The wall is finished. Nehemiah and the children of Israel have been successful in their task, despite the opposition. Nehemiah 8 begins.
The people are gathered together before the Water Gate (Nehemiah 8:1). Ezra is there now. Nehemiah has been the administrator of the reconstruction job. Ezra is the priest, and is there to for priestly tasks. There is a big wooden platform from where Ezra reads (Nehemiah 8:4). The people stand gathered before it.
What does Ezra do? He reads. He brings the Law before the assembly and he reads to them. How long does he read? He reads from early morning to midday. Who is his audience? Nehemiah 8:2 says that it was "both men and women and all who could understand what they heard." No one is excluded.
Nehemiah has men who help him translate for the audience. They speak to the people, not only translating, but helping the people understand the Law: "They read from the book, from the Law, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8:8)
What an extraordinary picture. No microphones; no large screen to watch what is going on. No one is Tweeting. They are listening to understand.
What is their reaction? They worship.
Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (8:6)It gets more emotional. They weep (Nehemiah 8:9). Why are they weeping? Their city had been in ruins. They had been in captivity. They had not been able to gather together in such a manner as this, hearing the Law read and explained. Finally, they could hear the Law. Do you suppose they were hungry to hear from God?
They are told not to mourn, but to go and eat the fat and drink sweet wine and give to the needy. The people do this, and this section (Nehemiah 8:1-12) ends with them rejoicing. Why are they rejoicing? Because, as 8:12 says, "they had understood the words that were declared to them."
Would you be hungry enough for a word from God to stand underneath a wooden platform all day, out in the sun to hear it? When you hear the Word read, do you worship with your face to the ground (either figuratively or literally)? Are you willing to wait upon help so that you can understand "the sense" of the Word? We have men all over the world whose job this is, to teach us. We have commentaries, online sermons, multiple translations. It has never been more easy to understand the Word. Do you take advantage of this blessing? We have no problem standing in line for a couple of hours to shop for something, or attend a concert, but do we say we don't have "enough time" for the Word?
It so easy to take advantage of the Word of God, but do we spend more time on anything else but probing the depths of God's word? We all make time for that which is important to us.
Christ, as part of the Godhead, is everywhere present with us, but Christ is revealed most clearly in His Word. We are often "in exile" in the world in which we live, far from the sound of His voice. We need to return to His Word, to worship and to obey. We need to have the hunger.
Previous posts on Nehemiah: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4