The final count is:
Marietta Square Preaching
Tornado Results, Esp. in White
Pollock Car Accident
Grant and Greyson Football Starting
Cassandra's Broken Arm
Text – Nehemiah 9
This morning we're going to look at an absolutely amazing chapter in the Bible. In chapter 9 of Nehemiah we're coming out of chapter 8. What major events have just taken place in chapter 8? What major project has just been completed? They completed the walls and set the doors. What has made the people more attentive to the law of God? The reading of the Law. Which book was this? Deuteronomy. What was the response to the reading of the Law? Mourning. They weren't supposed to mourn because this was during a festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, why weren't they supposed to mourn? Because this festival pointed towards their salvation; how does it point towards Jesus? Because he came as God in the flesh to dwell with and in us forever.
As we come into chapter 9, the feast of Tabernacles is over and the people are in full mourning over their sin. In this chapter they go over a general history of Israel, and we'll see that the character of God is beautifully displayed in this list. So let's get started. We're going to move pretty quickly through this, hopefully, so we won't stop to look at the minor details, because we want to see this chapter as a whole and not just a collection of verses.
Nehemiah 9:1-5 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, "Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
We see a continued effort of repentance and knowing God's Law. Why is it so important to know the Bible? Because here-in God has revealed himself to us. There is a massive movement today with people saying that God is too mysterious for man to know, that our finite minds can never understand an infinite God, but that utterly misses the fact that he has chosen to reveal himself through a book which he has perfectly preserved for millennia. The first thing we see is that God is worthy to be praised, that is the hermeneutic of this passage, or the way in which they are reading the Bible. This makes the point that everything God does is right, that his plans and purposes are perfect. The second important point is the beginning of verse 6.
Nehemiah 9:6 You are the LORD, you alone.
This is an identification that God is One, he is God and there is no other. It is an affirmation of what is called the "Shema", which is found in Deuteronomy 6. We're not going to read many other verses today, but let's be sure to read that one.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
Next we'll see that God is Creator and creative:
Nehemiah 9:6 You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
This is a reminder how powerful God is, that he created everything there is with the power of his Word. Not just that he created something massive, and the universe is bigger than we can even measure, but also that the minute details are incredible. The universe is intricately interesting from the biggest galaxy to the tiniest cell; and it may go much bigger and smaller than we can see. The level of diversity is also incredible, no two stars are exactly alike, no two people are exactly alike, and no two snowflakes are exactly alike. God shows both his power and creativity in creation. I really like that it mentions the "seas and all that is in them" because this has really blossomed for us in the past half century or so as we are able to record and see what is in the seas. Some of the creatures I've seen look made up, but are real, living, amazing creations of God. See the website, I've included a link: http://www.godofwondersvideo.org/chapter12.htm
We'll come back to this verse in a bit to support another point, but let's move to God's sovereignty over man in election:
Nehemiah 9:7-8 You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
God chose to take a man and his barren wife to make a people who would be in the spotlight of his grace for the next 1700 years, through whom the blessing of Christ would come to all people groups. God promised them the land of Israel, even when it was populated by many other wicked people, it seemed impossible, but because God is righteous, he kept his promise, and the people at this exact moment in Nehemiah 9 were living that promise fulfilled.
Here we see that God interacts with mankind, he is not a "deistic deity" which means he created the universe and then left it alone. This is seen prominently in verse 9, where God is involved and is a God of miracles:
Nehemiah 9:9-10 And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day.
Next we'll see that God is selective, and also able to avenge his people.
Nehemiah 9:11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters.
After the Israelites fled through the Red Sea, it opened up for God to do many other things. He led them:
Nehemiah 9:12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.
God gave them light in the darkness, and led them where they should go. Besides a physical leading, God is able to communicate himself and his laws morally:
Nehemiah 9:13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments,
This law is not burdensome, it points to the coming Messiah, it shows us why God is God and we are not. It opens up the opportunity for God to be both our Creator and our Saviour. Most directly, it gives us a definitive moral law to discern right from wrong.
Contained in that Law is the Sabbath, which is directly concerned with mankind resting for the glory of God, especially now where we rest in Jesus Christ, and it shows that God is attentive to the welfare of his people.
Nehemiah 9:14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.
Let's read another verse:
Mark 2:27-28 And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."
Next we see that God is sustainer:
Nehemiah 9:15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
If you jump back to verse 6 you see that God is preserving all of his creation, in the New Testament it says Christ holds it together by the power of his Word. I wasn't going to, but we have to read that one!
Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and God always does, he could easily cut this planet off from sustenance just by causing it to stop raining, or for the crops to stop growing, and the Bible promises before it is all over, a famine so great will strike the world that a loaf of bread will cost over a $100. But through history until now, God has been sustaining his people.
But his people were not grateful, yet God is patient.
Nehemiah 9:16-17 But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
We've got several other attributes in there, don't we, merciful, gracious, forgiving, and full of love. It was almost as though the Israelites in the Sinai desert were trying to prove that God is rich in mercy:
Nehemiah 9:18-19 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, 'This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,' and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.
Here and in the next verse we see that God's grace is not contingent on men doing anything, in fact, if it was, then it wouldn't be grace. God continued to give them good things, even though they utterly rebelled. This went on for 40 years. Another attribute we'll see in this passage is that God also gave his Spirit to instruct.
Nehemiah 9:20-21 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
After these 40 years, God proved himself to be faithful to his promises by giving them the land he had promised. Not only did he give them the land and multiply them, but it was already prepared for them to move right in. God plans things in advance, he has foreknowledge and the power to make it happen. He sees the end and the beginning, and he is working all things for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Nehemiah 9:22-25 And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.
Right at the end of this passage we have another attribute of God, that he is good, which means perfect and complete, there is no darkness in him, he is the standard and highest measure of good. This is intensified by how mankind constantly reacts to him, even his own people. God does not abandon his people, but he also does not let them continue towards their destruction. Let's read another New Testament verse,
Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
God is a correcting God.
Nehemiah 9:26-27 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer.
God's punishment is correctional not punitive towards his people. He is also saviour.
Nehemiah 9:27-31 And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
At this point it gets a little tedious, God is good and his people rebel, over and over and over again. This is a great look at the fact that we cannot obey God on our own, but that we need an intercessor, we need someone to bear our sins for us, and someone to guide us. God has provided both for us in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. The Old Covenant was good, but God was making a definitive statement that it was not perfect and that the New is so much better than the Old. We are thereby warned by God to not fall back from his Son, and we also see that God sends prophets who proclaim his message.
All of this points us at the fact that when sin increases, grace abounds all the more. Therefore the Apostle Paul asks, "Should we then sin all the more so that grace abounds further?" No, this leads back to our very first point, that God is worthy to be praised. His faithfulness leads us to something else, let's read Romans 2:4:
Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
This is precisely where the Israelites in Nehemiah 9 go, let's read about their awesome repentance:
Nehemiah 9:32-38 Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. "Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.
We'll look at this covenant next week, but the main point is that the attributes of God led these people to strive for holiness, not to sin all the more so that God's patience and kindness and admonishing would be magnified. We long to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, to be so perfectly sanctified that we neither want to sin, and do not sin. This is, of course, impossible apart from the perfect work of God in us which he has accomplished through his Son who is the embodiment of all of God's attributes, an instructor to the foolish, a light in the darkness, the only God, gracious, merciful, patient, and the Saviour of all who believe. We know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we have such a great and lasting promise of God's faithfulness. He has been faithful with others, we trust he will be faithful with us, he has been faithful in the past, so we can trust that he will be faithful forever. Let's close with Philippians 1:6.
Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Youth Pastor Candidate
Dave Sloan Preaching
Big Shanty Festival Outreach
David's continued sanctification
Jennifer's dad's safe travels
James - Camping Scouts
Text – Nehemiah 8
Nehemiah 8 is the main reason I started going through Nehemiah. This is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. A lot of times when I’m open-air preaching I get pseudo (name only) Christians saying, “Open-air preaching isn’t biblical!” Can you give me some examples of open-air preaching in the Bible? Noah, Jonah, Ezra, Paul, Peter, Stephen, and one more major example, Jesus. Open-air preaching is profoundly biblical, it is one of the major ways that Christianity has spread, great preachers of the past included Patrick, Boniface, John Knox, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon, to name only a few of many.
Sometimes open-air preaching is done evangelically, to take the gospel out to people who normally wouldn’t listen, other times, like with George Whitefield and John Flavel, it was because they had no church to preach in. Whitefield was disliked by the Anglican Church, and Flavel was a Puritan, outlawed by the Anglican Church from mentioning his Christian beliefs. We’ll see today that often an open-air meeting is to accommodate massive numbers of people.
