This past Sunday I (Caleb) took the adult Sunday School class through Nehemiah 8:1-12. The first eight verses of this text read as follows (emphasis mine):
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 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. 3 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. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)
This text tells us that the people of Israel listened to the word of God being read aloud for upwards of six hours. Ezra read to the people from what many Christians would label as the driest part of Scripture, the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy). That’s a bit of a rebuke to the 21st century North American Church.
Many of us sit in a Sunday morning service for less than two hours, and a little longer if your church has an evening service. Yet, how often are we guilty of checking our watch, messing around on our phone, falling asleep, thinking about lunch, daydreaming, complaining about the length of the service, and strategizing our post-service conversations. It’s probably fair to say that many of us are guilty of one or two of these behaviours.
The reality is, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) A Christian is spiritually starved without the Scriptures. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. It should be our delight to gather on Sundays in order to sing the word, pray the word and sit under the sound of the word as it is preached. It should be our daily delight to open up our Bible and hear from God as we read the pages of Holy Scripture.
To illustrate our need for the Scriptures, and the delight that we ought to have in them, I gave an illustration about the Kimyal people. This Indonesian tribe received a copy of the New Testament in their language for the first time in 2010. Think about that, these people did not have a copy of the New Testament in their language until nine years ago!
I have attached a video of the Kimyal Tribe receiving the New Testament for the first time. Look at their faces. See their tears. Hear their joy. Witness their emotion. Thank God for their delight.
Christian, isn’t God’s Word a great gift? Do you treasure the Word of God? Do you know what it is to hunger for the life-giving Word of God?
May it be so! May the Spirit of God give us a hunger for the Word of God!
Christian, take up and read.