Religion vs Relationship                Nehemiah  8:12-18

There are some people I know who are religious about surfing its got to be done daily of very often its got to be in a certain way on a certain board and with wax and clothing just right. Then there are others who are more freestyle intuitive they flow with the rhythm of the ocean and waves coming and going not in a regimented way but a cyclic eclectic fashion. There relationship to the ocean seems somehow more connected and less manufactured. This is religion vs Relationship and it exists in life and in the church.

These people in the square had gone from practicing religion to having a relationship with the living God. From the observance of tradition and ritual to meeting with God , hearing from him having their hearts massaged and then acting accordingly with obedience…

So great is there fervour that the leaders gather agin to hear the word vs 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.

Here they discover a long overlooked event… 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,

So they acted in obedience and went and told everyone to participate… vs 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.

Here we see the leaders the fathers the priests and the levites leading their people to follow God and worship him out of obedience to his word.

We may not all be levites and priests but there are many of us leaders of families, How are we going with communicating the word to our people with passion and excitement?

For these families in Jerusalem and surrounds… Even now many did not have a proper home in Jerusalem (7:4), but at this festival they confessed that their confidence was in the Lord, not in walls and buildings and financial security.

* God is sufficient for these people… IS he sufficient for us? or do we want God +

The festival of booths celebrates the wandering the desert when the people had no home and no provision except for what the Lord God provided. The festival reminds us today we are a pilgrim people; this world is not our home; our hope, our confidence our assurance our provision; is all bound up in the person of Jesus.

Jonathan Sacks.. ‘Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth says this re the festival of Booths the feast of Sukkoth and what it still means to the Jewish people today… ‘the tabernacle (booth) in all its vulnerability symbolises faith: the faith of a people who set out long ago on a risk laden journey across a desert of space and time with no more protection than the divine presence… sitting in the ‘sukkah’ underneath its canopy of leaves I often think of my ancestors and their wanderings across Europe in search of safety, and I begin to understand how faith was their only home. It was fragile, chillingly exposed to the storms of prejudice and hate. But it proved stronger than empires. their faith has survived.’  

Sitting under a funny frail shelter of branches the people realise God is sufficient He will provide for, lead, and care about his people.  and in 17- 18 the summation of the festival…  And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule. 

The people rejoiced. 

* The word read aloud and taught clearly, had confronted their sin and adjusted their hearts. 

* They abandoned security in this world and sought satisfaction and security in God.

Matt 16: 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Titus 2 : 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and Heaven without Hell.    –William Booth

Those that boast most of the religion may be suspected of partiality and hypocrisy in it.  Matthew Henry

Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all religions. If the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all of the world’s problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing. What the cross is actually a sign of is the fact that religion can’t do a thing about the world’s problems – that it never did work and it never will

Robert Farrar Capon

“Those that boast most of the religion may be suspected of partiality
and hypocrisy in it.
Matthew Henry”