We live in a very fast-paced world. We are used to having it “our way” and get disturbed when it isn’t. We can go through a drive-thru for dinner, play games and watch movies on our phones, and talk to far away family and friends through our computers.
For most of us in America, we can drive to our local Christian book store and have our choice of many different versions of the Bible. We can buy the Bible at the Dollar Tree or even have a Bible app on our phones or tablets. We have the Bible readily available to us. Even though it’s convenient for us, do we really use it? When we read the Bible, do we respond to it?
If you read Nehemiah, you will find the trials that Nehemiah goes through in order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Finally, at the end of chapter 6, we read that the wall is finished and the people of Israel can come back.
Nehemiah chapter 8 gives us insight as to how the Israelites, at least at that time, responded to the Scriptures being read.
1And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.
– They gathered “as one man”. They didn’t have the Scriptures in their houses. They had to leave their house to gather together to hear the Scriptures being read to them. It was not convenient for them to hear the Word of God. When we gather in church on Sundays, are we “as one man”? Probably not, in most churches. We go because “that’s what Christians do” and then we go home.
2Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
– There is so much in these two verses. All the men and women gathered on the first day of the seventh month to hear Ezra, the priest, read the law of God to them. He read it from early morning until midday. They were there all morning long listening to the Word of God. We complain when the preacher takes longer than 20 minutes with his sermon. We have things to do and people to see. Church has become something we do instead of something that we are. We are there to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to learn more about His Word. We have lost the yearning to know our Creator because we think everything is about us. Look at the end of verse 3. It says “and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” Let me repeat a few of those words: ALL were ATTENTIVE. Have you ever seen ALL of the people in your church service ATTENTIVE? I haven’t.People are making grocery lists, thinking about what they are going to have for lunch, or even sleeping. Do you sleep during a 2 hour business meeting? If you did, you would get talked to by your boss or even fired. Why, then, do we think that it’s ok to sleep during a 30 minute sermon in church? All of the people of Israel were attentive while Ezra was reading the Scriptures. Ezra didn’t even have a microphone, so being attentive would have been a very big feat for all of those people.
5Ezra 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. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
The people stood up when the book of law had been opened. Wow! What respect! That’s the response that the Word of God deserves. We stand and cheer at football games, stand and sing at a concert, and stand up for the bride at a wedding. I’m not saying that any of these things are bad, just comparing our responses to the things of this world and the things of our Heavenly Father. So many people think that the Bible is out of date and so since they have the “that’s your truth and not my truth” mentality, they lack the respect that the Word of God deserves. The people of Israel stood up as a sign of respect for the Lord and His Word. I’m not saying that we have to stand up each time the Word is read or spoken, but I am saying that a respectful mind and heart need to be there.
13Then on the second day the heads of fathers’ households of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law. 14They found written in the law how the Lord had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. 15So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” 16So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing.
So the head of the fathers’ households, the priests, and the Levites all got together to learn more about what God’s Law was. They found that God had commanded Moses to that the people of Israel were to live in booths during the feast. Did they think, “That was for those people. That’s not for us now. That was God wanted them to do.” No! They went out and told the people to gather wood to make booths. Did the people listen? Yes! They went right away and started to build the booths that God had commanded. When we read the Word, do we respond like that? Notice verse 17, “and there was great rejoicing.” They found a command in the Law of God, responded immediately, and rejoiced because they had been faithful to God’s Word. That’s the kind of response that God’s Word deserves; an immediate response and change.