Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God” – Nehemiah 8:18 (NIV)
In the short time that I’ve been reading and studying the Bible, I’ve become amazed at how many tools we have to see and hear the Word of God, and how beautifully they’re produced. Think about it….we have podcasts of preachers and church services, Christian radio, both satellite and regular over-the-air, and television broadcasts. I’m fortunate to have DirecTV, and by my count, there are at least nine channels that show Christian programming throughout the day. We’re all blessed with such a wealth of choices and wonderful preaching and teaching that’s available to us around the clock.
One of my favorite characters in my reading of the Old Testament so far is Ezra. This was a man who truly knew the Word of God and was a real “student of scripture”. He read it, studied it, applied it, and maybe most importantly, he taught it. I have read and re-read chapter 8 of Nehemiah several times over the last few weeks and come away with a great appreciation for this man. He has been credited with helping to rebuild the Israelites’ spiritual foundation, after some of their physical foundations (the temple and the wall) had also been restored.
After Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall, and the Israelites returned from exile to their towns, an assembly gathered in the town square. Ezra was sent for, and he was told to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. Standing on a high wooden platform, well above the assembled crowd, Ezra began to read. On that first day, he read from daybreak until noon. The people were overcome by the Word of God. They listened intently to Ezra and to the explanations given by the Levites in attendance. They lifted their hands and responded “Amen ! Amen !”, and then they began to weep. Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites then calmed the people and told them, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep” (Nehemiah 8:9, NIV). Instead, Ezra continued to read several days more, and the Israelites celebrated and feasted. More importantly, they made vows to change their sinful ways.
As I’ve read and re-read this chapter, I’m struck by the sheer power of this message. No stereo production, no TV lights, no podcast 🙂 Just a scribe reading the Word of God in front of an enraptured audience, an audience so overcome by emotion that they were reduced to tears. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been a part of that assembly, to have been there on those days ?
Ezra is a character that I truly admire. His study of the Word of God, and more importantly, his application of it, is something I want to emulate in my own study of the Bible. I look forward to continuing on in my reading with a new purpose. And I’ll stop every now and then and return to chapter 8 of Nehemiah and read with joy about this “student of scripture”.
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” – Nehemiah 8:12 (NIV)