“So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and 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 completing the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15), Nehemiah leads the children of Israel, over which he governs (Nehemiah 8:9), in an even more important work. God’s people had just erected walls around Jerusalem for its defense and security, but His people needed break down the barriers around their hearts which they had erected over the years in resisting God’s guidance. This was the reason they had went into Babylonian captivity: “Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands” (Nehemiah 9:30).
Immediately following the tasks of constructing the city walls, Nehemiah turns his attention to the task of addressing the spiritual needs of the children of Israel. The people of Israel are gathered together, a platform of wood is built, and Ezra the scribe stands upon it to read to the people the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:1-4). The leaders and the Levites help the people to understand the Law of God: “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). When the people hear God’s Word, they struggle with being grieved because they know that in the past they have not kept it. However, Nehemiah encourages them not to be full of grief over past sins, but rather to be filled with joy considering what the future holds for them if they will walk in God’s ways: “"Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10; cf. 8:9, 11).
Great things happen following God’s people hearing the Law of God: (1) They celebrate the Feast of booths (Nehemiah 8:14-18), (2) they confess their sins and the sins of their fathers (Nehemiah 9:1-3), (3) they recall God’s faithfulness in His dealings with His people (Nehemiah 9:4-37), and (4) the leaders lead the people into entering into a covenant to follow God’s Word (Nehemiah 10:1-39). Notice what they say they are going to do: “"And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it" (Nehemiah 9:38). The leaders are going to put their seal on a document indicating their commitment to keep God’s Word!
As I consider the actions of Nehemiah and the people of Israel on this occasion, I ask myself: “Would I be willing to sign a document saying I will follow all of God’s Word?” If you are like me, some parts of God’s Word are easier for me to follow than other parts. Do I find myself erecting barriers against following certain parts of the Law of God because of the challenges I face in trying to follow it? To find true joy, I have to be willing to submit to all of God’s Will for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). Today, I rejoice over God’s willingness to guide my steps as I move forward in the journey of life. I will strive to break down any barriers around my heart in resisting His Will for me!
“You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; Be merciful to me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:57-58).