We won't spend a lot of time on this chapter but there are a couple of observations that need attention. The backdrop to this chapter is, of course, the completion of the wall.
1. First you see Nehemiah continue in stellar leadership. He does not finish the wall, pat himself on the back and put his feet up. Instead, you see him taking seriously the responsibility of protecting the people. He appoints people for leadership based not on worldly wisdom but on the premise of faithfulness and fear of God.
*What a great lesson to remind us to not be tempted to assign leadership roles based foremost on ability, rather, the faithfulness and fear of God in an individual.
2. Secondly, you see Nehemiah obediently respond to God's prompting by assembling the people to be enrolled in genealogies. I think it's easy to become bored with names of people when we don't know who they are, particularly names that are nearly impossible to pronounce, ha ha. However, maybe we shouldn't focus on the individual names as much as the significance of all of them together represent. You see, these names are the individuals and families that would carry on the heritage of Abraham and make possible the furtherance of the lineage of Christ. The names of these exiled people were chosen to bring forth the Name above all Names through their return to Jerusalem.
*Have you ever visited the Vietnam War Memorial? I have not. But I have heard what a moving experience it is to see list after list of names of those who sacrificed for our country's freedom. How much more moving, then, is it to see a list of names of those who represent the carrying on of a promise that would bring ultimate freedom to the world, for all who believe.
I am still trying to wrap my brain around this text. There is a LOT to absorb here. We've talked so far in our study together about tools of observation.... repeated words/phrases, location and context. Well, here's another one to notice... TIME : ) Repetition, location, context and time are ALL important in this chapter.
*Observation 1 : The scene of this chapter opens up at the Water Gate(remember reading about this in the building of the wall?). It's very interesting that this Gate is the chosen place for the reading of the Word. "Water" is very symbolic in the Bible. It often represents a "washing" of your spirit through the Word of God.... the Word cleanses and washes our souls.
*Observation 2: A specific word that is repeated several times is "understanding". Reading and hearing the Word of God requires understanding. Matthew 13:14-15 says,
"You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and UNDERSTAND with their heart and return, And I would heal them."
The people listening to Ezra read the Word of the Lord heard with their hearts... they understood.
*Observation 3: Did you all notice the timing of this chapter? It was a feast... the feast of trumpets. We know that because the text says it was the first day of the 7th month. It was to be a week of rejoicing. But in verse 9, we are told that the people were weeping. Why? After hearing the Word of God with UNDERSTANDING, there was conviction and repentance. The great news is that with repentance and turning towards God, there is healing. Now that's cause for celebration! Nehemiah reminded them that they were to rejoice in the midst of their godly sorrow. And in their understanding they did just that... they ate, drank and celebrated!
All 3 of these observations could have so many applications for all of us. In light of the trials facing my family, these bring heavy TRUTHS. We absolutely MUST know the Word of God. Understanding MUST accompany reading and hearing the Word of God. Matthew 13:19 says,
"When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road."
There are many believers today that would rather be spoon fed by sermons, inspirational worship music and passionate literature(books that have not been "inspired" such as the Bible but because they are about God or the Bible, they are considered "Bible studies") than dig in and be cleansed by the washing of the Word of God. My question for those who feel that I've stepped on their toes is this, "Do you have understanding?" and "Are you ready in season and out of season to answer?" If your answer is "no", you have put yourself in a dangerous position. False teaching is rampant today. The devil does not play fair and probably knows Scripture better than you. Do not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine but stand firm on the rock of your salvation.
With true understanding, there is conviction which leads to repentance. Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning TOWARDS God. The Word of God is powerful and has the ability to divide soul and spirit. Being washed with the Word continuously is necessary for believers. Having this understanding, there is JOY in the healing only the LORD of LORDS can bring. It is this JOY to which Nehemiah refers in verse 10.."for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
No matter your trial today, friend, no matter your sin... He is mighty to save! Allow His Word to cleanse you and wash you, read with understanding and REJOICE for HE is our STRENGTH!