On the first day of the seventh month, the people came together in the open area in front of the Water Gate. Then they asked Ezra, who was a teacher of the Law of Moses, to read to them from this Law that the LORD had given his people. Ezra the priest came with the Law and stood before the crowd of men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. From early morning till noon, he read the Law of Moses to them, and they listened carefully. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Nehemiah 8:1-3 (CEV)
This passage of Scripture has been a wonder and a point of embarrassment to me ever since I first read it. The people. That means humans like me and you. It says that the crowd was â€œmen, women and children old enough to understandâ€. How old would that be? My 4-5 year-old grandchildren understand right from wrong. That crowd came together for â€“ at least four hours â€“ and listened to Ezra read to them the Word of God! People in the church I attend fidget if they are asked to read responsively or stand for more than six verses of Scripture!!! How about your fellowship? That is an embarrassment and yet, an extraordinary thing to me. I want to be that passionate about hearing from God that listening to Him for four hours is like being at a double-header baseball game for four hours and enjoying every minute!
Last night I attended a Lenten service that was inspiring. First there was a group of ladies, young to â€“ older, who played â€œIt Is Well With My Soulâ€ with bells. They gave of their best on a song that I could tell by their faces, meant something very personal to them. The faith rang true. (Pun intended) And God bless the music leadership that works with all volunteers. They serve those who volunteer by encouraging and probably taking them to a level musically and spiritually that they may not have anticipated. Then there was a visiting pastor who brought us a message from God. He began by reading 12 verses of Psalm 51. This man had the gift of exhortation. While he engaged us with his personal, transparent testimony, he also challenged me with his opening of God’s Word for the Spirit to convict and correct me.
It is for each of us to come to worship, Bible study, a sermon, Sunday/Sabbath school, a prayer meeting â€“ whatever you want to call an opportunity to meet God â€“ with expectation and an open heart. â€œLORD, here I am. I am expecting to hear You speak to me. Convict me. Correct me. Encourage me. Forgive me. Love me. Show me where and to whom You would have me serve. I am listening.â€ If I come with expectation, God is faithful to answer. â€œ…that the LORD had given his people…â€. That is a promise from God.
Ezra was up on the high platform, where he could be seen by everyone, and when he opened the book, they all stood up. Ezra praised the great LORD God, and the people shouted, ” Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed with their faces to the ground and worshiped the LORD. Â Â Â Â Â Â vv 5-6 (CEV)
The people stood for four hours. And I fidget after three minutes. Then Ezra led them in shouting praise to God. Then the people bowed all the way to the ground to worship God. Someone might say that it isn’t â€œnecessaryâ€ to shout or get on the ground in order to worship God. That’s true. But I do have to suggest that I consider why I wouldn’t do it. There may be physical limitations. And it may not be the community â€œnormalâ€. Some people might say it is distracting to others. I think the main reason is â€“ I can get â€œshouting and leaping excitedâ€ at a baseball, football, or basketball game â€“ but not so much in worship of God. That is something to meditate and talk to God about.
That’s What We Came Here For by Darlene Zschech and Russell Fragar (1998)Â