Pastoral Commentary for Nehemiah 8:1-9:15
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
The first section of the book of Nehemiah is concerned with the rebuilding of the physical walls of Jerusalem, under the capable leadership of Nehemiah, a layman. The second section of the book turns its attention to the rebuilding of the spiritual character of God's people under the leadership of the priest Ezra. Once life had settled down, and the Jews "New Year's Day" arrived (Leviticus 23:24), a solemn assembly was convened outside the city near the Water Gate. Ezra stood on a raised wooden platform and read to the people from the Law of Moses from daybreak until noon, beginning with praise to God, and worship by the people. During the reading of the Law there were times for the Levites to address the people in small groups, making sure the people understood what was being read. The reading of God's Law brought grief to the people because of their sin, but Nehemiah instructed them to go home rejoicing, to eat and drink and celebrate God's goodness, "for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The next day the heads of all the families gathered and received instruction for celebrating the Feast of Booths. The people followed the instructions, making booths on their roofs or in their courtyards for keeping the feast. Throughout the feast the reading of the Law continued. After more than three weeks, the Israelites assembled wearing sackcloth and covered in ashes to confess their sins to the LORD. Ezra prayed and interceded with the LORD on behalf of the people. He praised the God of the universe who gives life to all, and recounted the history of God's faithfulness to His people from the time of Abraham onward. Ezra remembered how God brought His people into the Promised Land the first time. All of this encouraged the faith of God's people. It is so important for us to take time to recount God's faithfulness in our own lives! It is a faith building exercise!