Responding to God’s Laws

Key Verse: “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”
—Nehemiah 8:8 New International Version

Lesson Scripture:
Nehemiah 8

THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM were now built. (Neh. 7:1) And as Nehemiah said, “The city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families.” (Neh. 7:4,5, NIV) The genealogical records of all the people who had returned to Judah, about 80 years ago, were found and registration of all the families was completed so that “The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.” (vs. 73, NIV) Nehemiah, when sent by Artaxerexes to rebuild Jerusalem, was also appointed governor of the land. He was a good and dedicated administrator and had instituted many reforms while occupied with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Now the time had come to reorganize Israel’s society.

We read, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.” (Neh. 8:1, NIV) About thirteen years before Nehemiah was commissioned by Artaxerxes to come to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra, the priest and scribe, had received authorization from Artaxerxes to come to Jerusalem with a company of Levites for service in the Temple. The Temple had been built some years before, following a decree by Cyrus. Ezra had brought gifts from the people of Israel still residing in the Persian empire, along with those from the king, to beautify the Temple.

A similar ceremony was held when the first of those in Babylon had returned and built an altar unto the Lord before the foundation of the Temple was laid. (Ezra 3:1-6) Although work ceased on the Temple for several years, it was resumed and completed and dedicated. Following this dedication, there were sixty years where there is no record of the people in Israel who were being harassed by their unfriendly neighbors.

The ceremony was well organized, and a large, raised wooden platform was built for Ezra to stand on to read the Law. Unlike the first ceremony when the altar was built eighty years before, this time the people were sorted into smaller groups, with priests and Levites assigned to each group to explain the Law to them, with question and answer sessions. As our Key Verse reads, ‘They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.’ As the people understood, they were smitten in their hearts at the realization of their neglect and failure to keep the Law, and they wept. The people were told, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’—Neh. 8:9, NIV

They also observed the Feast of Tabernacles, and the people’s response to the Law was gratifying.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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