Why is it that for some many, change rarely takes place? If I asked you individually, many of you could tell me about changes that need to take place in your life. You’re probably aware of sinful habits that need to die and priorities that need to be reordered. And yet, for so many, there is so little progress in our spiritual lives. It’s not enough to recognize that change needs to happen, you have to want it to happen. There has to be a commitment on the part of God’s people. James Boice, the late presbyterian pastor wrote that “There must be commitment to something different or bigger or grander than ourselves if we are to make progress in our lives.” A renewed life, requires nothing less than a radical commitment to God and his glory. And we see something of that as we open God’s word this morning as we turn to Nehemiah 10.
Let me remind you, we’re picking up in the midst of a revival. The city has been built. The construction campaign is over. But now the more difficult work of rebuilding the people has begun. You see, more important than the wall around the city or the temple, is that God’s people are living in right relationship to Him. But once you’ve been estranged from God - as the Israelites had been at this point in history - how does that happen? How do you experience a genuine revival?
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen it play out in this way: First, there has been a return to the Word. In chapter 8, the people come together and ask Ezra the priest to bring out the book of the law. He reads and teaches from it for six hours. The people listen intently. They Levites made certain everyone understood it and knew how to apply it. It caused an awakening of sorts to stir within. All of a sudden, they had been awakened to the gravity of their sin. For the first time in years they came to see in the beauty of God’s law, the ugliness of their sin.
But second, after a return to the word there is a genuine brokeness. In chapter 9, the longest prayer in the Old Testament, is a prayer of confession. In fact, they confessed their sins for three hours. The rehearsed how over and over again they rebelled against God, only for their rebellion to be met with a greater outpouring of God’s mercy on them.
And now we come to the third step in chapter 10. A revival is not complete unless the people of God commit themselves to live differently. Revival has not taken place unless there is a renewed commitment to live for the glory of God. And when there is that sort of commitment, then and only then can we make progress in our lives.