The people of Israel were so hungry for the Word of God that they asked Ezra to read it aloud to them in the city square, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel… He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand and all the people were attentive to the book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:1,3). This reading took a total of 7 days to complete.
When Ezra completed the reading of the Bible in front of the people, a great worship service broke out, “Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6)
Not only were the people of Israel worshiping and praising God with lifted hands, Ezra had to console their uncontrollable weeping as they listened, “The Nehemiah who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:9)
What will it take to cause this kind of display in our church and community over the Word of God?
Are we so cold and hard-hearted that we can read the Word of God without any display of emotion?
I wanted you to hear about Ezra’s ministry of God’s Word before I preach today’s sermon. Since Ezra wrote Psalm 119, it is important for you to know the context what he said in Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I treasured in my heart. That I may not sin against God.”
Somehow, during this Year of the Bible at Grace we must get the Word of God out of the pages of the book and into our hearts. That’s what happened when Ezra read the Bible to the people of Israel for seven days. God took what was read off the pages of the scroll and put it into the hearts of His people. Israel really didn’t return from captivity in Babylon until this revival broke out at the reading of God’s word. They rebuilt the temple. They reoccupied their homes. They rebuilt the wall around the city. They put all the furniture, vestments and utensils back where they belonged, but they didn’t really come home until they opened the Bible and put God’s word into their hearts.
Sometimes I feel like we are like that. We build, we work, we come together in many ways for many things, but we are really not at home with ourselves or with each other. We go in many directions all at one time without a cohesive element to bring us all together. I am praying that the Bible will do its work in our hearts like it did in Israel when Ezra read the Bible to his people for seven days. “God, today at Grace take the words off the page of Psalm 119:9-16 off the page and put it into our hearts like you did when Ezra read it to his people.” That’s my pray for you this morning.