The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve. Nehemiah 8:7-11
The spiritual revival that started at the beginning of chapter 8 has intensified throughout the rest of the chapter. In verse 7, the Levites were appointed to help the people understand God’s word. Though the people heard Ezra the priest read the word of the Law, they did not understand its application and implication. Many of the people that were in Jerusalem did not hear the word while they were in captivity in Babylon. Even though those who were not taken into captivity did not know the word because they had no one to teach it to them. Nehemiah and Ezra were among the spiritual leaders who were teaching the people. At this point in the story, the focus is shifted from rebuilding the physical wall of Jerusalem to rebuilding the spiritual wall of the people and the city. Nehemiah and Ezra knew the protection of Jerusalem was not grounded in the repaired wall. Rather, it was in the people’s relationship with God. After all, when a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Here it is, Nehemiah is preparing to return to the royal court in Babylon to serve the king as the cupbearer. However, before his return, he is leading the way in a spiritual revival in the city. Nehemiah teaches us 3 important leadership lessons in this text: (1) the godly leader should help other people to understand and live according to the Word of God. (2) The godly leader must be apt to teach Biblical principles. (3) The godly leader must take time to study the word of God so he can understand its principles and real-life applications.
In verse 9, we get a good sense of the depth of the spiritual revival that had overtaken the land. All the people wept when they heard the words of the Law: The Word of God was doing its intended work. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us two things the Word of God is profitable for reproof and correction. The tears were evidence of the convicting power of the word. The people wept because they realized just how far they had gone astray from the Lord. After seven decades of being spiritually disconnected, they now wanted to return to the Lord. Many of the people who were weeping were not alive when their forefathers went astray from God. They were guilty by association. Nevertheless, this did not diminish the profundity of the spiritual revival and the conviction they experienced. Many of them refused to eat as they mourn the sinful disobedience of their forefathers and their disregard for the word of God for so many years.
As concerned leaders, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites did not want the people to mourn. They understood that many of the people were disobedient to God's word out of ignorance. Instead, they encouraged the assembly to go enjoy choice food and sweet drink. After all, they needed to celebrate what the Lord had done for them. They were able to rebuild the wall that lay in ruin for over 70 years in 52 days. This was indeed a holy day during which the people should celebrate the favor of the Lord, and rejoice for the faithfulness of God. These godly leaders encouraged the people to be strengthened as they celebrated the favor of the Lord. They calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” They led the people into a celebration of the faithfulness of the God who protected them and made sure Jerusalem was yet again a protected city.
God’s people need to have a clear understanding of the word of God. Thus God gives some to be teachers and preachers for the building of His Church. The word of God must be spiritually discerned. It takes the revelation and divine inspiration to rightly impart the wisdom of God’s word. Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites let the Bible study because they were steeped in the word of God.
In our time, the Holy Spirit uses gifted teachers to bring spiritual discernment to us, helping us to understand what God’s Word says. These teachers/scholars can help us understand the context of the biblical stories so we can make them applicable to our context. The word of God must not only be read, it must be lived out. It is a living word.
After completing the rebuilding of the wall in fifty-two days, the people were in awe of the faithfulness of God. In their zeal to celebrate the favor of God, they asked for the word of God to be read to them. When the word was read and explained, they wept as they realized they had not lived out the word faithfully.
The word of God did its intended work in the assembly of the people. It caused them to repent and return to the God of their ancestors. When they heard the word of God, they were pricked in their heart and began to weep. At times it is spiritually therapeutic to weep over our sinfulness. Believers should develop such a love for God as to mourn their disobedience to the Lord. I know I do, and I hope you do as well.
Blessed Lord, may your word continue to do its purifying work in my soul. Please teach me your way and give me a passion to obey your word so that I may not sin against you.