Text: Nehemiah 8:1-12
We continue in our series on worship this week. We have been gradually becoming more specific. We began by answering what it means to give glory to God and calling on the name of the Lord. Then we looked at the importance of our personal relationships and their impact on our worship. Then last week we studied a litany, Psalm 136, as a tool for worship. We have also seen that all of these ideas have their source in the mighty acts of God and what He has done for his people.
This week we are going to look at a particular worship service and see what happens, kind of the nitty-gritty of the theoretical that we have been looking at so far.
The first thing that we need to see is when this worship service happens. It is the first day of the seventh month. The month of the Passover. The Passover, like the Lord's Supper, is a remembrance of what the Lord has done, and it is designed to teach the faith of the fathers to the children. The Passover is two weeks in the future. While not explicit, it seems that the people want to make sure that they celebrate this festival as the Lord commanded. They want to renew their relationship with the Lord now that he has delivered them from captivity for a second time.
Second, this worship was initiated by the people. They told Ezra to bring the "Book of the Law of Moses." They wanted to hear everything that the Lord had commanded Israel. Too often the "professionals" take over every aspect of worship. But here as in all true revivals of true religion, it is a bottom up expansion as the people renew their faith and put aside their foolish idolatry and worldliness.
Third, it is interesting who stood to hear the Word read, "all who could hear with understanding." Men and women gathered together as one to hear the Word of the Lord read from morning until midday. As these people renew their faith, they do not rely on the memory of the stories told to them by parents or grandparents, or even their own reason. They go back to the source of revelation, the Scripture, and conform themselves to that.
Fourth, there was a group of several men who went through the congregation to help the people understand. Scripture is not always easy to understand. It often requires study and effort, and those who have already done the work are to aid the others who seek the knowledge of God.
Fifth, following the reading of the Book of the Law, the people went home to celebrate this holy day. They celebrate because they understood the words that were spoken to them. They also gave to who had nothing prepared. When the church has a proper relationship with its Lord, it naturally works out in human relationships.
Last, there are several instances during the course of the reading that the people respond physically to the reading. Before the reading the people cry, "Amen. Amen" while lifting up their hands to the Lord. They also bow their head with their faces to the ground. They weep when they heard the law read. We have souls, but we also have bodies. What impacts the one, impacts the other.