…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 recent cultural catharsis that occurred yesterday (Super Bowl XLIX) was truly a spectacle to behold….not that I watched it…OK so I watched most of it…but I didn’t enjoy it….OK so I enjoyed it a little except the part at the end where we all got to participate in Pete Carroll’s nightmare. But seriously — the amount of money circulated for illegal betting alone was reported to be about 3.8 billion dollars, which is about twice the annual operating budget for Haiti. Something seems a little askew here. Let’s not even think about the amount spent to sell products during the game. I wonder if something similar happened in ancient Rome during the gladiators and the coliseum? Were there merchants in that time that made massive sums of money on the people who came to see the gladiators duke it out?
But I digress…back to the passage and water in the bible. This is an amazing scene. Hundreds, or maybe even thousands of people, are gathered around a raised wooden platform at the water gate to hear Ezra read the book of the law of Moses. Kind of a super bowl of sermons. When was the last time you either saw, or were part of, a crowd that had gathered to publicly read a book of the bible? The answer for me would be never.
Kind of hard to imagine isn’t it…why is that? Has the bible become merely an antiquated book that has no wisdom or words worth listening to? I sure hope not. That has not been my experience. During my journey walking with water in the bible over the last six months I have discovered many hidden wells that I did not know existed. Some of them in very unlikely places like Leviticus and Numbers.
It is interesting that the author of this passage stresses several times that the people “were able to understand” as Ezra read the Law of Moses. Why the emphasis on their ability to understand it? Was this to make sure that they had no excuses for not obeying in the future? They have certainly had their troubles remembering God, and the Law of Moses, in the past. Ezra read the book of the law from daybreak until noon…”and all the people listened attentively”. No sleeping in the back pew for these folks.
Maybe we are making things too complicated when we gather together as Christians. Wouldn’t it be interesting just to gather together and read books of the bible out loud as Ezra was doing with the law here. I wonder if we might see God move in amazing ways with this simple exercise of faith. Maybe we could do without the wooden platform though…
Prayer: God help us to delight in reading and hearing the words about You, and those who have followed You, written in the Bible.