The walls are built, now what? Well, it has been over a hundred years since some of the Jews have been in Jerusalem. There could even be children or young adults that have never heard the word of the Lord before. They have been living in foreign lands and foreign cultures for years now, so it only seems appropriate for The Word of the Lord to be read to His people. I'm sure the Israelites were wide open to hearing what God had to say after they just witnessed and were a part of His miracle of the wall being built in 52 days. (Even the surrounding nations knew it was a miracle from God: Nehemiah 6:16)
- The Lord had prepared their hearts by protecting them and bringing them through the 52 day struggle of hard labor and fear of war. "And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law."
Verses 4-8 stump me. I try to picture like a church service or ministry environment but cant seem to understand what ALL those people are doing. We have Ezra reading the Book of the Law. Then we have 8 other men on stage with him, 4 to his left and 4 to his right. Then we have 13 Levites who are instructing the people, also reading from the Book of the Law, and giving it meaning so people could understand.
-I just feel like there is a lot going on here. I don't understand how all of them are reading, instructing, etc to the people at the same time. Even if it is a big group, I could understand them being in small sections or circles and one man reading to or instructing a few, but that is not the picture I am getting from the text. Especially with 8 men just standing on stage with Ezra. Maybe they are leaders and are on stage to show their support, maybe they all took turns reading (although there is no text to support this it may be valid since it says the Word was read from daybreak to noon, about 5-6 hours!), maybe they are crowd control- who knows! All we know is that they are on stage with Ezra.
I love how reactive and emotional the people are being to the Word as it is being read. They lift their hands, they shout AMEN, they bow down, and they cried. ALL of them cried! "For all of the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law." Sometimes I really long for this in the modern day church. Don't you even find yourself wanting to stand up and shout HALLELUJAH! AMEN! JESUS SAVED MY SOUL!! GOD IS SO GOOD!!!! Don't you ever just want to clap and dance and sing loudly when you're worshipping without people looking at you like you are a lunatic! I mean come on people- THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!! THE JOY! Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything. And of course there needs to be structure and containment in a church service. But sometimes I just think there needs to be more time and places for praising our God LOUDLY! Without holding back. I'm saying this to the church as well as myself. Too often I hold back. I think I might make it my personal goal to sing louder than that old lady in church, dance more than the little kids and blare my praise music louder than some hoodrat's rap music. They won't know what hit em! :)
Celebration is a major theme I got out of this chapter. It is true and right a good to celebrate, especially on special occasions. I'm all about the holidays! But I just love how verses 10 and 12 mention to "send portions to those who have nothing prepared." The celebration and joy is not just for those who can afford it- it is for everyone! It is our call to share that joy with others as well.
The Feast of Booths is very interesting to me. The feast was to remind those in the promised land what it was like for their ancestors to live in the desert. In captivity, the significance was probably lost because 1. they weren't in the promised land anymore and 2. they may not have been taught or would have gone astray from the Lord's teachings. After the people were read The Law and were reminded of the Lord's promises and could rest in peace in their promised land, they celebrated the Feast of Booths "and their joy was very great!"
- The ancient rabbis said, "He who has not seen Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths does not know what rejoicing means." (Quest Study Bible notes)
If you have anything to add or any questions about Nehemiah 8 then please feel free to leave a comment. I'll get back with any questions as soon as I ask someone wiser than me;) Have a wonderful day! Love, Devon