Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nehemiah 7:73b-8:12

73bWhen the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns,

1 all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Questions to consider:

  • Describe the scene in the square. What is the request?
  • What prefaces the reading of God’s law?
  • How do you acknowledge the author of the Bible when you read it?
  • What is the special work of the Levites and those who stand with Ezra?
  • How does God recognize the desire of the Israelites to understand his Word?

Possibilities for prayer:

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I know that I have heard this statement throughout my time in various church communities, and maybe you have too. But let’s think for a minute about what it actually means. The joy of the Lord must be a pretty powerful thing if it can (and should) be the strength one needs in times of crisis and grief. When life is difficult, it’s easy to get up in the grieving process and mourn and cry excessively. There’s definitely a time for grief (Jesus himself wept after all), but we should not get caught up in that grief or mourning. We have real joy, the kind of joy that can only be found in the Lord, to sustain us. So today, let’s ask for God to give us that real, intense, sustaining joy, so that we can rely on Him in times of trial.