Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 7
I read not long ago about a diagnostician who identified a new disease that inflicts many professing Christians. Now, the technical name for this disease, for those who understand Latin, is Morbus Sundayitis. Now, in layman's language, it's called Sunday Sickness. Now, the symptoms of this disease vary widely, though the illness, thank God, appears to never be accompanied with loss of appetite. And mysteriously, this illness sets in just about an hour before church time. And then, mysteriously, that illness always runs its course by 12:30, just in time for the sufferer to enjoy a hearty lunch and go play golf or watch football on television. And remarkably, these symptoms do not return until next Sunday. Remarkable indeed. Well, many professing Christians today either view worship, corporate worship in the church, as either an unpleasant chore. You just go and get it over and done with.
"Somebody asked me. Somebody dragged me. So I just go to church". Or sometimes, they go to church when they feel like it, or if they feel particularly spiritual, or when they really feel in need and they think that somehow this is gonna help. The list goes on, and on, and on. And yet, in this section in the book of Nehemiah, 7 and 8, reveals to us two biblical views of worship, corporate worship. Now, I trust that after this message you will begin to see corporate worship in a new way. Throughout this series of messages, we have been learning some practical lessons of how to rebuild our broken walls. These could be personal broken walls in our lives, or broken walls in our family, or broken walls in churches, or broken walls in our culture and our society at large. These principles are eternal principles.
Nehemiah's example of rebuilding with God's power, and God's strength, and the unity of God's people together is relevant to every single one of us and we need to learn from him. In the last message, we saw that the walls were built, but the gates were not hung. And as long as the door wide open, these gateways are wide open, the enemy kept thinking he's got a chance. And as I shared with you that in our own lives in our spiritual walk, when we leave open doors for Satan to come in and to invade our spiritual life, he will always, always cause us to fall. Here, we see that the whole project is completed. The walls were built and the gates were hung, all in 52 days. In spite of severe opposition, in spite of terrible discouragement that came even from the household of faith, in spite of drastic harassment by the enemies and those who hated God's people, in spite of all the discouragements and the difficulties, through God's power, God used them to do the impossible, and rebuild the walls, and hang the gates.
God completed the task. Nehemiah himself knew that the walls are just walls. He knew that the gates were just gates. All these are just stones and wood. They were mere objects. They were not the ultimate purpose. What mattered to Nehemiah, not the structures themselves, but the use that God's people would make of the structure. What mattered to Nehemiah was not so much a building of an edifice, but the edification of the builders. Are you with me? Nehemiah was intensely interested in the revival in the hearts of God's people and the revival in the midst of God's people. Once the building was finished, that is just a tool, a means to an end. With eyes of faith, Nehemiah could see that revival is coming. With the eyes of faith, Nehemiah did not see people serving a building, but he saw the building as a place where people are gonna serve God and be blessed by God by worshiping him.
And that is why Nehemiah, in chapter 8, he tells the people to celebrate. Verse 10, he said, "Celebrate: this day is holy unto the Lord". But before they can experience the joy of the Lord, before they can truly celebrate with joy in their hearts, they had to mourn over their sin. Sin of neglecting worship, sin of neglecting the Word of God, sin of compromise. Let me ask you a question. Do you want blueprint for joy in your life? Do you want a formula for renewal and growth in your life? Do you want the secret to a godly contentment, and confidence, and joy? Do you want to know God's plan for revival? Here it is. Here it is. For Nehemiah himself reveals to us the real keys to personal and corporate revival.
Look with me please at Nehemiah 7 and 8, because I'm gonna share with you from the Word of God four keys to personal corporate revivals. First, there was an assembling of the body of the believers, assembling together as one man. Secondly, there is the affirming of the authority of the Word of God. And thirdly, there is the adoring of the God of grace. And fourthly, there is the abandoning of one's self to God. Assembling together with the body of believers. Nehemiah 7 opens with the fact that after the logistics have been completed, the people assembled as one man. At this point, Jerusalem was not really a city in the true sense of the word. Up to this point, it was just an enclosure. Jerusalem was just a walled fortress.
You say, "Michael, how do you know that"? Well, because the houses, and the shops, and the other structures have not been built yet. They've been destroyed by the Babylonians 70 years earlier, but they have not been rebuilt yet. And that is why the rest of chapter 7 give you these awkward names. Fifty thousand people out of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were taken into Babylon, into exile. Only 50,000 came back. Why? You see, the others compromised with Babylon. They loved the life in Babylon. They turned their backs on God and enjoyed Babylon. Verse 1, chapter 8, "All the people assembled as one man before the Water Gate".
