Make the Most of Our Bible Classes!  
Nehemiah 8:1-12 
By Paul Robison

If you can remember the name of your first grade teacher in school, raise your hand.  If you can remember the name of a high school coach, raise your hand.  If you can remember the name of an elementary teacher in one of your Bible classes, raise your hand.  If you can think of a Bible class teacher in the '90s who taught you, raise your hand.  A poet said: “Why God created teachers, in His wisdom and His grace, was to help us learn to make our world a better, wiser place” (K. W. Huff).  Someone else said: “One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money was in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But will the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child” (Witcraft)?  Oh the powerful and lasting influence of those who teach us!  Our congregation has been blessed with some wonderful Bible class teachers!  But some of you aren't even attending their classes!  “Well preacher, it's a hassle to get the whole family ready.”  “It may be a hassle to deal with law enforcement officers about 10 years later.”  “But preacher, I'm not the student type and classes bore me.”  “Has that excuse got you out of any training classes for your job required by your company?”  “But preacher, I like to relax on Sunday.”  “Is that really worth starving your soul and feeding your cancer of indifference?'  Today's bulls eye is: Make the most of our Bible classes!  Make the most of this great opportunity!  Before looking at why, let me explain today's text.
 
Nehemiah was the civil governor, and Ezra was a scribe who was an expert in the Law.  These men had both led groups back to Jerusalem after their 70 years in exile.  The year is 443 B.C.  Physical renewal is seen because the people had just completed rebuilding the city's wall.  Now spiritual renewal is seen as thousands gather to hear the reading of the Law.  As you heard in our reading, the law was read aloud clearly by Ezra, and the Levites explained the meaning of text so that it was clearly understood.  In fact, the people's first response was one of sorrow because they realized their sins, but since this was The Feast of Trumpets, the people were to celebrate, and they were told, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  So then, they greatly rejoiced!  The point to see is this: this was the Jews' largest Bible class since the exile!  This text teaches us four reason why we should make the most of our Bible classes.  “Thus, Bible class is likely the most evangelistic & important program in every congregation.  When it grows spiritually, the attendance grows, the collection grows, the benevolent & mission programs grow, & evangelistic work grows” (Webster).  Here's another idea.  Jesus tells us in the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; ...” (Matthew 28:19-20).  We must continue to teach converts.  One of the best places we can continue teaching others is in our Bible classes.  Do you see how important Bible classes are?  Another brother puts it this way: ““Jesus emphasized the importance of the teaching of both 'conversion' and 'conservation' in the Great Commission ... The Bible school both recruits for Christ and then also retains in Christ”

(Webster).  Help your children get to heaven!  Make the most of our Bible classes!
 
Another reason to make the most of our Bible classes is to learn more about God's will.  Ezra platform may be the prototype of our pulpits.  We see that the book was opened in verse 5.  This was really a scroll  Someone has noted that the people hit “a turning point” during this experience, and they become a “people of the book.”  They do not worship it but want to obey its precepts.  The people's gestures in verses 5-7—standing up at the reading, saying Amen to Ezra's blessing, and bowing down—show that the people are worshiping God!  In verses 7-8, several Levites “helped them to understand” what had just been read.  This is what our Bible classes seek to do as well.  They help us to understand God's word and God's will.  We have some of the finest teachers for all ages here at this congregation.  Why not let them help you to understand God's will better for your life?  We also need to be a people of the book.  Hosea 4:6 states: “Because you have forgotten  the Law of your God, I also will forget your children.”  Timothy was encouraged in 1 Tim. 4:13: “... give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  These are all activities based on the Scriptures.  2 Timothy 2:15 admonishes: “Be diligent [or study] to present yourself approved to God, a worker that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Peter encourages us:  “Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” 

Consider these ideas on the importance of Bible class.  “The benefits of Bible classes are indeed many: to study God's Word, to ask questions, to share knowledge, to be encouraged, to know God's will!  Yes, I believe very strongly in the value of attending and actively participating in Bible classes; it is a key element to truly "Serving The Lord With Gladness"...!” (Copeland).  Someone else has said: “Think of Bible Class as deep-sea diving lessons. The Bible runs so deep, but you can’t experience that depth by 'swimming in the shallows'” (author not stated).  Someone else observes: “The person represented by the good ground both hears the word and understands it. That implies a lot of diligent study! You don't gain understanding by hit-and-miss attendance at classes” (Hamilton).  Do you realize that if you and your children come to our Bible classes each Sunday and Wednesday, you will receive about 60 hours of instruction to bless your life and strengthen your faith each year?  And in 10 years, that's 600 hours of coming closer to knowing and doing God's will!  What is so all fired important that you will neglect 60 hours which can benefit your eternal soul?  In Bible classes, you learn more about God's will.  Make the most our Bible classes!
 
