Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Nehemiah 8:3, “And all the people were attentive to the book of the law.”
Spiritual apostasy is always preceded and accompanied by a disinterest and disregard for God’s Word.  This is especially evident in the history of OT Israel.  And nowhere is this more graphically demonstrated than in an episode that took place in King Josiah’s reign.  God’s people somehow lost “the law of the Lord given by Moses” (2 Chronicles 34:14).  That law, through which God promised to impart to His people “life and prosperity” (Deuteronomy 30:15), was somehow misplaced.  It sat displaced and neglected in the temple.  No yearning for it was expressed.  No search for it was undertaken.  The spiritual apostasy into idolatry and disobedience was accompanied by a complete disregard for God’s ordinances.  The law remained lost until Hilkiah the High Priest found it.  He had been instructed to go to the house of the Lord, not to look for the law of the Lord, but to gather some money (Cf. 2 Chronicles 34:14-20).  It was then that he found the book.  He gave it to Shaphan.  Shaphan took it to the King.  “Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.’  And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king” (2 Chronicles 34:18).  Josiah “heard the words of the law and…tore his clothes.” He commanded his servants to inquire of the Lord “concerning the words of the book” (2 Chronicles 34:21).  Josiah initiated reforms (2 Chronicles 34:22-33), but they ultimately did not stem the tide of the growing apostasy and eventual judgment of God’s people.
Spiritual revival is always accompanied by a sincere love and devotion to God’s Word (Cf. Psalm 19:7a).  Ezra “was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6).  He was the author of 1st and 2nd Chronicles and knew all about the troubles that had led to Israel’s expulsion from the land.  He wrote about the evil kings and the idolatry of the people.  He was well versed in both the cause and consequences of Israel’s spiritual apostasy.  “The hand of the Lord…was upon” Ezra (Ezra 7:6).  He “set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).  He organized a return of a remnant to Jerusalem and God brought the people safely through that arduous and dangerous journey (Ezra 8:31).  Temple reconstruction occupied the days of God’s remnant in Jerusalem.  It was not until many years later that Ezra was given the opportunity to widely declare that which he himself had devoted his life to.  But then that day came.  Ezra stood on a platform with six men on either side.  All the “men, women, and those who could understand” (Nehemiah 8:3) were gathered there.  Ezra “read from it (the law)…from early morning (dawn) until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3).  The Levites explained the law to the people, “translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:7-8).  Most notable in the account is the response of the people.  They “were attentive to the book of the law” (Nehemiah 8:3).  They wept with conviction when they first understood (Nehemiah 8:9).  They later rejoiced because they had been enabled to understand (Nehemiah 8:12).  Ezra taught the leaders (Nehemiah 8:13).  They responded to the law in obedience (Nehemiah 8:14-18).  They devoted themselves to the daily reading of the Word (Nehemiah 9:3).
These two instances speak to an important spiritual reality.  Neglect of God’s Word contributes to spiritual apostasy; devotion to God’s Word accompanies spiritual revival.  We live in the day, foretold of by the Apostle Paul, when “they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3).  The text refers not to the condition of the unchurched, to whom sound doctrine is wholly irrelevant, but to the professing church.  In its apostasy a component of the professing church will have no appetite for the sound (healthy) teaching of God’s Word.  The day in which we live is a day of growing spiritual apostasy characterized by increasing spiritual immorality despite its religiosity (2 Timothy 3:1-4 and 3:5).  Paul’s admonition to Timothy, in the midst of such an environment was to “to continue in the things which you have learned” (2 Timothy 3:14; i.e. “the sacred writings”, 2 Timothy 3:15).  In other words—pay attention to the book!
The Apostle Peter wrote to believers who were suffering persecution.  His advice to them has great relevance to every NT believer.  The rise of secularism in our society has borne the ugly fruit of new expressions of immorality and its accompanying downward spiral into the abyss of God’s judgment.  The professing church lacks discernment and readily compromises to maintain its supposed “relevance.”  In these dark days Peter’s exhortation bears great importance: “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your heart” (2 Peter 1:19). 
Pay attention to The Book.  OT Israel didn’t and suffered the consequences.  The returning remnant did and it led to revival.  The professing church of our day isn’t and the consequences are obvious.  You can pay attention to it and as you do it will be to you as a “lamp shining in a dark place” leading you onward in your walk with Christ until the need for a lamp is extinguished in the glorious manifestation of His presence. 
Pay attention to The Book—hear it (Cf. Romans 10:17); read it (Cf. Revelation 1:3); study it (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15); memorize it (Cf. Psalm 119:11); meditate upon it (Cf. Psalm 1:3); and practice it (Cf. James 1:22).  Let His word richly dwell within you (Cf. Colossians 3:16) that it might do its transforming and equipping work preparing you for His soon return.
Pastor Jerry

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