The people In Jerusalem stood and they were attentive to the reading of the Law of Moses. Weeping was the first result. But the Word stirred rejoicing. Read, hear and realize who God is. (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Speaker: Dennis White
Sermon 12543
7:00 PM on 07/12/2023

P. Dennis White –

All right. Hey, good to be here, right? I was going to tell some jokes, but Jesse took care of everything! I can
just open the Bible I guess!

Hey, why don’t you guys stand up if that’s okay. Those that have been sweating outside, you
can sit down. Those in the office, please stand up! We’re going to read the Bible if that’s okay.
I’ve been convicted more and more about how important the Bible is in our life not only in a
personal level, but the Bible in our faith community, in our church, right? If you guys haven’t
sensed that urgency, I pray that God would give it to you. Because the days are dark, but God is
real. This isn’t the first dark night that God has walked through. Actually, doesn’t it say that
darkness is light to God? I think we’re going to be okay, as long as we have this book next to us.
Amen.

Let’s turn to Nehemiah 8. Sword drill. Who can get there first? Cheater! I was thinking a lot about the
joy of the Lord, and how important it is that we have the strength of God inside of us. And how if
we have God’s strength, it brings us so much joy. And on a Wednesday, I think, you know, we
need a message and we need to have God’s joy in our life. And that’s what it says here in Nehemiah
8:10, but we’re going to start at vs. 1. We’ll read vs. 1-3 and then 7-10. (Prayer).

It’s an amazing story, isn’t it? How many of you enjoy the book of Nehemiah? Some of the
names in there are really difficult, so that’s when you just use your audio Bible. You just push
play and kind of rush through that. But the book of Nehemiah is very interesting.

Also, the book of Ezra. A little background story. What’s happening here is if you remember that
Israel was in captivity for a couple years, weren’t they? Seventy years, right? For 70 years they
were captive in a country that was not their own. If you read the book and the other prophets, he
says this captivity is going to last a while.

So, get married. Buy land. Make a garden. Make this your home, because the other prophets were saying God’s going to save you. God’s going to come through, and Babylon isn’t going to come and destroy you. Babylon’s not going to come and take you away. But all those false prophets were wrong, weren’t they? They were taken.
Seventy years they’re in a foreign land serving a foreign king surrounded by foreign gods.

Then, there’s King Cyrus. There’s this wave going back to Jerusalem. This is amazing. King
Cyrus and Zerubabbel. Zerubbabel goes back. He brings 50,000 or more people with him which
is a small number of what Jerusalem once was. And actually, the latter part of Nehemiah is
dealing with how to repopulate Jerusalem and how to be a nation for God once again, because
there were so few people. And several years later, what happens is Ezra goes back to Jerusalem. This is the second
wave. I was reading – and I could be corrected by this – but what I read today was there was
somewhere around 1,500 people that went with Ezra.

That was it. Very small group going back to Jerusalem. And he was a scribe, right? He was a man of the book. And actually, in the bookmof Ezra it says when he left, he grabbed the Word of God. He grabbed the law of Moses and he
carried it with him. And it’s interesting in the entire book of Nehemiah and Ezra up until now, you never read of Ezra
reading the Word of God out in public, do you?

This is the first time. This is the first time in a long time, ninety years or more, that the Word of God has been read in the place of God. In the temple in Jerusalem the city of God. This is the first time that the Word of God is being read. It’s
amazing, isn’t it?

I was also reading, and this is also very interesting, that when Ezra went back, he was a man of
the book. But did you know that not one Levite was named amongst the group that went back
with Ezra? Yeah. Here’s a man. He’s carrying the Word of God I can imagine under his cloak,
and he has this long journey to a place that is in ruin. The temple is in ruin. The walls are in ruin.
The place is in ruin, yet he has the Word of God. I wonder if he ever looked around him and wondered if there are other men of God here with me as he was walking to Jerusalem.

I wonder if he ever thought do people still believe in this? What is their relationship with God? But
somehow, the men of God were stuck in Babylon. We don’t know the whole entire story. It’s
interesting to me that not one Levite went back with Ezra. And here he is many, many years later reading the Word of God. Can you imagine the excitement that these people had? It says it right there.

It’s amazing. They read the Word of God from morning till mid-day, till mid-afternoon. That’s how long they were there listening to the Word of God. It’s almost like we do in church. It says they broke out into little groups.

