Thursday, November 8, 2018

Bringing Out the Book - Doug Rehberg

Years ago when I worked for the County Manager of Dade County, Florida, I attended a church on Key Biscayne where my friend and mentor Steve Brown was pastor. One Sunday I remember sitting there listening intently to his message on the sovereignty of God. (I remember the last 5 to 10 minutes word for word, and that was 40 years ago.)

Now the custom at Key Biscayne was that immediately after the sermon the congregation would sing the words,

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

Then everyone would stand up and greet each other. The service of worship was over.

But this particular Sunday morning I didn’t want the worship to end. So, instead of greeting anyone, I got up out of my seat and almost ran to my car. I was the first one out of the parking lot that day. Rather than heading home, I drove a mile and a half to a deserted section of beach where I spent the next hour or so walking and listening to Jesus’ voice. You say, “Was He a baritone or a soprano?” I can’t tell you. All I can tell you is that for the next hour it was Jesus and me. He was speaking, and I was listening. Have you ever had an experience like that?

Six years ago a dear friend of mine was listening to a sermon delivered in the Barclay Building at the 8:15 service. When the message was over and the music was done, he just sat there. In fact, he says that he sat there for nearly a half hour thinking about what the Lord had just said to him in that sermon. And you know what’s the most interesting to me about that experience? He’s always the first one out!

In Revelation 8 the Bible says that when the Lamb of God opens the seventh and final seal on the heavenly scroll there will be 30 minutes of silence. Now there’s a lot of speculation as to what that means. But among all the interpretations there is a common feature – the awe and wonder of God. The reason there’s a half hour of silence is because no one can speak; they’re mesmerized.

The same is true in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 8. Nehemiah says, “All the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate.” Now remember this is in the wake of the successful completion of the wall. In 52 days they complete a project that had flummoxed generations of Jews. No one could do it until God did it through His servant Nehemiah. In the immediate aftermath the people of Jerusalem gather at the Water Gate and command Ezra to bring out the Book and start reading. And you know what happens when he does? They hear God speak to them. Oh no, this hearing is not just the hearing of the ears. This is the hearing of the heart! This is Key Biscayne hearing! This is 2012, 8:15 worship hearing! This is God one-on-one with each member of that gathered crowd, and the results are amazing. Simply put, the Lord uses the law to dispense His grace.
This is a rich text. It deserves our full attention. In preparation to hear expectantly, attentively, and responsively on Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1. Where and what is the Water Gate?
2. How big is this crowd?
3. Who is Ezra? What’s his pedigree?
4. Why does the crowd demand for the Book to be read?
5. Why build a platform in verse 4?
6. What’s the result of this 6+ hours of reading? (see verses 6-8)
7. In light of the people’s reaction to the reading, why do Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites tell the people to quit crying?
8. What is the meaning of the message in verses 10 and 11?
9. What’s verse 12 tell us about the purpose of the law?
10. Who is the Prime Mover in everything that happens in chapter 8?
EXTRA CREDIT: Exposition + Application = ?

See you Sunday!