By: Rev. Richard Harris, Senior Pastor, Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church
April 7, 2018
The great construction project on the city’s walls had been completed a few days before Nehemiah 8:1, and then all of the people gathered together in the city square. We are told “all the people gathered as one man into the square” (8:1), and this gathering was comprised of “both men and women and all who could understand what they heard” (8:2). Why were they there? They were there for one reason – to hear the Word of God.
The whole city was there, and “they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded” (8:1). The people had to hear the Scriptures. They needed to hear the Word of God more than they needed the rest, relaxation and comfort from a vacation, even after the hard work of rebuilding the wall.
What happens next is extraordinary!
“And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose....They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (8:3 – 4, 8).
Ezra read the Bible to the people all day long as they stood there with attentive ears. What an image of the people’s collective submission to God’s Word as they stood there all day looking up at God’s Word being read and explained to them instead of looking down at God’s Word in judgement!
The result of this ordinary reading and explaining of God’s Word was truly extraordinary, “For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (8:9). The people wept because they knew God was speaking to them, reading their hearts, and convicting them of their sin as Ezra read the Scriptures. A city’s shared conviction of sin is a mark of revival.
What would revival in Houston look like? It would include a deep awareness of and sensitivity to our personal sin, both generally and specifically. Revival would mean that calloused hearts were penetrated by Spirit-filled, faithful and clear exposition of the Word of God from the pastors of our city. Revival would mean that Houston’s pastors believed that God’s Word was what their churches and neighborhoods needed most, and that we believed God’s Word was all we actually had to offer.
When revival begins with a corporate conviction of sin, then our pastors can say along with Nehemiah and Ezra, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” You see, the conviction of sin is a means, not an end. The Holy Spirit uses the faithful preaching of the Bible to bring us to repentance, so that we will turn from sin and toward God and his grace, which was purchased for us by Jesus’ life, death and
resurrection. We can proclaim this assurance of pardon and comfort all the louder from where we sit in the history of redemption because in Jesus “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Father, please give the pastors of our city the conviction that there is nothing more powerful in the lives of people than Spirit of God working through the Word of God. May every pastor in Houston present himself this Sunday “as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). And please give the people of God in Houston a hunger to hear the Bible preached passionately and faithfully. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Amen