The Levites that were there, the ones that went back with Zerubbabel or maybe the ones that went back with
Nehemiah, the ones that were there, they would teach what the meaning of the Law actually
meant. Dealing with the Word of God and teaching it and communicating it and having it come
alive in their lives again. There could be this excitement in their life. But actually, we read at the end of our reading, vs. 7-9, that they were weeping. They were
weeping. We’re going to kind of get there in a little while.

My times up, right? He said 7:30 I got to finish! No, I was thinking about this. The Word of God, what does it do in our lives? It cuts. We have to understand how the Word of God can come into our lives, and it can bring healing,
and it can cause us to weep. It reveals something. How many times do you read in the Bible
when people are face-to-face with the presence of God, and there is a sense of devalue or
worthlessness or inability. We see with Isaiah 6. We see it even with Moses himself as he
makes excuses in the presence of God, going in the place of God before Egypt. We see it over
and over again.

We open our Bible and we see that men and women have this strong sense of
inability in the presence of God. I say, amen. I say, amen. Because that is such a freeing
moment in our life. But before we get too far here, I want us to look at vs. 3. Nehemiah 8:3, let’s read it again. I was
thinking about this as I was reading this passage culminating up to verse 10 where there is joy
and the strength of God. It starts there in vs. 3.

That’s where it starts. The joy that I have in my life doesn’t start with me and my ability. Cause here’s a group of people that time and time again their inabilty has been proven, right?

Building the temple, they were unable. Building the wall, they were unable. And there was enemy after enemy after enemy and there’s reason to quit after reason to quit. And we oftentimes could be in that same kind of situation where we know we are saved. We believe in God. We sense the Holy Spirit. But we can honestly feel like there is a
deficiency in our life. We are lacking the filling of God. We are so far from him. And if we could
just have a little bit more. We say these things. But when we say these things, what we are really thinking is if I could feel better about myself, and if I was more efficient in my doing, then I would have a better self-esteem. And what does
God say? God is saying be attentive to my Word. vs. 3.

Be attentive to my Word. This word “attentive” means they regarded the Word of God with care. They were careful with the Word of God. Did you ever treat something with a little bit of disrespect. A person maybe or a possession
that you have. Or you say that’s old. It doesn’t matter. Or your car. It’s your beater trunk. That’s
okay if it gets beaten up. You kind of abuse it. That oftentimes can be the way that we approach God. We can misapply, misappropriate the Word of God or misapply the presence of God or misapply what God is saying in our own lives.
What is that doing but having disregard for God’s Word. But here it says that they regarded the
Word of God with care. They were careful. And how do we see that exemplified? That they didn’t
write in their Bible? They didn’t use a marker in their Bible?

They never said the Lord’s name in vain. They always crossed everything they were supposed to do? They were good people? No, the Bible doesn’t say that. It says they were there from morning to afternoon listening to the
Word of God. That’s how their attentiveness to the Word of God is exemplified. We see it that
they had patience and the ability to sit there and listen to God’s Word.

As preachers sometimes we often deal with people’s capacities in the Word of God. And we
look at our watch, and we’re careful how long our messages are. We think about the vocabulary we use. Not too theological, and we make sure we use a lot of illustrations. And these are things
that we care about, and we try to make it applicable and palatable. But all they did for how many
hours they read the Mosaic Law.

That’s all they did. They didn’t read the book of Psalms or
Proverbs or book of John or Revelation and prophesy and how exciting it is. They read Moses’
Law. And it says even through that reading – and remember again, they had been away from this for
so long. The Word of God had been so far removed from their life. And we see later, they’re
married to people that are not Jewish, and they’re bringing them away from God and
worshipping idols.

This becomes an issue later on in Nehemiah. They have been so far
removed from God, and they are sitting there listening to his Word being spoken. You could hear
a pin drop I bet. They would go off in little groups and I bet it was the same. They could hear a
pin drop and Ezra and Nehemiah and the scribes that were there and the Levites that were
there describing what the Word of God meant, and people were consuming it.

This is the same for us today. Hebrews 2:1, the writer of Hebrews says, “therefore we must give the
more earnest heed” meaning we need to be attentive. Attentive to what? To the things that we
have heard. He is saying we need to be attentive. We need to give heed to the Word of God.
Because it says it right there at the end of vs. 1, if we do not, what is going to happen? We are
going to drift away.

See, having an attentiveness to the Word of God, having a care and regarding the Word of God
with the most respect in our life is so important, because what does it do? It saves us. It keeps
us. It gives us wise counsel. It reveals the will of God. It speaks to the depth of our heart beyond
any person could do or beyond my own selfish desires can do. The Word of God does that.
Proverbs 16:20, the Amplified says, “he who pays attention to the Word of God, he will find good.”
He will find good. We live in a day and age and I don’t mean to harp on that.