Ezra the Scribe opens the Word of God, opens the book of God. Why was it necessary for the people to gather together as one man? Why? Why couldn't they just stay home? And I know you've heard it and I've heard it. People will say, "You know, I can just worship God just as well when I'm fishing as I do in church. I can worship God on the golf course just as I can worship in church". Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24 and 25 warns us against the danger of neglecting the assembling together with the body of believers. Now, I know of what I'm gonna tell you right now, because if you are a sensitive believer, as most of you are, and for whatever reason you stay away from corporate worship, you know and I know what happens when the heart begins to grow cold, not only toward God but toward the people of God.
You know what I'm talking about. I know it experientially. But when you return to the heart of corporate worship, your heart feels like it's gonna burst out of joy. God did not design us to be Lone Ranger Christians. He created us to be in community. He created us to be members of a body, active, involved. He created us for one another so can we worship together, and praise together, encourage one another. In fact, when we lift our voices to God, whether you can sing or not, it doesn't matter. When we start praying together, all of that comes as a symphony to the ears of God.
King Solomon puts it this way, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return on their work: if one falls down, his friend will help him up". And the very reason why Nehemiah was toiling and sacrificing, why he left the luxury of the palace in Susa, why he gave up power, and authority, and all the goodies that these people were longing for in our world and our culture today. He gave it up and he sacrificed and came back to sweat, and to toil, and get his hand roughed up and callous building, get his fingernails dirty. It was not just so that they may have a beautiful wall to look at. He did not do that because he was building an edifice. No, but so that God's people may worship God together in unity, in peace, and in joy.
The first key to revival is what? The second key to revival is the affirming of the authority of the Word of God. Let me tell you something. This is the battle of this generation: the authority of the Word of God. Every generation has its own battle, this is ours. And the reason we gather together, not just to have warm and fuzzy feeling. I have nothing against warm and fuzzies. I like them myself, but feelings do not last for very long. But we gather together to experience the awe of God in response to our affirming of the Word of God. This casual and nonchalant attitude toward worship, and coming late, and leaving early is an insult to God. And when the people of God gathered in the public square next to the Water Gate in Jerusalem, they were awestruck.
Look at verse 3, all the way down. "He read it loud from daybreak till noon". My soul and body. I mean, people can watch a game for that long, but they will never listen to the Word of God for 7 hours. As soon as they heard the Word of God, and this is how I know they were not dozing off. Here's, listen what it says, verse 6, "All the people lifted their hands and responded, 'Amen, and amen, and amen!' Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground". Beloved, we have lost our awe of God. They were struck when the Word of God was read, on their faces. Listen to me. For a true revival to happen in your heart, for a true revival to happen in your home, for a true revival to happen in a church, for a true revival to happen in a nation, it has to begin with hunger and thirst for the Word of God.
Here in Nehemiah 8, the people's hearts were being prepared for a revival. How? By honoring, and bowing, and worshiping the God of the Bible. They assembled to hear the Word of God. They assembled to affirm the authority of the Word of God. They were assembled to affirm the power of God that is in his Word. See, the power is not in the preaching. The power is in the Word of God itself. And that's why I often tell you it is far more important to be biblically correct than politically correct. When Ezra opened the book of God, people stood up. He didn't ask them to stand up, they stood up! They couldn't sit still when they heard the Word of God being preached. They rose out of reverence.
And today, people treat the Bible as a smorgasbord, a buffet. "I like this, but I don't like this. I like that part, I don't like that part. You know, Bible said that sex is in monogamous, heterosexual marriage for life. Oh, I don't like that. Toss it out. Bible said give and tithe. Oh, I don't like that one. Take it out. Toss it out". We pick and choose. Instead of allowing the Word of God to sit in judgment over us, we sit in judgment over it. Listen to what Psalm 138, verse 2 said, "I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name and your Word". We often say that a good man, his word is as good as his name, or his name as good as his word. That is absolutely true of God, and that is why God exalted his name and his Word above all else.
