The actual building of the walls of Jerusalem took a mere, miraculous 52 days. When the walls were finished, Nehemiah made a very important decision. He invited Ezra to stand before all the people and read the book of the Law.
Why did he do that? Shouldn’t they have had a really big party and congratulated themselves on a job well done?
Nehemiah knew that the biggest temptation of the human being is to become distracted. The people could have easily become distracted and believed that it was just a block wall that they were building to protect a city. Wrong. They were building so much more. The process of building the wall was just one vehicle through which God could teach them how to build what they were really building, which was the Kingdom of God. So, Nehemiah quickly brought them back into focus by having Ezra read the Law. This was to say, “Don’t forget, people, this is about God and your heart. Love Him with all your heart. Do all you do for Him, and then you will know peace.”
We can be easily distracted by the “stuff” of being the church. We can create meetings and have job descriptions and start ministries. Before you know it we are running wild and not taking time to create space for God in our heart and community. Let’s always stay focused on our relationship with God and with each other as the primary purpose for which we work.
In this single verse we are exposed to a fundamental aspect of the Kingdom of God. There is a great need for solid teaching. God has revealed Himself to us through an objective means called the scripture. Yet there is a great gap that exists between the pages and the people. It was true in Ezra’s day and in ours. For Ezra, he was reading a book that was 1,000 years earlier in Hebrew, to a group of contemporaries that spoke Aramaic. While the revelation contained in the book of Moses was 100% accurate, it was not 100% accessible to the average citizen. In v. 8 we see the three duties of the teacher in the Kingdom of God.
1. Stick to the book. Ezra was not afraid to simply read the Law to the people, because he knew that, even if they didn’t get it all, these were the living words of God. In our teaching we need to not be distracted by trendy or topical fads in preaching. Even though the New Testament was written 2,000 years ago, in a different culture, and in a different language, we need to make sure that we are teaching the people in our church what the Bible says because we believe the Bible is God’s Living Word.
2. Make it clear. Since the Bible is an ancient text written in a foreign language, it is vitally important the we use the most accurate and accessible means to make the words of scripture clear. That is why we need to be aware of good, contemporary translations, Bible Dictionaries, Atlases, Handbooks, etc. There are many tools that are readily accessible to us to make the message of the Bible very clear to us. Our teaching must not be too lofty to lose people or too muddy to obscure things and confuse people. We must speak clearly, using the best means of communication — oral, visual, auditory, technological, and kinesthetic — to transfer the information of the Bible to our people.
3. Make it relevant. v. 8 says that they gave it meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. The people to whom Moses wrote the Law and the world in which they lived was very different. The context had changed dramatically. Now, the people of God were under the political rule of the Persian empire, and were reduced to living in one city in what was, at the time of Moses’ writing, still the “Promised Land.” How were the people of the restoration to make sense out of the Law in light of their circumstances? Ezra and the teachers did the important work of bridging the gap of time, language, and culture so that the people of God could grasp the timeless truths of God’s word and apply it to their lives in that moment. The same task exists for our teaching. We live a vastly different world than did Jesus and His disciples. The challenge of the teacher is to be able to preserve the purity of the Biblical message and present it in a way the relates and connects to the contemporary mind.
Pray that our teachers will stay strong and undistracted. That we will commit ourselves to “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” and teaching the community in a powerful way that will unlock the gates of the Kingdom and allow the love and power of God to flow into the hearts of all the people.
Here is a wonderful overflow passage. When the people heard the Word of God and actually understood it and internalized it, then it was a natural reaction to burst into praise and worship to God. Worship is our response to the truth of God at work in our lives. One piece of evidence that God is at work in our community will be the worship response that we give to God. If our church is worshipping well, then that is a good sign that hearts are being changed.
Today’s list of lessons has touched on the “meat and potatoes” of a Christ-community. To be strong and healthy we must eat well. Daily, weekly, and monthly we must feed on God’s Word, worship Him, and fellowship with His people. If we will maintain a regular discipline of doing these basic things, then the space will be present for God to work in and through us.