This passage has also been used heavily to drive the liturgy of the church. What is liturgy? The way we do church. It’s the way we sing, read the Bible, pray, and the actions we take during these things. There are lots of different liturgies between different denominations, I think it would be very foolish for us to try to say one way is the only right way, the important thing is that our motives are pure in how we do church. We’ll see some great things in Nehemiah today, but there are lots of other ways described throughout the Bible. One of my favorite examples is when Hannah prays silently but her mouth is moving, and it’s so weird to the priest that he accuses her of being drunk. Was she wrong? No. Can you pray silently or outloud? Yes, whichever seems most appropriate for the situation.
Let’s do some review real quick, what major even has just been completed in Nehemiah? They have just finished the wall and set the gates. The city of Jerusalem is now well on its way to restoration, but the spiritual side of Jerusalem is still pretty wrecked. How many days did it take to rebuild the wall? 52, was that quick? Yes, everyone who saw it had to agree that it was accomplished because God was with them, even in the face of severe persecution. So, let’s now take a look at the restoration of the spiritual state of Judah.
Nehemiah 8:1 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.
Ezra wrote down the history of Jerusalem from the end of the Babylonian Exile to right before Nehemiah came to town. They call on him to read the Law, or more specifically the word here is Torah. What is the Torah/Law? It is the first 5 books of the Bible, the 5 books of Moses. What are they? Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. There was a law, which the Jews had forsaken for at least 160 years, to read the Torah to all of the people every seven years. Some people believe that this was all five books, but most really good scholars believe this was just the book of Deuteronomy, which is really a great summation of the whole Torah, plus there is a verse that makes it sounds like just Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 31:10-13 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Ezra was called to read it, he was a scribe, it was his job to make copies of the Old Testament, this would make him especially well familiar with the Bible. Here is something you can consider doing that I have been doing for a while. I make a copy of one chapter of the Bible every week, it really slows me down and makes me think. It’s not the only way to make sure you pause to think on your Bible, but it is a great way.
Nehemiah 8:2 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.
Here is an important point throughout church history until about the 1950's onward, that youth ministry was unheard of. If you were old enough to understand, you stood in the congregation and learned with the adults.
Nehemiah 8:3-4 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. 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.
This is five or six hours of reading, and we see that they were attentive, they paid attention to the reading. This wasn't all reading, as we'll see in a bit, there was explanation of what the text meant and even translation for those who didn't have a strong grasp of Hebrew, as many in attendance grew up speaking Chaldi, or the language of the Babylonians.
Nehemiah 8:5 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.
Speaking of liturgy, do you even wonder why the pastor stands on a stage? In recent years I think that many churches have utterly lost this concept and have turned the pulpit into nothing more than a stage for entertainment and self agrandizement. The reason for an elevated pulpit is for the main purpose that people can see and hear the one speaking. A secondary purpose is that it shows authority, and hopefully gives reverence to the message.
I find in open-air preaching that if I am standing even a few inches above my audience, that my voice carries farther, and people will stop and listen. I have preached from street level on occasion and have had much less visible evidence that people were listening than if I stand on a box or a wall.
Everyone could see Ezra opening the book, the Hebrew word here is cepher, it really ought not be translated "book", what Ezra opened here was a scroll.
When he opened it, all of the people stood in reverence. It was tradition to stand during the reading of scripture for much of the Dark Ages; during the Reformation, many traditions like this were outright done away with. There were a lot of other weird things people were doing that you can't find in the Bible, like reading the Bible in Latin to people who didn't speak Latin, or clothing to set the priests apart from the laity (called sacerdotalism), and all sorts of strange rules about things like communion, baptism, "crossing" yourself when you came before a crucifix, or bowing a certain number of times during the service. The Reformation did away with many of these things as Popish superstition.
Not all of it was unbiblical though, such as we see here the standing in reverence when the Law of God is opened. Here is where it can be wrong though, if the standing is just tradition or is mandated. It is better that you stay seated and give reverence to the hearing of the Word, than stand because everyone else does and ignore what is being said; not ignoring in hearing, but ignoring in believing and acting on.
Nehemiah 8:6 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.
Here is one place we get the idea of praying before the scripture is read. Praying is always good, but again, if you just do it to do it, you're doing it wrong. We don't have it recorded in the Bible, but Jewish tradition has recorded what Ezra's prayer could have been. In order to break with tradition of only praying at the beginning and end of a lesson, lets pray Ezra's prayer now,
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the world, who hath chosen us out of all people, and hath given us his law; blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast given us the law; and all the people answer, Amen.
The Amen at the end literally means "Truth", and it is an affirmation of what has just been prayed. Yesterday at the Big Shanty Festival a very flamboyant person came up and asked to pray with us, it was awkward to say the least, at the end of his prayer, which was charismaniac goofiness, I was very reserved to give an "amen."