Beloved, let me tell you something. The Bible is perfect. It does not need editing. It does not need revising. It does not need rewriting. It does need modification. It does not need apology. It does not need watered down and acceptable. It is pure without contradiction. Listen to me, the church that succumbs to human reasoning, or human experience, or social or political fads, or a culture fashion, is a church that has began to doubt the authority of the Word of God. If we truly want a revival, and listen, we can pray for a revival until we are blue in the face, but if we truly want the revivals, a revival in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our church, then we need to begin by sitting under the Word of God, not over it. Assembling, affirming, adoring.
The whole reason why God permitted Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian power to come in, invade Jerusalem, his city, his own city, take people captives into Babylon, destroy the walls, burn the gates, the reason he allowed this is because of their sin of disobedience. He did not only ask them once, he asked them 100 times. He did not only send one prophet, but many prophets. And finally, when he said, "I've had enough," the Babylonians came and took them captive. So 70 years later, as you've been following in this series of messages, they come back. Only 50,000 of them, but they came back. The faithful minority came back. The remnant came back.
And that is why, when they heard the Word of God, they convicted. They were convicted of their sin and the sins of their ancestors. And after they mourned over their sin, then they began to experience the joy of the Lord. Sincere repentance from sin always, always followed by joy. Always. The one thing about the Word of God, it does a complete job, like a good surgeon. It does a complete job. It cuts us up, it removes the cancerous cells, it sews us back up again, and then it heals us. The Word of God does it all. Have you experienced the joy of the Lord? I'm talking about overflowing and overwhelming joy that makes you want to spend long hours reveling in his overwhelming grace.
Please don't forget what I'm gonna tell you about joy. Authentic joy does not come from outward experiences. It really does not. Authentic joy does not come from winning the lottery, or making those big bucks, or winning this, or succeeding at that. No, no, no. These things bring us momentary happiness and they go away as fast as they came in. But authentic joy is a true contentment that can never be stolen or taken away from you. Nobody can take it away from you. Financial setbacks will not take it away from you. Betrayal of friends will never take it away from you. Troubling medical diagnosis will never take it away from you. Why? Because authentic joy is God's gift to you, after repentance. And that gift no one can take away.
Psalm 19:8, "The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes". The first key to revival is consistent assembling. The second key to revival is the affirmation of the authority of the Word of God. And the third key to a revival is the adoring of the God of grace. And fourthly and finally, the fourth key is abandoning one's self to God. Look with me at verses 13 all the way to 18 of chapter 8, Nehemiah. See, when Ezra opened up the book of the law, the book of God, people discovered all of God's commands and requirements. They'd been away from worship. They'd been away from obedience. They'd been away in a desert, and now they come back. The Feast of Tabernacle, or the Feast of Booths. Not booze, booths, B-O-O-T-H-S.
And it's described in the book of Leviticus 23:33, and it is celebrated on the 5th day of the month of Tishrei. For our calendar, it's around September/October. And that feast lasted 7 days. Sukkot is the Hebrew word for it. There is a far deeper meaning to this. Listen carefully. In the New Testament, it has a far deeper meaning. Why is it called the tent, or booth? Because for 7 days, they are to abandon the comfort of their homes. They're to abandon the comfort of their surroundings. They are to exchange them for this fragile, temporary dwelling covered with palm branches. Very flimsy indeed. This is a mere outward symbol of a deeper conviction of abandoning one's self to God. It is trusting God completely. It's throwing yourself wholly in his hands.
During that time when the people of Israel heard the Word of God, they affirmed the Word of God, they adored the grace of God. Now, they are putting the Word of God into action. This is the point here. This is the mark of a true and authentic revival. It's not just responding out of an emotional response, or, you know, you got caught in your heart about something and you say, "Oh, I'll respond". No, no, no, no, this was not a temporary effect. It was the people consecrating themselves to God for the rest of their lives. It was the abandoning of one's self to God. It is the surrendering of ourselves to God.
When you are out of fellowship with God, you can put on Sunday clothes, you can plaster Sunday smile, you can sing, or more like mumbling the songs, but to you still, church is a drudgery. You came along because you had to. Somebody brought you along. Or you came singing, "Just As I Am," and you go out just as you came. Being with other believers hold no joy to you. Now, I shared with you from my personal experience, wearing a pious mask and pretending to be someone that you're not, I know for me, although it was many years ago, I still remember it, I still remember it, it was heavy burden. It was burdensome. But when you come in repentance, seeking his forgiveness, filled with his grace and joy, believing, affirming the authority of his Word, it is empowering. It does the opposite. When you hear the Word of God and obey it, the joy of the Lord will be your strength regardless of your circumstances.