Nehemiah 8:13-18 - The Joy of Obeying the Scripture

Dr. Steve Viars November 2, 1996 Nehemiah 8:13-18

- Remember, we began studying chapter 8 where the people asked Ezra to bring out the book of the law and read it to them.
- The Bible says that this took place on a feast day, the first day of the seventh month, and that’s the way God's people wanted to use this occasion.
- They had even built a pulpit for him to speak from, and they stood us as he read out of respect for God, and respect for His Word.

- INPUT - Who can tell me what impact the Scriptures had on God's people?

(Conviction, sorrow)

- In fact, the conviction was so significant that Ezra and the leaders instructed the people to go and enjoy the feast (v. 10 - Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared...)

- we studied this portion of the story and tried how God wants to move us from conviction to joy.

- Conviction is important --- it’s a critical part of the process -- but its not an end in itself.
- God wants His people to be convicted by His Word, to confess their sins, to forsake them, but then to rejoice in the joy there is in living for Him.

- its wrong to wallow around in sin and conviction in an overly introspective way.

- this morning, we're going to look at verses 13-18 of chapter 8, to see what happens next in this story.
- we're calling these verses "The Joy of Obeying the Scriptures"

- read Nehemiah 8:13-18

- these verses give us three important truths about our relationship to God's Word.

I. God's People Should Want Insight Into the Scripture

A. Who came

- the text says that we're talking about events that took place on the second day.

INPUT - According to verse 13, who came back for additional instruction?

- the heads of the families, the priests, and the Levites.

- In other words, they were having an old fashioned Men of Faith.

- it’s significant that these men were willing to humble themselves in this way.
- they were the heads of the families.
- they would have been respected in that culture for their position of leadership...
- yet they humbled themselves and asked for additional instruction.

- If you've been around here for any period of time, you probably know that we have a similar philosophy of ministry.
- We purposely try to structure things where husbands and fathers are encouraged to be the spiritual leaders in their homes and families.
- We are convinced that if the men will do this, then their wives and children will gladly follow them in growing in Christ.

- Now the other side of that is --- we certainly want to be a church for everyone...
- If a woman is a believer and her husband is not (or isn't acting like one), we want this to be a place where she can be comfortable, and she can be helped to grow...

- We want this to be a place for singles, or those who have been divorced, etc.

- but when it comes to ministry emphasis --- what we're seeing happen here in this passage is the same kind of mentality we want to develop taking the spiritual lead.

B. Who they came to.

- It's important to note also that Ezra has become the key leader in this section of the story.
- All of this is happening without any apparent struggle for power or control.

- Let me remind you of a quote we used several weeks ago from Chuck Swindoll.

"Unconcerned about having his name in lights, Nehemiah stepped aside and strengthened the overall project with fresh reinforcements--people like Ezra who was better than he in the handling of the Scripture. And as Ezra did his job, Nehemiah stood among the people applying the truth that was proclaimed. It posed no problem for him to step aside and have his wall project virtually ignored because a far more significant activity was taking place among the people. Why? His mindset was unselfish."

C. Why they came.

NASB - "That they might gain insight into the words of the law."

- the word insight means "to be prudent, wise, to have foresight."

- the idea is that the men had heard the Scriptures the day before, but they wanted to gain a fuller understanding of how it applied to them....what impact it was to have on their lives.

- this action says volumes about these men.
- they were not satisfied just hearing the Word.
- they honestly wanted to understand it....and understand it in a way that they could appropriate it to everyday living.

- they wanted INSIGHT into the Scriptures.

- this part of the story leads us to ask a very important question ---- How much are you like these men?
- Are you satisfied with "merely hearing" the Scriptures?
- Are you the kind of person who is satisfied with "just doing what's expected" or "doing just enough to get by when it comes to the Scriptures?...

- Or do you genuinely desire insight into God's Word?

- A key parallel passage to what we're studying this morning is Mark 6:51-52.

Mark 6:51-52 - And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

- the context of these verses is that the disciples had just watched the Lord multiply the bread and fishes.

- yet, when the storm came up, they didn't use what they had just learned to help them through the next trial.
- So they received input --- namely the data that Jesus was powerful enough to multiply food, but they received no INSIGHT.

"For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves..."

- now, if that can happen to disciples who watched the Lord multiply bread, could it happen to disciples today who are listening to the Scriptures being taught?
- Is it possible to receive Biblical input with doing what is necessary to have Biblical insight?

- Let's work on this one together (on white board)
- Contrast the person who wants to have Biblical insight (like these men in Nehemiah 8) with those who don't.

II. God's People Should Be Prepared to Do Whatever the Scripture Says

A. What they learned

- These verses tell us that the men learned they had not been keeping the feast of Tabernacles.

- Warren Wiersbe explains the significance of this feast:

"During the seven days of the feast, the Jews lived in booths made of branches and usually built on the flat roofs of their houses. It was a time for looking back and remembering the nation's forty years of wandering in the wilderness, when the people were homeless and lived in temporary shelters. But the feast was also a time for looking around at the harvest blessings from the hand of God. The Lord had given them a good land, and they were never to forget the Giver as they enjoyed the gifts (Deut. 8). The Feast of Tabernacles was also an occasion for looking ahead to the glorious kingdom God promised His people Israel (Zech. 14:4, 9, 16-20). It was a week-long festival of joyful praise and thanksgiving, focusing on the goodness of God.

- So the point is -- they asked for insight, and now they are learning that the Scripture commanded them to do something that they haven't been doing.

B. How this may have affected them.

- there are a lot of wrong ways they could have responded to this information.

- the Scripture was saying that they were wrong...they were committing a sin of omission...they needed to change.

- INPUT - What are some wrong ways they could have responded to this rebuke?

- become defensive
- made excuses
- blamed it on their ancestors who hadn't kept the feasts
- "dispensationalized" the teaching away -- that was for another time

- it also may be helpful to imagine how foolish this command may have appeared to a person who wasn't aware of the symbolism or who didn't care about it.

- Church Swindoll captures this well when he writes (see p. 154-155).

C. What they did.

- What does the Scripture say these people did with the insight they had gained?
- they obeyed.

- their insight was manifested by what they did.

James 1:22-25- But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
- the point is that people who love the Lord are willing to obey what the Scripture says, even when it may not make sense to them, or when what God commands may be ridiculed by unbelievers.

III. God's People Will Find Joy In Obedience

- verse 17 -- and there was great rejoicing

- cf. 8:10 -The joy of the Lord is your strength.

- Matthew Henry wrote - "Holy joy will be the oil to the wheels of our obedience."

- cf. Wiersbe's comments about joy on pp. 102-103.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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