“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). At the time these words were proclaimed, the Israelites had just returned from captivity in Babylon. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people had rebuilt Jerusalem’s ruined walls. Now they set their sights on reestablishing the temple and restoring the nation.
Nehemiah called a special meeting at the city’s Water Gate within Jerusalem’s rebuilt walls (see Nehemiah 8:1). The first thing that happened was the preaching of God’s Word. A hunger for the Word had developed among the people, so they did not need to be urged to listen. And they were fully prepared to submit to the authority of the Word, wanting to be governed by it and conform to its truth.
Amazingly, Ezra preached to the crowd for five or six hours. What an incredible scene. I believe it would be hard to find such an occurrence in the modern church. Yet true restoration can never take place without this kind of all-consuming hunger for God’s Word.
Make no mistake, at the Water Gate in Jerusalem there was no eloquent preaching. Ezra didn’t deliver a sensational sermon. Rather, he preached straight from the Scriptures, reading for hours on end and explaining the meaning. And as the people listened they grew excited.
At times Ezra was so overcome by what he read that he stopped to “[bless] the Lord, the great God” (8:6). The glory of the Lord came down powerfully and everyone raised their hands in praise. In repentance and brokenness, “they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (8:6). Then they stood up to experience even more.
There was no manipulation from the pulpit, no dramatic testimony. There wasn’t even any music. These people simply had an ear to hear everything God said to them.
Beloved, I believe the Lord desires to move among his people in the same way today. If we are going to see this type of revival and restoration we must have a hunger and excitement for the Scriptures as Ezra did!