Read Nehemiah 8. For further reflection, read 2 Kings 22.
The Israelites were in exile, and they have just returned back to the land. It was not a triumphant return. The land was not in a good condition. The temple needed rebuilding, and they would need a city wall to protect them against their enemies. There were many things that they needed to do to rebuild the nation in the land. What should they prioritise? What needs to come first?
What I read in our passage today impressed heavily upon me about the importance of God’s word. It was essentially a “church service” with the Israelites gathered together around the word of God. Several details about this passage struck me:
- Ezra read God’s word from daybreak till noon. I was amazed when I read this. The Israelites were so thirsty for God’s word that they listened attentively to the Book of the Law for hours. They had been in exile, away from the temple and their land, without access to God’s word for 70 years.
- God’s word was explained so that the people understood what was being read. This means that understanding the preaching of God’s word should also be given priority. How can God’s people change if they did not understand God’s word? They needed someone to come and give the meaning to the people (v8).
- The people responded first by weeping, then rejoicing. I was perplexed with their response. Why weep first then rejoice? It dawned on me that as they hear God’s word, they realised that they were in exile because of their sins. God warned them of his judgement for worshipping idols long ago. The Israelites then rejoiced because despite God’s judgement, God was still faithful to them. He was the one who brought them back into the land. The Levites told them, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (v10)
- The result was repentance and obedience. Once they knew God’s word, they set out to obey his commands (v14), in a way that they have not done so for many years (v17). It was a joyful obedience, borne of out their gratitude to God.
This seems to be the pattern for revivals in the Bible. God’s word convicts his people of their sins. Repentance follows and joy ensues in view of God’s mercy. This results in a deepened relationship with God and joyful obedience from his people.
This should also be a pattern for us today, no matter what we are going through as the church. God’s word should be given the prominence like what happened in this passage (v4). Not only was it given prominence, Ezra also made sure that it was being explained to the people.
That is what we need to do as God’s people at Subi Church. Let us gather around God’s word, and let him convict us, reassure us and strengthen our faith through his promises. Let us deepen our obedience, in light of his faithfulness.
- Pray for revival in your own soul as we learn more about God through his word
- Pray for revival at Subi Church and also Western Australia