Reading The Word

When I evaluate my own attitude and posture during worship, does it match what I see demonstrated in Scripture?

Scripture References & Transcript

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Deuteronomy 31:10-12

One of my parents’ favorite shows. And then because they watched it all the time, it became, one of my favorite shows is Antique Roadshow. Anybody out there ever watch Antique Roadshow? There’s two parts of Antique Roadshow that are amazing to watch. One is when someone thinks they have something of value, and they think that this thing is gonna get appraised for a huge amount, because that’s, that’s kind of the, the whole gig that that’s what the show’s about. That what made the show famous is people found junk. They brought it to an appraiser, and that appraiser said, how much do you think your junk is worth? And they said, I don’t know, a few bucks. And they’d say, it’s worth a million dollars. And then they’d scream and they’d say, it’s amazing. And so it led to these other people that would show up with their junk that they thought wasn’t really junk.

And that appraiser would look them in the eyes after they’d explained and tell the story, and they’d say, how much do you think it’s worth? And they would say something small, but you could tell in their eyes they thought they had the next million dollar item. And then they would say, it’s probably worth a hundred dollars. And then they would just be crestfallen. And there’s something about that moment that you, you cringe with that person. You felt bad for that person, and yet that was part of the reason you watched. But occasionally, occasionally there was that person that brought in some piece of junk that they found at a garage sale, or it was their grandma’s or their grandpa’s, and it was sitting in a basement or sitting on a shelf, and no one ever knew where it came from. And it’d been passed around and, and maybe when someone passed away, no one really wanted it.

So they ended up with it and they bring it to Antique Roadshow because someone said, Hey, you should get that appraised. And that person looks at it, and, and you can tell, as, as the watcher, you can tell when the, the appraiser gets excited about an item, something that this person thinks is junk. And they, they, they just say, oh, I’m just so shocked. This is incredibly rare. I haven’t seen one of these in a really long time. These don’t exist anymore. And then they give the story and the history, and then you can see that person that, like their eyes are starting to get big. They’re like, what does this mean? And then they say, the actual value of this item, if it were to go to auction, is, and then when it’s a big number, I mean, your mind is blown. You’re just like, wow. How could it be that a piece of junk for somebody is worth so much more for someone else? How could it be that a treasure, a life-changing treasure was sitting on a shelf for all those years and no one noticed? And yet the word of God, the Bible in your life and in my life so often is the exact same way. It’s a treasure, a world changing, life changing treasure that can change everything about who

You are and who I am. And yet, so often what do we do? We let it sit on a shelf. I, I brought the Bibles not from home. I’ve got way more at home than this. These are just the Bibles that were in my office this morning. I, I thought when I walked up to, to my office, I thought, I, I’ll probably have five or six Bibles, and then I kept pulling ’em off the shelf and pulling ’em off the shelf and pulling ’em off the shelf. And I would bet that if I went to your house and started rummaging around that you would have a stack of Bibles. And yet, how often do we recognize the treasure, the true treasure that is there? The reason that you and I have an English bible goes back to a guy named William Tindale. There’s a big publishing company that’s named after William Tindale.

He lived from 1494 to 1536. William Tindale was brilliant. He spoke eight different languages, and he had a heart. He had a mission that he felt that God gave him to translate scripture into the English language. Uh, he took it from original Hebrew, from original Greek. Of course, when you speak languages, clearly the guy’s very good at languages. And so he would take the original translations and translate them into English. But here’s the, the kicker. It was illegal to do that at that time. Primarily scripture was in Latin. And there was this idea inside, uh, the big church, which is primarily at that point the Catholic church. This is gonna be right at that moment in history that the Protestant reformation happens. But there’s this idea inside the church that only educated people should be given the word of God. That the Bible shouldn’t just be available to anyone and everyone.