We always kind of point our finger to the day and age. We live in a day and age and this is the problem. This is the
issue. When God is saying I have written my Word for you. And it is designed if you give it
attention, if you regard it, if you lift it up above your own understanding, and you consume it, you
eat it, you read it; and it becomes a part of your life, Proverbs says that you will find good. And
Hebrews says that you won’t be drifting away from the person of God.

This is what we find here with Israel. In the midst of their reading, they understood their need,
didn’t they? They understood their need. Because what does the Law of Moses tell us? We’re
guilty, right? There is grace there. There’s all kinds of stuff there. There’s the feast that’s coming
up actually at the end of this passage, the feast of tabernacles. But it tells us oftentimes that we
are guilty. When we are reading the Word and we are in the presence of God, it’s sometimes the
result is that we feel guilty. And they understood in the presence of God, they understood who
they were in their humanity. They understood their needs. They said, I need God. I need God.
And they were attentive to his Word.

This leads us to vs. 9. Nehemiah 8:9, this again is pointing to the fact that they understood their
needs as humans for the person of God. They understood that they need God. This is what
happens that God’s Word in our life has an effect, doesn’t it?

Oftentimes, what effect are we looking for? We’re looking for the effect that it would build our self-esteem. And that’s important. Positional truth. Is positional truth important? Is it important to know that you are child of God? Is
it important to know that you’re a king? Is it important to know that forever you are safe in his
arms? Is it important for you to know the over 3,000 promises that God has given you? Yes,
those things are so important. But God’s Word isn’t brought to us for the purpose of edifying the flesh. It is brought to us for the purpose of conforming us into his image.

This is amazing. At times, the Word of God comes and it puts a finger on a spot in our life that is not conformed to God’s image. What do we do? We jump back and we scream at God.

No, God! Not that! Don’t touch that. You’re mean, God.
You’re angry at me for touching that. What did I do wrong? We become so angry at God the moment he touches a part of our flesh, a part that we haven’t crucified on the cross with him.
Something we withheld from him for so long. The moment that God touches that, we become so
angry at him, don’t we?

Let’s turn in our Bibles. This is an interesting passage. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, this is a fun verse. vs. 9.
Here’s Paul. He’s invested in this church. He’s loved these people. We understand that the
church in Corinth, they were kind of sinful, right? Not like this group here. You guys are
amazing! They were kind of sinful.

There was stuff wrong. And he had to write a letter to them
dealing with their sin. And then in the second letter of Corinthians, he’s writing this. I rejoice.
There’s joy in my life. vs. 9. The sorrow you had in your life led to something. It led to
repentance. vs. 9-10. This passage is so amazing.

What Paul is saying here, he’s saying there’s a moment in your life like here in Nehemiah 8:9 where we read the Word of God and the presence of God puts us in a place where we weep. Isaiah 6, Isaiah said, woe is me. I am undone. I an unworthy. Over and over again we can see those kind of things, those kind of moments that people have in the presence of God when they are face to face with their imperfection. And God says through Paul, I rejoice in that moment. We’re talking about the joy of the Lord is our strength, but Paul is saying I rejoice in the moment when you realize that your own humanity is not enough. Your own
humanity is not enough.

This word repentance is interesting. It means there is a moral change in my life. Repentance
means that there is a moral change in my life. That’s what this word “repentance” means. So, in
the church in Corinth they were led to repentance because of God’s Word that was spoken in
their life, because of God’s finger being pointed right down on their sin, what happens? They’re
life changes. There is moral change.

See, what can happen in my life is that godly sorrow leads us to repentance. But there’s another
kind of sorrow, right? This word “sorrow” is interesting because it means that there is an
uneasiness or a pain in my mind that is produced when I lose something that is good to me.
How many things were the Israelites holding onto as they were marching back to Jerusalem?
These things are good. These things are good. And then God speaks the Word and they’e like,
oh my gosh. These things are not good. They’re being taken away from my life.

That’s what sorrow means. There’s something I deem good and it’s being taken away and it produces pain
in my life. Anybody ever been through that process? If you’re here on a Wednesday, that’s a
pretty good thing, right? Maybe five years ago, you wouldn’t be caught here on a Wednesday
night, because you were to busy enjoying something you thought was good and God said it was
not. But you’re here tonight because God took that thing you said was good and he took it away.
And he saved you, right? That’s what it says in 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Listen to this quote: “Through sorrow may be allowed under some sense of sin, when involves
and troubles, yet we must be aware of sorrow’s extreme. Sorrow indeed becomes sinful and
excessive when it leads us to slight the mercies of God.” And that’s what Paul is talking about.
There is a godly sorrow, and what does godly sorrow do? It leads me to a place instead of
slighting the mercy of God, I elevate his mercy. Godly sorrow leads me to a place where his
mercy and his grace are something that I exalt and it’s a part of my life. But if there’s a worldly sorrow – and have you ever met one of those people?

