Whether standing tall, bowing low or falling on your face before the Lord, God deserves our honor and respect; and when we say "amen" to his will, amazing things happen.
This month, as we continue our study of how we worship, we're going to look at Nehemiah 8:6 and see what we can learn from the revival that took place there among the people of Israel as they began to worship.
In chapter 8, Nehemiah has just finished restoring the wall in the city of Jerusalem. To coincide with that, there is a dedication process going on and the people have discovered the book of the law amidst great joy. Then in verse 6 it happens. Ezra has opened the book in sight of all the people and he blesses the Lord, the great God of Israel. In response, the crowd stands to its feet and all the people answer "Amen, Amen!" while lifting their hands.
There it is again. Lifting holy hands without wrath and doubting. We talked about those words of the Apostle Paul in an earlier study. David also talked about the raising of hands. And now, as this dedication is taking place, we see it happening again. We have a revival going on among the people of Israel. Those that were in Jerusalem while the word of God was being proclaimed were so moved they stood up out of respect for the Word and began saying, "Amen, Amen!" with their hands raised.
Now let me be clear on one point: This is not Mike's idea. It comes directly from Nehemiah 8:6. "Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground" (NASV). That's yet another picture of how to worship, to bow before the Lord. To worship is to give deference, to give respect to the Lord, whether you're alone, at a dedication ceremony or in a meeting with 5,000 other people.
I remember vividly such a meeting. It was 1975 and I had gathered with 5,000 men as the speaker preached on the Kingdom of God. Suddenly, the presence of God swept into that building in a way that I have experienced very few times in my life. When it happened, all 5,000 men took off their shoes and fell on their faces. The preaching was about the resurrection and how Jesus conquered the devil and Hell and sin and death, and how he took captivity captive and took the keys out of the hands of Hades and ascended. I was afraid to look up. The power and presence of God was so real, it was His glory in the building.
Two decades later I felt God's power in a similar way. In 1995, we were in Jerusalem recording Shalom, Jerusalem with Paul Wilbur. It was one of the most powerful recordings I've ever been a part of in my life.
Don't look for me on the Shalom, Jerusalem video, though. Instead, I am off to the side. There were bushes on the side of the stage to make it look nice for television and I spent part of the time literally in the bushes, just praying in God's presence and glory to come. We needed God's help because there were so many different elements that all had to come together. We had the lights coming from Switzerland. The recording truck came from England and was put on a barge in Greece before being shipped to Haifa. We had a large choir and many musicians. We had banners. We had Israeli dancers. It was a huge thing and it was a powerful time, and a breakthrough for Paul Wilbur's calling and ministry.
I wasn't the only one who thought so. There were about 3,000 people in the audience and I had people come up to me later saying it was a powerful and historic time of worship. One man came to me and said, "I've been a missionary here in Israel for 22 years and I have never seen this many local believers gathered together." He had seen bigger Christian meetings, but they were mainly Christians from different parts of the world. He had never seen so many local believers from all over Israel gathered together to worship.