"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed Yahweh, the great God, and all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped Yahweh with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Torah, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Torah of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." - Nehemiah 8:5-8
Once the Jerusalem walls had been rebuilt (445 bc), Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe led the Jewish community in a ceremony where the ancient Torah was read. It was the first day of the seventh month, the day on which the feast of Trumpets was to be celebrated (Leviticus 23:23). When Ezra and his teaching assistants began to read and explain the Torah, the people responded with reverence and listened attentively. Ezra and his assistants read the words clearly and explained them so that the people could understand God's word and its significance for their lives.
I love this scene. It had been many years since the Jewish people had reverenced the Torah like this. This was the kind of response God was looking for in his people. Some life lessons are: (1) God's leaders are responsible to lead God's people in the study and teaching of God's word; (2) it is appropriate to honour God's word by standing when it is read; (3) teachers of the Bible have a responsibility to help people understand God's word; and (4) the goal of all Bible instruction is understanding in the hearts of the people.
Father, there seems to be a lot of correlation between the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and what is happening at our church. Our church had 20 members about 18 months ago, and now we have about 65. Through inductive Bible study at all age groups, including children and teens, we have been dedicating ourselves to understanding your word. There is a feeling of joy at what we are learning, and it has resulted in numerical growth. Financial giving is also up. What all this seems to mean is that when a church truly dedicates itself to your word, you bring about a resurgence. Father, like Ezra and his assistants, may we do an outstanding job of explaining the meaning of the Bible so that all the believers in our church may understand it. May we understand you, your plan, and your ways so that we may live the way you want us to live and be the people you want us to be. May our church continue to have great respect for your word. Finally, bring tremendous joy to our hearts (Nehemiah 8:17) as we dedicate ourselves to you. May our church be more and more dedicated to your word over time. I am confident you will bless us abundantly if we do that. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman