Nehemiah 8:9-12 - Moving Beyond Conviction

Dr. Steve Viars October 19, 1996 Nehemiah 8:9-12

- Last week we began this new section of the book of Nehemiah.
- We said that this was a critical time in the history of Israel, and God's people made some tremendous decisions in this chapter about the way they wanted to live.

- The chapter opens with the people making a request.
- INPUT - What was the request?

(That Ezra would bring out the law and read it to them)

- That showed how much they wanted the Scriptures.
- That was especially good since this was a feast day.
- What people tend to focus on and worship at times like this says a lot about them.
- In pagan cultures, often their feast days were filled with wickedness and sin.

- This was also especially good because it showed that the people knew they couldn't "live off" the excitement of having completed the wall.
- They needed "solid fuel". They wisely requested the Word of God.

- We also said that these verses showed how much they honored God's Word.
- INPUT - How was that evident?

a. Stood when the Scriptures were read.

b. Prepared a platform and podium.

c. Didn't seem to be in a hurry.

- So these folks wanted the Word of God, and they honored the Word of God....
- they also sought to understand the Word of God.

- This was not some sort of ceremony.
- (illus -- friend who attended a liturgical church -- "What do you learn"
- "Can't understand it, but I always feel good when I leave".)

- Instead, the Levites worked among the people, translating the Bible for those who did not know the language, "translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading".

- Now, that was as far as we were able to get last week, but this chapter really needs to be viewed as a unit.
- In the verses we're going to study this morning, verses 9-12, we're going to see the effect the Scriptures had on God's people.

- As we read, let's look for three effects God's Word should have on His people.

- READ Nehemiah 8:9-12

I. God's Word Should Convict You

- There's no question that the initial effect of these words on God's people was conviction.
- There are:

A. Many examples in this text.

- INPUT - How do we know that the Scripture convicted these men and women?

1) v. 9 - For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.

2) v. 9 - Do not mourn or weep.

3) v. 10 - Do not be grieved.

4) v. 11 - So the Levites calmed all the people.

5) v. 11 - Do not be grieved.

- We'll see in a few moments that God does not intend for conviction to be an end in itself...but the point we would like to make here is that God's Word should have convicted these men and women, and God's Word is intended in part to convict us.
- Had they attempted to skip this important step in the process, they would have never taken the steps God wanted them to take.

- When we think about conviction and sorrow, it's important to remember that:

B. There are different kinds of sorrow in the Bible.

- Please turn over to II Cor. 7.

- Here's a passage where the apostle Paul is talking to the Corinthian church about the first letter he had written to them.
- If you've studied the book of First Corinthians, you know that it is very stern, because this church had a lot they needed to be working on.
- One of the things Paul told them to handle was the case of the incestuous man who needed to be disciplined.
- The church had been puffed up with pride as if they could have such a man in their midst without it hurting them.

- But now the church had taken the steps to discipline this man, and Paul writes to them about that in II Cor. 7

- READ II Cor. 7:8-10

- INPUT - What is the difference in this text between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow?

(cf. end of TV movie the other night -- man had two wives, wives found out, he murdered ended with scenes from his jail cell, while the narrator told of the psychologist who testified at his trial that he had the psychological disorder known as "Narcissistic Personality Disorder"

- read from DSM IV - p. 661 - diagnostic criteria for NPD

- Point is --- worldly sorrow never produces the right effect.

- It is either "sorrow that I got caught."
- or, "sorrow that someone else knows."
- or, "sorrow that my plans were foiled"

- in the case of things like NPD, godly sorrow is not produced either?
- INPUT - Why?
- not viewed as sin.
- not viewed as personally responsible.
- not viewed as something which the person can really change, or get behind them.
- not viewed as a violation of God's law, standards


- point is -- God's Word is intended to produce conviction.

C. Conviction and sorrow over sin is not intrinsically bad.

II Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Matthew 5:3-4 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Rom 3:20 - Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Gal 3:24 - Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.

- What I'm trying to do right now is balance off what appears to be happening in Nehemiah 8.
- We would be wrong to read these verses without comparing them to other passages of Scripture and conclude that the conviction itself was wrong.
- Thats not the case, the conviction was a right and necessary part of the process.

- However...

D. It is bad to stay in the state of mourning.

- In the TV movie I mentioned a moment ago, the net effect is hopelessness.

- God does not want his children to remain in a state of mourning.
- Conviction is an important part of the process, but its not the end of the process.

- Warren Wiersbe said - "The sinner has no reason for rejoicing and the forgiven child of God has no reason for mourning."

- Thomas Watson, a 17th century Puritan pastor, once said that he found two things difficult in his preaching, "To make the wicked sad and make the godly joyful."

- It's right to let the Scriptures convict us.
- It's right to carefully confess sin to God and the appropriate people.
- It's right to carefully study the Scriptures to learn specific steps to follow to grow out of sin.

- But it’s wrong to be morbidly introspective.
- It's wrong to wallow around in our sin.
- It's wrong to be overly self-focused.

- We don't need to just be looking inside, or just looking around...we need to be looking up.
- Up to our Savior for forgiveness, and strength, and restored joy.

- Thats what this text is especially emphasizing.

II. God's Word Can Move You From Conviction to Joy

A. Repentance is assumed in these verses, and more detailed confession will come in chapter 9.

- As Westerners, we tend to think in steps. (cf. "Give me the spiritual recipe)

- Spiritual growth is a an ongoing process....surely not a "First you do this (and you never have to do that again) and second you do this (and you never do that again)."

- Growth is not that way.
- Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites observed that these people had allowed the Word to have the impact it needed to have that day, and it was now time to rejoice in the forgiveness of God.
- There would be more teaching tomorrow (literally), but right now it was time for joy in response to what God had done through His Word up to this point.

B. Rightly responding to God's Word brings joy.

- a key phrase in this section is in verse 10 - "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

- one believer said, "I can still remember my surprise when I first noticed the third line of the hymn `All People That On the Earth Do Dwell.' In my hymn book the words quite clearly said, `Him serve with mirth.' My surprise was so great that I did not sing the rest of the hymn, but just stood there looking at the words. I had recently become a Christian and knew that many things in life would have to change. I had presumed that the happy things like laughter and joy would be among the first to receive drastic alterations."

- the Bible makes it clear that God's Word (assuming the person is properly responding to it) brings joy:

Jeremiah 15:16 - Thy words were found and I ate them, And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Psalm 19:8 - The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 119:111 - I have inherited Thy testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart.

Psalm 119:162 - I rejoice at Thy word, As one who finds great spoil.

- Issue here this morning has to do with the way we view the Scripture, and what effect we let it have on us.

(if time, on white board sketch out the difference between viewing the Scripture as "the perfect law of liberty" and viewing it as a "drudgery")

(cf. Swindolls illus - God is back and boy is He mad - p. 145)

C. This is why God's people should delight in His Word.

Psalm 112:1 - Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments.

Psalm 1:2 - But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

Warren Wiersbe - If you delight in His Word, God will delight in you and share His blessings with you."

III. A Right Response to God's Word is Evidenced by Obedience

- A clear sign that these men and women were on the right track is that they responded quickly to the counsel they were given.
- When Nehemiah and Ezra encouraged them to feast together, and rejoice in God's forgiveness, that’s exactly what they did.

(INPUT - How can we create a atmosphere in our homes where the Scriptures lead to joy instead of drudgery?)

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.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video