Thursday, March 10, 2005

Today I was studying in Nehemiah 8. It's all about how the people had finished rebuilding the wall and they all gathered at the square in front of the Water Gate and asked Ezra to read the book of the law of Moses. It struck me that just as the people had rebuilt the wall, now they were trying to 'rebuild' their spiritual lives.

It is inspiring to me when I read that they all stood as Ezra read the entire law...from "early morning until midday" and they were attentive to it. They listened. As Ezra read they answered, "Amen, Amen!" and raised their hands and bowed before the Lord in worship. It goes on to describe how they were weeping and mourning when they heard the words of the law. Just think how long it had been since they had heard God's Word. I imagine there were young children and even young people who had not ever heard the law. In their mind, I imagine they were thinking that everything was fine in their lives...look, they had just finished rebuilding the wall. But as they listened to God's Word being read and translated so they could understand it...the Lord moved within their hearts. I think their eyes were opened to what they had been doing and how it was not pleasing to the Lord. Conviction set in. They began crying because of their failure to keep the law, crying for their sin. The focus was on themselves. But, Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites said to the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep....for this day is holy to our Lord, Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Their focus then needed to move from themselves to the Lord. It is in the Lord's strength that their joy, and our joy comes from. When I read the above verse in Nehemiah it brought to mind the verse in 1 Peter 1:8, "...and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." (Emphasis mine.)

The people were experiencing a revival! A heart revival! Many in our country have prayed for revival. So often, I believe, people think we need more controls, more laws etc to 'legislate morality', so to speak. But, you know what? First of all, one cannot expect Christian behavior from non-Christian people. A revival has absolutely nothing to do with lost sinners. Dead people can't be revived; only dying people can be. Revival is for believers. We, as Christians, should look inwardly and assess how we are living for the Lord. Are we walking with Him in close fellowship, desiring to be obedient? He desires our obedience more than sacrifices.

Weeping is a necessary starting point for revival but it shouldn't remain there. But, thanks be to God for His grace and mercy that He pours out on us. That should make our tears turn to shouts of joy!! As Donna Partow says, "A faith comprised solely on tears and guilt trips is misguided; true faith is characterized by celebration." I say a hearty "Amen" to that!

Every doctrine that makes man the center of God's attention
rather than God the center of man's devotion hinders
Revival....Revival can come...but it will only start
when we reject the "me" centered gospel preached so
prevalently and realize that the call of God is to serve rather than
to be served, to give rather than to get, to lay down our lives rather
than to save them. It will come when we begin to pour our hearts
out to God in earnest, desiring only His will rather than our will
disguised as some "blessing" from above!" - Jonathan Duttweiler


tonia/sparrow said...

Oh, I love that line about true faith being characterized by celebration! That's the first thing I found when I let go of legalism (a multi-year process!), JOY. It is for FREEDOM that Christ set us FREE! Yippee! (Now I get a little cranky when people try to put rules on my again - gotta work on that)
Love that last quote, too. Great post.

Pilot Mom said...

Thanks, Sparrow! So glad you dropped in for a visit! Come again, anytime! :)

That legalism is difficult stuff, isn't it? It reminds me of ivy, or some other viney plant, where it's tendrils just wrap around you tighter and tighter, choking off whatever joy there has been.