Sunday, we will read Nehemiah 8. And that should excite you.
In 2010, our church embraced the practice that Paul commended in 1 Timothy 4:13.
“. . . devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture . . .”
Over these years, our pattern has been to simply read a passage from the Bible — generally one chapter a week. We have explored different genres of Scripture including historical narrative, poetry, epistles and — over recent weeks — lists of names and numbers. It is all profitable. Since we began this practice, we have read through the following books, alternating Old and New Testaments, in this order: Ephesians, Malachi, Galatians, Ecclesiastes, Mark, Psalms 120-134, Philippians, Micah, Colossians, Joel, Acts, Ruth, Hebrews, Psalm 119, 1 & 2 Peter, Hosea, Jude, Obadiah, 1 Corinthians, Ezra, 2 Corinthians and Nehemiah. Each week, it is a particularly reverent time. We love hearing the simple reading of the Word of God over the people of God.
A similar scene is in view this Sunday when we arrive at the eighth chapter of Nehemiah. The city is secure. The people of God are gathered. A wooden platform is constructed and set out in the open near the southeastern entrance to Jerusalem. Then Ezra the priest mounts the platform, carrying the scroll which contains the book of Deuteronomy and begins to read.
Can you imagine the excitement? It seems that the impulse of the people, upon hearing the Scripture, was to stand, which they did for hour after hour. As Ezra read, the Levites circulated through the crowd insuring that everyone understood. Scripture says that Ezra blessed the LORD and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen”, lifting their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped with their faces to the ground. This passage says they wept when the Word of God was read. Then, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites comfort the people, telling them not to weep. Rather, they are urged to fix a big meal, eat good food, drink good wine and share it all with others, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Then, Nehemiah tells us that there was great rejoicing that day because ” . . . they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (8:12)
I’m told that there are 4300 different languages globally that have no Scripture. None. This represents 615,000,000 speakers who have never read or heard a single paragraph from the Bible in their own language. Not once. Suppose you were a tribal herdsman in Cameroon with no Bible. Yet, word reaches you that years ago, God spoke and that His Words were contained in a book. What would you give for that book? Would you sell your cattle and land? Would you give up your home in exchange for the book of God? Would you sell yourself into indentured servitude to obtain a copy of that book? Could there be a possession more valuable than the book of God?
As I type this, I have 17 copies of this book within arm’s reach (not including the digital versions contained on my computer and phone). Should I not be overwhelmed at this grace? It seems right that each Sunday, as the offertory ends and the reader approaches the platform, that a low, rumbling murmur of anticipation should sweep across the room. We have the book of God. May God grant that His Word never fail to thrill us!
So, I say again: Sunday, we will read Nehemiah 8. And that should excite you.