The Impact of Knowing God
Neh. 8:6 - "And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground."
What a day to be present at the worship of God! The remnant of Israel that returned to Jerusalem from captivity had rebuilt the temple (Ezra), and had just witnessed God's provision as they labored to complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls (Neh. 1-7), now they were about to undergo an intense spiritual remodeling project that began with a public reading of the Law of Moses (Neh. 8-13).
This text stands to most readers for several reasons:
- We see the forethought that was given to everyone successfully hearing God's word as it was read by everyone gathering in one place and providing an elevated place for the reader (Neh. 8:1, 4, 5).
- We see the emphasis and planning that went into helping everyone understand what was read by the selection and placement of multiple Levites within the crowd to help interpret and expound on what was read (Neh. 8:2, 3, 7, 8).
- We see the reverential and enthusiastic response of those who heard God's word (Neh. 8:5, 6, 9-11).
- We see the practical impact the reading had on those who heard and understood as their mourning was turned to joy and then went home and celebrated the fulfilled blessings of God (Neh. 8:12).
How did God's word make such an impact on a group of people? What are we to learn from this day of historic significance? I think the answer is found in how Ezra addressed God.
"Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God."
This small group of Israelites understood something about God! Their desire to understand Moses' Law was because of a deep appreciation of WHO had given that Law! Their reverential response to Ezra opening the book was because of WHO was about to speak to them. It wasn't Ezra, but Jehovah! What calmed them down during their mourning after the Law revealed why Israel had been disciplined? The comprehension and commitment that they were now living to bring their Lord joy and that renewed relationship and perspective strengthened them (2 Cor. 5:9)! The Israelites' response to the Law reminds me of how the Thessalonians accepted the gospel as "the word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13).
What should we learn from the Israelites of Nehemiah's day? That if the Bible is going to be effective and produce God-desired fruit in my life, then I need to have a fervent and reverent appreciation for WHO is speaking. As Nehemiah recorded, the One speaking is "the LORD, the great God"!