And so they wanted to keep it only in Latin so that only the educated to read it. William Tindale disagreed. He thought everyone should have the word of God. And although it was illegal for him to do what he was doing, he still chose to go down that path. Here’s a famous quote from him describing his process. He says, I defy the Pope. It was the Pope who had said, it’s illegal to make an English translation. He says, and defy that Pope in all his laws, if God spare my life, I will make a boy that jth the plow. No more of the scripture than thou does. That was his heart’s desire, that he wanted a boy that was a farmer that was on the plow to be able to read and experience the word of God. And he did exactly that. And yet it cost him his life.

He was killed for it. He was strangled to death and then burdened at the stake. Why? Because he wanted you and me to be able to experience the word of God. What we have in our hands is a treasure that so often collects dust and gets ignored. If you’ve got a Bible, turn with me to Nehemiah. We’re gonna be in chapter eight, Nehemiah chapter eight. If you don’t have a Bible, you can fall along on the Cherry Hills app. It has all the notes that we’ll put on the screen. We’re gonna put these on the screen, uh, but we’re gonna do something a little bit different. And, and maybe depending upon your tradition or your background in church, you’ve done this. But today for the reading of the word of God, we’re gonna all stand up. So let’s stand up. We’re gonna read 12 verses.

It’s probably gonna take me about four minutes or so so you can stretch while you’re doing it. Uh, one, one thing that we’ll find out in the first couple sentences is that the context of when he’s reading is the seventh month. So the significance of the seventh month is this, that the final feasts of the Jewish calendar all occur during the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. The Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Uh, this will be happening during the Feast of Trumpets. So Nehemiah chapter eight, verses one through 12. There’s a lot of really big words in here in, in terms of names that are Jewish names from really, really long time ago. And I’m not gonna say all of them correctly, but here’s the good news. You don’t know the right way to say it either. So we’re gonna all be on the same page.

Chapter eight verse one, it says, and all the people gathered as one man in the square before the Watergate, and they told Ezra, the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, that the Lord had commanded Israel. 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. And he read from it, facing the square before the Watergate, from early morning until midday. I just wanna point out that he preached from the morning until midday. And and you don’t see people complaining in there, <laugh>, um, doesn’t say anybody walks out early either. Just throwing that out there. So in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand in 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. Beside him stood Mattia, Shima Anaya, Uriah Ho and Messiah on his right, and Padia Michel Lilja, hash hash bad, Anaya, Zacharia and Meum on his left. Whew. There’s there’s another list. So, so we’re not done yet. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for was above all the people. And as he opened it, all the people stood. 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. Also, Yeshua, Bena, Rabia, Jamin, ku Shabbath ho mess, Kalita Azariah, Joseba, Hannon, AYA. And the Levites help 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 gave the sense so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemiah, who is the governor, and Ezra, the priest in 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 is nothing ready for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength. And all the people went their way to eat and to drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Please be seated.

So the context of it is this, that that you have, as we’ve talked about over and over in the book of Nehemiah, that you had a people that were in exile, that they come back from exile and coming back from exile, the first thing they do is they rebuild the temple. Uh, then it takes a long time, but eventually Nehemiah comes back and he rebuilds the wall. All the people are involved in this process of rebuilding the wall. It takes 52 days at this moment in time. The wall is finished, it is done. And so now after that, Ezra is getting up and he is reading from the law, reading from the first five books of the Old Testament. And now this was not like today where you can just pick up a Bible at any bookstore. You can look at it on an app, you can look at it online that it’s so accessible.

No, at that time, unless you had the scroll, you, you didn’t understand the word of God. And so the common person did not ever hear the word of God unless they were going specifically to a service where a, a priest would, or a Levite would teach about the word of God. And so you have a gathered assembly. Many of them have probably in their entire lifetime never heard the word of God. But in this celebratory moment, the word of God is proclaimed. And then you see the people’s response to the word of God. Here’s how the people respond really quickly, that first they were attentive. So they’re not just hearing but not paying attention. Uh, we, we all know exactly what that looks like, especially at church right now, even it’s just natural to start to slowly zone out. But what does it say that the people do that they were attentive to what was being read and said?