In verse 9, we see that the Jews wept for their sinfulness.  Leaders remind them that they should be joyful because it was The Feast of Trumpets, when they were to remember God by fasting and resting.  They say in essence: “Don't focus on your weakness, but on God's goodness!”  They actually affirm: “Do not sorrow for the Lord is your strength!”  The people were spiritually sensitive, and they could both weep and rejoice.  Their spiritual temperature was high!  What about us?  Are we keeping our spiritual temperature high?  There was a farmer who hadn't been attending Bible classes very well, and an elder went out to visit him on an brisk Fall day.  H e found him in his garden, and the farmer told the elder :  “Brother, I can feel close to God as easily in my garden alone than in a church pew.”  Later, both went into the house and sat by an open fire.  The elder reached and took the tongs, lifted a single glowing coal, and placed it alone on the hearth.  In just a little time, it lost its glow and became a black ash.  The farmer who saw all this took what he had seen to heart and told the elder: “Thank you, I see very clearly now: I cannot glow alone any more than I can live alone” (Webster).  Doesn't our lack of attendance  show that our hearts are not burning and we are not hungering and thirsting for righteousness?  Notice what Jesus tells some members in Rev. 3:15-16: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth!”  “When you thought I wasn’t looking, you gave me a sticker, and I knew that little things were special things.  When you thought I wasn’t looking, you put your arm around me, and I felt loved.  When you thought I wasn't looking, you dropped me off at Bible class, but did not remain yourself, then I knew that this time wasn't really important to you.  When you thought I wasn't looking, I notice you never asked me about the things I got in Bible class, and I learned that Bible knowledge was not something you really valued” (modified Korzan).  If you're committed to sports, you'll attend the games.  If you're committed to the arts, you'll attend the concerts and plays.  If you're committed to politics, you'll attend the rallies.  Someone has noted: “The way one attends classes can be seen as a barometer of one’s dedication and commitment to the Lord.  It too, can show a lack of the inward peace and fellowship with God” (Cooper).  Bible class can help you to keep your spiritual temperature high!  Make the most of our Bible classes!
 
Note how the Levites helped again; they quieted and encouraged the crowd.  So the people went away, ate, sent things to the needy, and rejoiced! Now notice how verse 12 shows that their motivation to action was the proclamation of God's word and their comprehension or understanding of God's will.  This had been a very productive Bible study; it went from teaching to taking action.  Our Bible classes will enhance your comprehension and your subsequent actions!  Imitate the Jews and early Christians.  The early Christians set good examples of studying the Scriptures: Acts 17:11 states: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so,” and Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 that from childhood, he had “known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation which is in Christ Jesus.”  Members who attend Bible classes: are showing a good example to others (1 Timothy 4:12), are showing that Jesus' teachings are very important to them (Acts 2:42), are showing love and consideration for other members (1 John 4:13), are redeeming (or wisely using) the time (Ephesians 5:16), and are respecting their elders, who have planned such opportunities (Hebrews 13:17).  The Jews participated greatly during the reading at the Water Gate; their gestures show us that they were alert and actively engaged in learning.  That should be our attitude as well.  How well do we approach our Bible classes with a readiness to participate?  Someone has noted that a healthy church grows and wins the lost in direct proportion to how its members mature.  What could God do with a church that was totally committed to Him? ... Many think that Bible classes, like school classes, require little participation.  With that attitude, they will always be disappointed (Adams).  The apostle Paul told the members at Colosse that after they had read his letter, they were to pass it along to the congregation at Laodicea, and then they were to take the letter that he had written to them, and then read it in their own congregation.  It seems that Paul wanted his converts to be constantly learning about how to live their Christian lives.  Let's be lifelong learners in God's kingdom!  Imitate the Jews and early Christians in their love for the Scriptures!  Make the most of our Bible classes!
 
        Here's a tribute to our Bible class teachers:
        With God's special guidance, with prayer to be kind,
        You prepare for each class, the truths we will find.
        Thank you for giving us a lesson week after week
        Knowing it is God's word and His will that we seek.
        Yes, “Thanks a million” for everything that you do.
        Our souls have been nurtured and enriched all because of you!
                                                               (modified Lachapell)

Make the most of our Bible classes!
 
Let's pray: “Father, we thank you for those who have taught us and influenced our lives.  Help us to be lifelong learners of Your Word.  Help us to see the value of time spent in Bible classes.  In Jesus' name, Amen.”
 
“A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5).  A Bible class is a good place for you to put into practice this verse.  If you haven't been making the most of our Bible classes, determine to do so today.  You really hurt your own soul by missing out on all those good 60 hours of instruction annually (not to mention other souls in your family)!  Could we pray that you'll start being more faithful in your attendance?

If you've not obeyed the Gospel by believing in Jesus as Gods' Son, repenting of your sins, confessing Him publicly, and being immersed in His name, what's hindering you?  Become Jesus' disciple today and continue to grow as a disciple through the Bible classes that you will participate in.  The Master Teacher calls you to learn from Him.