When baking bread, there are many variations in ingredients, style, flavor, and technique. However, there are core elements that make bread, bread. Similarly, in biblical revivals, we find the same variety, yet the core of what makes a revival must stay the same. This chapter highlights the three phases of revival: intellect, emotion, and will.
With the first phrase, Nehemiah 8:1–8 emphasizes four ingredients. Verse 1 mentions the role of gathering. As much as we love to watch sermons in our sleepwear at home, it is a powerful time when God’s people gather together. That time, energy, and finances are expended manifest the importance of assembly. A collective unity and anticipation of what the Holy Spirit will do to the entire congregation makes the gathering worthwhile. “The convocations of the church, as in camp meetings, the assemblies of the home church, and all occasions where there is personal labor for souls, are God’s appointed opportunities for giving the early and the latter rain” (The Faith I Live By, p. 246).
The second ingredient is bringing out the Bible (8:2), reading the Bible (8:3), and studying the Bible (8:7). Gatherings can occur for all sorts of reasons, from football championships to monster truck rallies. But the purpose of gatherings at revivals is for the sole purpose of experiencing the Word of God together.
The third ingredient is a reverence for and sense of the holiness of the Word. There was dignity and decorum (8:4), a response of veneration (when the people stood in 8:5), and a prayerful response (8:6). This cannot be manufactured by technology, music, or ritual. These can only augment the sense of holy reverence, but at its foundation it is the humble expression of the heart.
Lastly, the emphasis is on the understanding Word. It wasn’t just about gathering, just reading the Bible, or just worshipping, but there was an element of understanding the Word for yourself. Teachers branched out (8:7) and helped the people to understand what Ezra was reading in front of the people. What does this remind you of? This is an ancient form of Sabbath School small groups, where people aren’t just standing and listening to the Bible being read for six hours, but it was an interactive, intelligent, Spirit-filled, and biblical study of God’s Word together! “As we approach nearer the end, I have seen that…there will be less preaching, and more Bible study. There will be little groups all over the ground with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free, conversational study of the Scriptures” (Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 6, p.87).