Today’s reading: Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Nehemiah 8:8
18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:18-21
In both the Old and New Testaments, the importance of clear preaching is demonstrated. Expository preaching includes the reading of Scripture as well as the explanation of its meaning.
In Nehemiah’s day there had been a lack of reading and teaching the Scriptures. When the people heard the Word, they were grieved by what they heard and understood. They wept. It was natural that they should feel the weight of their failure and sin, but then the preacher (whether Ezra or Nehemiah, is not clear) exhorts 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” (8:10).
In Acts, another preacher stands proclaiming God’s Word, also in Jerusalem but centuries after Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. Peter takes the opportunity, afforded by the crowd attracted by the healing of a lame man, to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ. The good news is preceded by bad news, they have killed the Author of life, Jesus, but Peter tells them they may repent, turn back, and have their sins blotted out. God will hear their prayer and send times of refreshing from His presence. Then they may wait expectantly for Christ, who promised to come back for His people.
The gospel teaches us of our sin, but it doesn’t end there. It takes us to the mercy and grace of God who saves His repentant people, restores us to Himself, and gives us joy. Are you both grieved by your sin and relieved by God’s joy? Good expository preaching takes us to both repentant grieving and unspeakable joy. Be sure you have both.