3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
The second truth that we see that should be evident in our lives is:
2. LISTENING TO TRUTH –Vs 3-12
How do we know that they listened, because they lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” and then “bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Listening resulted in both loathing and loving, loathing sin and loving the Savior. The Word caused them first to:
Why does the Word cause us to weep, because scripture shows us our sin and sin should bring sorrow. Romans 7:7 says: “it was the law that showed me my sin.” Do you sorrow over sin? Are you calloused or contrite, reckless or repentant? After 70 years of not hearing God’s Word, they once again listened to the Word and wept. How long has it been since you heard the word and wept? You don’t know how blessed you are to own a Bible, or to be able to sit in the church and hear it spoken. We don’t know how blessed we are to be free to worship God, until we lose that freedom! Second the Word caused them to:
The congregation’s first response was one of conviction. The natural reaction to the Bible is guilt because scripture shows us the holiness of God and the horror and ugliness of our hearts. But while weeping is necessary and important, it’s not the final message God has for us. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Assisted by the Levites, Nehemiah convinced the people to stop crying and start celebrating. The Word of God brings conviction that leads to repentance, and repentance leads to rejoicing. The same Word that wounds also heals, you see reverence and rejoicing go together. Weep should give way to worship, it is as wrong to mourn when God has forgiven us, as it is to rejoice when sin has conquered us. It’s not enough just to read the Word and receive the Word, we must also rejoice in the Word. We rejoice because scripture shows us the solution to our sin problem. We have joy because Jesus died on the cross for our sin. But its not just about soaking in the truth its also about sharing the truth. In verse 10 Nehemiah calls them to share what they have with others. This is significant in light of what we learned in chapter 5 when the rich were taking advantage of the poor. When we experience God through His Word, we won’t just worship we will witness and invite others to experience the same joy. Joy is magnified when it’s shared. Are you hording and hiding holiness or sharing God’s message of salvation?
3. LEARNED THE TRUTH – Vs 7-8
In verses 7-8, the Levites join Ezra in helping to instruct the people, clearly explaining the meaning of what was being read and helping the people understand each passage. Preaching involves proclaiming the truth in a practical way so that it can be put into practice. The Levites showed them how to flesh out God’s truth in their own lives. We need both the public proclamation of the Word in a large assembly as well as the face-to-face interaction in small groups. As we look at Ezra we discover some important lessons about those who are called to teach. Ezra 7:10 reveals the kind of man Ezra was, “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” He was committed to personal study of the Word, practical application of the Word as he applied the bible to his own life, in other words he practiced what he preached, and then taught others. This verse is a personal challenge to me because I want to do the same. I’m committed to study and personal application so that I can teach the Word accurately and with integrity. If we are not careful we will start to make it more about speaker than the scripture, who the speaker is behind the pulpit is not as important as the Word of God that is proclaimed from the pulpit. Because only the Word of God can being the Joy of the Lord. I don’t need your ideas, and you don’t need mine, what we need is to hear from God. That’s the purpose of a pulpit, and if that purpose is not fulfilled, then the pulpit is nothing more than a soapbox. Remember the power is not in the pulpit, or the preacher it’s in the bible, they stood not because of a man on a wooden platform but because of the Word. Pulpits are made of wood and will rot, preachers are made of flesh and will rot, but the Word of God is eternal. Don’t stand for a pulpit, or a person stand for Scripture. What about you, are you listening to and learning from the truth of God’s Word?