… 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. The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
The people did not own copies of the Scriptures, so what a thrill it must have been to hear God’s Word read aloud! Today most of us have several Bibles on our shelves, and it is hard to imagine the people who did not have access to the Word. Yet throughout the world, many people do not have access to God’s Word. Missionaries have risked their lives to take Bibles to countries like China so that people can have the transforming Word of God. Ezra explained what he read to them in a language they could understand. (v.7-8) The Levites assisted Ezra in teaching the Law (v.7), and together with Ezra helped to bring understanding and application of the Word. I have been told repeatedly by people who long to study and understand God’s Word that it is too difficult. I suggest as you study the Bible for the first time, use a modern-day paraphrase like The Message by Eugene Peterson or the Life Application Study Bible. As you become more familiar with the Bible, you will find it helpful to study other translations as well. I am particularly fond of the Hebrew-Greek Study Bible, which helps with the translations of the original Hebrew and Greek words. Nehemiah knew it was time for a spiritual revival, and he began by having Ezra open the Word of God to the people. Even as we read God’s Word today, we are spiritually revived.
The Word of God is shaper than a two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It separates our soul and spirit and judges the attitudes of our hearts. As you read the Scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you; ask the Lord to show you the attitude of your heart and seek to have the Word transform your thoughts and actions.
Speak to me through Your Word. I pray that Your Word will cut through the dark places of my life and bring correction. I pray that Your Word will convict, teach, and bring me closer to You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen