Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons . Absence makes the heart grow fonder (Part 2)

. Absence makes the heart grow fonder (Part 2)




http://www.religionquotes.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/15.jpgLast week we began to look at this very dynamic section that presents a nation who for 70 years did not have the privilege of gathering as they usually did. What we see in the section is such a hunger for that which they were absent from so long that the people literally cry out for their leaders to bring the book. The man who stepped forward with the law of God was Ezra. He was a man who for 14 years read the law, studied the law, lived the law and taught the law. He was ready to do exactly that on the day of their gathering at the Watergate. Ezra epitomized what we today will call Biblical preaching. Even though this is an Old Testament section we have so much to learn from it. We do not want to become a people that take our access to the Word of God for granted as if we will never lose it. We do not want “absence to make the heart grow fonder”. So here we see a man of God who was prepared for the moment that was prepared for the man of God. And it is this preaching on this day that will tell us much about preaching today. We started last week by looking at the desperate need for Biblical preaching. Today we continue then with our second point which is:

Point 2. The nature of Biblical preaching.


I believe that the preaching of their day depicts so much of what we need to see today. What we need in the world and in Polokwane is not more preaching but a certain kind of preaching. There is enough hot air and personal opinions in the pulpit, what we need is substance.  Let me share with you six imperatives for Biblical preaching.


2.1 The audience was gender inclusive and multi-generational.


Nehemiah 8:2 (ESV)2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.” I believe that is exactly how it is today. Families need to be in worship together.


2.2 There was a biblical reading.


Look at Nehemiah 8:3 (ESV) 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Even when preaching takes place the purist time in preaching is when the Word of God is read,  “12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) By the way, this reading by Ezra was not a monotone mumbling of the Word of God. The Hebrew word for ‘read’ is Korah which means “to cry out” or “to call aloud”, “to roar” or “to proclaim”. This is exactly what God told Jonah to do when he went to Nineveh and that is to Korah.


This same tradition continued in the ministry of Christ where He read the law and then explained it. We have an example of this in Luke 4 where He reads from Isaiah and then says:  “today the scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.” Paul instructed Timothy to do likewise in 1 Timothy 4:13 (ESV) “13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”


This is why we at Logos even when we are not working through a Bible book still stay with the reading of the text before we have an exposition of the text. The aim of the preacher must always be to draw a box around the text and then to step into the box saying: “this one thing I am is to be a mouthpiece of this text and nothing but the text, so help me God.” There are too many clowns in the ministry today who turn the pulpit into a time of entertainment. I am not saying that humour does not belong in the pulpit but never at the cost of the authority of Scripture. We are ambassadors of the King and need to take this calling serious as it is His Book in our hands.


We need to conduct ourselves like men of God like Ezra and open the Bibles, and read from the text. For people to take the Word of God to heart they need to hear the Word of God. Revelation 1:3 (ESV) 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” When Scripture is read it is the only part of preaching that is perfect, it is the only part of preaching where we can claim infallibility and inspiration. What God has to say is far more important than what any man has to say.

2.3 There was a lengthy treatment.

Now before anybody ever complains about long sermons, look at Nehemiah 8:3 (ESV)
“3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

From sunrise to noon, that’s for a six whole hours. By the way, I preached at a service in Mozambique where we went on for 11 hours. This was not a sermonette for christianettes. This was not like the average sermons in many churches which is 20 minutes long the other 40 minutes are devoted to 10 minutes worship, 10 minutes announcements and 20 minutes invitation. This was not like the average seeker church with 1 hour of syrupy choruses and a 20 minute pep talk with pop psychology possibly with someone sitting on a stool on stage. This was not a children’s talk either, this was the full treatment.

Now, we are not told that we must gather that long. This is a historical text and is instructive, and not prescriptive. What it does however underscore is that it needs to be a full treatment of the Word of God.

In order for there to be Bible exposition there needs to be clear reading, plus a homiletical dealing with the text with relevant explanation of the text so that people may understand. This requires hard work. The length of sermons are normally judged by our desire for the word of God. I’m amazed when I look at the capacity people have for taking in Books, school and university classes, sport events, business seminars. Oh, may God enlarge our hearts for the things of His kingdom?

You cannot model true exposition of the Scripture in 20 minutes. It requires a lengthy treatment. There are many variables, surrounding our own giftedness, where the congregation is and so the list goes on but there always needs to be a full disclosure of the text and it needs to be connected with our lives.

2.4 There was a visual focus on Scripture.

Nehemiah 8:4 (ESV) 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose.”


Many churches get there idea for the wooden pulpit from this section. This however is not a call for big wooden pulpits, but a visible presentation of the Word of God. The preacher of the Word had to be seen and not just heard. One of the new trends around in the world has become the sitting of the pastor on a couch, sharing with the people some pop psychology. Let me just say this that I do not believe that the wooden platform was to put focus on the man or to exalt the man, but for people to focus on the teaching of God’s word. It was a practical solution.


Now, I know we are living in the year 2014, we now use sound systems and we use digital projectors which can be used to display Scripture and points. We can even show video clips if necessary to illustrate a sermon rather than just verbal illustrations. But whatever we use or even if I am a pastor preaching under a tree in the bush with a table before me, there is a posture that says: ‘God’s word is in our midst, it has to be listened to, and we will make you understand it through the reading and proclamation and explanation of the word under the power of the Holy Spirit.’


Now, this podium was a platform large enough to hold 14 people. But, Ezra mounted the platform in order to be seen and in order to be heard. He had 6 men on his one side and 7 on his other side, very much like the day of Pentecost when they put Peter forward to preach. There is solidarity here in the leadership, ‘what he says, we believe’.


