This is the Word of the Lord
This is the Word of the Lord
TEXT: Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Move 1: Introduction
In our passage from Nehemiah this morning, the people are reminded of their special relationship to the Lord and receive again the Law of God into their hearts and their community. Listen for the Word of God in Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10:
“all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:1-3, NRSV)
“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. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”(Nehemiah 8:5-6, NRSV)
“So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and 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 or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:8-10, NRSV)
Move 2: The Scene
Here’s what’s happening in this passage: The Jews have just returned from a long exile in Babylon (50+ years). They have been away from their homes, their land, and the temple. They were unable to worship according to their custom and they were seldom able to hear the word of God proclaimed.
Now they have returned to Jerusalem, they are rebuilding the city and its gates, and they will soon begin rebuilding and rededicating the temple for worship. But today they have gathered in the square to hear a reading of book of the Law that has been lost to them decades. Actually, they are hearing for the first time the book of Deuteronomy, a book of Moses that recounts the history of Israel.
Move 3: The Response
Notice how they receive the reading: they stand. And they lift up their hands to receive a blessing from God. But when they hear the Word of the Lord, they weep. Why? They recognize that they have been living lawless lives apart from God. But God, in his grace and mercy, still desires a relationship with them. They understand that God has brought them back into the land they love so that they can begin again.
The leaders saw the weeping of the people and exhorted the people to rejoice. And they explained the Word of the Lord in detail so that everyone could understand the great blessing God had poured out. So, following the reading of scripture and teaching, the people feasted and drank sweet wine. In other words they had a joy filled party simply because they had the Bible read to them.
Move 4: How Do We Receive God’s Word?
How doe we receive God’s Word to us? Sometimes we take the Bible for granted. Up until the reformation there were very few copies of the Bible. Only the priest of the parish had a copy and it was never read outside of worship. But today the Bible is mass produced. There are dozens of different translations, paraphrases, and the Bible is printed in nearly every language known to humanity. Nearly everyone owns a copy of the scriptures, but how often do we take them out and read them. And when we do read, how do we respond? Do we worship the Lord? Do we eat and drink sweet wine in celebration of the good news we have received?
Move 5: Taste And See
Let us read the Word of the Lord together and then let us rise up and rejoice. As the Psalmist said, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119: 103)