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The Scriptorium

Recovering the Word of God

The way to great gladness. Nehemiah 8.13-18

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 6-9.3 (5)

Pray Psalm 40.4, 5
Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.

Sing Psalm 40.4, 5.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Blessed are all who trust in You, turning both from lies and pride.
Countless wonders, Lord, You do, and Your thoughts with us abide.
LORD, Your worth who can declare? None with You can e’er compare.

Read Nehemiah 8.1-18; meditate on verses 13-18.


1. What did the people learn from hearing the Law?

2. How did they respond?

It’s not hard to imagine the responses of the people as they listened to Ezra reading about the Feast of Tabernacles:

“Wait. What did he say?”
“We haven’t seen anything like that before!”
“Isn’t that stuff just for old times? For Moses’ day?”
“That’s not the way we worship God.”
“We don’t do such things in our day. Do we?”

But the Spirit of God was at work and instead of all such responses prevailing—like they do in our day—the people responded with their own form of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Let’s get going.” The Feast of Tabernacles had been ignored for centuries. But there it was, right in front of them in the Law (vv. 13-15). So the people went right to it, made their preparations, and celebrated this strange and even trying Feast (vv. 16, 17). “And there was very great gladness”!

Of course there was very great gladness! Whenever we do what God teaches, tells, instructs, or commands, gladness is the result. These people kept up their gladness for seven days, keeping the Law of God “according to the prescribed manner” (v. 18).

In our day, we are so captive to worldly ways of being Christian and doing church that we have forfeited the great gladness of simply doing what God commands. Believers and churches look almost nothing like those in the New Testament and first few centuries, who turned their world upside-down for Jesus. The difference was they made disciples, practiced shepherding, worshiped according to the pattern found in Scripture, lived as witnesses for Christ, gathered in homes and shared their lives, and maintained a vibrant unity with other churches. Right out of the Scriptures.

But not us. We are still captive to our ways and are losing ground and gladness.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
But if we should choose differently—not losing ground and gladness—and revolt against the captivity of forgetting God’s Word, remembering His Word is a good remedial start.

“I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (Ps. 119.14-16).

“Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way” (Prov. 23.19).

“And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’” (Jn. 2.16)
“Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up!’” (Jn. 2.17)

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’”
“Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them;
and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” (Jn. 2.19, 22).

The Scriptures are full of things we need to remember. Even, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk. 17.32).
Jesus had an important lesson He was trying to teach by suggesting we not forget what happened to her.
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down
to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.”
“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk. 17.31, 33).

All the people, in the freshly walled city, met together “in order to understand the words of the Law” (Neh. 8.13). In doing that there was great blessing and “very great gladness” (Neh. 8.17).

Remembering the Law, the promises, and the celebrations brought joy and life into their city.  Which, comparatively speaking, is far more enjoyable than being turned into a pillar of salt. Obedience to God has far more potential.

All God’s Words are written for a purpose upon which we should meditate and contemplate.
Recover the Word, remember to do it, and be glad you did. Rejoice!

For reflection
1. What do you find to be most helpful in remembering the things you read or study in God’s Word?

2. How can believers help one another remember the Scriptures?

3. What does God promise if we will remember His Word and do it?

We read and hear the word acceptably and profitably, when we do according to what is written therein; when what appears to be our duty is revived, after it has been neglected. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Nehemiah 8.13-18

Pray Psalm 40.1-3, 6-10.
What has God shown you in His Word that you have either forgotten, neglected, or simply failed to obey? Call on Him to search your soul and, as you read and study His Word, to open you to more immediate and specific obedience to what He requires.

Sing Psalm 40.1-3, 6-10.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
I waited patiently for God; He inclined and heard my cry,
lifted me up above the sod, set me on a Rock on high!
New songs in my mouth He gave; may He through me many save.

Off’rings You do not require—open now my ears, O LORD.
What from me do You desire? Firm delight to do Your Word.
Take my life in ev’ry part; write Your Law upon my heart.

LORD, Your truth will I proclaim to Your people gathered ‘round,
nor will I my lips restrain—let Your precious ways resound!
Of Your saving grace and Word I would speak, most loving Lord.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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