We then get to Nehemiah 8:5 (ESV) 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.”


There was such a sense of authority in the opening of the Word of God, that when he opened it the people stood up. When the preacher is serious about the Word of God it has to become contagious and the people will take him serious. Paul hints at this is Titus 2:15 (ESV)15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” We see it again with Jesus. Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV) “28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” The scribes were learned men, but they had no authority.


There is always an authoritative nature in the preaching of the Word of God. No wonder Martin Luther once said: “the pulpit is the throne for the Word of God.” It is from the throne of the pulpit that the Word of God is to reign.


2.5 There was a God exalting thrust.


Nehemiah 8:6 (ESV) 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”


Today in many of the modern churches there is so often an eclipse of the Glory of God, but here we see an unveiling of the glory of God. I love the way John Piper says it. He says we are called to be “exaltational expositors.” Ezra blessed the Lord God and all the people cried amen, amen while lifting up their hands as an indication of receiving the Word of God coming down from heaven, and agreeing with the Word of God and they then bowed down low and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.


This should be the proper effect of true expository preaching. There was more emotion attached to the preaching than to their own singing. Man, must be lowered and God must be exalted. When we put God in His proper place we are magnifying the grace of God that spans the chasm between God and man. George Whitfield said, “all doctrines from God lead back to God”.


2.6 There was an engaging of the mind.


Nehemiah 8:7-8 (ESV) 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”


Remember there are app. 42000 people here and no amplification and the Levites are out among the people almost like a relay and as Ezra reads the Word of God and as there is explanation given the Levites are out there among them and they are explaining the law to the people under the exposition of Ezra.


Now, notice the emphasis on the mind in true Biblical preaching. True Biblical preaching requires understanding. There must be sense given to what is before us. It is not good enough that the preacher has some opinions and the audience has no clue where he has come from or where he is going with his views. Just look at the focus on the mind in this section. Verse 2 mentions understanding. Verse 3 again mentions understanding. Verse 7 says they explained. Verse 8 says they understood. Verse 12 again says they understood. Verse 13 says they gave insight.


All true good Bible exposition gives precise explanation of the Biblical text that brings understanding. Dr Mac Arthur always says: “the meaning of the text is the text and until you have given the true meaning of the text you have not given the text.” “Authentic Christianity is concerned first and foremost with the mind. The Christian faith is not primarily about feelings although deep feelings surely result from the deep impact of truth. It is not about human relationships, it is not about success or earthly blessings. Biblical Christianity is all about truth”. We must never forget that God wrote only one book the Bible and it contains all the truth needed for us to order our spiritual lives.


That’s what Biblical exposition is. You explain the text and give the intent of that text. You explain the text and persuade with the text, you exhort with the text and move on to the next text. And all of this is connected to the lives of the people.


So, those are the five imperatives of Biblical preaching.


Point 3. The results of Biblical preaching.

Nehemiah 8:9-12 (ESV) “9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

When the Word of God is preached in the power of the Spirit of God there is an effect. It does not always happen this quick. Some are martyred before they could see this. But the eyes of the Lord are seeking to and thro to show Himself strong in the midst of those whose hearts are truly His and I believe with my whole heart that God is seeking to bless congregations where His word is given a fair hearing and God will bring about some of the following results:


Notice the first thing and that is that there was repentance. The Word of God usually takes people down before it builds them up. In verse 9 all the people were weeping when they listened to the words of the Law.  The Word of God is a mirror. I have often quoted the following statement which I heard from Dr A.N. Martin:  what a man is alone before God that is what he is, nothing more, and nothing less.” The preaching of the Word of God removes self-deception. It allows us to see our sin and our need for grace. As they came under this revelation they began to weep and mourn as Godly sorrow and brokenness began to fall over them. No person can ever be saved apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. That is why we here at Logos have an unshakeable commitment to the accuracy and authority of God’s Word, because God’s word is the sword of the Spirit.


But praise God, it does not always end down. They are told to go and enjoy choice foods and sweet drinks and that they can stop grieving now.  The weeping over sin is enough now, and he points them to the greatness of God and affirms them that the Lord is their strength and a supernatural joy begins to flood their souls because their hearts have been cleansed through  the ministry of the Word of God.


Now let me show you the apex, or the very point of expository preaching.  We see it in verses 11 & 12: 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.


Too many people are happy to sit at home instead of under the Word, and they will never understand Scripture, and others are again happy to sit under the Word, but they want the pastor to kiss them with the Word. You know what kiss means? Keep It Simple Stupid. They don’t want to pay attention to Scripture and work as hard as what Ezra did. Our nation is as corrupt as it is because people never understood Scripture. And if you do not understand you cannot apply it.  Oh how we need to take this section to heart, and may pastors in the pulpit return to Biblical preaching and may people in the pew return to a desire to hear, to understand and to respond. The Word of God alone can change man, and it can change society as it is the sword of the Spirit.


Towards the end of Luther’s life as he has lit a match in 1517 it spread to the continent, it spread across the English Channel into Scotland and England as they were infected with this reformation as people were coming back to the fountain coming back to the Scriptures. They asked Luther this question: How, how did you bring about the reformation, how have you turned Europe upside down.  His answer: “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s word, otherwise I did nothing. When I slept, the words so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor inflicted so much damage upon it. I did nothing, the Word did it all.” All, we can say is, Lord – do it again!



Logos Community Church:- 6 April 2014