Today was a day where Jenny and I were very proud. For many, this moment might be trivial, but for us, Roy, Angela and Roy’s parents together with about another 15 other people, we gathered on Zoom for a certificate presentation. Our grandson Nathan had taken a gap year (June 2019 to June 2020) and decided to do 11 Explore Correspondence Courses through George Whitefield College, writing his first exam in December 2019 and his final one in April 2020. He achieved his certificate with distinction. Normally, students need to attend a graduation ceremony at the college in Cape Town where their certificates (or diplomas or degrees) are awarded. Due to Nathan being in America, the college graciously agreed to allow us permission to have a certificate presentation electronically. This was conducted today. Although informal, it was exciting to see the impact Nathan has made on the lives of so many people. Many folk gave Nathan Biblical directions for his future. The reason we are so proud is not because we put Nathan above the other three grandchildren … not at all. We love them all equally. Being proud comes when we see our grandchild walking and growing in Christ to the point where he could achieve this certificate at the age of 18 and continue to grow and develop in Christ because of the gracious hand of God upon his life.
I have been using the book of Nehemiah for my devotions. (If possible, I recommend reading through chapter 8.) As you read this passage, try to see how much the Word of God takes center stage!
Neh 8:1 All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
Wow … this is what the people wanted … ‘pastor, bring out the Word to us!’ In verse 2, Ezra brings out the Book (the Mosiac Law) to read to the people. Notice that they are standing! Verse 3 informs us that that Ezra read from daybreak (6am) to midday (12pm) to everyone present who could understand … and for six hours they stood listening attentively. Again in verse 5, you see that as soon as the Word is read the people stand … then worship follows … they hear the Word and their hearts worship. Look at verse 6:
Neh 8:1 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Now what to me is so interesting is that even after the six hours of reading the Word and times of worship, there was a period of exposition.
Neh 8:7 The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
This led to weeping (see the end of verse 9). Now, get this:
Neh 8:18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
I wonder how many Christian people today will follow such excitement for the Word of God. What is your attitude like when listening to the Word preached? Are you hungry to be fed from God’s Word? When you listen to the Word of God expounded, do you listen as a sermon taster (like a wine taster), sampling sips here and there to see which part of the Word you like and which you dislike? Very provocatively, let me ask you … after you have heard the Word preached, do you enjoy roast preacher for Sunday lunch? There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism–any preacher worth his salt will welcome that–but the opposite is dissecting the sermon and preacher’s performance like you would that roast chicken or leg of mutton. When I think of Nathan’s attitude towards the Word of God, I see a young man hungry for spiritual food … much like the people of Nehemiah’s day.
Let me share a few qualifications for anyone who really wants to listen to the Word of God to reap the benefit of spiritual nourishment:
- You need to be born again. This means the Spirit of God has given you new birth and resides within. He creates an appetite for the Word of God. God within desires that every new creation grazes richly upon the manna within the Word of God.
- You need to be committed to the Word. God’s Word MUST be a priority in your life.
- You need to be in a church (at present, online) where Biblical exposition is sound–not seeking to please hearers. Where the preaching needs to be practical, it must be pointed and provocative to stir the conscience.
- You need to be prepared … such as a good night’s sleep, perhaps a pen and note pad and an open Bible.
- You need to be eager … having an expectant attitude. You need to listen to be fed!
Dear God, thank You for meeting the spiritual hunger of Your people through Your Word. Create within each Christian such hunger for Your Word that we will graze like sheep and cows graze grass all day long. Amen.