It says that they stood. So there’s this, this part of this that they’re trying to honor the word of God. It says that they agreed. That’s what that word amen means. It can be translated as truly or in agreement with. So they are agreeing with what is being taught. It says that they lifted up their hands now lifted up your hands sometimes inside a church can be this controversial thing. It shouldn’t be a controversial thing. And yet, sometimes it is a controversial thing. And you can go on both extremes of lifting up your hands on this one extreme. You can say, well, you should always lift your hands and everybody needs to lift your hands. And if you’re not lifting your hands and you’re not very godly and you’re not very holy, and that’s not biblical, and that’s not really right. And then the other extreme, people say, well, you should never lift your hands.

You should put your hands in your pocket. You, you, you shouldn’t be given any kind of display of emotion because that’s not honoring, uh, and that’s really wrong and not biblical. And so what, what does it look like? First, let’s start with why should I ever lift my hands? Well, what does it mean culturally when we lift our hands? I am a fan of the Houston Astros. There’s like four of us. Alright? I got a couple, a lot of booze out there for the Houston Astros, but I was a fan of the Houston Astros my whole life, and I went through way too many down bad years cheering for that team to abandon them during the good years, if you get what I’m saying. And so we have been watching the Houston Astros and we got down oh two to the Texas Rangers, and then we’ve come back three, two, and there’s been some really huge moments, some really big home runs, specifically by Jose Altuve.

And you are on Alvarez. And when that happens, guess what I do in my living room? And oftentimes my son with me and sometimes trying to get the rest of the family involved, who’s only half paying attention. Uh, when we have a big moment, we jump up and lift our hands and cheer. There’s something about it. If you’ve been twist worthy, you’ve done the same thing. Now no one explains to you when you’re going in. They don’t hand out a pamphlet and say, this is the right way to cheer when we do something good. You’re supposed to put your hands into the air. Uh, no one explains that. There’s just something about how we’re wired that it feels right when something good happens to say woo. And so there’s something celebratory about why we raise our hands in all kinds of different parts of life.

Uh, there’s also this aspect of surrender that when an invading army is coming in and people are trying to surrender to that army, what do they do? They show them their hands. They say, no, no, no, I surrender. My hands are up. And so why in scripture? And it’s not just this one place. We see this over and over and over in scripture. Why do we see people raise their hands? Well, partly I think it’s celebration. Woo-hoo. And then partly I think it’s surrender. It’s surrender. And here’s what’s interesting for at least me personally inside of worship, is there are times that the reason that I’m lifting my hands is because it’s a response to my heart that my heart is engaged and compelled and worship. And so I lift my hands in response to where my heart is. But do you know, sometimes it’s the opposite.

Sometimes my heart is drifting or my heart is focused on something else. My head isn’t really in the moment. And then as a way of trying to reign in my heart, I lift my hands to try and remind my heart of the posture of worship. And so what does that mean? Does that mean that I should lift my hands and worship or I shouldn’t lift my hands? And worship it ultimately means that you inside of worship should worship God, as Jesus says in spirit and in truth. What does that mean? That let your external reflect your internal. And so, so that means that you can worship God sitting down with your hands in your pockets. You can worship God that way as long as in doing that, you’re doing it with a heart that is trying to resonate with the words that you’re singing. That that what is worship music?

Worship music, music is essentially prayers sung to God. And so if you are resonating with that and agreeing with that, with your hands and your pockets and sitting on the seat, then man, go for it. As long as that is being done in a worshipful way, if raising your hands helps you to worship and engage with with God, then go for it. Sometimes people will complain to me. They’ll say, man, how can we never sit down and worship? That’s not intentional. We never tell you to stand up and worship either. People just tend to stand. And we’ve even had different moments where we tell people to sit and then the next song starts, and guess what happens? People stand right back up. And so if you don’t like standing near and worship, I got good news for you. You don’t have to. There’s there. We don’t have a sign that says you have to stay standing.

