Points To Ponder Are You Missing Out on Something Good?
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
As I write this, I am sitting at the kitchen table, facing the morning as it brightens the snow-covered yard. My Bible is open to Nehemiah 8, and I am so thankful for these moments alone with God.
I love to open the Word, often at random, to some seldom-read place in the Old Testament. I always find a little gem of truth or insight that I had not seen before or had forgotten. Nehemiah contains a number of these.
In Chapter 8, Nehemiah has completed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls in 52 days. Those who had returned from exile in Babylon were organized and relocated to their appropriate home districts, so to speak. Now the seventh month, a time of sacred assembles, is upon them. The revival of their worship and relationship to God, as His people, had begun. We read there of the first pulpit being constructed so that Ezra can preach the Word to the gathered crowd. The Levites taught “Sunday School” (sort of), as they worked with small groups, helping them to understand the word being preached. It is a great passage for Christian Education Sunday. (Nehemiah 8:1-8)
The people felt heavy under their guilt, as the Word revealed to them how far apart from God they had been as a people. But the Levites reassured them (v.11-12) and sent them home to celebrate, to eat and drink, and to share their blessings with others. They are home with the Lord. They were able to “rejoice greatly” because they were learning and understanding the “words that were declared to them” (v.12).
How can I impress upon you the freedom and joy that can be found in searching and understanding God’s word? This morning as I write, verses 13-18 really hit home for me - and for all of us.
On the second day of the sacred month of feasts, “the heads of the fathers’ house of all the people with the priests and the Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:13). This verse can be particularly addressed to the men among us. The heads of the families, along with the clergy and Bible teachers, got together with the preacher and had a Bible study. The next verse (v.14) begins this way:
“And they found written...”
Had they not opened the Word together and studied, they would not have found the life changing truth contained there. The Word reminded them of the vital, fundamental commands, which God had given them in the days of their founding as a people. They had been told to practice the Feast of Tabernacles, the building of and dwelling in “booths”, as a reminder of God’s provision during the wilderness years. They had forgotten that reminder. Having not heard or studied the Word for so many centuries there were many things that had slipped away from their national, and personal, memories. You cannot miss what you do not have if you never knew it existed. There are many things we Christians are missing - beautiful, exciting things - because we do not know they exist. These things are tucked within the pages of your Bibles. Nehemiah 8:16-18 concludes by saying that the people revived the practice they had lost and “there was very great gladness” (v.17). We are told that this sacred joyful feast had not been practiced “since the days of Joshua...until that day...” That’s about 800 to 1000 years!
This passage teaches a vital truth to all of us. As we lament the moral decline of our nation, the scriptural illiteracy of the average Christian, and the lack of depth and biblical exposition in much of today’s preaching, the light shines on the family unit. It was the heads of the families who took responsibility for bringing revival to Nehemiah’s culture and nation. On the first day Ezra preached the Word, and people went home both convicted and convinced of what God was saying. On the second day, the heads of the families responded. They went to Bible Study and they found out what they were to do.
The year is still young. It is never too late to take responsibility and find out what you are being called to do. We are truly blessed to live in a nation where we can study and openly discuss the scriptures; but with every blessing, comes a responsibility. Are you exercising your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ?
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.