Bridge: February 24th

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February 24, 2016

Past

Nehemiah 8:1-8
“People of the Book”
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.
3 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. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Nehemiah 8 records a seminal moment in the history of the Jewish people. These events represent a shift in focus and identity for them as a people group that would continue until the arrival of Jesus Christ. This is the point where they consciously and deliberately seek an understanding of God’s law and begin the process of bringing themselves in line with His commands. They would go on to become a people defined foremost by the Word of God.

Nehemiah was working in conjunction with Ezra to fulfill his original purpose for coming to Jerusalem: to restore the glory of God through His people and their/His city. In order for them to be His people and Jerusalem to be His city more had to happen than just the rebuilding of the walls or the repopulating of the city. If they were to be God’s people, then they had to reestablish their commitment to His covenant and His Word.

That holds true for us today. If we are to be truly successful for God, which is defined as being faithful to Him, then we must be people of His Word. Our identity, our purpose, our thoughts, our time, our actions; everything about us must be dictated by who God is as revealed by the Scriptures. Nehemiah 8:1-8 shows us how that happens:

I. A Desire for the Word.
The people gathered willingly and called for Ezra to bring them the Word (v. 1). They recognized their need to know Him and His ways. They also recognized that “the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel” was the key to that.
 When have you found yourself the most passionate for and desirous of the Word of God?
 What are some of the reasons we fail to appropriately yearn for the Word or fail to “get much out of it?”
 How can we cultivate a greater desire for the Word of God? Specifically, how can we maximize the time that we spend in corporate worship through the preaching, teaching, and study of the Bible?

II. A Respect for the Word.
The people treated the Scriptures with reverence, both outwardly and inwardly (v. 3 “the people were attentive,” v. 5 “all the people stood”). They recognized the Word as a revelation of God Himself and the gateway to knowing Him (v. 6).
 How can our outward actions concerning our treatment of the Word contribute to our inward respect for God?
 What does our preparation for time with the Word say about the respect we have for God?
 How can we develop a greater reverence for our time spent with the Word of God (personal devotions, preaching of the Word, Sunday School/Small Group studies)?

III. An Understanding of the Word.
The repetition of the fact that the crowd consisted of “men and women and all who could understand what they heard” is a reminder that God’s Word is not reserved for some elite group. Anyone can know God through a commitment to the Scriptures. The fact that help had to be given to understand it, though, is also a reminder that it requires effort. The Holy God of the Universe has given us a way to know Him. He is worthy of all the effort we can muster to draw near to Him.
 How often are you reading the Word? How much time are you devoting to it?
 What are some materials or methods that have proven especially helpful in deepening your appreciation for and understanding of the Word?

Present

 Are there any unrelated struggles that you are facing this week? (At home, at work, etc.)
 What does Scripture say about the issue?
 How can I implement the fulfillment of Scripture regarding this issue?

Future

Sunday’s Text: Nehemiah 8:9-12 Supplemental Text: Hebrews 4:11-16

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Discussion/Consideration:

 What is the role of guilt in the life of a believer?

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