If you wanna sit there and worship, sit there and worship. You can sit the whole time. And do you know that it doesn’t make you any worse of a Christian than someone who’s standing the whole time? That ultimately it’s about your heart. It’s about how you are responding to what God is doing. And so they, the response of the people when the word of God was lifted up, they lifted their hands. And it doesn’t give us the explanation of why. It doesn’t say they lifted their hands in celebration. It doesn’t say they lifted their hands in surrender. It just says that they lifted their hands. And sometimes for us, that’s an appropriate response. It says they bowed their heads that oftentimes we bow our heads without thinking why we’re bowing our heads. But they’re doing it in this reverent act of worship. It says they worship the Lord with their face to the ground.

The proclamation of God’s word is changing their hearts. They’re responding to it. It’ll later tell us that they were weeping, they were understanding the word of God, many of them for the very first time, and it was changing them. And then it says that they understood that it wasn’t just teaching the word, it was also explaining what that meant. And so this is how they responded. And sometimes there are things in scriptures that are de scripted. Sometimes there are things in scripture that are prescriptive. So this is describing what they did. It’s not necessarily saying that every time we worship that these are prescribed, that we have to do the exact same things. And yet the heart of what they did is true. I I would say that this would be the prescriptive part of us of how we should respond to worship the way that we should respond to worship should look like this.

Uh, that you see that the people were unified in verse one, it says, they were gathered together as one. If we are coming together as the body of Christ and we are not unified, there’s something wrong in that. ’cause that’s, that’s what scripture tells us. We have a thousand different opinions in the room right now. Probably if we sat down and talked politics or sports or, or even different parts of theology, we’d be all over the map. And yet what unites us together should be more important than all the things that divide us. What unites us together should be the name of Jesus, that I’m standing underneath the authority of scripture saying that although I’m very different from you and you’re very different from me, we have this one thing. And that one thing makes us have more in common with somebody outside the room that might have a thousand things more similar to your personality and your background.

But if they don’t have this one thing that Jesus is Lord of their life, then their whole worldview is radically different than what we have here. So we should be united together. The people were unified, it says that the word was magnified. Now ultimately, if, if you just come every weekend, all we did was put somebody up to talk about their feelings or their opinions or their thoughts. It wouldn’t add that much value that we as a church, well, we believe wholeheartedly is that I have no authority apart from the word of God, that I’m underneath the authority of God’s word, never above the authority of God’s word. And so every single week we should be magnifying the word of the Lord, that God was glorified. He was glorified in their worship, he was glorified in their teaching. Ultimately, he was glorified in their lives, that their worship intensified, that they engaged in worship, that they didn’t just watch, they didn’t just observe, but they participated in their hearts and their minds, and then their lives were edified.

That they took something from what was taught in order to apply it to their life. That every time we gather together, every time we hear the teaching of scripture that our life should be different, we should walk out changed, we should walk out looking internally and saying, okay, how should this change how I think and how I act and how I speak their lives? Were edified. Here’s what it leads me to ask. When I look at Nehemiah chapter eight, here’s the question. When I evaluate on my own, when I evaluate on my own attitude and posture during worship, does it match what I see demonstrated in Nehemiah chapter eight? Do I just go through the motions sometimes of worship? Or is my heart aligned the same way that theirs was? And now the reason that they respond the way that they do, the reason they have the teaching of the word of God is because we’re actually taught in the Old Testament that they should have done that.

Look what it says in the law. So in Deuteronomy chapter 31, it required the people of Israel to hear the reading of the law once every seven years. So they would gather together and read the whole thing. Here’s what it says in Deuteronomy chapter 31, verses 10 12. It says, in 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 of Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God, the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. So you’ve had this really long time where they haven’t done that, and now they’re applying it and it’s gonna explain why this is important. Moses says, 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.

So, so why are we supposed to read the word of God? Why are we supposed to hear teaching from the word of God? It’s so that we might fear the Lord and apply its teaching to our lives. Simple question. Why is the word of God important to our lives? I, I think it’s primarily important for three different key aspects. Number one is it helps us to understand who God is. That if I wanna understand God, if I want to know God, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God, the Bible is the avenue that God has given you. The avenue has given me to understand who he is. Everything about scripture now, now the interpretation of scripture can get complicated, can get difficult, but everything in scripture, especially the moral part of scripture is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And, and so us understanding that and being able to, to recognize that God is using it for us to understand who he is, the character and the nature of God.

