I had the privilege recently to speak to a group of pastors about the joy (for preacher and people) of expository preaching. My text of encouragement/exhortation was Nehemiah 8. There is so much here worth mentioning, but allow me to point out a few things:
1) Expository Preaching is Effective to Gather God’s People
Nehemiah is a book that is utilized so often for leadership talks, even building programs. There’s a measure of good reason for this given that Nehemiah did an amazing job of gathering artisans to work in specific areas of the wall and kept them moving until completion. There were snags along the way. The poor were going hungry and there was militant opposition. All along the way, Nehemiah faithfully provided for the people and protected the people while construction continued. He never allowed the people to suffer for the building of the wall. Too often pastors / leaders are more committed not to let the project suffer regardless of what’s going on with the people. Nehemiah’s passion (chp.1) was about the glory of God and the glory of the people in God. The purpose of the wall was not to erect a monument. The purpose was to reestablish a people for God where God’s presence would be better realized.
2) Expository Preaching is Effective for Understanding and Transformation
The FIRST THING the people do when the wall was completed was gather under the leadership of Ezra the priest for the reading of the Law.
8:1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that theLord had commanded Israel.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.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.
The Word went out to all who could understand. The people listened and it was for their good. Ezra made this proclamation from a wooden platform that was created for this very reason (this was his pulpit). V.6 says that as Ezra read the law, he blessed the Lord and the people agreed, expressing this agreement through humble worship.
Ezra had others, who were Levites, to help the people understand the Words that were read:
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
They “gave the sense” so the people would understand. I believe this is an early example of the heart of expository preaching: to explain the text so people understand (and are changed).
Nehemiah called for the people to acknowledge the day as set apart for God (vv.9-12) and to celebrate that the Word of Lord has brought about attention to God’s holy work in their lives. The people then leave, and go to their homes.
3) Expository Preaching is Effective in the Home
13 On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. 14 And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month…
The heads of households gathered on the second day to study the Word further with the Levites and Ezra. They discovered that for generations they had neglected a very important celebration, the Feast of Booths, which was instituted by God to remind the people of the Exodus and His deliverance / redemption. The people certainly felt remorse, but that remorse did not overwhelm (or replace) obedience. They moved the people to do what the Word of the Lord commanded.
I love exposition for many reasons. I believe that it protects me from you (you don’t need my “pet” ideas as the sermon series) and it protects you from yourselves (you need to respond in kind with these above families…if the Word says it, we do it…for God). I love it mostly because of its humbling effects in my life for (hopefully) increasing sanctification.
Let us be the kind of people that love the Word enough to joyfully listen to it, receive it, and obey it. For in our obedience God’s glory dwells and the purpose for our gathering together is not to revel in our achievements (any more than the people of Israel did when they gathered before Ezra) but to hear the Word of the Lord, be transformed and humbly worship Him!