You are so sorrowful and you come to church, but you can never be edified because you’re so guilty? The
problem isn’t your guilt. It’s the way you are processing your guilt, and it’s leading you to a
worldly sorrow. And you’re slighting the mercies of God. You’re slighting the grace of God. You’re
saying that’s good for the rest of them, but that’s not good enough for me. I am not worthy. I am
not good enough. And I am not – those things are true statements, but applied for the wrong
emotion for the wrong amount of time. What is it producing?

Paul says it’s producing death in your life. Here’s the thing. So many believers are living a
defeated life, because they are slighting his mercies. They either disregard his Word or they live in worldly sorrow. And God is saying, no. He’s saying, no. He’s saying I want you to have this
kind of sorrow, a sorrow that leads you to a place where you can be saved. Real sorrow. What is
godly sorrow? It is me recognizing the fact that I am insufficient and I receive God’s grace.
That’s what godly sorrow is.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t care if I never earn a Christian medal in my life. You know
what I mean, right? Award ceremonies. You get the participation award just for being a warm
body on the baseball field. Hey, good job! Actually, you did a terrible job, but we’re going to give
you a medal anyway, because we don’t want you to feel sorrowful. I don’t want that as a
Christian. I don’t want anytime, anybody to look at me and say here’s a participation award. Or
here’s an award…and all the things you have done as a believer.

You know what I want in my life? I want a realization of who I am in my humanity, in my weakness, in my imperfection. I want to have that realization and allow God’s grace to shine through me all the brighter. That’s not a
reason to live in sin, because even those that live outside of sin, they still are sorrowful. They
are still guilty. They still allow their life to be dragged down by their own pride and their own
abilities. And they never allow God to come through and shine his grace and mercy in their lives.
This is amazing. At the very end, vs. 10, he says the joy of the Lord is your strength. We say
that all the time, don’t we?

The joy of the Lord is my strength. But what is he saying? This isn’t
like a cute little statement he says. We’re going to end the service now, and he says a cute little
statement and everybody goes home. He’s saying this because of what we just talked about.
He’s saying the joy of the Lord is your strength, because you have regarded his Word. And his
Word has had an effect in your life.

Let’s turn to Psalm 28:7. This is what we see when we are completely dependent on who God is.
Psalm 28:7, amen! Anybody need a little Jesus today? Need some strength and a shield? Yeah. I
needed some. Those are important statements right there. Because of who God is and because
I have already put my trust, this is what happens. That’s what the psalmist says. I love that word
“therefore” because it’s saying I’m going to do something now, because of what God has
already done.

What has God done? He’s proven himself to be my strength. He’s proven himself to be my
shield. I have trusted him, and he has already helped me. This has been proven again and
again and again, so why O my soul, we could ask, why O my soul would I not trust him? Why O
my soul would I put myself in a place where I slight his mercies or say that I am enough. God,
thank you for getting me this far. I got it from here. Why would I ever do that? The psalmist is
saying, no.

I have his strength. I have his shield. I trust him. And he has proven himself.
Therefore, I rejoice.

This word “rejoice” is so amazing. We’ve heard it before, right? The Hebrew word means to
jump and spin around. Sometimes, in a worship service we get a little stiff. That happens to me,
too. But here the Hebrew word is saying that. I’m so excited about what God has done in my life.
I’m so excited about his Word.

I’m so excited about the effect of God’s Word in my life. It’s
causing me to jump and spin and be excited about his Word.

Here’s the other amazing thing about rejoice in the Greek. It is connected to the word “grace,”
right? So, when I am rejoicing, what am I doing? I am expressing the grace of God that is
happening in my life. When I withhold joy, when I withhold rejoicig, when I withhold my song,
what am I doing? I’m not expressing what God is doing in my life. The question we could ask is,
why do I not rejoice in what God is doing? Maybe we’re blind to what God is doing, right? That’s
possible. Ever go looking for your car keys and you’re tearing the house apart? And they’re right
there next to the door.

