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Ezra Reads The Law (ch. 8:1 - 18)


The last phrase in chapter 7 is included in chapter 8. It tells us that there was a great meeting of the Jews.  It took place around the end of our September or early October.


In verse 1 we see that the Jews wanted Ezra to read from the Law.  Verse 2 tells us that all those who could understand listened to Ezra.  It appears the children, or those who could not understand, were not part of this gathering.  It seems that Ezra did not want any distractions as he read from the Law. 


Verse 3 tells us that this gathering did not take place at the temple, but at an open area at the Water Gate.  And note this, the meeting lasted at least four hours, and probably longer because it started at dawn and ended at noon.   


Also in verse 3 we learn that the people were attentive to what the Law said.  They were eager to listen and to learn from the Word of God since it was not often read.  This is astounding in light of the fact that most North Americans can't sit and listen to a sermon for more than thirty minutes.  This shows the desire these men and women had to understand God's word, at least for the time being. 


Verse 4 tells us that a fairly large wooden platform was built for Ezra and others to speak from.  This was merely a logistical tool.  Too often these days the platform and the pulpit boosts the pride of the speaker as all eyes are focused on the speaker.  This was not the case here.  The people wanted to hear the Word of God.  Ezra was merely the tool to speak God's Word.


Verse 5 tells us that as soon as Ezra began to read the Law, the people stood up.  Standing was meant to be a gesture of respect for the Word of God.  We will see these people standing throughout the time when the Word of God is being read.    


Verse 7 tells us that as the people stood, Ezra praised the Lord.  After that, the people responded to Ezra's praise by falling on their faces in worship to God.  So at this point, the people left their standing position to fall prostrate before God. 


We see the words "praise" and "worship" used in this verse.  It appears that Ezra gave praise to God while he was standing, but when everyone began to worship, they fell on their faces in humility.  Some people distinguish between praise and worship by saying worship is a more serious form of praise.


Verse 7 that thirteen named Levites taught from the Law.  This seems to suggest that Ezra read the Law, while the Levites taught it, and while they taught it, the people stood, once again, probably out of respect.  That's a long time to stand.


Verse 8 tells us that these Levites made the Law clear to the people so they could understand.  This was part of the job of the priests.  They were teachers, and they taught in such a way that those they were teaching could understand.  There is no use trying to teach someone something if you do it in a way that is not understandable


Verse 9 tells us that these people mourned and wept as they heard the Word of God.  They were starving to hear God's Word.  They finally got to hear it and it was overwhelming to them.  What a response.  Too often we take for granted that which we have.  We have many Bibles in our homes today, and many of these Bibles sit on our shelves.  Yet in those countries where Bibles are not allowed, if one does have a portion of the Bible in their possession, they guard it as their most prize possession. We should have the same attitude today.


When Ezra and the leaders saw the people weeping they told them to stop mourning.  This was a great day in the Lord.  This should be a day of rejoicing.  In verse 10 Nehemiah encourages the people to rejoice for the joy of the Lord would be their strength.  Part of the rejoicing of this day would be to eat and drink and share with those who did not come prepared to feast in the presence of God.  Eating and drinking therefore can be an expression of the joy of the Lord.  Maybe that's why so many Christians now go out for lunch after a Sunday morning worship service these days.  This might well be the forerunner of the Christian fellowship meal that we see in the New Testament.


In verse 11 the Levites confirm what Nehemiah had just said.  They told the people to be still and not to grieve because this is the day of the Lord.  Grieving and mourning in Scripture is often associated with fasting and repentance for sin.  This was not a day of mourning and fasting but a day of rejoicing, even though their hearts had been overwhelmed by the reading of the Law of Moses.


In verse 12 the celebration begins.  The people ate, drank, and rejoiced for this was truly a day of celebration.  The text specifically says that they rejoiced because they understood the Words of the Law.  They just didn't rejoice because the wall had been built.  The rejoicing came as a result of understanding God's Word.  O how such rejoicing today could be seen in the church.


A few days later, we see in verses 13 through 15 that Ezra read to part of the Law of Moses that spoke about the Feast of Booths, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles.  As soon as the Jewish people understood what this meant, they knew it was time to celebrate this feast.  They immediately sent word out to all the surrounding towns to gather branches to build little tents or booths to live in during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Once again, here is a hungry people for God's Word.  They hear it and obey it immediately. 


The Feast of Tabernacles is a reminder of the salvation their God provided for them as they escaped Egypt in the days of Moses.  It was the time of year when they gathered the crops.  The Feast was also to celebrate God's goodness in the fall harvest.  This feast is also symbolic of the last great ingathering of saints by Jesus at the end of this age.


We see in verses 16 and 17 that everywhere and anywhere they could build these booths or tents they did.  Some even built them on the roof of their house.


Verse 17 tells us that the Jews had not celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles "like this" since the time of Joshua.  That's a few hundred years.  It wasn't that the feast hadn't been celebrated.  It's just that it had not been celebrated with such enthusiasm since Joshua's day.


We know that the Feast of Tabernacles lasts seven days.  The Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah's leadership celebrated all seven days of this feast.  In verse 18 it says that after the seven days of celebration ended there was another large gathering of all the people. 

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