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Covenant Rejoicing.

Nehemiah 8:1-12.

Upon completing the rebuilding of the walls, Nehemiah wisely continued the mission of rebuilding the foundation of his people's lives. That foundation was set by the LORD God Himself when He gave them His sure, inerrant, truthful, and relevant word. The last year and a half should have made it clear of our need for a foundation stronger than even this country and its institutions.

Before getting into the details I must stress the corporate nature of Scripture in general and our next three passages in particular. It’s best if we view Neh. 8.9 and 10 as applying to our covenant community just as we should during our time of communion.

With that in mind, what does this passage teach about the word of God especially as it's fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Together we receive God’s word reverently. Vss. 1-3. all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Receiving God’s word reverently means we take God’s word seriously and view it as the very word and truth of the living God. We view God’s word as providing the primary nourishment for our being, direction for our lives, arbiter of right and wrong, and first and final say concerning the nature, character, and work of the living God.

Children, it’s like the first or second time your parents put their hands on your shoulders and sternly yet lovingly told you to never run in the street.

One of the main ways we demonstrate our deep respect for God’s word is the way we hear it read and preached.

For us, it will mean prioritizing hearing God’s word together just as God’s ancient people did. We do so with the expectation that God will speak to us through His word and with the prayer that we’ll pay close attention when He does so.

Together we receive God’s word worshipfully. Vss. 5-6. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Their first response to hearing God’s word is worship. It’s worship born of deep gratitude that God gave them His special revelation to ground their lives, guide their lives, give them their culture and allow them to grow to know Him.

The main purpose of the sermon is to draw us into worship. Worship in this way is giving God praise and thanksgiving for His existence, character, and actions. Our main takeaway from each sermon is how it moves us to speak well of our Lord to ourselves, those close to us, and those we’re around.

Together we receive God’s word reflectively. Vss. 7-8. As Ezra read the word, the Levites explain its truths to God’s people. They do so since God’s word is to be put into practice and obeyed.

We listen to understand what God has said and how we therefore how our lives align with God’s word. Doing so will keep us from trying to squeeze God’s word to fit our live views or ideologies.

Take mask wearing for example. Our decision to wear or not wear a mask can never be based on prioritizing our own personal rights and freedoms. Why? Because throughout Scripture we’re taught to view ourselves as those who prioritize serving others not ourselves.

Together we receive God’s word with repentance. Vs. 9. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

God’s word reveals His holiness and where we fall short of His holiness. Repentance is a change of attitude, born from a change of heart that results in a change of behavior.

As we read, hear and listen to the word preached one o the questions we ask ourselves individually and as a church is this: Where do we need to repent?

Children, there are times when your parents repented of something they did that hurt you.

Together we receive God’s word in rejoicing. Vss. 10-12. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."  Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Rejoicing follows repentance since true repentance should never lead to an attitude of constant groveling shame.

To rejoice is to take great delight. And we express great delight in our God since He delights in us. What is the joy of the Lord? I believe it is His people, standing before Him, holy and blameless. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:2.

What is delight? It’s the look on our children’s faces and the sound of their voices when mommy or daddy comes home from work or a trip for work.

How is it then that the joy of the Lord is our strength? The word translated strength can more precisely convey refuge or place of safety.

Thus, God’s joy is His delight in those He’s saved and for whom He provided safety and refuge.

He did so through our Lord Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of God’s law in every possible sense. Christ fulfilled God’s law by keeping it perfectly for us. He then went to the cross to absorb God’s full punishment for those like us who broke God’s law. So now anyone who trusts in Christ for a right relationship with the living God is viewed as one who kept the law perfectly and is the present and eternal delight of the living God.