Nehemiah 8: 1-10
January 24, 2010
During the next several weeks, we are planning to take a look at our church covenant. That is with the exception of next Sunday, when Loren Swartzendruber will be preaching. He is the President of EMU. We like to take some time each spring to think about who God wants us to be and what the Church covenant means to us.
The covenant starts out by saying, “God has called us, as individuals and as a church family, to be wise and faithful stewards of our time, our material resources, and our natural and spiritual gifts. In gratitude for what God has given us, and in recognition of our accountability to God and to one another, we make this mutual covenant.”
I want to focus on Jubilee to be a people that come together. We come together as a family. We come together for worship.
I love these verses from Nehemiah that Elaine just read. This is a beautiful scene of having church. Here they fill the town square to hear the Bible read. Everybody didn’t have copies of the Bible like we do now. They would have the priest or like the preacher read the Bible. They were there from early morning until noon. Those people were hungry to hear the Bible read.
Let’s have some history. The Jews had returned from 70 years of foreign captivity in Babylon. They were not able to practice their religion in Babylon. Ezra had been in Jerusalem since 457 B.C. Ezra was a priest, teaching religion to the people. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (13 years later) Nehemiah was sent there with authority from the King of Persia. He was there as a civil governor whose job was to get the Wall rebuilt around the city. The Jews had been back in Jerusalem for almost 100 years, but still didn’t have the city fortified. They worked at rebuilding the temple. Their neighboring countries kept picking on them and not wanting them to make progress on the wall. Well, Nehemiah had a blitz build on the city wall and got it done in 52 days.
We should get Nehemiah to finish the 22nd overpass bridge. The downtown merchants would appreciate him.
The buzz of excitement at finishing the walls has hardly had time to settle by the time they had this feast. The Jews were celebrating the Feast of Booths for 7 days. The last day was a solemn assembly; the people did not work this day.
So here we have the people assembled to hear the law of Moses read to them. Ezra was doing the reading and expounding the meaning. He was doing some real preaching.
I picture Ezra in a pulpit like we used to have here. It’s up in the attic now. We used to have a big tall pulpit over there. The word here actually meant tower. The old pulpit took up a third of the stage. They didn’t have a PA system, so he was up where his voice could carry.
The people weren’t just standing in a daze. They were getting into their worship.
Read verse 6 from The New Revised Version
“Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
They were having church there that day. They were feeling God’s presence out there on that town square.
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord God; do not morn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom have nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”