Hear God’s Word
Nehemiah 8:1–3, 7–12
I enjoy great preaching. As a pastor myself, I need someone to preach to me. Not only is the Bible the message which proclaimers preach, but the Bible preaches to believers and to people separated from God.
In college and seminary I completed classes on sermon preparation and delivery. Yet I do not know of a class on listening to a sermon. Nehemiah 8 provides sermon guidelines on listening and responding to the divine Author of the Word.
Put yourself in a position to hear God’s word. (1–3)
Nehemiah led many of the Hebrew people out of bondage to the Babylonians on a journey to Israel. After the people settled in their towns, the people requested Ezra “to bring the book of the law of Moses.”
Ezra stood on a wooden platform and read the law of Moses to the people as the people stood in honor of God’s word. Ezra prayed. The people lifted their hands, praised God, then prostrated themselves in humble submission before God.
Nehemiah describes the type of old-fashioned revival services described by believers from a previous generation.
The Bible is opened and read out loud. People listened attentively. God was praised, hands were uplifted in a posture of beseeching the Lord, then people knelt with faces to the ground in humble worship of the Author of the book.
I confess most often I do not approach the reading of God’s word with the sense of preparation, posture of hands uplifted in a symbolic manner of beseeching God and making myself humble before God Almighty.
If we are honest with each other, many believers would admit we read God’s word hurriedly so we can begin with our tasks for the day. Then we wonder why we do not receive more from our Bible readings.
Listen to God’s word with the goal of understanding. (7–8)
Levitical leaders assisted the people to understand God’s word by reading God’s word out loud. In my personal reading of the Bible, I have found reading out loud is beneficial.
If many Christians were honest, we might confess we read the Bible quickly to check Bible reading off our to-do list, yet we do not understand what we read — the opposite of the understanding described. Develop a Bible reading plan, and use reliable guides to help you understand.
Respond to what you hear with both repentance and celebration. (9–12)
God’s people responded with weeping as God’s word addressed the disobedience of God’s people. Rather than continually grieving over their sins, wise spiritual leaders reminded the people that believers can experience joy because of God’s strength.
I confess that on occasion in my life I have wept before God, yet my tears were tears of joy as I discovered new truths within the word of God.
The people of God held a great celebration because they understood the words of God. Believers should celebrate every Lord’s Day because “the words were explained to them.”
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida