Picture the scene described here. The people had completed the arduous task of clearing the rubble, rebuilding the walls, and setting up the city gates all while standing guard duty against the enemies that wanted to stop them from completing their mission. Then it had been determined that there were not enough people living in the city so a census of the local populace had been taken. The implication is that those from the surrounding area were offered refuge within the now-completed walls.
It had been hard work! And a month after it was completed the people gathered to hear Ezra, the priest and scribe, read the book of the Law. Most of those people had been born during the 70 years of captivity and were children or young adults. Perhaps some had wondered why all that work of rebuilding had been necessary in the first place. The reading of the Law answered that question unequivocally. Situated among the people were Levites who explained the law as Ezra was reading it. This may have included translating the text if any of the foreign-born Jews were not fluent in Hebrew!
Can you imagine the conviction of the people coupled with thanksgiving as they heard the ancient words that had determined both their punishment and subsequent restoration? This passage says they wept openly.
Notice how the worship of the people progressed. They stood respectfully when Ezra opened the scroll and read the scripture. After he finished reading, Ezra prayed. The people responded by saying, "Amen! Amen!" in unison while lifting up their hands toward heaven. Then they bowed their heads and the next thing mentioned is that they have their faces on the ground, presumably kneeling. When one becomes convicted by the Word of the LORD it automatically humbles him. A person can find himself kneeling or prostrate before the God of the universe in repentance and praise.
I suggest becoming familiar with this attitude and posture. It is something we God-worshipers will be doing throughout eternity so why not get in practice now?
Does God issue any commands?
- Generally, the law that Ezra read contained the commands of God.
- Specifically, they found written in the law that the LORD commanded Moses that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the Feast of Tabernacles during the seventh month. (It was in the seventh month that they read this passage in the Law. See verse 2.) The people gladly followed this observance that both commemorated their Exodus and the Messiah that would one day come to "tabernacle" with them.
Does God make any promises?
- The law that Ezra read contained the promises of God, too, including the promise of restoration such as the people were experiencing at that time. They were witnesses of God's promises being fulfilled.
Does this chapter teach anything about Jesus?
- The Feast of Tabernacles as observed by the people in the latter part of the chapter was a portrayal of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He "tabernacled" (took on our humanity) when He became man and dwelt among us.
Does this chapter teach anything about yet-future events?
- The people wept when they considered the results of sin but the Levites told them the time for weeping was over. Now was a time of celebration because the joy of the Lord was their strength! They shared gifts of food with each other as they celebrated. This is a foreshadowing of that great day when all God's people will gather together. All earthly struggles will be over. There will be no more crying. All will share the goodness of the Lord together. The joy of the Lord is our strength!