Now you may remember last Wednesday night in our lesson we had a message on "How to Study the Bible," and I thought it would be good tonight to continue that general theme, only in a little different fashion. We want to take a Scripture from Nehemiah chapter 8 and talk tonight about "The Important Place of the Bible." We'll be approaching the same general theme from a different direction, in other words, tonight, from Nehemiah chapter 8, beginning with verse 1.
It goes this way. Let's read the chapter quickly together and then we'll go back and talk about it. "And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law."
Now I want to call your attention to one thing there just in passing. Notice how long that period of time is that he's talking about. Before the water gate, he read from the book of the law, from God's Word in other words, that portion of it which they had then from the morning until midday. So they had a rather long service there, didn't they? At least it appears as if it may have been several hours long, this particular service. Now going on with verse 4, I just wanted to mention that in case anybody ever gets excited about it when I preach fifty-five minutes or something occasionally.
"And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and,"—no, I mispronounced that one, that's Anaiah, "and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam." Now I guess we're going to have to wait for Mr. SAA to go over before we can finish reading. (This mission was near the flight path of the Johannesburg Airport).
That's probably those Germans again. (Teasing the audience, placing the blame for the aircraft noise on a foreign airline instead of the local one). Not SAA, that's Lufthansa, isn't it? "And Ezra opened the book," we're in verse 5 now, "Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place."
Now this whole chapter is so rich that if you started out on a verse by verse here, you'd spend about five or six hours on really doing a proper job on this chapter. But we're not going to try to do that tonight, we're going to try to do it in about forty minutes tonight.
"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly," some of these places I have trouble, I have to force myself to go ahead and read instead of stopping for a little while. "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Lord—of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our God—unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law."
So they went on again the second day. "And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day," that's the one, of course, that we usually refer to as Joshua. A slightly different spelling here. "For since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days." So they had a seven fellowship meeting here. "And on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner." So they had an eight day fellowship meeting here. And they probably had these five, six and seven hour services every day of that eight days, too. But if a preacher preaches forty minutes now, they start getting a little bit fidgety and twisting and squirming and shaking their watch to see if it stopped running and things like that.
Anyway, let's go back now and look at this quickly for just a few minutes. The complete chapter that we've just read makes a pretty good outline in itself but let's notice here in chapter 8, verse 1 again that the blight on Christendom today, the blight on so-called Christendom today is the failure to bring this book right here that we're talking about. That's the failure of Christianity, so-called today. They try to find all kinds of ways to twist the meaning of the book or to change the book or to ignore the book or to rewrite the book or to reinterpret the book or to do all kinds of things but they don't want to just bring the book, as they did here at this time when they had this great revival in Israel. And this is the big blight on Christianity, so-called today is the failure to bring this book.
In the first place, when we think about the failure to bring this book, we find that it is not popular. This book is not very popular today, did you know that? Oh, I know it's the bestseller of all the ages, but when you start trying to get people to really read it, the genuine, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness Bible Bible, not one of these uh, paraphrase junk messes that they've got today that they call bibles, I'm talking about the real Bible, it's just hard to get them to do it. It's not popular anymore. It's not popular.
Galatians 1:9 and 10 says this about it, "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." And that's exactly what's going on today, what he's describing here. That is, what he's describing that he's not going to do. It's being done by most of the preachers and the priests and the so-called religious leaders of the world today. They're doing things to please men rather than bringing the book. Instead of bringing the message that God has given to us here, most of them, the so-called religious leaders and preachers and priests today don't even know the message that's in the book because they don't understand it themselves. They don't study it themselves, they don't believe it themselves, therefore they can't possibly bring it to others.
In other words, today when it comes to a question of talking about bringing the book, it's a question or a case of the blind leading the blind, isn't it? In the average church, in the average so-called church, it's a case of the blind leading the blind. Luke 6:39 says something about that when it says, "Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they both not fall into the ditch?" And that's exactly what's happening all over so-called Christianity today, isn't it? The blind are leading the blind and they're falling both into the ditch.
They're, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," as Matthew 15:9 tells us. Teaching the doctrines of the commandments of men rather than the—than bringing the Word, bringing the book as they did here in Nehemiah.
