“So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Nehemiah 8:11-12)
Ezra the scribe led the worship service in Jerusalem that celebrated God’s Word. The Law of God is exalted here to reemerge as the central focus of Jewish life. The way of life of all believers was to center on the Lord God Almighty, to serve, worship, and obey Him. At this time the Jews heard the Word of God proclaimed for the first time for most of them, read by Ezra. What they heard convicted them and caused them to weep because of their sins and those of their ancestors which had brought on them horrible travail. Nehemiah encouraged them to celebrate together as God’s people. Joy is the appropriate way to worship and the way to show praise to God for the Word which He has graciously spoken.
As we commemorate the presentation of the Augsburg Confession so it is fitting that we note the importance of the Word of God and the reverence it is shown here in Nehemiah. Our Lutheran forefathers, notably Philipp Melanchthon, cited the Word of God as the basis for the explication of their beliefs as taught by Martin Luther. Our faith rests upon the Word of God as presented in the Scriptures, and in our Lord Jesus, the Living Word. The Lord God speaks through His word. Therefore it carries His authority and brings holiness and blessing unto those who hear it and obey. Thus we should show it as much honor and respect as we show God Himself. That means we do not misquote it or twist it to suit our own desires and whims. Instead we should listen to it read and explained by the church and by God’s chosen leaders who have studied it and made it their life’s work. God has chosen them to help us understand and apply it to our lives. Such is the Augsburg Confession.