It would not have seemed like the people in the time of Nehemiah could be more faithful to the Lord and His work. They were, after all, rebuilding Jerusalem, rebuilding Zion, the City of David. The people were working together and bringing gifts to be used to rebuild the city. So it would seem as though revival had taken place but the truth was that it had not yet.
What was it that renewed their passion and devotion to the Lord? What brought the revival to the land?
The Leaders helped the people understand the Law (Neh. 8:7). They read from the scripture clearly, so that people could understand it (v. 8). The leaders taught and expounded upon God’s Word so that the people could grasp it. Surely, it was expository preaching with practical application and illustration.
When the people heard God’s Word they wept (v. 9). The people wept because they saw God’s faithfulness in spite of their utter unfaithfulness. They saw God’s holy Law and thus saw their sin and need of a sacrifice.
As part of the revival that happened from the clear teaching and understanding of God’s Word they “read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God” They read Scripture for 6 hours and then they confessed sin and worshiped for another 6 hours (9:3). They exalted God and said, “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you” (v. 6).
They remembered how God delivered them from Egypt and protected and provided for them. They remembered how they were arrogant and stubborn and did not obey God’s commands (v. 16). They remembered how God is a God ready to forgive, gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (v. 17). They remembered that “Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies,” (v. 18) God, in His great mercy, did not forsake them in the wilderness (v. 19). The people understood God’s Word. They understood their unholiness and unworthiness and God’s faithfulness and grace.
The people wept because of their sin and unfaithfulness but then also rejoiced and feasted because of God’s faithful deliverance. The leaders told the people “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep” (8:9). They told the people to feast and “do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (v. 10). The people wept for their sin but they rejoiced in God’s righteousness because the joy of the LORD was their strength. It was in the LORD’s faithfulness and deliverance that they found strength. They rested in God’s faithfulness and yet it prompted them to be faithful.
The therefore of God’s faithfulness or of the gospel to them was a renewed call to faithfulness to God. The leaders signed a covenant of faithfulness to observe the Laws, commandments, rules, and statutes of the LORD. They made an obligation to give money to the house of God (10:32), to bring the first fruits of their ground and the first fruits of every tree, year by year, to the house of the LORD (v. 35), and to not neglect the house of God (v. 39).
We know from a New Testament perspective that the God that “made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host” and preserves all things humbled Himself to the point of death; even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power” and yet He makes “purification for sins” (Heb. 1:3).
We have seen that which the prophets longed to look (Matt. 13:17). We have a clearer, fuller, view of God’s faithfulness. We see the gospel like it was never seen in Nehemiah’s day. God the Son dwelt among us and we have seen His glory (Jn. 1:14). God the Son incarnated Himself and took the form of a servant. God the Son died as a lamb without blemish to cover all our blemishes. If we understand this truth we should see its beauty all the more clearly from our Post-New Testament perspective because we can take in all the heights and depths of redemptive history. When we realize how exalted the LORD, YHWH, is it gives us more meaning to Emmanuel (God with us) and helps us understand how amazing it is that the faithful One died for the faithless ones.
If we fully understand this truth shouldn’t we be all the more willing to follow the therefore of the gospel and obligate ourselves to radical obedience? I do not think we should, we must!