In Nehemiah 8, the people have been working faithfully on the Temple and have come now to the place where they are recounting the Word of God and going through His law and history. They come upon a description of the Festival of Shelters, an observance they haven't undertaken in many, many generations, and then something amazing happens.
They do it.
Look at that again. The people read about the Festival of Shelters, a time during which God calls His people to live in makeshift tents in the land to remind them of what it was like in the wilderness when they did not have a permanent home among them, and they immediately go and build themselves makeshift shelters to live in for the celebration of this festival.
Maybe you're thinking, okay. What's the point? That's exactly the point - they read the Scriptures, then followed them.
They didn't ask what kind of shelters were the best kind of shelters to make. They didn't talk about how expensive it would be to get the materials for the shelters. They didn't ask whether God really meant what He said or if it was some kind of metaphor for something different He wanted them to do. They didn't spend their time diving into the story of the original shelters that the festival was instituted in remembrance of. They didn't substitute good preaching on the subject for actual obedience to the word. They didn't pontificate the finer points of shelter living. They didn't attempt to justify themselves by saying that well, they were already kind of living in shelters while they rebuilt the Temple because their own houses weren't really the best.
They read the Scriptures, and they followed them.
What a novel idea!
We live in a time that has taught us to question everything, even our God. Even our faith. Even His Word. We're told that the best thing to do is to seek to understand, not to seek to obey. We're told that not everything is what it seems to be and that often, these things we find in the Bible are really just images, just metaphors for something else. Jesus didn't really want the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor; he was just "making a point." The Red Sea didn't really part; it was a point of low tide where it just seemed like the waters pulled back for awhile.
Again and again, we take these beautiful stories and incredible bits of wisdom that God has given us for living, and we nag them to death until the very life is sucked out of them. Because we're told that's what "reasonable" people do, and we are, aren't we?, reasonable people. And then we try to build a life and a faith and a heart on stories without the life in them and we wonder why we're feeling so parched, so dry, so...dead.
We're feeling dead because we read the Bible, but we don't take it at its Word. We listen to God, but we don't believe Him. We spend our time trying to figure out what He meant instead of living by what He said, and I'm telling you - it's not that complicated. Read the Scriptures. Read them again. Turn the page, and you'll see yet another person who simply believes, and it is credited to him or her as righteousness.
The people in Nehemiah read the Word, built the shelters, lived in them, and worshiped. It really is that simple.