The Back to The Bible Revival
The wall was a mighty symbol of security. This significant accomplishment testified to the providence, protection, and provision of God. But there was yet a greater work of rebuilding that required the attention of both Nehemiah and Ezra.
That greater work involved the rebuilding of the spiritual foundation upon which the nation rested. That greater work included educating the people in the truths of God’s Word and instructing them regarding the importance of living in obedience to that Word. After all, it was the unfaithfulness of their fathers and their refusal to obey God’s Word that had resulted in their being carried into captivity.
The Jews needed to be in a right relationship with God if they were to prosper as a nation. The people needed to focus their attention on spiritual matters. It was time for a “back to the Bible” revival!
Reading of the Law
The events of Nehemiah 8 occurred one week after the completion of the walls. The people gathered at the Water Gate southeast of the Temple on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri). They asked Ezra the scribe to read to them from the book of the law of Moses. They were interested in reviewing the basics of God’s Word and in instructing their children in the truths of the Scripture. The people were ready for a “back to the Bible” revival. Scholars estimate that between thirty and sixty thousand people gathered to hear Ezra read from God’s Word. A special wooden podium was built for the occasion.
Ezra began the meeting with prayer. After praying, Ezra opened the book of the law and the people stood in reverence for God’s Word. As Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses, the Levites circulated among the people and translated and explained the Scripture to them. This was necessary because many of the people were no longer fluent in Hebrew because they had either grown up speaking Aramaic while in exile or had adopted the tongues of their pagan spouses/parents.
The people were deeply moved and convicted by what they heard. They were moved to tears as they saw themselves against the standard of God’s Word. The Levites encouraged the people not to weep but rather to rejoice because “this day is holy to the Lord your God.” The people were encouraged to eat and to share their food with those who had none.
On the following day, a group of people, priests, and Levites met with Ezra for a time of in-depth Bible study. Nehemiah 8:13 declares that these people met with Ezra the scribe “that they might gain insight into the words of the law.” One of the signs of genuine revival is a renewed interest in the study and practice of the Word of God.
As these people studied with Ezra they were reminded that they had been commanded to observe the Feast of Booths. The booths were brush arbors or leafy shelters that were reminiscent of the living conditions of the Israelites while in the wilderness. With the Feast of booths just two weeks away, the people sent out a proclamation that people gather materials to construct booths to observe the occasion. The people did so and lived in them for seven days. This must have had a tremendous educational impact on the youth and children as they learned about their history in such a vividly dramatic way. Ezra read from God’s Word daily throughout the duration of the observance.
We should begin our Bible Study times with prayer.
Ezra led the people in prayer (Nehemiah 8:6) before leading them in Bible study. It is important to pray before studying the Bible. Prayer can us help to focus our thoughts on the God of the Bible. Through prayer we should ask God for insight into the truths of His Word. We should pray with the attitude of the Psalmist (119:18) before Bible study: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
Bible study teachers should strive to communicate effectively.
Ezra was not just interested in reading God’s law to the people, he was also concerned that they understood what he was reading. To that end he appointed Levites to translate and interpret what he was reading to the people. Effective communication took place in small groups. Like Ezra, we should be concerned with communicating the truths of God’s Word to our students as clearly and creatively as possible.