The latter two phases of revival are also found in this chapter. In 8:9, Nehemiah records, “for all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” We fall into two extremes when it comes to revivals where some shun the emotional response altogether, while others make revival all about an emotional catharsis. Scripture makes it clear that it is the intellect that receives understanding from the Word. Once it is understood and the soul is convicted, then the emotions of guilt and contrition occur.
Each culture has a different understanding of guilt. Some view it as a communal activity where it morphs into shame. Other cultures add and deepen the sense of guilt, mutating it into blame. And lastly, there are cultures that seek to avoid even the slightest hint of guilt. In its proper context, guilt is healthy, just as pain receptors tell the brain that something is wrong with the body. Guilt, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, must drive us to the Lord, who ultimately is the only who has, and will take away our guilt, shame, and fear (Isa. 1:16–19; 1 John 1:9).
Though the natural result of conviction was their weeping, Nehemiah redirected their emotions to rejoicing, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10). This in turn, led to the final phase of revival where their will submitted to obedience. They understood what the Word said (8:13–15); they did what the Word said (8:16); and they enjoyed what the Word said (8:17). What they specifically did (in keeping of the Feast of the Booths) is not as important as that their wills chose to obey after their intellect and emotions assented.
It’s one thing to be intellectually stimulated by the Bible. Theological conferences and Bible study convocations can spent much time and scholarship in understanding the Word, but this is not revival. Prayer conferences and praise and worship sessions can spend hours in pouring forth our hearts, weeping before the Lord, but this is not revival. Self-improvement books and how-to videos can show us how to increase the quality of our lives and “hack” different life habits here and there, but again, this is not revival. Corporate revival is when God’s people get together to study together, to respond collectively, and to decide markedly and specifically to obey God’s principles as a congregation. What does the Bible say was the result? “And there was a very great gladness” (8:17). Who doesn’t want that?