Nehemiah is a great book of the Bible that demonstrates the connection between the Word of God, confession of sin, and dedication to the Lord. This is a question that many are asking today, that is, “why are there so few dedicated people to the Lord in our society”? Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever heard someone else ask that question? Well, according to Nehemiah, dedication comes as the result of the Word and confession of sins. In this article, I would like to examine Nehemiah 8-10. This is the study for next week’s Connect Groups here at Southern Calvert Baptist Church.
I. Rediscovering the Word of God
Nehemiah has led the people back to Israel and they have entered desolate Jerusalem. They are in need of leadership. Nehemiah has been called by God to lead the people. He has formed a team and he has done a great job motivating the people. Nehemiah was a great student of the Word of God as we discovered from his prayer in Nehemiah 1. He knew the secret to leading the people successfully. It’s the same secret that the Lord gave to Joshua. The people needed to hear and obey the Word of the Lord. The people needed to be encouraged to be good students of the Word of God.
1 And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel.
2 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
3 He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
4 Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand.
5 Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. (Nehemiah 8)
Nehemiah assembled all of the adults together to listen to the Word of God so that they could obey the Word of God. Those same adults would then take the Word back to their children and families. This took place on about the first of September. The reading of the Bible began at around 6AM and lasted until about 12:30PM. That means that the people stood and listened to the Word of God for about six and a half hours. There was no complaining. No one was looking at the sun dial to see when it was all going to wrap up. Instead, the people were listening attentively.
Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6)
Because the people were listening so attentively to the Word of God, their hearts were stirred and it led them to break out in worship. When we expose our hearts to the Word of God, that powerful Word pricks our hard hearts and we will respond in worship. When is the last time you sat at the feet of the Lord and genuinely let His Word penetrate your heart?
II. Reviving the practice of confessing sins
As the Apostle Paul teaches us in his second epistle to Timothy, the Word of God rebukes and corrects us. When the Word of God rebukes us, it leads us to confession. When we confess our sins, this opens the doorway to correction. This pattern is demonstrated in the lives of the people of Israel. Nehemiah exposed the people to the Word of God and they began to worship the Lord. Part of that worship was confessing their sins.
1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them.
2 The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
3 While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. (Nehemiah 9)
Confession simply means to agree with God. The people, like we are today, liked to shift the blame for their actions. They played the blame game just like we do today. But, upon reading the Word of God, the people began to feel a deep sense of sadness over their actions. Confession of sins is vital to our walk with the Lord. We need to open up to spiritual leaders so that we can have accountability. If we simply confess to God and not to another person, we will find ourselves running back over and over again confessing the same things over and over again without ever gaining victory. Part of walking in victory over our sin nature is having accountability. We will never have accountability without confession. This teaching is echoed in the epistle of Jesus’ half brother James.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5)
James tells us to call the elders to pray for us. When he says that we are to confess our sins, that is in the context of calling the elders to pray for you. We need spiritual leaders in our lives to whom we can confess our sins, not because they are able to forgive us, instead, they can offer accountability to us. Do you confess your sins to an accountability partner? If you do not then why not?
III. Renewed dedication to the Lord
When people study the Scriptures seriously and confess their sins for the sake of accountability, then the natural result will be renewed dedication to the Lord.
28 Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding,
29 are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; (Nehemiah 10)
The people developed a new zeal for obedience to the Lord as a result of studying the Scriptures and confessing their sins. If you just read the Bible yet do not confess your sins, this zeal for obedience will not be there. I think that this is the missing piece in many, many churches today. Many study the Scriptures yet few confess their sins to a spiritual authority figure. As a result, there are many who continue to study yet all this study does not produce obedience. Are you one of those people? Try to fill in the missing piece of the puzzle and watch how God is going to work in your life. An entire society was changed when points one and two were present. The entire local church, I believe, would be transformed overnight if points one and two were present.
What about you, my dear friend, are you a student of the Word of God? Do you challenge others to study the Word with you? Are you quick to confess your sins to a spiritual authority figure? Do you desire accountability in your daily life? Is obedience a major component to your faith in the Lord?