Now we need to always bring the book because it's needed. It's needed. This book is needed. This book is more needed than anything else in the world. If we had a choice of losing every piece of written material in the world except one, every piece of printed material in the world except one, the one that should be saved is this right here. It's the book that's needed. It's the Word that's needed. It's the message that's needed. So me—we must always bring the book because it's what's really needed.
It's needed even by those who don't want it. And it's the only thing that has the power to change men by its preaching. When we preach this Word, it can and will change men. It's the only way that the sinner might understand how to be saved by the book. By the book. Any other message that people deliver about salvation is useless, isn't it? Because the only thing that matters about salvation, the only thing that's true about salvation is what God says about it, isn't it? It doesn't make any difference what other plans men may make and call it salvation, it's not true, is it? So it's the only way that the sinner might understand how to be saved, that is, when we bring the book, the message of the book.
It's the only way that the righteous might know how to walk, to worship, to work, to pray, to be corrected and to have proper rewards. All of that comes from the book, doesn't it? Right here. The knowledge of those things comes from the book. Bringing the book will cause a lot of good results. One of these good results that will come from bringing the book is that it will unify God's people. You say, "Well, it didn't work that way here a while back, did it?" Yes, it did. It unified God's people and it chased the rest of them away. That's exactly what happened. They went out from us because they were not of us.
And the Word chased them away. So when the Word, when the book is brought it will unify God's people because Nehemiah 8:1 gives us an example of this. It says, "And all the people gathered themselves together as one man." Now how can you be any more unified than that? "Into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel." So it certainly unified these people, brought this huge mob of people there together, asking to be taught from God's Word, didn't it? So it did unify them.
Now unity remember is different from unionism. This is not unionism. He didn't bring in a bunch of these Sanballat and Tobiah types in there, did he? He brought in the true believers who wanted to hear and wanted to learn and wanted to obey the Word of God. It's not unionism we're talking about when we say unity. There's a difference. A lot of difference between unionism and unity.
They were united upon the Word. And I'm a hundred percent in favor of unity on that basis. And if we had unity on the basis of the Word, every so-called church in the world would—would get saved, the people in it would get saved, the preachers would get saved, the people would get baptized and they'd all be New Testament Baptists if they had unity on the Word. And I'm in favor of that kind of unity. That's the only kind I'm in favor of though, I'm not in favor of unionism at all. But these people here were united upon the Word.
There's no other way except unity on the Word that there can really be true fellowship among God's people. There's not any other way. You can't have fellowship when you've got sixteen different weird uh, interpretations, false interpretations all trying to meet together and the only thing that ties them together is that they speak in tongues. That's not unity, that's a mess is what that is. No unity involved there. But when we have people united upon the Word of God, then you have real unity and proper unity. The only kind that is proper. And you have proper fellowship. The only kind of fellowship that can really be have—that—we—or only way that we can really have true fellowship.
Now not only does bringing the Word or bringing the book cause people of God to be unified but it will cause God's people to attend services at stated times. It says that right here. It says it here in chapter 8, verse 2. "And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding," this includes young people, you see, everybody that was old enough to hear with understanding, "upon the first day of the seventh month." So that's having a meeting at a stated time and all the people, including the young people, gathered together there for the meeting, didn't they? Everybody old enough to understand, all who could hear with understanding.
Now if you read over in the fourteenth verse of that chapter, you'll find some more about that. About this business of bringing the Word or bringing the book will cause people to come and worship at stated times. In verse 14 it says this, "And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month." And that's recorded over in Leviticus chapter 23 if you want to read it sometime, beginning with verse 34 and following down through six or eight verses there. So we have another example you see there, of the fact that bringing the book caused them to worship at stated times. And people who have the book brought to them and accept it and believe it as these people did are going to be in church at stated times to worship and to serve God and the hear the Word again, to hear the book brought again.
It will not be just, "when I feel like attending." Now we've got "jillions" of people like that around here, haven't we? Come when they feel like attending. Well, that's not the way it should be and if they really accept the—the bringing of the book and the book is truly brought to them and they truly accept it, then it won't be that way with them, it can't be that way with them.
Bringing the book will cause us to obey. That verse over in Hebrews chapter 10, verse 25 which says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Bringing the book will cause people to accept the bringing of the book, to accept that verse as well, won't it? And they will not forsake the assembling of themselves together.
Now going on a little further, we notice that bringing the book will cause people to give heed to what God said. You can get up here and tell all the sad dog stories you want to, you can get up here and tell all the sad funeral stories you want to, and you may have every eye in the audience weeping but that won't get them straightened out, will it? The only thing that really straightens people out is when we bring the book, then it will truly cause some people to give heed to what God said, won't it? We have an example of that here in this chapter I read tonight.
In 8:3 it says, "And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday," that is, as we said a while ago, for some hours, possibly five or six, "before the men and the women, and those that could understand." Now listen to this part, "And the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law."
You didn't have sixteen young people poking each other and giggling. You didn't have the mama and daddy looking at their watch all the time and wondering if the preacher was never going to quit. You didn't have any of that, it says in plain language, "The ears of all the people were attentive." They listened. They paid attention for several hours there at this long service as he was preaching to them from God's Word, bringing the book to them. The people were attentive, they gave heed to the words of the book and they regarded the words of the book properly. It tells us all that in verse 3, doesn't it?
Bringing the book will cause the book to have a prominent place in affairs. This book should have a very prominent place in the affairs of every Christian in the world. But sadly, it has very little to do with the affairs of most so-called Christians, doesn't it? It has little to do with many. But it should have a very prominent place in the affairs of all men, particularly those claiming to be Christians.
They made a pulpit out of wood, it tells us here in this chapter, in order to give a prominent position to the book and to the preacher of the book. You notice that in what we read there. "Stood upon a pulpit of wood," it says in verse 4, "which they had made for the purpose." He was lifted up in front of the crowd and the book was lifted up in front of the crowd as he read it to them on this big pulpit that they built. You could say up on the platform, as we would say today. I suspect that it was a rather tall platform though, in those days. Many year later, even the Mohammedan pulpits are big, high things, way up here, as tall as this ceiling perhaps above the congregation. They have big, beautiful, carved wooden pulpits even today, the Mohammedans do. And their teachers get up there and preach (false teachings, based on a false book, The Quran) from these big, tall, carved wooden pulpits.
Anyway, he was up on a big, lifted up platform of some kind with a pulpit that he could preach from and rest the scroll, no doubt, that he was preaching from. "Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose," it says there in verse 4 of chapter 8. So, the book should have a prominent place in our church, in our home, our life and our nation. And I fear that it doesn't have much place anymore in most churches and almost no place in most homes, almost no place in most lives and no place whatsoever in most nations. And yet, it should have a prominent place in all four of those.
Bringing the book will cause people to learn to reverence the book. People accuse us of being proclaimers of bibliolatry, or bible-olatry some of them call it. But I'm not at all ashamed of defending and holding up and reverencing the Word of God, not at all. And these people who accuse us of following after bibliolatry are just showing their own lack of respect for God's Word when they do that. But bringing the book, people will learn and should learn to reverence the book.
In verse 5 it tells us about that. "Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;)" That shows, you can see, that he was up on some sort of high platform or a tall pulpit of some sort. Let's see, "He was above all the people;) and when he opened it," now listen, these people really reverenced the Word of God, didn't they? "All the people stood up." I've thought of sometime having a service or two here when we would ask everyone to stand up every time we read from the Bible.
I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Some people might think we were nuts if we did that but we don't really care too much about they think about us, they think we're nuts anyway, most of them. It doesn't really matter too much if they would think we're nuts because we did that but these people, they stood up. That's real reverence for the Bible, isn't it? Real reverence for God's Word. They stood up when he started to read.
And remember now, this was not a little forty-minute service we're talking about, either. It was what? It started in the morning and quit at midday sometime, didn't it? So it was certainly several hours long. And yet, they stood up when he started to read the Word. We should and must show reverence for all the things of God, especially reverence for His Word, for His house and for His people. And we should do that and we must do it if we're going to be blessed of God.
When we bring the book, people will believe the book. Not everybody. But when we really bring the book and teach it like it is without fear or favor -- oh, I know we'll chase some away, but we'll draw some to it, too, won't we? And the ones we draw to it, some of them will be saved. Verse 6 says, this is an example now of how the people will believe the book when we bring the book, "Ezra blessed the Lord," in verse 6, "the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground." They believed it when he brought the Word! When he brought the book, people believed the book. And some will still believe it when we bring the book today.
Acts 28, verses 23 and 24 fits here. "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening." All day long, you see. "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." And that's the way it is today, isn't it? But unless we bring the book, no one's going to believe because they have nothing to believe unless we bring the book to them.
And when we do bring the book some will believe and some will not believe, as it says there about Paul's teaching there in Acts 28. Now there have been some in all ages that believe God. They can be saved, they can understand, they can serve, they will make heaven their home, they can pray and they can and will be blessed. But people who refuse to believe, who refuse to reverence the book, they can't have any of those things, can they? No way that they can.
The book will correct the heart of those who need it. It'll correct the heart of those who need it. Chapter 8, verse 9 says this, "And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha," now that, in case you're wondering about that word, it's a—the Persian word for the—sometimes translated "governor." The Tirshatha. Uh, so Nehemiah—"And Nehemiah, which is the," governor, we would say today in plain English, "and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep." Now listen to this, we said that the book will correct the heart of those who need it, listen to this last part of verse 9, "For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law." It was correcting their heart, wasn't it? Because the book was brought and they accepted it and it touched their hearts and all the people wept.
Hearts will be made to weep today because of sin, when we bring the book. There's a need of a humble or an humble and broken heart in God's people and even in the unsaved, because that's generally the first step in coming to the Lord. Get your heart broken, realize what a wicked, hopeless sinner you are and then you can come to Christ, and you will come to Christ or very likely will if you really get your heart broken properly at the time that you're hearing the gospel message.
Second Chronicles 7:14 fits well here where it says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Second Chronicles 7:14.
Another thing about bringing the book is it will make us happy. It will make us happy. Verses 10 through 14 speaks of this. And I'll just paraphrase a little bit of it. One of the things that it says there in verses 10 through 14, it says, "For the joy of the Lord is your strength." That ought to make anybody happy, shouldn't it? When the Word is brought, when the book is brought. In other words, they had a great big, happy celebration, didn't they? And the reason for it was this, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. That is, the words of the book that were declared. That's the reason they had this big, happy celebration! Because they did understand it and accept it and were blessed by it.
Bringing the book will make us missionary minded, willing to do God's work God's way. That's really true, it will. Bringing the book will make us missionary minded, it will make us willing to do God's work God's way. Verse 16 says, "So the people went forth." Now that's missionary work, isn't it? Going forth, that's missionary work. They built booths everywhere and sat under them. These were a sort of open air shelter of some sort that it speaks of when it speaks of these booths. It's looking back toward, or thinking back on, or remembering, the times of the traveling with the Tabernacle. This is what it's taking their thoughts back to when they do this thing of the booths again.
Now bringing the book will cause a separated people. You know, you can't really bring this book and have the people truly accept it without it causing a separated people. They really will be separated. If you go on over into chapter 9 which we didn't read, you'll find in verse 2 it says this: "And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers." So bringing the book caused them to be separated from the evil ones around them! It caused them to confess their sins. It caused them to live a separated life. It caused them to even go back and confess the iniquities of their fathers before them.
In verse 3 of chapter 9, we find that the people stood in their place. The people stood in their place. And that's what bringing the book will cause, isn't it? It'll cause people to stand. They have something to stand on when you bring the book, don't they? This is the only thing we do have to stand on really, isn't it? The Word of God, the book. So the people stood in their place and they read the book of the Lord, they confessed their sins, they worshiped the Lord their God, and then if you go on down more verses in chapter 9, you find that they prayed and blessed the name of the Lord. That's what bringing the book does for people!
And we today, also, need to keep unspotted from the world. Titus 2:14, and we'll close with this verse. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Now truly bringing the book will cause many wonderful things to take place. It will cause people to stand in their place, it will cause people to read the book of the Lord, it will cause people to confess their sins, it will cause people to worship the Lord and it will cause people to find joy and peace and to praise and bless the name of the Lord. It will also cause people to be separated from the world.
And so we need to think about this, and continue always in this main object of all activity of any true church --- which is bringing the book.