Nehemiah 8–9 gives us some good biblical principles to follow on the subject of spiritual renewal. After the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity (c. 6th century B.C.E) Nehemiah, the Persian King’s cup-bearer, felt burdened to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
After he completed rebuilding the walls, the Israelites held a celebration beginning the first day of the seventh month, during the Feasts of Trumpets and Feast of Tabernacles. Some of the characteristics of that worship-celebration provide us with potentially good tips for personal rejuvenation.
Ten Ways to Renewal
- Extensive Scripture reading (Neh. 8:1–3a): Ezra the scribe read the Law of Moses before the assembly. He read it from “daybreak till noon,” and this went on “day after day” (Neh 8:18).
- Attentive Listening (Neh 8:3b): The people listened to Ezra’s reading. Hence, the Word of God was the center of attention.
- Worship (Neh 8:5-6): Ezra praised God as the people “lifted their hands” and “bowed down” as they worshipped the LORD.
- Sound Teaching (Neh 8:7–8; cf. 8:12): The Levites instructed the people in the Word of God “making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (NIV).
- Emotional Responses Permitted with Guidance (Neh. 8:9–12a; cf. 8:17): The people wept, apparently convicted of their sins. But since this was a time of celebration, Nehemiah thought it inappropriate. Thus, he encouraged them to rejoice instead, for the “joy of the LORD is your strength.”
- Almsgiving (Neh. 8:12 cf. 8:10): Nehemiah directed the people to share their blessings of food and drink with those who were less fortunate.
- Proclaiming the Word of God to Others (Neh. 8:13–16): The heads of the Jewish families were encouraged to share the message of God’s Word regarding the Feast of Tabernacles throughout their towns. This would seem to be the equivalent of sharing your faith; evangelism.
- Repentance (Neh. 9:1–3): The people fasted, humbled themselves with sackcloth and ashes, separated themselves to the LORD, and “confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers.” A quarter of the day was spent in the Word of God and another quarter spent in confession and worship.
9 & 10. Prayer and United Fellowship: Now let us compare these points with renewal in the New Testament in the Book of Acts. We find, among other things, the importance of prayer and united fellowship (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 42–47).
Take Home Points
Do you desire spiritual strength and renewal? If the revivals of Nehemiah and in Acts are worthy to inform us here, renewal happens largely when gathering together with other believers and not merely by yourself. Do you attend a thriving church and fellowship group? This, I would suggest, is the first step towards renewal.
The second is to carve out time every day to develop a prayer and devotional life that includes reading and studying Scripture.
If these pieces are in place and you are applying the principles above by faith, then I trust that you will be on your way.
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