Six Hours While Standing
Planting Date Palms: Nehemiah #7
March 14, 2021
The Famine of the Native Pelicans
Go to any coastal town on the Eastern Seaboard where there are fisherman cleaning their fish and you will find pelicans waiting for the scraps. Many of these coastal towns are pelican’s paradises because they don’t have to fish for themselves to become full and contented. They only have to wait for the fisherman’s scraps.
But unfortunately, this environment of pelican feasting has caused an ecological disaster. As fisherman have found other uses for their scraps, the pelicans have waited around grown thin. Many have even starved to death because they forgot how to fish. To solve the problem, ecologists transport new pelicans that are accustomed to foraging for themselves into this environment of pelican famine. They put them right beside the starving natives. When the hungry pelicans follow suit, the pelican famine ends from town to town.
We native pelicans live in a land, just like Ancient Israel, that has been home to spiritual feasting. But something happened along the way: we have squandered that environment and spent so much time filling our stomachs with scraps that we’ve forgotten how to fish. And because of that we are living in a time of spiritual famine. But do you know what the solution is? It’s not the lead pelicans that will end the famine of the Word of God. It’s commoners who have learned to fish for themselves once again.
A Most Glorious Text
Words from the Lord In a Six Hour Sermon:
(1) You're not the only brush I'm using to paint my masterpiece (7:73-8:1)
7:73 When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, 8:1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
A Most Unexpected Paint Brush
They told Ezra, the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book, not Nehemiah. Nehemiah doesn’t even star in the central chapter of the book.
God Used Nehemiah to Build the Walls, But
(1) Nehemiah wasn’t alone in doing what God had called him to do;
(2) Ezra was a scribe who collected the Books of the built of the OT;
(3) Zerubabbel started construction on a temple; (4) Queen Esther saved the Jews and was by the side of Artaxerxes;
(5) Cyrus, the Persian King, gave them permission to go back to Israel.
The Masterpiece Seen Fully Now But Not Then
(1) Without Cyrus decree, there’s no return to the land of Israel;
(2) If no Esther in King Artaxerxes ear, there’s no approval for Nehemiah to return to rebuild the walls;
(3) If there are no walls, there’s nowhere Ezra can read the Word of God to the people; (4) If there is no Word of God, the famine would have remained.
God makes a tapestry out of weaving individual threads that form something altogether glorious when it’s finished.
(2) People awaken people, not the rebuilder of the walls (8:1-4)
1 They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. 4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
Who Initiated It –
(1) The people told Ezra...so Ezra
Why Awakening Happened –
(1) He read it aloud from daybreak (6 AM) till noon”
(2) The people wouldn't leave without hearing from God
They had nowhere else to turn for hope or glory. Spiritual famine had taken place for 70 long years in Babylonian Captivity. Glory was in the miraculous nature of rebuilding walls in 52 days. Hope was in the fact God had given them a new lease after captivity through no credit of their own.
A word from the Lord broke a spiritual famine when the people wouldn’t leave without one.
3. Spiritual famine comes from the absence of the Word (8:5-8)
8:5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
What The People Wanted for 6 hours while standing:
(1) Ezra to open the book;
(2) No one had copies of biblical scrolls laying around on their coffee tables. Usually the only scrolls in antiquity that were accessible were in synagogues or churches. And they were chained to a pulpit to prevent someone from stealing it. Ezra read from it because they couldn’t and wanted to hear what the Good Book says.
What They Didn’t Want for 6 hours while standing:
(1) To hear what Ezra thought about such and such a subject;
(2) They read from the Book of the Law of God…making it clear…and giving meaning.
What They Heard in 6 hours while standing:
To understand the Bible, you must understand the concept of land. Adam and Eve lived in the land and then were banished. Moses got close to the Promised Land but never got into it. Joshua took the Promised Land and said you can stay here as long as you obey. The Babylonians sacked the Promised Land. They were now back and they wanted to stay there. And they did for a period. But story still wasn’t complete: Jesus came to the promised land because the land tainted with sin. So that we can have a new land that will never perish; neither will it spoil nor fade.
4. Joy comes only from living in grace (8:9-10)
8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Oliver Wendall Holmes (Supreme Court)
“I might have entered the ministry if clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
Why They Were Weeping:
(1) Hearing their history;
(2) That included bondage, sin, loss of land and fellowship
Why They Were Redirected:
(1) Grace brought them back in spite of their disobedience;
(2) Unmerited Favor.