we shouldn’t about our plan. That doesn’t mean we don’t tell anyone, but we need to have a plan before we try to tell people what it is. This sounds like common sense, but many times people get excited in the initial stages of something and they tell people who can’t see what they have begun to see.
Chapter 3 contains some significant words: “next to them” (or “next to him”). The job wasn’t fulfilled by one or even by a majority, but as they ALL did their part standing side by side, the job would be finished.
Nehemiah commented on his enemies plans to frighten them in chapter 6, verse 9: “For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Fear will neutralize faith and must be resisted. Nehemiah continued to trust in God’s ability to help him finish the work regardless of what they were saying to him. There will always be a temptation to fear when you’re walking out a God given task; times when the problems seem so large, but we must refocus and remember what the LORD has spoken.
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan