Nehemiah 11-13

Nehemiah 11-13…Heart change.

Having rebuilt the wall, Nehemiah recognized that a physical defense for the city would be no good without a change in the hearts of the people. So he gathered the people together to hear Ezra read the law of God and express repentance for the sins that had put them into exile in the first place. There was also a great celebration at the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem, for the Lord had been faithful to grant the people success in their important endeavor (Neh. 12:27–47).

Consistent preaching of the gospel both to ourselves and to the world around us is necessary if reformation is to endure. We need to be reminded of the gravity of our sin and the greatness of our Savior in order to live in grateful obedience to His Word. Others must realize their lack of trust in Christ, so that they might become converted and their lives transformed. There will never be a point in this life when the gospel is unnecessary.

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Nehemiah 8-10

Nehemiah 8-10…Preaching

Scripture commends the practice of expository preaching and teaching. In this section of Nehemiah, for example, the Levites explain the meaning of the Mosaic law to the people as Ezra leads them in repentance after the return from exile. Paul supports the practice when he exhorts Timothy to divide the Word of truth rightly (2 Tim. 2:15). In other words, Timothy must pay close attention to Scripture, seeking to drive “a straight path” through it, faithfully applying it to his flock.

Preaching is central in our worship of the Lord, and Paul’s word to Timothy noted above instructs us to judge the quality of our preachers based on their fidelity to the text and not their rhetorical skills. May we look for preachers who give us the Word.

Preaching can be a lonely and intimidating task. If you have a preacher who is faithful to Scripture as he preaches, make sure you take the time to thank him for feeding you the Word of God. Moreover, as we study the Bible individually, we can be tempted to read our opinions into the text and compromise its original meaning. That is why we must pray that we would be faithful to the text while we research a passage’s original setting and its immediate context.

Nehemiah 1-7

Nehemiah 1-7…Spiritual Reformation.

Nehemiah left for Jerusalem around 445 BC, almost two generations after the first exiles had returned. That he acknowledged the sins of Israel, expressing sorrow for them, indicates that even though a number of the people were back, impenitence still characterized much of the nation. This impenitence explains why the restoration did not match the glorious words uttered about it by the earlier prophets, for as Nehemiah’s prayer also acknowledged, full restoration was contingent upon true repentance.

Nehemiah’s prayers throughout these chapters are remarkable for their emphasis on the Lord’s covenant faithfulness, which God displayed not only in blessing His people but also in bringing about the curses that He warned of in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. God is by nature faithful and thus keeps His promises, so when Israel flagrantly violated the terms of the covenant and refused to repent, they reaped the consequences. Nehemiah was unafraid to acknowledge both sides of God’s covenant faithfulness, and so this prayer stands as a model to us. Oftentimes, we speak of the Lord’s fidelity to us only when we are experiencing great blessing. Yet the faithfulness of God to His Word also involves disciplining us for sin, so we ought not think that He is being less than true to His covenant when we feel the hard but loving hand of His chastisement (Heb. 12:3–11).

Ultimately, Nehemiah would go back to Jerusalem and lead a great reformation in Israel, but he recognized that reformation of the covenant community had to begin in heartfelt repentance. This predated any change in the structures of society. The same principle is in action under the new covenant. Righteous laws can be passed in our land, but there will be no lasting change unless and until the church gets its own house in order. Judgment always begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).