Now that the wall of Jerusalem was completed the people gathered together at the Water Gate to have Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses on the first day of the seventh month (which was actually last weekend on the Jewish calendar and the Feast of Trumpets. It’s not really the Jewish New Year, that was adapted from a later time in exile. The first month of the Jewish year is Passover). It states NINE times that “all the people” are included in the events happening in chapter 8. The priests even helped the people to understand the readings, (8:8) and the people responded with WEEPING (8:9). Nehemiah encouraged them to go and “eat fat and drink sweet” for this day is holy to the Lord. They weren’t to be sad, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (8:10) They knew the words were declared to them.
The second day they gathered again to hear the Law and learned that in the seventh month they were to dwell in booths for a week. They were to go to the mountains and gather olive branches, myrtle, palm, and leafy branches to make a booth. The other day on my fast walk in the neighborhood I plucked various leafy bushes to add to the pop-up booth card I’m making to send to our grandson next week. 😊 I’m going to also include some fruit snacks he can enjoy by his “booth” as a celebration of the end of the harvest season. In Israel today, where we lived for many years, they still make and “dwell” in booths during this weeklong holiday. They’re on rooftops, balconies, and yards. They’re decorated with paper chains, lights, and pictures. Our kids liked to sleep in them some nights with their friends. The people in Nehemiah’s time hadn’t celebrated the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles since the time of Joshua, so it was a time of “great gladness” (8:17), and still is to this day. Although, this year might be different as they’re on a full lockdown in Israel during these holiday times because of Covid.
They continued to read the Book of the Law for a ¼ of the day and for another ¼ of the day they confessed their sins and worshipped the LORD their God. (9:3) Some of the Levites stood up and recalled God’s work through Moses, Egypt, Wilderness, and how He brought them into a good land. However, they “cast His Law behind their backs and killed prophets sent to them.” (9:26) So God “gave them saviors” when they cried out for help and many times delivered them. (9:27) “For many years You had patience with them and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets, yet they would not listen.” (9:30)
“Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenants and mercy… (9:32) You are just in all that has befallen us.” (9:33) How patient God was and is with His people. It says not the kings, princes, priests, or fathers have kept God’s Law.( 9:34) How important it was for all the people to gather together and recall God’s work over time and their own lack of commitment, and thus to refocus their love and service for the LORD their God for the future. Now that the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, they needed God’s protection over them. Instead of blaming God for failures, it’s good they acknowledged they were wrong and refocus on Him as they move forward. We too, can learn from their example in our lives today.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 8-10
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Nehemiah and read Psalm 126 as we continue seeing God’s faithfulness in our