Bible Survey on Nehemiah – Lesson 8

In Nehemiah chapter 6 we saw the shocking truth that people will work with their own enemies against those who are working for their good.  And one of the reasons they will do it is because of some personal gain.

It is shocking but it is laid out in the bible for our learning, and this is exactly what we see happening in the world around us.

Contrasted to these bad people of power and influences in chapter 6 is the example in the beginning of chapter 7 of the type of people that we need in leadership.  People who walk with God.

We pick up in Neh 7:5

Neh 7:5  And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein, 

Neh 7:6  These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city; 

Neh 7:7  Who came with Zerubbabel,

Who put it on Nehemiah’s heart to reckon the people?  God did.

And this reckoning was also a numbering.

Neh 7:40  The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. 

Neh 7:41  The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. 

Neh 7:42  The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. 

Neh 7:66  The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, 

If you remember David got into a lot of trouble and caused big problems when he numbered the people later in his reign.  Here Nehemiah is led by God to do it.  What is the difference?  Why is it bad one time and ok another time?

If you remember from our look at the book of Numbers we saw that numbering has to do with ownership.  Only the owner has the right to number.  For example do I have a right to walk up to someone’s house and say I am here to number your stamp collection?

David did not own the people.  They are God’s people not David’s.  Here in Nehemiah it is actually God who is having the people numbered.  David numbered out of pride, he wanted to see what David had built.  On the other hand Nehemiah is just obeying the Lord.

Nehemiah is just the errand boy.  There are times when God wanted His children numbered.

That brings up the next question.  By the way, I hope you like that.  Having things explained.  Teaching.  I read an article last week where the guy was saying that preaching is about one thing.  Fixing problems.  Every time you preach, preach to fix a problem.

I just shook my head.  That is a sad way to look at those you are preaching to.  They are never good enough, not strong enough to walk with the Lord themselves.  They are always a mess, always a problem.  To have that outlook every single service.  To me that is really sad.

But more than that, the Bible says we are to teach.  Edify, lift up, educate, encourage, and teach the entire Bible.  You can’t really do that if the goal of every message is to fix a problem.

Anyway, back to the question.  Why would God want the people numbered?  Doesn’t He already know what the number is?  Yes He does.  He has other reasons for it.  He does not need them numbered so He can know how many there are.

And understand God is infinite.  He can have more than one reason for doing something.

Here in Nehemiah this numbering records for all eternity those who came back.  Recording this in God’s word that they came back is a way of showing that God noticed.  He wanted them to know that He was pleased with what they did and He wanted others thru the ages to know about it.

What they did was more than just move to a new location.  Most people move for a job, for greener pastures.  These people moved where there was not a job and there was no green pasture.  Why did they move?  Faith.  They moved back because they had faith in the promises of God.

And now as God is delivering on His promises He wanted it recorded that it was these people who believed God and had faith enough to move.  Even when it could not be seen by sight.  The place was a wreck.  It would have been easy to give up after a year or so.  But these people had been there for decades by faith that one day God would move and He would deliver on His promises.

This really was a big deal.  Faith pleases God.  So God had these families and their faith recorded in His Word for everyone to see.  These are not the only people that God has done this for.  Hebrews chapter 11 is another place that God recorded the faith of individuals in His Word for all to see.

God’s word is complete.  So no matter how much faith you have, you will not be added to this Bible.  However, this principal still holds.  God is very pleased when you live by faith.  And God notices your faith and it is recorded in Heaven.

There is another reason that God had this numbering done.

Neh 7:63  And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. 

Neh 7:64  These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. 

We touched on this last week.  There was a reason that only Levites were to be the priests.  And they had people who crept in to do the job of priest but they were not qualified.

God wanted that exposed and dealt with.  This numbering accomplished that.

When we started Nehemiah I said that I had been thru 3 verse by verse series on Nehemiah in different churches.  We are now way past where every one of them quit.  They only went to where the wall was finished and then stopped.

But we are actually just starting to get to the most exciting part of the book.  Nehemiah is not really about a building project.  It is about God keeping His promises.  It is about God working in the hearts of people.  It shows how longsuffering and patient God is.

The people were sinning against each other by putting their brothers into debt and bondage just for food.  And yet God blessed and sent Nehemiah.  God thru working in the heart of the king of the empire gave the building materials.  They had nobles that were sinning by working with the enemy and God still blessed by keeping them safe and prospering the work.

And some of them that were working against Nehemiah and against God were some of the priests.  And now we find out that they had the sin of having unqualified priests.

And yet God blessed.  The wall and the gates are finished.  He is patient and longsuffering, but in His time He will bring things up to be dealt with.  God will expose sin.  God made sure that the treachery of the nobles was exposed.

And now it is time to fix the problem of the unqualified priests.  So God had it exposed thru this numbering and Nehemiah and others get it fixed.

Many times so far in this book we have seen God in His perfect timing have a sin exposed and we saw the people’s reaction.  They got it fixed.  They got right with God.  They changed their ways.

Now each time that happens what happens to your faith?  What should happen is that your faith grows.  Faith in some ways is like a muscle.  You flex your muscles and use them and they get stronger.

All thru this book God has been at work.  People have been responding by exercising their faith and thru that faith grows.

Another thing also happens.  When you say God you are right and I am wrong.  And you voluntarily change from your sinful way to God’s way.  God is pleased, and your fellowship grows sweeter.  You grow closer to God.

