“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:9 NKJV).
The effect of the public reading of God’s Word to the Jews who just returned from exile in Babylon and had gathered in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate was very profound and remarkable (Neh. 9:1-2).
The Word brought a great conviction of sins upon the people!
Consequently, they humbled themselves before God, wept for their sins, and confessed and repented of their sins. Their leaders had to comfort them, saying, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” (Neh. 8:9).
This is what I refer to as “the Water Gate experience.”
It should be of a great concern to us today if the public reading, preaching and teaching of God’s Word in our churches is not having such a profound or transformative effect upon the people.
Could it be that God’s Word has now lost its efficacy?
Could it be that the inherent transformational power of God’s Word has diminished in our generation?
Then, how come our passionate preaching, wonderful sermons and beautiful teachings today are not convicting and transforming lives as they should?
Something is definitely wrong somewhere and it behooves us to find out!
The Word of God undoubtedly still has its inherent power to convict, save and transform souls. God’s Word has not changed in nature or diminished in its convicting and transformative power.
God’s Word is still quick and living, active, effective and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The Word of God is still like fire and hammer that can consume and break stony hearts into pieces (Jer. 23:29). The Word of God still lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:23).
The history and Scripture provide us with ample testimonies confirming the unchanging nature, power and efficacy of God’s Word.
Why then is God’s Word not producing “the Water Gate experience” in our generation today?
If we believe and agree that God’s Word has not lost its inherent power or diminished in its convicting and transformative power, then, if we are not seeing people convicted of their sins and transformed as we read, preach and teach God’s word today; the problem is certainly with us handling, preaching and teaching God’s Word.
Perhaps, the problem is with the way we handle, preach or teach God’s Word today!
How do we handle God’s Word effectively so that it might work effectively in people’s hearts?
Let us examine how Ezra and his companions handled God’s Word in their days so that it gave birth to a great national revival and reformation.
First, let us start with examining the life of Ezra the priest who read the words of God to the people.
The Bible gives these testimonies about Ezra: he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6); the hand of the LORD was upon him (Ezra 7:6); he had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10); he had a God-given wisdom (Ezra 7:25); he was a man given to fasting and prayer (Ezra 8:21-23); and he was a humble, faithful and righteous man who would not trivialize sins (Ezra. 9:1-6).
Without any doubt, the life and character of Ezra gave credence to the words of God he taught the people. His lifestyle did not contradict God’s words that he was teaching the people. Ezra mirrored to the people the lifestyle of obedience God expected of them.
Apparently, Ezra was a living epistle to the people. That is why the words of God in Ezra’s mouth consumed men’s hearts like fire, pierced men’s souls like a sharp sword, and broke their hardened hearts like a hammer.
Regrettably, God’s Word appears today to have lost its inherent power and efficacy in the mouths of many preachers and teachers of the Word because their conduct, character or lifestyle contradicts the Word they are preaching and teaching to God’s people.
Unlike Ezra, many ministers of God today only read, search and study God’s Word to prepare and present, preach or teach beautiful and impressive sermons, but not to know and obey God. They only prepare their hearts to preach and teach, but not to practice and keep God’s Word like Ezra did.
How do we expect that when the preachers or teachers of God’s Word are living or walking in total disregard and disobedience to the Word they preach and teach those who hear and watch them will not follow their example?
If both our private and public lives do not give credence to God’s Word; our preaching and teaching will be void of divine and transformative power.
It is sad but true that many preachers and teachers of God’s Word today are mere actors on stage – who they present themselves to be on the pulpit is not who they are really. They preach and teach what they themselves don’t practice.
Enough of self-deception!
Enough of handling God’s Word deceitfully!
Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (NKJV).
This should also be the resolution and testimony of every minister of God’s Word today!
If we want to have “the Water Gate experience” in our churches or services today, we must change the way we handle God’s Word.
If we handle God’s Word deceitfully, we shall not see its convicting or transformative power at work in the lives of the people who are hearing or listening to our sermons or teachings.
Beloved, like Ezra, you need to strive not just to be a good preacher but a good practitioner of God’s Word, and not to be a mere good speaker or teacher of God’s Word but also a good doer of God’s Word.
God’s Word will certainly be active, powerful, effective, fruitful or productive in your mouth when you do it before you teach it to others and when you practice it before you preach it to others.
The Scripture testifies that the Lord Jesus Christ both did and taught God’s Word.
Luke writes Theophilus in Acts 1:
1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen. (NKJV).
That is the right way to handle God’s Word!
That is the right order!
You must first seek to do God’s Word before you seek to teach God’s Word to others!
Moreover, as a preacher or teacher of God’s Word, you also need to spend quality time regularly in God’s Word and prayer to be endued with God’s wisdom, power and boldness for effective delivery of God’s words.
It is also necessary to acquire relevant skills and resources that will make you more effective as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word.
Ezra and the Levites with him read and taught God’s words distinctly and clearly to the people because they were skilled and anointed scribes or teachers of the Law.
They helped the people to understand the Law of God. The Water Gate experience or the great revival they had in their generation was the direct result of their giving sense to the Law and making the people to understand the Law of God.
The Scripture records in Nehemiah 8:
7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.
8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. (NKJV).
We should not expect any conviction, transformation or reformation by the Word of God until we give sense to the Word, teach distinctly and rightly divide the Word of God, and help the people to understand deeply the Word of God we teach or preach to them.
This undoubtedly calls for diligence and discipline in studying God’s Word by all the ministers of God!
God’s servants should seek to study and know God’s Word profoundly, but seek to teach and preach God’s Word simply to people.
Like the early apostles of Christ, amidst so many distractions today, let us resolve to “give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4 NKJV).
The Scripture admonishes you to: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I receive and draw daily the grace both to do and teach the Word of God and to practice and preach the Word of God to people, in Jesus’ name. Amen.