One thing which we don't often do is what they did, lifting their hands towards Heaven. I think one of the reasons we shy away from this is because it has been hijacked by the emotionalistic bents of christendom that want to "feel" something in worship, and their handraising is often almost cultish and very mystic (feelings based). But we have to remember that we don't reject biblical truth just because someone is doing it wrongly. Check out what Paul says,
1 Timothy 2:8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
This is the method of Psalm 134, calling us to reach towards Heaven, moreso spiritually than physically, but also physically, when we are in need. We'll read a verse in the sermon on the mount in just a moment that will show us why, but before we do, can someone please read Psalm 134...the whole thing, if you're able:
Psalm 134:1-3 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD! May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!
So then, they read the Law, what do we do if someone doesn't understand what it means, or even what it says? That's verse 7-8,
Nehemiah 8:7-8 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. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
They explain what it means, I love that it says they "read clearly", and I'd encourage you to know what a passage says before you stand to read it. I hate it when a preacher stands up to preach and it sounds like he's reading the passage for the first time as he begins his sermon. If you're going to read the Bible to other people, I beg of you, practice being a good reader. Several commentaries also say that the Hebrew words used here give an indication that the Law was also translated into other languages so that people whose first language was not Hebrew would get a perfect grasp of what was being said.
The Law is good, it is wonderful, it is a textual representation of who God is: holy, perfect, undefiled; but the Law is directly against us, when we sin it stands as a witness against us. When the people heard how perfect God is in the Law, it caused them to mourn, as we'll see in the next passage,
Nehemiah 8:9-12 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
They are weeping over their sin, and it would have been rightly so, if it had not been during a festival (we'll see it in a minute), and all of the festivals pointed to the faithfulness of God towards a repentant people, which these people were.
Numbers 10:10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.
So Nehemiah sends them off not to mourn, but to feast. These sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice,
Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
This is why Nehemiah and the priests could tell the people not to mourn, but to celebrate, even though they saw that they were great sinners. This is why Jesus could make an extremely audacious claim in the Sermon on the Mount,
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The Hebrew people in Nehemiah 8 had no idea (or very little idea) how that was going to take place, but they trusted that God was faithful, and because they trusted in God, they did their best to keep his laws. Which is our next section.
Nehemiah 8:13 On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.
Pause here really quick, in Nehemiah 8 we see both corporate worship and private study. A church is much blessed when it has godly leaders who study and believe and act on their Bibles.
In it they discovered a law that they were forsaking, and called people to honor it:
Nehemiah 8:14-18 And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, "Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written." So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.
Let me sum this up for your real quick since we are quickly running out of time. The Feast of Tabernacles, or Feast of Booths, was a one week celebration where the people would live in "tents" made of palm fronds and other leafy branches. It commemorated a time in the desert with Moses when God dwelt in the midst of the people, not in a temple, but in a tent, and they could see his glory, for he was with them. It was meant to be a reminder of God's faithfulness in calling his people out of slavery into the promised land. Unfortunately the Jews had done a very bad job of commemorating this event, after all, it took a long time and a lot of effort, and was quite uncomfortable. It would be like me saying, next week don't go sleep in your own beds, we're going to camp in the parking lot. It was celebrated on and off since Joshua, but here it tells us that it was celebrated with more joy and more correctly than it had been since his time.
Jerusalem must have looked pretty weird during this time, with homemade tents all over, on roofs, in front yards, in two of the major open places, on every street. But the people were celebrating that God was faithful, that he would once against dwell with them, that they would once against see his glory.
I wish we had time to read John 7 and really look at it, but I want to point out really quickly that Jesus went to the Feast of Tabernacles and revealed himself as the purpose of the feast, but look at the last verses of that passage (which is actually the last verse of chapter 7 and first verse of chapter 8),
John 7:53-8:1 They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
So here-in is our conclusion, that Jesus Christ is the reason that the people were not to mourn over their sin, that the Law pointed towards him, the Feast of Tabernacles pointed towards his faithfulness, that he would dwell with his people and make them right with God. In John 7 they missed him altogether, beloved, I pray that you will not miss this Godman who dwelt among us.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So beloved, testify to him, show the glory of God through the man who died on a cross but yet lives, who is the one who can say to those who mourn, you shall be comforted. Do so in public, or in private, study his word, tell people about him. Give full reverence to his Word, but moreso to him, do nothing from vain tradition, but out of respect to the Righteous and Resurrected One. Lift your hands and your soul towards him in recognition of your great need for his salvation and his blessings, and in that, I pray that he may bless you, he who made heaven and earth.