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A Few Thoughts About Scripture Reading

Nehemiah is most often thought of as a great builder because of his work on Jerusalem’s walls, but he was also a successful spiritual builder. Just a few days after the wall was completed, the nation gathered in Jerusalem for what proved to be a great revival (Nehemiah 8). A prominent part of that meeting was Scripture reading. The reading on that occasion was. . .

Planned
The people asked Ezra to bring the book of the law. They constructed a tall platform for him to stand on, one large enough to hold fourteen men (Ezra was flanked by six men on his right and seven on his left). The text does not say exactly what sections he read, but surely considerable thought went into that.

Visual
“Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people. . .” (v. 5a); that is, he unrolled the scroll. It must have been an impressive sight! Nowadays we have electronic Bibles. They are handy, valuable tools. I have preached from a tablet a few times, but I am old-school. I much prefer using a printed Bible when leading in worship, in part because it presents a more striking visual image of “it is written.”

Revered
“And when he opened it, all the people stood up” (v. 5b). They also bowed low (v. 6). Never lose sight of the fact that whenever Scripture is read, God is speaking!

Lengthy
Ezra read from early morning to midday (v. 3). Reading only a verse or two may have its place, but why are modern readings typically so short? Do we find them dull? Do we have that little attention span? Are we too concerned about the length of assemblies? Do we value comments about the text more than the text itself? By the way, if the people sat down at some point, the text does not mention it.

Clear
Thirteen Levites (not the same thirteen men who stood with Ezra) “explained the law to the people” (vv. 7-8). Many think these were acting as translators; others think they were expositors, or perhaps a little of both. A good reader practices his reading, thoroughly familiarizes himself with the text, speaks audibly, enunciates clearly, and reads with expression. The Bible is abundantly clear when it is so read. That is evident because it was. . .

Taken to Hear t
The people wept (v. 9). They gained insight (v. 13). They learned (v. 14). And they did what God said (v. 18). That’s effective reading!

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