Friday, December 13, 2013

Reading, Renewal, and Repentance

Today is the final day in our 49th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Nehemiah 7-9; Revelation 7; Psalm 140*.

If you've been traveling along with me on this "Read the Bible Through in a Year" journey, then no doubt God's Word has impacted your life.  Isaiah 55:10-11 says that God's Word always accomplishes God's desired effect in our lives.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

In the case of our reading in the book of Nehemiah, we find that God's Word, when read before the people, affected them in a variety of ways.

First, God's Word itself was enough to draw a huge crowd.  Ezra didn't have to put on a show, have elaborate set design or the most talented drama team or the coolest praise band.  The people were hungry for God's Word, so they came.

Next, God's Word elicited an emotional response from the people.  Nehemiah 8:9-12 says:

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and 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. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

But, God's Word would have served no lasting purpose in the people's lives if it had ended at an emotional response.  Instead, it prompted action.  As a result of reading God's Word, the people renewed a forgotten festival, and they repented of their sin.  

Too often, God's Word in our lives ends with an emotional response.  We leave the sanctuary with tears in our eyes, shaking the minister's hand and saying, "Good sermon, Pastor."  We talk about how moved we were by the sermon, at lunch after church.  Or, if the Bible affects us in a private reading, we may pour our hearts out to God in prayer or journal about how meaningful it is--and then walk away and forget it.  But for God's Word to have a lasting impact on our lives, we have to allow it to prompt us to action.

What action is God's Word calling you to perform today?  I pray that you won't let the Bible simply move you emotionally--but that you'll let it move your feet as well.  Let it take you wherever God wants you to go.  Let it make you do whatever God wants you to do.  Let it renew your forgotten feelings of joy before the Lord.  Let it lead you to respond with repentance before the Lord.  

*Scriptures today taken from the ESV.

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