Lesson 6

The Reading of the Word

(Nehemiah 8, Acts 8)
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Introduction: How do you feel when you have rented or purchased a new home and you are all moved in? Exhausted? Happy? That is the mind set for our study this week. God's people have finished building the wall and have moved into Jerusalem. They are back in their homeland and their repaired city. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and find out what happens next!

  1. The Reading


    1. Read Nehemiah 8:1. Whose idea is it to bring out the Book of the Law? (The Bible says that "the people" told Ezra to bring the Book of the Law.)


    2. Read Nehemiah 8:2 and Numbers 29:1. Why does Nehemiah give us the specific day of the reading? (It is the time of the Feast of Trumpets.)


      1. What did the Hebrews do at this feast? (They rested and they blew trumpets.)


      2. Read 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Revelation 8:6, and Revelation 11:15. Many Christians believe that the Old Testament Jewish Feasts point to later events in history. For example, Passover pointed to the coming sacrifice of Jesus. After reading these texts, what do you think the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows? (The Second Coming of Jesus. This is a feast which, obviously, has not been fulfilled.)


      3. The Bible does not say a lot about the Feast of Trumpets. Let's assume that the people thought that it was connected with a coming time of judgment. In this context, would their request to read the law make sense? (It is always helpful to know the standard for judgment when you are judged!)


    3. Read Nehemiah 8:3-6. What do the people do to prepare for the reading of the law? (They make sure everyone can see and hear. They praise and worship God. They stand.)


    4. Read Nehemiah 8:7-8. What do you think Ezra was reading? (I think the "Book of the Law" refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. An important part of the Pentateuch is the history that brought them to this place both spiritually and materially. Some of the law is what God commanded the people so that they would be blessed and give glory to Him.)


      1. Why is it important to have the law clarified? Why is instruction needed? Let's look at that next.


  2. Instruction


    1. Read Acts 8:29-31. Do you agree with the assumption contained in the question that you cannot understand the Bible unless it is explained?


    2. Read Acts 8:32-34. Now that we see what the man in the chariot was reading, do you think this needs an explanation? (Philip knew that this was a prophecy about Jesus. The man in the chariot would not be able to piece together this prophecy and the facts of Jesus' life and death.)


      1. Note the actual question asked is more fundamental - is the prophet writing about himself?


    3. Read Acts 8:35. What does this teach us about studying the Bible? (Philip starts with the Bible ("Philip began with that very passage.") Bringing together the experiences and understanding of others gives us a better picture of the Bible's meaning. In addition to writing this lesson, I teach it. Sometimes, after hearing the class discussion, I wish we had the discussion before I finished writing the lesson.)


    4. Let's re-read Acts 8:29. What do you see in this text that is critical to Bible study? (The Holy Spirit arranged this meeting. The Holy Spirit is essential to sucessful Bible study.)


    5. Is there a place for private Bible study? How would you compare it with studying with others? Do you need an "instructor?"


  3. Reaction


    1. Read Acts 8:36-38. What is the reaction of the man in the chariot to Philip's explanation of the Bible prophecy about Jesus?


    2. Read Nehemiah 8:9. Why are the people weeping? Is this different than the reaction of the man in the chariot? (It seems logical that the people saw the difference between what the law commanded and what they had been doing. That made them sad. The man in the chariot also decided that he needed to make a change. Thus, their reactions are quite similar.)


    3. Read Nehemiah 8:10. Do you feel guilty about past sin? Are you sad about how your life has departed from God's law?


      1. If you answered "yes," is that how you should feel? (No! If we have confessed our sins (see Nehemiah 9:1-3), if we accept Jesus as our Substitute, then "the joy of the Lord is our strength.")


    4. Read Nehemiah 8:11. Have you ever read that worship should not be a time of celebration? That we should be serious and sad because of our sins? What does this example tell us? (They were instructed that "this is a holy day. Do not grieve.")


    5. Read Nehemiah 8:12. What should we be doing on Sabbath? What should we be doing when we recognize the seriousness of our sins and what Jesus has done? What should we do when we understand God's will for our life?(We should "celebrate with great joy." Friend, sin is a terrible thing. Sin will ruin your life and your witness. But Jesus came to rescue you from sin and to pay the penalty for your sin. It is as if you just received a pardon when you are awaiting your execution. Celebration is the right attitude!)


  4. Feast of Tabernacles


    1. Read Nehemiah 8:13. Why do the people want to hear more of the law when they had such a negative reaction? (They want to know God's will for their lives. What a great attitude!)


      1. Do you desire to know more about God's will for your life?


    2. Read Nehemiah 8:14-16. What is this new learning about temporary shelters? (Read Leviticus 23:39-42. This is called the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths.)


    3. Read Leviticus 23:43. What did this feast celebrate? (Their release from slavery in Egypt.)


      1. Think about the series of facts we have studied in this lesson. Are those listening to the Law of God in a similar situation as those freed slavery? (Yes! They realize what God has in mind for them, and they realize how they have departed from it. They now have the path to freedom. The path to a better life.)


      2. Is that how you view the law? Something that frees you?


      3. Have you ever thought "I'll sin now, enjoy myself, and confess when I get to be old - so I can go to heaven?"


        1. If so, what does that say about your attitude toward the law? (You have things completely reversed. The law gives you freedom from the slavery of sin.)


    4. Read Nehemiah 8:17-18. What is the mood of God's people? ("Their joy was very great!")


    5. Friend, do you want to have great joy? The formula we have studied in this lesson is first, learn God's will for your life. Second, be convicted that you need to change. Third, rejoice over what God has done for you. Rejoice that you better understand His will for your life. Will you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, welcome this joy into your life?


  5. Next week: Our Forgiving God.

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Lessons on Ezra and Nehemiah

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