“So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:2-3)
After the Jews had returned from exile and had rebuilt Jerusalem, Ezra the scribe brought the Book of the Law. His purpose was to focus the attention of the people on the Word of God. The word is exalted as is it the center of Jewish life. It called on the people to serve, worship and obey Yahweh. The people were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles which commemorated the wilderness wanderings of Israel after she had left Egypt. At this time they hear the Word of God spoken, perhaps the first time for most of them, read by Ezra. The reading took several hours but the words were inspiring. The people responded with weeping because of their sins and those of their ancestors. Nehemiah encouraged them to celebrate together as God’s people with joy as the appropriate way to worship for this feast and the way to show praise to God for the Word which He has graciously spoken.
As we note the importance of the Word of God and the reverence it is shown here, we should take this as a model for our own worship service. The word of God is the central focus of the service as it is His Word and, therefore, carries His authority and holiness. We should show it as much honor and respect as we show God Himself. That means we should not misquote it, make fun of or ignore it, nor should we twist it to suit our own desires and whims. Instead we should listen to it read and explained by God’s chosen leaders who have studied it and made it their life’s work. They can help us to understand it and apply it so that we may be living expressions of God’s word.