We’re blind, aren’t we? Can’t find anything. It happened to me like twice
today. Looking for something at work, and tore my truck apart. And it was right there in broad
daylight. I caused myself more work, because of my blindness. It’s the same way with God.
When we are spiritually blind, what does it do? It causes so much work. We become ignorant of
his grace, right? It causes us to drag our knuckles on the ground instead of rejoicing in what
God is doing. But there’s other reasons why we might not rejoice. Maybe it’s because we think God is small.
Maybe we don’t think God cares about us.

There’s many reasons why we don’t rejoice. But I want to challenge you to realize who God is and what God is doing. Open your eyes. That doesn’t happen by us sitting on the couch and staring off into space. Does it? It doesn’t happen
on Netflix either. You know how it happens? Like we started off, it happens by this book.

This book is open, and we regard it. It becomes important in my life. It becomes a source for me.
I read the Word of God, and sometimes I read it and don’t know what I’m reading. Sometimes, I
read it and all of a sudden I realize I read seven pages and didn’t actually read anything,
because I was zoning out. That’s okay. Because what is that? That’s part of our humanity.
Where does it start? It doesn’t start with us realizing our humanity. It starts with us realizing how
important God’s Word is. Because when we realize how important God’s Word is, we begin to
have a healthy view of our humanity. God’s Word can exercise itself in our life, and then we can
have joy.

That never happens outside of his Word. I was reading this, “spiritual joy rises from within the
soul, and does not depend on the outward circumstances of life. Men forget this and fancy that
spiritual life is preeminently sorrowful.” Isn’t that interesting? If spiritual life, if joy is about me,
then the Word of God becomes obsolete. The work of God becomes obsolete, and I have to do
everything myself. And as long as I’m successful, there is joy. But the thing about godly joy is
that it’s completely void of self. There is no self-joy.

I was reading this story talking about this passage, and there was one story about a man who
suffered great loss and started weeping. In the midst of his sorrow, he died. And then I read
another story about king so and so and he won a victorious battle. He was so excited. He was
so excited about his victory that he had a heart attack and died. This is what happens when
there’s self-joy. It’s either positive or negative. When there is self-joy in my life, it completely
derails the work of God and the plan of God.

And then no longer is there spiritual joy. No longer is there the will of God. No longer is there the exercise of God’s effective work in my life. Over and over again, if my life becomes about myself and me developing the flesh to become greater, to become better, pull up your boot straps. I know you can do better. That kind of an attitude. If
life becomes about that, then where is the joy coming from? What God has done or what you
have done? Your ministry and my ministry and this church, what should it be about? Not what
we are doing but what God has done.

I was listening to a testimony the other day. There was a concert at a park in Frederick that our
church was putting on. The guy was giving his testimony about being saved from drugs and all
this other stuff. I was really touched. But you know what struck me the most? The whole entire
testimony, he never mentioned his church. That meant something to me, because what it mean
is he thought that the Word of God and the power of God was so important in his life. It wasn’t
about what somebody did for him, but it was what God did for him. And here’s the thing. In our
life and in our work, we should just kind of fade into nothingness because of our humanity,
because of our need for God. What happens is Christ is exalted.

What happens is Psalm 28:7 that he’s my strength. He’s my shield, and I learn to trust him because he helps us so many times. So, today as we close, let’s be encouraged by Nehemiah 8. Be encouraged to open your Bible and
read it. Be encouraged to get, you know, a Bible that you enjoy, a translation that you enjoy. And
mark it up and read it. Carry it in your pocket, and open it up and read it when you’re driving or
waiting for your pizza to get delivered.

Open up your Bible and become a man of the book. What Nehemiah 8 teaches us is that if we are people of the book, we will have great joy. We’ll have great joy. You don’t need counseling that the world has to give. You don’t need a self-care day. You don’t need a vacation. Maybe you do! But you know what? What you need is the Word of
God. When I read church history, what do I see? People being dragged through the mud, and they
never lost their joy for God. Today, there are how many Christian stations, Christian podcasts, Christian books, Christian churches. There’s lunch raps that we have. Christian day school. And
yet, sometimes we can still be so far from God. It doesn’t make sense, does it? I’m not there to
hash that out, but just to say this: be a man of the book. Let God give you some joy. Amen.

 

Please enjoy these sermon notes from the messages preached at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. These notes are provided to aid in your study and understanding of the Word. Note that these notes do not represent complete, word-for-word transcriptions. Also, they may contain omissions as well as some errors in spelling and structure, etc., as we attempt to provide them as soon as possible. Our hope is that these notes serve as a way to help you search and connect with messages on related subjects and passages. Thank you for your interest in the ministry of Greater Grace.