Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our reading this week from Nehemiah takes place at the time of the restoration of Israel to their homeland in Jerusalem. The center of the celebration is a reading of the Word of God. We notice especially in verse eight that not only is there a reading, but also explanation, giving the sense of the Scripture so the people will all understand what they are hearing.
Recent studies have led many Christian theologians to the conclusion that the average person who identifies as a Christian has no concept of what historic Christianity is all about. Some claim to be Christians but also adherents of other religions which have contradictory truth claims. Some claim to be Christians but deny the deity of Christ. Some claim to be Christians but deny other core biblical concepts, such as the creation, a fall into sin, or the necessity of redemption from sin.
It’s important that Ezra the priest not only read the Scripture but also explained what it meant. We notice that it was the job of a priest, not of popular opinion. Truth was handled very carefully, and with reverence and attention on the part of the people. While Christians will confess that the words of Scripture make sense and that the Bible can be plainly understood by the person of average or even below average intelligence, we also remember that someone who has given his life to a study of Scripture, who has pursued advanced theological degrees, learning the historic understanding of biblical teaching, striving to master the biblical languages is of great value. Do you want your medical condition to be assessed by a qualified physician? How about having your spiritual condition assessed by a qualified physician of souls? The pastoral office is inherently valuable.
What was the response to God’s Word? The people were moved to tears, partly from their own poverty of soul, partly from a recollection of the former glory of Jerusalem, partly from thanksgiving to God who had restored them. They were urged to put aside tears and look to God with joyful thanksgiving, for He is the one who had brought them back into the land and restored their nation. May we likewise learn from God’s Word about our condition and God’s promises, looking to him with thanksgiving.
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