By Elizabeth Prata*
I had been reading Nehemiah 8. It is a short book in the Old Testament, and it is good. Nehemiah was the fellow who supervised the rebuilding of Jerusalem and alongside Prophet Ezra help to purify the Jewish community that had re-gathered there. Nehemiah was governor and Ezra was the priest and the scribe.
The day came when Ezra called all the adults, and all children who could understand, to come and listen to the reading of the Law. They stood and listened. The Levites were there to help them understand what they were hearing. Soon there were tears, weeping, and crushed hearts. They fell on their faces. “For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” The people realized how far they were from God. But Ezra said not to weep, for it was a day of rejoicing. The Festival of Booths was born, and the people celebrated, giving gifts to those who had nothing, and went their way eating and drinking. It is a short chapter. I recommend reading it.
The response of the people was the only proper response but it is one from which we can gather strength and praise our Savior all the more. First, the people listened to the word. Any walk with the Lord should begin with listening, either by reading yourself and listening with your mind and heart, or listening to a pastor. The people were instructed, and that is a good start.
Then they wept. There are a lot of reasons people weep when they read or hear the Word. It is precise, beautiful, true, and convicting. It is a gift delivered once for all to the saints, and it is good for reproof, exhortation, and education. The Word also reminds us how far we are from Him, Him as savior and we as sinners forgiven by His blood and His grace. But the Word also reminds us of how close we can be to Him!
Then the people were glad. He restores us! He hears prayer, he regenerates us in His likeness, and we are glad, going forth in joy to know that we CAN know our Savior personally. They celebrated, and they gave gifts. We should do that as well, always being on the lookout for those who are in need to fill that need. Giving the gift of the Word, or our time, or our love or all three!
Finally, the people went away rejoicing but their response to hearing the Word did not stop there. They DID something. In this case it was to begin the Festival of Booths (Sukkot). The Israelites evidenced an emotional response but the instructors encouraged them to apply the words to a spiritual response, and they did so.
What is your response to hearing the word? Do you remain unaffected? Do you fall on your face? Do you weep? Do you rejoice….but remain inactive? Or does hearing the word motivate you to a response in the world that in turn affects others?
Our joy should be all the greater because not only do we have the word, we have the promise of the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5)
May He shine brightly in your heart today. If it has been a few days…weeks…months since you have really listened to the Word, do it today. In Him is life!
A version of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2011