“Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. The love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.”
— Charles Spurgeon
I remember being a young Christian and hearing an older man talk about God’s Word. He was pleading with me to see the Bible as something essential to my spiritual life. “It’s not gravy!” he insisted, “It’s Vitamin A, B, C, D, and all the way to Z. If you want to be a Christian, you need these words in your mind every day. Period. You won’t be able to walk with Jesus without it.”
Passion rang in his voice as he spoke about God’s Word. It seemed so real, so authentic. He wasn’t saying to read your Bibles with an, “Okay kids, now eat your broccoli,” sort of voice. He really meant it. You could tell his own life had been changed by it.
I remember walking out of his house and praying, “God, I want to love your Word like he does. Will you help me?”
Ezra Reads the Law
I was reminded of that day as I read Nehemiah 8 yesterday morning. Here’s a group of people who really love God’s Word. Check this out:
“And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he 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 . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it up all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground . . . For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”
— Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 9
What a scene, right?
We can walk into any bookstore and find a Bible on a shelf somewhere. In our homes, we probably have a handful or more. You know that curled up one with coffee stains you keep in your car? Oh, and don’t forget the ones on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, laptop, and Kindle. Yeah, you and me, we have plenty of access to God’s Word.
But these people didn’t. The printing press wasn’t invented for another 2,000 years. Every manuscript of the Law of Moses was entirely handwritten. And because of this, there was usually only one copy for the whole town.
So they had limited access, but there’s another limiting factor here too. Most of these people couldn’t read. Formal education was only for the most fortunate, and most of these people worked the fields. They didn’t need a formal education. The only way they could encounter God’s Word was in a public reading just like this one.
And so, imagine being right there with them. Imagine you’re one of them.
It’s early morning—the sun is barely mounting above the horizon. Ezra mounts his wooden platform in the center of the square. He turns, facing you and the rest of the crowd. You’re sitting on the dusty ground alongside everyone else. Your eyes are locked. He opens the scroll, and simultaneously, everyone rises to their feet.
He begins reading, and you’re captivated. You’ve never heard something so pleasant—so moving. It’s as if you’ve never heard the sound of music in your entire life and you just walked upon a symphony orchestra. Each part in flawless rhythm, each note in perfect pitch.
You don’t know what to do. It’s just so beautiful. Your heart wells up with praise and adoration. “Amen!” you shout, “Amen!” Your hands raise to the heavens, and your fall to your knees. You begin weeping as you lower your face to the ground. Dust sticks to the tears on your cheek. You can’t stop weeping.
Six hours pass, and you still can’t stop praising, shouting, and weeping. No one can. As the words keep pouring over you, you keep unraveling with praise.
Consider Your Loves
Nehemiah 8 asks us a simple question: Do you really love God’s Word?
If we love something, we make time for it. If we love something, we think about it when we daydream. If we love something, we willingly make sacrifices to have it in our lives.
My hope is that Nehemiah 8 will help us develop a deeper hunger for God’s Word. And no, not in an “eat your religious broccoli” sort of way—in a way that’s authentic, profound, and transformational.
So I encourage you, pray in the same spirit I prayed after walking out of my friends house that day.
God, I want to love your Word like the people of Nehemiah 8. Will you help me?
“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
— Deuteronomy 8:3