But it also helps us to understand who we are. And here’s the bad news. The more you read in scripture, guess the more that you learn about yourself that we’re not that great, we have a tendency to think that we’re awesome and we’re amazing. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people that are not so awesome and not so amazing that you can always compare yourself to someone that has done something worse than you. But what scripture tells us is that we are sinners in need of a savior, that we’re separated away from God. That is sin in our life means that we deserve death. That’s the state of humanity in scripture going all the way back to the very beginning. And so as I learn more about who God is and then I learn more about who I am, it helps me understand how much I need him.

And then ultimately it’s helping me understand how I should live. What should my day-to-day lifestyle look like? Now here’s a really challenging question in our culture today, although it shouldn’t be a challenging question, but it is. It’s this simple question, who gets to determine what’s right and wrong? Who gets to decide that we live in a very postmodern time in the world where there’s moral relativism? So you ask most people inside of our culture, the idea is, Hey, look, you determine what’s right for you. I determine what’s right for me. Uh, I’ve had conversations with a lot of different people that don’t believe in God and most of their theology of, uh, of morality. And, and yes, even someone who doesn’t believe in God, they have some type of theology. The theology is simply your understanding of God and, and how God works. And even if you don’t believe in God, that is in fact a theology of God.

And so somehow in their morality that they would describe their moral conviction, their moral compass is somewhere along the lines of this. They would say, everybody can do whatever makes them happy, so long as it doesn’t harm anybody else. And that sounds great, except for how do we define what harms somebody else? It’s a much more challenging thing when you start to unpack it than it sounds like. Like what, what about an animal? I mean, if we eat an animal that’s, that’s harming someone else. And so what’s the distinction between a human? And even if you say, well, okay, we’re gonna be vegan and vegetarian. I mean, if, if you’re in a plant, you’re killing the plant. So even that requires some type of death to somebody else. You you go back to, to Nazi Germany, and they would’ve said ultimately that that same type of thing, Hey, you do what makes you happy as long as it doesn’t harm anybody else.

But what did they do culturally? They determined who people were and who they determined people were not. And so they took two groups of people. They took, uh, the famous is they, they took Jews and they said, okay, we’re gonna determine that you’re less than human and because of that we’re gonna slaughter you. But they also took everybody with disabilities. And so what sometimes gets lost in World War II is Nazis. Uh, it was eugenics. It was this idea of trying to, uh, take uh, the the poor and the weak and, and try and eliminate them from the, from culture and the gene pool. And so they took anybody with special needs and they did the exact same thing to them as they did with the Jews. So that was a whole community of people that they determined who had value and who didn’t have value.

And so it goes back to this question, who decides what’s right and wrong? I I, I think the challenge is sometimes we think that God should just do whatever makes us happy all the time. Sometimes we want God, I I I’m gonna pray these different things. And if God was a loving God and he would just let me be happy and he would do things to let me be happy. But that falls apart really quickly. Uh, I’ve got three kids. My my youngest is five. And can I tell you, this isn’t bragging. This is just a hundred percent true. I am smarter than my five-year-old in every way, in every shape, in every form. I’m more athletically gifted than my five-year-old. We play some different sporting events. Sometimes we race and, and hey, spoiler alert, I let her win a lot, but I don’t have to.

Like, I, I could win every time, every single time. Basketball, football, she does gymnastics. I could be her gymnastics and I’m terrible at gymnastics. Like I can dominate her in every single way. I am superior to her in every single way. Notice I use my five-year-old, not my nine-year-old. ’cause there’s things now at nine that I don’t know that I can say that about, but I’m still confident with the five-year-old and, and my five-year-old all the time has things that she would like to do because those things would make her happy. And the most loving thing I can do when she asks to do something that would make her happy, that I know is ultimately not the best thing in the long run is to say what? Say no. I say no a lot. Every loving parent says no a lot. And, and there’s certain things that we would agree with as a culture, like nobody in culture.

