On the first Lord’s day of the year, it is always useful to consider a topic that will help us to start the new year off in a good way, and there is no better topic than the word of God. God’s word is designed to have an impact on those who hear, study, believe, and obey it. Now look in your Bibles at Psalm 19:7-9. Here we find that God’s word im- pacts us by converting the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlighten- ing the eyes, and enduring forever.
In Nehemiah 8, the building of the walls of Jerusalem had been completed. It was now a time of worship and celebration. At the center of all of this celebration was the word of God, which, as usual, had an impact on sincere listeners.
According to v. 1, the people desired to hear the word of God. Because of this, Ezra read the word to both men and women and those old enough to understand. The chapter also records for us that the people were attentive and that they stood in re- spect for the word. Furthermore, Ezra, assisted by others, helped the people to under- stand what they were hearing. Verse 8 gives a good description of expository preach- ing: “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” There was reading, explanation, and applica- tion. So many read their Bibles but there is no deep study nor application. If the Bible is not applied in one’s life, reading it ten times over will be of no benefit.
The initial reaction to the reading of God’s word was sorrow because the people were under conviction due to their sins. But it was the word that had convicted the people of their sins (v. 9). The people were encouraged not to mourn because the revelation and conviction of sin should ironically be a day of great joy. They were furthermore encour- aged to do good by sending food to those who had none. So the people did as they were told and rejoiced because they understood God’s word (v. 12).
The results from the word are given in vv. 13-18. The leaders came together to hear more of the word of God (v. 13). They heard about the Feast of Tabernacles and cele- brated it in obedience to God’s word (vv. 14-17; Leviticus 23:34-36, 39-43). A solemn assembly, described in Nehemiah 9, was called to deal with sin. No person can do any better than to faithfully follow God’s word when it is shown that their lives do not mea- sure up to the Lord’s standard. It requires a humble and contrite heart, but the results will be eternal life. So how great is the word? Let it describe itself:
- The word itself is powerful: “Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29).
- “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
- The word possesses saving power: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
- “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
- The word possesses convicting power: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
- “Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
- The word possesses drawing power: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45).
- The word possesses calling power: “To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
- The word possesses instructing power: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in right- eousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- The word possesses sustaining power: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the reve- lation of the mystery kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25).
From the foregoing passages we are made aware, not only of the great power of God’s word, but also of the endurance of it. We are assured that it lives today and for all eter- nity. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).While we will be judged by it in the last day (John 12:48), we know we can also live by it today. To that end we will be learning about God’s will every time we meet to worship and study the word. Doesn’t it seem important to be present? Will you let the word of God have an impact on your life in this new year? I pray that it will, and that you will grow stronger and closer to God as a result.