Daily Readings and Thought for November 20th. “TO MAKE GREAT REJOICING BECAUSE … “
It never ceases to surprise us when doing the daily Bible readings to notice things we had never really noticed before. Our chapter in Nehemiah describes the events after the Temple had been rebuilt and the city walls and gates made secure. We noted in 4 v.6 that “the people had a mind to work.” Today’s chapter (8) starts by telling us how “all the people gathered as one man into the square below the Water Gate. So they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded … “ [v.1]
The initiative came from the people! Now don’t let us see the 5 books of Moses as purely a set of commandments to be observed like the laws of our country. The Jews call these books the Torah – the Hebrew word for Law. Look at Psalm 119 where David uses the word Torah 25 times. “Let your mercy come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight” [v.77], “Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble.” [v.165]
Ezra’s generation were learning about their entire heritage and these included the powerful exhortations of Moses just before his death; this is the substance of the book of Deuteronomy. The people requested Ezra to “read from it … from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and women and all who could understand what they heard …” [v.3]. There is a list of 14 Levites (v.7) who helped the people to understand. “They read … clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” [v.8]. We are told “all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” – but they were told by Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” [v.9]
Reading God’s word should challenge our thinking and our emotions. It should challenge us to think about our own personal relationship with God and with his Son, our Saviour.
So they “calmed all people, saying ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy, do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink … and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” [v.11,12]
Understanding the word of God should cause usgreat rejoicing. Let us make sure it does, but it is a different kind of rejoicing to that indulged in by the rest of the world..