Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10 (NRSV)
Chapter 8all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Verse 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. Verse 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Verse 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Verse 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Verse 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Verse 9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Verse 10Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Sometimes when I read a Bible passage, I read it with a kind of “ho-hum” of familiarity. And then I catch myself and think “What did I just read?” In today’s reading the people of Israel hear the word of God read to them with the excitement of first hearers. Their ears were opened, they lifted up their hands, they wept, they bowed their heads, they worshipped the Lord, they celebrated. The word changed the people and they responded with joy.
Perhaps when we read the word we need to take time to let the word change us. Maybe we can slow down or try lifting our hands in prayer or bowing our head. Maybe we could take time to read the word of God out loud today. When we read out loud, we read slower, and we hear the word in a different way than just reading silently. Today may God’s word speak to you.
Creator God, thank you for your word which gives life and changes us. May we pause, take time to read, ponder, and hear your word. Today grant us strength when we are weak. Give us courage when we are afraid and grant us wisdom to make wise choices. Amen.