If the five-year-old came up to me today and said, Hey, I wanna drink vodka, nobody in culture would be like, you know, you should just make her happy. Let her do what she wants. Only culture would say, Hey, hey, if your five-year-old comes up and says, Hey, I want to to try some cocaine, that you should let the five-year-old try cocaine. I don’t even know anybody that would say, Hey, and this is not anti tattoo, but most people would say, a five-year-old should not get a tattoo. Why? Because they would say, well, well wait a second. The five-year-old is not at a place where they understand the understand the long-term ramifications of their decisions. They’re not ready for that. That’s why they have a parent. And so there’s certain things that morally we’d say, those are not ambiguous. And yet here’s, I take it one step further, it’s gonna sound a little bit uncomfortable, but in our culture right now, there are people that would say that if my five-year-old who is a female decided that she wanted to become a male, that I should let her decide.

It seems like culturally that’s a morally ambiguous thing. And yet it shouldn’t be that God has placed me as the parent of my child in her life to not just make her happy and not just say yes all the time, but to guide her with the wisdom and the value that I have for her life. And the same is true in our relationship with God. Uh, let’s use a very practical example. Here’s a picture. There’s three different cars. There’s car number one, there’s car number two, and there’s car number three. What’s the order at these, this intersection that the car should go through? The intersection. Now, don’t yell it out quite yet, because I know I’ve been at some of these intersections with some of the people in this room, and I know that everybody does not know the answer to this question.

And I don’t wanna put you on the spot, but in a second, I’m gonna have you yell out which car goes first. And I want you to listen for those people around you that say the wrong answer. Alright? I’m gonna say 3, 2, 1. And you yell out which car goes first. 3, 2, 1, 2, 2. All right. Most of you got that right? So it should be that two goes first because car one has a yield sign and car three is turning left. And when you’re turning left, you always yield. People struggle with that for some reason. So two should go first and then number three, and then number one, that’s the rule. And when people don’t follow that rule, what happens? Things start to break down and fall apart. Now, this is a civil law, but God has given us a moral law, and the moral law never changes.

And here’s where the moral law ultimately says, is that I don’t get to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. God is our transcendent moral authority. God determines what’s right and what’s wrong. You and I are wired in such a way that we are gonna worship something and God has given us the word of God to help us understand who he is so that we may worship him, but everyone worships something. If you’re not pursuing God and spending time with God and therefore worshiping God, you’ll find some other thing in your life that you worship. Our culture is full of it. Let’s look at a list. Here’s the truth. We are designed to worship. And if we don’t choose what we worship, then culture will choose for us. Uh, think about how we worship celebrities as a culture. Why? Because we’re designed to worship and we’re drawn towards elevating certain things inside of our life.

Sports is definitely that way. I, if your day is ruined emotionally because your team loses, then guess what you’ve done? You’ve taken sports and you’ve elevated it to, to, I would say an unhealthy level in your life. That entertainment can become that thing that we worship. People can worship fitness, they can get so obsessed with fitness, and that is what they worship. We can worship popularity. We can worship pleasure. That if we are not worshiping something, then culture will fill in the blank for us. The word of God helps us to understand God so that we can worship him. Let’s talk about how we respond to the word of God. Three things. One is celebration. It says to make great rejoicing because they had understood the words that were declared to them. And here’s a really important aspect of that. The law should lead to freedom and celebration and not.

And here’s the problem. When you start talking about scripture and the word of God, especially, you start throwing out words like the law of God, the transcendent moral authority of God is that there’s a part of us that that pushes back on that because you’ve experienced in different contexts, likely in your life, people that use the word of God as a beat stick. And they just said, stop doing that. The Bible says, now, I, I knew a family one time that when their kids would get in trouble, they would send ’em to the room to read the Bible. Can I just tell you that’s a terrible discipline method? Awful. Because what is it? Reinforcing? Reinforcing that you are in trouble bad. You have to as punishment read the Bible. Also bad. It’s creating this negative feeling around the Word of God. But that’s not what the word of God’s meant to do.

