These small group studies of Nehemiah contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Nehemiah 8:9-18 Inductive Bible Study – The People Rejoice and Hold a Celebration
The people rejoice and celebrate (9-12)
The people apply what they learn by celebrating the Feast of Booths (13-18)
I. The people rejoice and celebrate (9-12)
- Why had the people been weeping? What does this show about the attitude of the people? Was this good or bad?
- Why did their leaders tell them not to weep?
- What should they do instead of weeping?
- What can we learn about fellowship?
- What can you learn from the phrase “the joy of the Lord is your strength?”
- What role did the Levites have in the teaching (they reinforced what the other leaders said?)
- Why were the people so happy in verse 12?
- Matthew 5:3-4 – Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn.
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 – Godly grief produces a repentance.
- Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear away from their eye.
Verse by Verse Commentary
This day is holy to the Lord – We should make the Lord the priority in our lives every day. And yet some days we set aside as special days to focus completely on Him, His Word, and worshiping Him. One of the ten commandments was for the Israelites to dedicate the Sabbhath day to make it holy to the Lord. In addition, they were to regularly celebrate various feasts, the main purpose of which was to remember what God had done for them. Application: We too must regularly set aside time as “holy to the Lord.” On those days or during those times we should rid ourselves of distractions and focus on God.
All the people were weeping – Why? From this we see their hearts. They had contrite hearts. When they heard the Law, they started weeping. They started weeping because they realized that they had been disobeying many commands. They realized how far short of God’s standards they fell. Is this good or bad? This is good. It shows that they understood who God was and they understood who they were. The people were unable to live up to God’s standards. Their failure was fresh in their minds. To their credit, they didn’t deny it. Others may have responded by being angry. Some may have responded by getting upset at the prophets or leaders. We know when Jeremiah gave the scroll to the king, the king burned it. Not everyone responds to God’s word the way that they should. In fact, most do not. Application: When you listen to God’s Word and learn about the serious state of your sin, how do you respond? Do you ignore it? Do you try to push it away from your mind? Do you justify it or excuse it? Are you mildly disappointed in yourself for a short time? Or do you weep? Does it really bother you to the point where you are in tears? It should.
Do not mourn or weep – If their response was a good one, then why did the leaders tell them to STOP mourning and weeping? See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Mourning about sin is good. But it is not good to remain in the state of weeping forever. The weeping is good not because it is the end goal. Sorrow about sin is not the goal. Sorrow is a means to an end. Grief is a strong emotion that can motivate you to do something. The end goal is life change. The goal is changed action. The end goal is obedience. I don’t believe God desires for us to go through our whole lives crying on and on about our sin. Neither does He desire us to go through our lives complacently ignoring our sins. The right balance is to first weep/grieve and then channel that emotion into motivation for changing our lives. If we look at this passage, this is exactly what we will see happening.
Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet – Nehemiah and Ezra wanted the people to celebrate. Yes, they had sinned. Yes, they had been disobedient. But they also had a lot to be thankful for. They had a lot to rejoice about. What could they celebrate? Many had returned to the Promised Land. God had preserved a remnant and preserved their land. God had been with them as they rebuilt the wall and it was finished. God had protected them from their enemies. It was to be a day of celebration. There is a time to weep and a time to celebrate. We could be sad about our sin everyday or we could rejoice in God’s goodness everyday. How do we decide which to do when? The main thing to remember is that there is a balance. Don’t go too far in either direction.
Send portions to him who has nothing – In their feasting they were to remember the poor. Instead of keeping what they had to themselves, God wanted them to generously share what they had with others. Everyone had something to celebrate, poor or rich. The generosity and sharing displayed encouraged the people in unity and reminded everyone they were part of the same team. Application: When good things happen to you, do you remember those who don’t have anything? When you are at a party and enjoying yourself, do you look around and reach out to the person who is lonely? Do you just think of making yourself happy or do you try to make others around you happy? The real key to true joy is to give it to others. The more joy you give to others, the more you will have yourself.
The joy of the Lord is your strength – What does this phrase mean? Joy in the Lord could give them strength. Rejoicing in God’s goodness would re-energize them. After building the wall and also being reminded of their sins, they needed to be recharged spiritually. They needed to be re-energized. Connecting with the Lord by joyfully worshiping Him and celebrating His goodness and remembering what He had done for them could help them be re-energized. Application: We need both nutrition coming in (through the Word) and praise going out to be a healthy believer strengthened by God.
