STRAIGHT TO THE HEART
“Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name” (Psa. 86:11).
Read Nehemiah 7:73b—8:12
73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.
Ezra Reads the Law
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, 8 1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 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.
a Nehemiah 8:8 Or God, translating it
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHow are you at following God’s blueprints? Is it merely actions or is it from the heart?
Throughout Israel’s history, Jerusalem has been not only a structure, but also a symbol. It was God’s chosen dwelling place (Deut. 12:11). Its Temple was the only place where God’s people could receive atonement for their sins. It was the physical representation of God’s relationship with his people. It is hardly surprising, then, that God’s plan for it wasn’t only to rebuild the walls, but to “rebuild” his people within them.
In Nehemiah God had chosen a man who understood that secure walls were worthless if the people’s hearts were far from God. Just a few days after the reconstruction was finished, Ezra read to all the people the blueprint for their lives.
There are many cracks in the wall of our society today. Many structures have been eroded or destroyed, and it is right that we as Christians act to rebuild those walls and meet our neighbors’ physical needs. But if we focus solely on the outward problems without bringing spiritual truth, we will be guilty of simply creating “whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27)—lovely on the outside, but dead and decaying within.
Is God convicting you of any sin as you remember his law? Repent before him now, and remember that repentance means a change of action and direction.
Christ, I have confessed my shortcomings to You. I praise You for Your sweet forgiveness that You bought for me on the cross.
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