Your heart grows less and less cold.  Your view of the meaning of life changes.  You become more attuned to what God wants.

The closer to God that people get the more of God they want.

This is a growing process.  It takes time and the exercising of faith.  If Nehemiah showed up on day one and demanded that they fix all of their sins on day one, he most likely would have been shown the way out of the city.

But God first showed them His power to work in the circumstances of life.  God first worked in their hearts to start working in the Lord’s work.  Then He showed them something they needed to fix, and God blessed and they kept working, God blessed more and then God showed them something other sin they need to fix, and they did.

And God blessed more.  And now they see that because God moved and they got on board with it and worked, that the walls are done.  And they are grateful.

The people are now ready in their hearts for what we term a revival.    Starting in Nehemiah chapter 8 is one of the greatest revivals that has ever happened.

Neh 8:1  And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. 

The people have grown, they have changed.  They were not ready for this when Nehemiah first showed up.  Thru it all their hearts have become more tender and their desire now is to grow closer to God.

And this is not just one or two or even a hundred.  It says and all the people gathered themselves together.  We understand that if you have a super overwhelming majority you can use that kind of language.  No doubt there was a handful that did not.

But almost everyone wanted to get closer to God.  And notice they gathered themselves.  No one in leadership called an assembly.  They were not ordered to.  They wanted to.  The people did this on their own.  They wanted this.

This is critical.  Without a genuine free will desire for revival, whatever happens is not real.  True revival cannot be forced or faked.  And they were of one mind.  There was unity in this.  It says they gathered together as one man.

When God moves in hearts there will be unity.  Why?  The same God is moving in the hearts and since it is the same God working in all of their hearts, they are being moved in the same direction with the same purpose.

And the people spoke up and asked Ezra to bring the Word of God.   This was not originated  by the preacher.  The people wanted and asked to hear the Word of God.

This is also critical for revival in the hearts of people  It is thru the Word of God that we grow and learn.  It is spiritual food.  True revival cannot happen without the Word of God.

Neh 8:2  And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 

Neh 8:3  And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. 

From morning to midday Ezra read the Word of God.   Morning starts at 6 am midday is noon.  He might not have started exactly at 6am.  It could have been 8am and still been morning.  So Ezra read the Word of God to them for at least 4 hours.

And the ears of all the people were attentive to it.  I mean wow.  They were listening.  They wanted to know what God had said.  This is also important for revival in the heart.  There must be an attitude that I want to know what God said.  So that I can conform my opinion to His.

Jesus said if you love me obey my commandments.  And Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.  You cannot do that without knowing what God said.  You need to know what God wants so you can love Him thru being obedient to Him.

These people had a real desire to learn.

Neh 8:4  And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose;

This raised Ezra up so that more of the crowd could see him and it would also help his voice carry if he is a little higher than the crowd.

Neh 8:5  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 

This is the only place that you see this in the entire Bible.  This is where they get the idea of asking people to stand for the reading of the word.  However, Ezra did not ask anyone to stand.  They just did it.  And you have no New Testament example or command that people should stand when the Bible is read.

The Bible says by two or three witnesses is a matter established.  There is no second witness in the Bible to this.  So the matter is not established.  Is standing bad.  No.  It is just not an established thing.

Neh 8:6  And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 

They opened with prayer and they bowed their heads with their faces to the ground.  That is a way of expressing humility.  Biblical worship is always a bowing.  A lowering of yourself.  It is a way of expressing that God is way above us.  Worship is not having a party.

So Ezra is reading the Word of God to this huge crowd.  In verse 7 there is a list of several men by name but it is not just them.  It says and the Levites.  They were scattered thru the crowd and they caused the people to understand the law.

Neh 8:7  Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 

Neh 8:8  So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. 

Verse 8 is the Biblical pattern.  We are to read the Word of God, and then give the sense of it, and teach it so that people can understand the reading of it.

Very simple.  No crazy complicated language gymnastics.  No adding to it or taking away from it.  Just simply read it and give the sense of it.  Read some more and teach it.  And that is it.

It is very clear here how it is to be done.  Keep it simple.  Stay with the Word of God.  I have sat thru many a sermon and I know you have also, where after the passage is read there is no need to keep your Bible open any more.  That is not the Biblical way.

If you go to the New Testament and read the sermons that Peter preached or Stephen or others.  You will see the same thing.  They stuck to the Word of God.  They would keep it simple.  They would quote scripture and then give the sense of it and then more scripture and teach on that and that’s it.

While standing is not established.  How to preach is established with multiple examples in the Bible.  Ezra and the men helping give the sense of the reading to the people followed God’s way and guess what God blessed it.  God’s way worked.

Neh 8:9  And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 

Why did they weep?  Because they saw that they were not keeping God’s Word.

But this was not a day for weeping.  They were recipients of God’s love and His mercy and His forgiveness.  They did not know or understand all of God’s word before this.  Their past sins are forgiven.  They are buried in the depth of sea.  Separated from this as far as the east is from the west.

These people have turned from the world and turned to God with a genuine heart.  This is a time for joy.

Neh 8:10  Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. 

Neh 8:11  So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. 

Neh 8:12  And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. 

They understood the Bible that was declared to them, and that brought joy.

The people had a revived heart.  A heart that wanted to grow closer to God, and heart that wanted to learn and not just for knowledge sake but learn so they could obey.  They had a heart to please the Lord.

It really is a wonderful thing!

See more Bible Survey lessons on Nehemiah