Key Verse: “The Joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
73 The priests, Levites, security guards, singers, and Temple support staff, along with some others, and the rest of the People of Israel, all found a place to live in their own towns.
8:1 By the time the seventh month arrived, the People of Israel were settled in their towns. Then all the people gathered as one person in the town square in front of the Water Gate and asked the scholar Ezra to bring the Book of The Revelation of Moses that God had commanded for Israel.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:1)
This is the first mention of Ezra in this book.
He had arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon 13 years before Nehemiah (458 B.C.; see Ezra 7:6-9).
Given the fact that the first seven chapters are taken with the account of Nehemiah’s trip to Jerusalem and the three-month monumental construction task.
Ezra’s appearance at this point in the book emphasizes that the special role he had all along now came to the forefront.
Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the wall; Ezra led the spiritual revival of the nation.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:1)
Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries (Nehemiah 8:9), although Ezra was probably much older.
Nehemiah, as governor, was the political leader; and Ezra, as priest ad scribe, was the religious leader.
A scribe in these days was a combination lawyer, notary public, scholar, and consultant.
Scribes were among the most educated people, so they were teachers.
No doubt the Jews would have liked to set up the kingdom again as in the days of David, but t his would have signaled rebellion against the king of Persia to whom they were subject.
The best alternative was to divide the leadership between Nehemiah and Ezra.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:1-5)
The Book of the Law of Moses was probably the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
The people rose to their feet in respect and anticipation. They listened attentively to Ezra as he read God’s Word, and their lives were changed.
Because we hear the Bible so often, we can become dulled to its words and immune to its teachings.
Instead, we should listen carefully to every verse and ask the Holy Spirit to help us answer the question, “How does this apply to my life?”
2-3 So Ezra the priest brought The Revelation to the congregation, which was made up of both men and women—everyone capable of understanding. It was the first day of the seventh month. He read it facing the town square at the Water Gate from early dawn until noon in the hearing of the men and women, all who could understand it. And all the people listened—they were all ears—to the Book of The Revelation.
4 The scholar Ezra stood on a wooden platform constructed for the occasion. He was flanked on the right by Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, and on the left by Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
5-6 Ezra opened the book. Every eye was on him (he was standing on the raised platform) and as he opened the book everyone stood. Then Ezra praised God, the great God, and all the people responded, “Oh Yes! Yes!” with hands raised high. And then they fell to their knees in worship of God, their faces to the ground.
7-8 Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, all Levites, explained The Revelation while people stood, listening respectfully. They translated the Book of The Revelation of God so the people could understand it and then explained the reading.
9 Nehemiah the governor, along with Ezra the priest and scholar and the Levites who were teaching the people, said to all the people, “This day is holy to God, your God. Don’t weep and carry on.” They said this because all the people were weeping as they heard the words of The Revelation.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:9)
Ezra, not Nehemiah, was the official religious leader.
It is significant that Nehemiah was a layman, not a member of the religious establishment or a prophet.
He was motivated by his relationship with God, and he devoted his life to doing God’s will in a secular world.
Such people are crucial to God’s work in all aspects of life.
No matter what your work or role in life, view it as God’s special calling to serve him.
God can accomplish His purpose through you, begining right where you are.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws and realized how far they were from obeying them.
But Ezra told them they should be filled with joy because the day was sacred. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need.
Celebration is not to be self-centered.
Ezra connected celebration with giving. This gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate as well.
Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthen spiritually and filled with joy.
Enter into celebrations that honor God, and allow him to fill you with His joy.
10 He continued, “Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!”
11 The Levites calmed the people, “Quiet now. This is a holy day. Don’t be upset.”
12 So the people went off to feast, eating and drinking and including the poor in a great celebration. Now they got it; they understood the reading that had been given to them.
Reflection: (Nehemiah 8:13)
After Ezra read God’s laws to the people, they studied them further and then acted upon them.
A careful reading of Scripture always calls for a response to these questions:
- What should we do with this knowledge?
- How should our lives change?
We must do something about what we have learned if it is to have real significance for our lives.