Some sixty years had passed since the temple had been rebuilt in Jerusalem. God's people had grown careless and cold in some critical aspects of their calling as children of the covenant. God had been at work among them, fanning the embers. He needed certain men to be in Jerusalem to guide Israel further toward revival. But those men were in Babylon.
God used Ezra and Nehemiah to turn the people's hearts toward Him. He brought a tremendous revival among His people through the influence and service of these two godly men.
Nehemiah 8 offers us a view of one phase of that revival, a phase that grounded them in the Law. The people had gathered together, apparently for the Feast of Trumpets, and asked Ezra "to bring the book of the law of Moses." This interest demonstrates that God had already been at work in their hearts. Now they wanted to hear from their "instruction manual" for how to walk before God as His special people.
Ezra read to them from God's Word, from daybreak til noon! And his audience stayed focused and attentive all that time. They truly wanted to hear from God. They did this every day for at least a week. It was a time of seeing God and seeing themselves, of mourning and rejoicing, of repenting and cleansing. It had been a long time since God's people had allowed Him to work in them to such a wonderful degree.
In Nehemiah 9 we see more evidence of their brokenness and tenderness before God. These people truly were committed to revival. They separated themselves from the heathen and their idolatrous abominations. They also separated themselves from "all the mixed multitude." They returned to honoring the Sabbath. In summary, they renewed their covenant with the LORD. In fact, they personalized the covenant by putting it in writing and signing it.
(I excerpted the above from a lesson I wrote for CLE Bible 9. Read more here:Ezra and Nehemiah Lead Israel's Revival.)
The Israelites clearly had wandered from the God of their fathers and had turned their hearts away from following His ways. Their lives were characterized by disobedience to God's Word. They no longer observed His law neither taught it to their children. They had profaned their covenant with the Holy One, neglecting the very things that made them special and unique among the peoples of the planet.
But what about me? I don't think I have wandered from God, living in flagrant disobedience, like those folks did. Come to think of it, though, I'm sure there were areas of disobedience that they didn't realize were disobedience. That makes me wonder if I also might be living contrary to God's will in ways that I ignore. And that in turn reminds me of Psalm 19:12,13 which declare, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." Not only do I need deliverance and renewal from those errors which are known to me (presumptuous sins), but also from those which are yet unknown to me (secret faults).
So, what about me? Yes, I also need renewal!
Renewal requires conscious decisions and deliberate choices. While it may be true that renewal frequently begins with a big commitment, it is equally true that renewal cannot continue without daily choices that spring from and affirm that commitment. For example, the Israelites could not coast along on the commitment they made on the occasion recorded in this lesson. Every day they made decisions that would either underpin or undermine that big commitment. Otherwise their renewal would not be preserved and continued.
"Well, yes, but what about me, today?"
(Excerpted from God's People Renew Their Covenant with Him)
Posted on 10-25-17 shortly after 9:00 pm Pacific