Nehemiah 8:3 (NIV) 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.
On 7:73 to 8:8: After all the Israelites had settled in their towns, Ezra the priest assembles all the people together for a worship service in the public square (v1). Men, women and “all who were able to understand” (which probably suggests older or mature children) (v2-3) listen attentively as Ezra reads the book of the law out loud from daybreak tillnoon (that’s about 6 hours of reading out God’s Word!) (v3). Then the people stand and join in a time of face-to-the-ground worshiping and praising God (v6). After that a team of 13 Levites get on the stage and teach God’s Word, “making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (v8).
What can we learn from this? In chapter 8 there is a big emphasis on understanding on God’s Word (v2 – “all who were able to understand”; v3 – “others who couldunderstand”; v8 – “so that the people could understand”; v12 – “great joy, because they now understood”).
Likewise, you were made not just to hear God’s Word or read God’s Word. You were made to understand God’s Word. Something powerful happens when you understand God’s Word: You come alive. Just as God used His Word to speak creation into being, you come alive when you receive and understand God’s Word. How can you position yourself to understand God’s Word better? We learn two ways from these verses:
Listen attentively to God’s Word. Verse 3 says, “…And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the law.” Often the reason we don’t understand is because we don’t listen attentively. That’s why before I read or listen to God’s Word,it helps me tospend time in prayer, laying down my burdens, surrendering my life to God, and being still in His presence. I’m preparing my heart to listen attentively to God’s Word. Otherwise, my distracted thoughts can easily get in the way. While I’m listening to God’s Word, it also helps me to write down the key things I’m hearing. They say, “thoughts disentangle themselves through the lips and the finger tips”. In other words, you might think you understand what you’re hearing with your ears or reading with your eyes, but you don’t really know how much you understand until you start trying to explain it in your own words by speaking it out and writing it out. That’s why I encourage you to take good notes when you’re reading God’s Word during your GAME time (don’t be afraid to mark up that Bible!). I also encourage you to take good notes when you’re listening to sermons, for even just the act of writing down what you hear helps you retain and process what you’re hearing. Otherwise, it’s easy to read or hear God’s Word and forget after a day.
Get the help of good teachers of God’s Word. In verses 7-8 we read that a team of 13 Levites taught God’s Word to the people “making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (v8). We all need the help of good Bible teachers to help us understand God’s Word. That’s why God gifts certain of His children with the gift of teaching His Word. Don’t take for granted the good Bible teachers God has placed in your life, but learn from them.
Because the people listened attentively and had the help of good teachers, “all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” (v8) When we understand God’s Word by listening attentively and with the help of good teachers, God’s Word brings us back to life.
In verses 13 to 18 below, we will learn two more ways you can position yourself to understand God’s Word better.
Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NIV) 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred 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 sacred 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 sacred 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.
On verses 9-12: Nehemiah, Ezra and the team of Levite teachers explain to the people that since “this day is sacred to the Lord your God” they are not to mourn or weep; instead they are to enjoy good food (v10), share it with those who have nothing (v10), be still (v11) and celebrate. Here joy, not weeping, is associated with what is sacred.
What can we learn from this? Sometimes the holiest thing you can do is to throw a party and celebrate. God is not a sombre, melancholy God.In His heart, at His very core, God is full of joy. That’s why Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy”. That’s why God commands celebrations in His Word. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the good things God has done in your life. For when we celebrate and rejoice in the good things God has done, it pleases God and it reflects His heart.
Nehemiah 8:14-17 (NIV) 14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths”–as it is written. 16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
On verses 13-17: Ezra gathers the leaders of the people for a one day leadership conference. As they read the law of Moses they are impacted by the command to celebrate the feast of tabernacles for seven days, a festival where they are to build tents made of tree branches and live in them for seven days. It was a way to remember their ancestors’ journey out of Egypt to the Promised Land. So the people set up tents on their roofs, their own courtyards, the temple courtyard and the public squares. Because they celebrated the feast of tabernacles as God’s Word commanded them to do, they experienced great joy like no other.
What can we learn from this? A third way that you can better understand God’s Word is to actually do it! You can read the Bible from cover to cover, listen to all the sermons you want and take good notes, but you will never know the true power of God’s Word – the joy, the peace, the wisdom, and the blessing that come from God’s Word – until you get up and do what God’s Word is telling you to do. When you get up and do what God tells you to do, you will experience a joy, a peace and a power that nothing else can give you.
Nehemiah 8:18 (NIV) 18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
On verse 18: Finally, if you want to understand God’s Word better, be consistent in reading it. Notice here that “day after day, from the first day to the last”, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.
Are you consistent in reading God’s Word? Do you feed on it every day? When you consistently feed on God’s Word every day, disciplining yourself to read God’s Word no matter how you feel, making God’s Word your priority, that’s when you will understand the power of God’s Word to change your life.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we come alive when we understand Your Word. I pray that everyone reading this GAME sharing would read Your Word consistently every day, would listen attentively, would make use of the good teachers of the Bible You have placed in their lives, and do Your Word. Thank You that when they do these things, they will understand Your Word – what it means and how powerful it is. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!