They understood the words – It is a simple point, but an important one. When they understood the words, they became excited. Everything became clear, who they were, what they needed to do. This too should be our goal. It will not help someone if you share with them 100 deep doctrinal points, but if they are confused the whole time. Our goal is to help people understand. It is not about looking smart. It is not about sounding professional. It is simply about helping people understand. If using an illustration or example when sharing with others helps them understand, use it. If it doesn’t help them understand, chuck it.
II. The people apply what they learn by celebrating the Feast of Booths (13-18)
- In verse 12 we learned that the people understood the words. What did they do as a result?
- What did the people do on the second day of their grand assembly? What do you think it means to “give attention to the law?” What was their purpose in giving attention to the law? What can we learn from this?
- What does the word “found” suggest in verse 14?
- What did they find out?
- What did they do about it? What can we learn from them? Specifically, what can we learn about application and obedience?
- What did their obedience cost them? Was this convenient?
- What was the purpose of this festival?
- Can we do anything similar to remember what God has done for us?
- Who joined this celebration? What was unique about this event?
- What was their focus during this festival? What does this show us about their hearts?
- Leviticus 23:33-44 – Feast of tabernacles/booths.
- 1 John 3:18 – Love in deed and in truth (action.)
- James 4:17 – If you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, it is sin.
- Psalm 119:60 – Hasten to obey God’s commands.
Verse by Verse Commentary
On the second day – On the second day of the assembly, the people got together to…study the law again. Studying God’s Word is not something you can do once and then finish. It is not something you can finish in a day, even if you listen to an all day sermon. To really understand God’s Word we need to come back to it again and again. It seems like this second assembly, they studied God’s law with the purpose that they wanted to find out what they should DO. It seems they were looking specifically for commands which had given which they were not following. They weren’t getting together to feel good about themselves. They weren’t looking for commands which they were already obeying so that they could say, “Yes, I am doing a good job already.” Rather they wanted to find out if there were any commands which they were not yet obeying. If so, then they needed to change. Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we too looked at the Scriptures with this same goal!
They found written in the law – Seek and you will find. When they looked with an eye for learning and obeying, they found something which they needed to obey.
Feast of Booths – See Leviticus 23:33-44. The Israelites were commanded to celebrate this feast annually. But they hadn’t done it in around 800 years!! Even godly kings like David, Hezekiah, and Josiah hadn’t been obeying this command. Why? What was the matter? Application:
There is always room for growth. None of us obeys all of God’s commands. But this should be our goal. We should always be looking for those areas we are not obeying and then start obeying. Don’t be satisfied with an 80% or 90% or 99% obedience rate. Even many heroes in the Old Testament stopped short of complete obedience. Let us not keep moving onward and upward in growth to be more like Christ every day.
God’s Word is the authority. Don’t look to tradition for the answer of what you should do. Just because everybody is doing something or no one is doing something, doesn’t make it right. In the case of this festival, every person (even the prophets) had been disobeying. Some did so out of ignorance. Others perhaps because it was not convenient. We must seek to obey every command even if we are the only one. What would have happened in previous years if one faithful Jew pitched his tent in his yard every year to celebrate this feast?
What was the purpose of the festival?
Obeying this festival was not very convenient – It meant living on a person’s roof or in the yard under a temporary shelter built from leavers and branches gathered from wherever they could find them. If this was the preferred living environment people would have done that all the time. It also required setting aside time from people’s normal business and career to focus on God. They had to take time out from their busy schedule, not convenient. But perhaps this was exactly God’s point. Perhaps God did not want them to be so busy all the time making money. Perhaps God wanted them to set aside time just for remembering what He had done for them, sharing and talking about it together, praying, worshiping, studying the law, etc.
Application: How can we apply this? It is not always convenient for us to obey God. We have busy lives. We have comfortable lives. Maybe it is time we stopped being so busy. Maybe it is time we set aside time just for God.
There was great rejoicing – Do you want the secret formula for being joyful? Do you want to be happy? This is what most people search their whole lives for. I will give you the “secret” formula. It is tried and true. It is guaranteed to work or your money back. Obeying God results in joy. Try it. It works.
He read from the book of the law of God daily – The festival was not just a 7 day camping break. It had a purpose. The purpose was to draw close to God. Therefore God’s Word was at the center. God’s Word should be at the center of our gatherings. Next time you get together with other believers, find a way to get the Bible into it. It could be reading a Psalm or Proverb before dinner. It could be a one minute Bible testimony. You can start with, “This morning I read in the Bible about…” It could be asking a question from the Bible to get people thinking.
Nehemiah Bible Study E-book: If this Bible study is helpful for you, get the whole Nehemiah study in one convenient e-book.
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