-The second section of this book, which could be entitled, “The Reformation of the People Phase,” begins in this chapter. Nehemiah, and the rest of the leadership now in Jerusalem, had more than just a wall to repair. The Law of the LORD had been neglected and trampled on for so long that they needed a revival in their midst. When the wall was completed with all its gates and bars, all the people gathered in unity as one man in the square that was in front of the Water Gate section of Jerusalem. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given Israel, and read it before them with explanation. All who could understand, both men and women and children, came to listen on the first day of the seventh month of Elul. Ezra read from early morning to midday in their presence, and all were very attentive to the Book of the Law. He stood at a wooden podium, much like what we might call a pulpit in our modern day churches, that was made exactly for this purpose of proclamation. There were those of importance that stood to Ezra’s right and left hand as he voiced the words of God to the people from above them. When he opened the Book, all the people stood up in reverence. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, with all the people in attendance saying, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands in praise. Then, they bowed low before the LORD in worship with their faces to the ground. True repentance, true honoring was evident in this powerful display of emotion, pomp, and pageantry. Just for the edification of the common people, there were also men, with Levites among them, that explained the Law to the people while they remained in their place. There were translations to give a sense so that they would really understand the reading (Nehemiah 8:1-8).
-The governor, Nehemiah, and the priest/scribe, Ezra, along with the Levites who taught the people said to all of them, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” The people were distraught when the Law was read before them, for they realized their failures to obey it. But Nehemiah assured them, “Go, eat of the fat (abundant blessings), drink of the sweet (enjoying the goodness of the LORD), and send portions to him who has nothing prepared (a giving spirit); for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people as they chimed in, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” After that, all went away to eat and drink and give portions and celebrated with a great festival. They did this because they understood the words of the Book which had been made known to them, and they realized the abundant grace of their God, Yahweh (Nehemiah 8:9-12).
-On the second day all the heads of the fathers’ households of the people with the priests and Levites gathered up to Ezra the scribe so that they could get more insight into the words of the Law, which had been read. They found written in this Mosaic Law that God had given on Mt. Sinai a commandment to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. Therefore, they proclaimed and circulated to all their cities, including Jerusalem, to go and gather up olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and other leafy trees from the hills and make these booths as it was written in the Law. The people joyfully did this and made their booths on the rooftops, their courts, the courtyard of the House of God, and in the squares of the Water Gate and Gate of Ephraim. The entire assembly who had returned from the captivity made booths to live in for the appointed time outlined in the Book of the Law. This was the first time they had actually obeyed this commandment since the days of Joshua the son of Nun. It had been nearly a thousand years since they had followed God’s commands to regard this festival in this way, which reminded them of their people’s journey through the wilderness (Leviticus 23:39-43, Numbers 29:12-40). Because of the spirit of the people inclined back to their God, there was “great rejoicing,” and Ezra kept reading from the Book of the Law of God daily. From the first day to the last day of this festival, God’s Word was read, and the people celebrated. It lasted seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance of God (Nehemiah 8:13-18).
*Application* Our nation in America obviously needs a revival of this nature. We, as God’s people, are praying for this kind of awakening where people join together in unity to reverence, respect, and worship the Living God of the universe unashamedly. A return to the loving commands of the LORD would bring great rejoicing and celebration because people would be free from the dominion of sin and depravity in their lives. Let’s fervently pray for this kind of revival in our land. It’s not too late to make Jesus the most honored Man in America.
Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 8:10