In Old Testament times, the children of Israel had served a sentence of exile that lasted — for many of them — over 70 years. When they finally returned from Babylon to their homeland, they were so grateful to be home that they demanded their “pastor” Ezra come out, read the Bible, and teach them.
The sermon lasted something like six hours. Yikes!
The impact of God's Word
But something strange happened. The people listened like their lives depended on it. The people stood still, perked their ears up, and asked themselves, “How is this relevant to me? How does it apply to my life?”
What they heard from God’s word brought them to their knees. It grounded them in divine, spiritual reality. It rang true in their hearts and compared favorably to their life’s experiences. “Amen!” (“This is absolutely true!”) sprang from their lips.
So many people were eager to learn that they broke into small groups where they could ask their questions and have other teachers respond. The Levites dove back into the Bible and worked with the people, explaining the meaning so they could be clear on what God was telling them.
The blessings of contact with God's Word
Then their leader Nehemiah stood up and reminded them why they had so strenuously sought to have Ezra and the Levites teach them. It was to bring them out of their grief and restore their strength.
And where would that strength come from? God’s words and promises would remind them always. The joy they receive from the Lord would be their strength. God’s love, mercy, grace, the Lord’s peace, provision and protection — these would be their joy. And that joy would be their daily strength.
Take God's Word seriously
Who doesn’t need peace, joy and strength in their lives? My challenge to you this New Year’s is simply this: Take a serious look at the Israelites’ example. They believed the Bible’s teaching would give them these things and they gave God a chance to make good on his promises.
How about you? Will you give God a chance to make good on his promises in 2016?
It might just lead to surprising new strength for you in this new year!
Check this account out for yourself in Nehemiah 8:1-10.
Lord Jesus, let your joy — the joy of the Lord — be my strength. Help me to stay faithful to you and your word in the coming year, and grant me your Holy Spirit so that I may live in your love, forgiveness and power in the coming year.