That. Are there rules inside the the law of God? Yes, but not rules meant to ruin your life or keep you in in life. No. It’s meant to give you life and celebration and fullness of life. And there are people that misuse it. Don’t hear me wrong over the history of the church. The word of God has been misused time and time and time again. But that is not the heart of the Word of God. And if you personally will spend time with the word of God, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, here’s what you’ll find. You’ll find freedom and celebration. And then also, here’s what we see as a response to the teaching of the word of God, generosity. It says in all the people went their way to eat and to drink, to send portions. That means that they took what they had and they gave it.

They gave it. They gave it. There’s a transformation that happens when we spend time, the word of God. Why? Because what happens? It becomes less and less about me and more and more about him. And we find that the fullest life I can have is one that is centered on a relationship with Jesus. And last thing I wanna close with, ’cause it’s a verse that we misunderstand the context all the time. It’s a very famous verse. There’s a lot of songs about this verse. There’s a lot of coffee mugs about this verse. It says, the joy of the Lord is your strength. But here’s what we miss in the context that that word strength, uh, mayo is, is a place or a means of safety, protection, a refuge, a stronghold. And so I want you to unpack with me contextually what’s happening. What did they just complete in 52 days? The wall. And so they were a people without a wall. And their mindset is that, Hey, we finally got the wall. The wall

Is done. This is our protection. This is our refuge, this is our strength. And what is Nehemiah? What is Ezra? What do they say? They say, no, no, no, no, no. Hey, the the wall’s important. We’re not gonna ignore the wall, but the wall is not our strength. What do they say? The strength is the word of God, the joy of the Lord. That’s where our strength comes from. And it was the same true for them as it is true for us, that if you wanna have strength in this life, the way you find that strength is to find your joy in the Lord. Here’s a challenge, I think for each and every one of us. You probably have a whole lot of these. If you don’t have a copy of a Bible, we would love to give you one for free at the end.

But how do I align myself with the word of God? I, I do it by making my joy the word of God. That the strength in my life should not come from my own understanding, my own thought, my own persuasion, my own fleeting feelings of happiness. No. Instead, I stand underneath the authority of God’s word. And by doing that, I can find a strength in this life, a strength that when times are amazing, I have fullness and celebration of life and a strength that when the bottom falls out, I have hope and I have strength.

Next year in January, we as a church together are going to do a big initiative reading through the whole Bible together as a year, we’re, we’re gonna use the Bible project, which if you’ve not experienced the Bible project, they’ve got amazing videos online. Uh, they do a great job of helping make it explainable easy to understand. And and here’s my challenge for you, is if you don’t regularly spend time reading scripture, start making the habit of it. Uh, when I was growing up, there were all kinds of different times that my parents corrected me. And as a kid, guess what? I hated those things. Like there’s never a time that I remember getting in trouble that at the end I was like, thank you so much for getting me in trouble. This was a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. And yet, can I tell you now as a 39 year old, that I look back and I’m so grateful for my parents and I’m grateful that they cared for me enough to have structure inside my life.

And they cared for me enough to have rules inside my life. And they cared for me enough to tell me no, even when I threw a fit and said, but this will make me happy. You see, I didn’t love their discipline then because I was immature. But now, the more mature I become in life, the more I understand and therefore love the discipline, the rules that they gave me. And the same is true with the word of God. The more immature we are in our faith, the more challenging and difficult the word of God is. But can I tell you something that if you’ll stick with it and through the power of your Holy Spirit, learn more and learn more, you will get to a place where no longer does this feel like a punishment to spend time in scripture, but you do it out of love because you value the wholeness, the truth, the celebration that gives your life that you can stand and truly attest to the fact that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for scripture. God, I thank you so much for the Bible. I thank you so much that you have given us a truth that is transcendent. It is beyond ourselves. And sometimes that’s challenging and sometimes it’s tricky and sometimes I don’t understand. And yet, the most loving thing that we can do for ourselves and for the people that know you and are falling after you is to affirm a lifestyle that lines up with your truth. Lines up with the word of God. So help us to be a church. Help us to be a people, to build our life on you. Build our life on your word. God, help us to not shy away from it, but understand it’s truth, it’s value yesterday, today, and forever. It’s the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.