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The Power of the Word

  • by Dieuner Joseph

All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:1-6

The Living Word

Chapter 7 ended with the Israelites settling in their towns after having completed the rebuilding of the wall. This was a moment of reflection and conviction as the people came together to hear the word of the Lord. In verse 1 the assembly told Ezra the priest to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses so he can read it to them. They gather on the first day of the seventh month, which today is Rosh Hashanah (the fall new year), which is followed by Yom Kippur and the Festival of Sukkot, or Booths. They gather not at the temple but at the Water Gate, where all are admitted. Usually, the reading of the Law was confined to the Temple and only the men could hear it. This location gave everyone – men, women, and children – the opportunity to hear the word of the LORD.

Ezra was a direct descendant of Aaron the chief priest (7:1–5), thus he was a priest and scribe in his own right. His zeal for God and God’s Law spurred Ezra to lead a group of Jews back to Israel during King Artaxerxes’s reign over the Persian Empire (which had since replaced the Babylonian Empire that originally exiled the people of Judah). He is credited for writing the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. In the Hebrew Bible, the two books were considered one work, though some internal evidence suggests they were written separately and joined together in the Hebrew canon (and separated again in English translations).

Ezra’s narrative reveals two main issues faced by the returning exiles: (1) the struggle to restore the temple (Ezra 1:1–6:22) and (2) the need for spiritual reformation (7:1–10:44). Both were necessary for the people to renew their fellowship with the Lord. All who were able to understand (v. 2) – This suggests the people prioritized understanding of the Word of God. That shows they were intentional about studying it. Ezra read God’s Word from daylight to mid-day. For some six hours he read God’s Word and the people listened. That shows passion for the Word. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law (v. 3)- This shows their hunger for the Word.

They had taken the time to build a wooden platform, so the Word of God could be heard. On the right hand and left hand of Ezra were men who were supporting him in his ministry of teaching God’s Word. The ministry of God’s Word has the greatest effect when people can see men who are in support of it and obedience to it. In verse 5, we are told when Ezra opened the Law of Moses, all the people stood up: They had a respect for God’s Word. They recognized it for what it was – the Word of God, not the word of man. They honored it (v. 5) They Praised God for The Word (v. 6). The people thanked God (by saying Amen when Ezra blessed the LORD). They prayed (by lifting up their hands). They worshipped (by bowing down before God).

Application

God's word is divinely inspired. It is the ground and foundation of our faith and that which gives it authority over our consciences. As we approach God's word, we should do so consciously aware that it is the only sufficient, the certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and conduct. But not only is God's word divinely inspired, but it is also an inexhaustible treasury of sacred truths. It is a revelation of the mind and will of God. Among other things, the word of God reveals God's love, grace, righteousness, and holiness. God’s word reveals the whole counsel of God concerning his own worship and the obedience which He requires of us that we might be accepted by Him now and one day has the eternal enjoyment of Him in glory.

When the Israelite assembly heard the word of God they became convicting about their disobedience, and they developed a desire to worship the God of their ancestors. If only their ancestors had the same attitude, the wall of Jerusalem would not have been broken for so many years. Here then we see one of the characteristics of the word of God is that it can make us wise. The word also gives the necessary body of divine truth to live a godly life. John 17:17, "Thy Word is truth."

The word of God provides the principles that are to operate in the life of every individual at every point of need and demand, thought, and action. It is comprehensive. Every single thing you will ever deal with in your spiritual existence is covered one way or another in the word of God, probably many more than just one time. It is replete with instruction for life...life in the way that God has designed it. The Word is not just a builder of godly character, it is something that rips and tears and shreds the ungodliness that deserves to be torn. Indeed, the word has a rebuking ministry, a rebuking effect.

Just 15 minutes of immersing oneself in the word of God goes a long way in helping one to be more aligned with the will of God. God’s plan for our lives is revealed in his word. The word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).

Prayer

Blessed Lord, please help us to abide in word and live in obedience to it. May your word enable us to live a life that is pleasing in your sight.

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