What does it say?
More than a mere building campaign, this project brings spiritual renewal as the people are in awe of what God has done through them. They assemble in the street and ask Ezra to minister God’s words to them (Neh 8). Standing on a wooden platform to be seen and heard, Ezra opens the scriptures and is assisted by other leaders to explain and possibly translate for those who knew no Hebrew. All morning they publicly read from the scriptures. In the process of hearing God’s words, they discover the Feast of Tabernacles. For the first recorded time since the days of Joshua they make leafy shelters to remind them of God’s deliverance during the desert wanderings.
God’s word has both a convicting and healing effect upon the people as they confess, worship and continue the public reading of scripture. God’s work in bringing the people back to him results in the people taking real and practical steps to align their lives properly with the scriptures’ teaching (Neh 9). As a token of the reality of their faith, they sign and seal a pledge to renew the covenant and their names are recorded (Neh 10). The remainder of chapter 10 describes the action steps they take to order their community as God has instructed concerning marriage, the Sabbath, taxes, tithes and offerings and service in the temple.
What does it mean?
This is a powerful passage to display the transforming power of God’s words. Beyond worship and praise alone, people that grasp God’s truth take practical, concrete steps to align their lives in accordance with the teaching.
It is also worth noting that the people themselves (8:1) asked Ezra to minister God’s word. They recognized their need and requested it. True repentance comes from within and is an act of God, allowing him to find us and draw us to him. Repentance is not outward works, but we see here that very specific actions and attitudes result from the inner workings of the transforming power of God’s word.
How will I respond?
How does my life demonstrate my hunger to hear God’s words? It might be my commitment to assemble in the church with other believers for teaching and preaching and also my personal commitment to read and study the scriptures. Having seen this example of the power of God’s words in these Jews, what specific step(s) will I take today to properly align certain areas of my life with biblical teaching?