The people enjoy an outstanding "Back to the Bible" movement, revealing: (1) a sincere reading and expounding of the Word; (2) a melting of hearts and conviction of sin under the impact of the Word; (3) fasting and prayer, confession of sin, and a recognition of God's justice and mercy; (4) a commitment to follow in the path of obedience.

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us holdfast the profession of our faith without wavering (for he is faithful that promised); And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:22-25).

The Christadelphian Expositor

The whole program recorded in Nehemiah 8 was doubtless carefully prepared in its details. The leading part was assigned to Ezra. His age, priestly character, famed learning, as well as his prestige in the nation, enabled him to speak on religious matters with profound knowledge and understanding.

His mastery of the Law enabled him to read and expound it superbly, and so impress it upon the people's consciences as no other person living at that time could have done.

Ezra would have read in the spirit of his greater antitype, who took the scroll in the synagogue of Nazareth and read aloud from the prophets, so that 

"the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him... And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth" (Lk. 4:20-22).

This greatest of all teachers gave real significance and meaning to his reading of the Word, and thereby honored his Father. The weight of Ezra's authority with the priests and Levites of Jerusalem more than counterbalanced any opposition that Eliashib might have attempted, whilst his reappearance in a public capacity after an absence of probably twelve years would lend the charm of surprise and interest to the proceedings, which now attracted great attention.

The Christadelphian Expositor

1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Yahweh had commanded to Israel.

God had specifically commanded in the beginning that this Law should be periodically read in public to all the people at this Feast of Tabernacles. ALL the people should know, and understand, and be deeply interested-there alone is safety.

And the command specifically required that "children" be included in the audience. As soon as they were old enough to comprehend what was going on (and that comes quite early), they were to be there listening. *

2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

This is the first mention of Ezra in this book. Up to now Nehemiah-the worker, the builder, the organizer-has dominated the scene. But now all the people, including Nehemiah himself, call upon Ezra to take the lead in reading and explaining the Law of God.

Ezra was a direct descendant from Aaron and appears to have been the grandson, or possibly great-grandson, of the High Priest Jehozadak, who was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He was not in the direct line of the High-Priesthood, being apparently a younger son, or son of a younger son.

(One of the "chief, or leading, priests who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel was named Ezra, and it is a possibility that this was the same person. If so, he must have been quite young at the time of Zerubbabel, and he would be very old now-at least one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty).

It is a very strongly established Jewish tradition that Ezra was the instrument used by God to compile the book of Chronicles and to arrange and complete the canon of Scripture. There is no proof of this, but several facts fit in very well with it-

1. This work must have been done around this time. It could not have been earlier or later for this is the end of the historical period of the Old Testament, and the sun is descending over the prophets, leaving Israel in a darkness that was not dispelled until John came as a "shining and a burning light."

2. Ezra appears to be the most fitting and qualified for this work, and was clearly the leader in teaching the Law of God at this time.

3. Ezra had dedicated himself to-

"Seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments" (Ezra 7:10)

-and it was for this very purpose of teaching the Law that he had (like Nehemiah later) sought and been granted permission from the king to go with authority to Jerusalem.

4. He is spoken of in terms that appear to indicate a special relationship to the law in the sight of God, as-

"The scribe of the Law of the God of Heaven" {Ezra.7:21).

"Ready (skilled, prepared) scribe in the Law of Moses."

"The scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of His statutes to Israel"

(Ezra 7:11). *

*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build

3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

They did not force themselves to pay attention-they enjoyed it-realizing with marvel and excitement as he read that these were the living words of the eternal God Himself, Who had

condescended to speak to them and to their fathers.

Other priests and Levites worked with Ezra in reading and explaining the Law...*

5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:

He was on a platform, so they could all see him as well as hear him. He "opened the Book in the sight of all the people." This is important. The Book must be kept in the forefront. Without this Book we are, like Samson without his hair,

"as weak as other men."

But in this Book is life and strength - a power greater than any power on earth. When we present it we must always keep it and its words right out in front, and ourselves always behind it.

Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build

8 So they read in the book in the law of Elohim distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

This again is very important. There is little to be gained by reading without understanding. We should never be content to do our readings mechanically without understanding.

What we cannot understand we should ask-ask our brethren, consult the works of the pioneers in the Truth, ask God in prayer.

God is not pleased with a blank, half-hearted, ritualistic reading of His Word, any more than He was with Israel's mechanical thoughtless sacrificing.

*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build

9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto Yahweh your Elohim; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Adon: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of Yahweh is your strength.

They wept for humiliation and sorrow and remorse for the condition the nation had gotten itself into after God had been so gracious as to choose and bless them above all people.

It was the first holy sabbath of the joyful Feast of Tabernacles- the last feast of the year, the feast that represented the ingathering of all God's glorious elect-the end of all toil-the swallowing up of death in victory.

It was natural to weep. It was a good and wholesome reaction. But there was a more excellent way to express their deep emotion--joy and zealous determination-thanksgiving and praise.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength."

Just what does that mean to us? Surely this is the central message of this book.

Here is the secret of Nehemiah's confidence and courage in the face of constant problems, without and within. Truly joy IS strength, and the "joy of Yahweh" is a sound, glorious, eternal joy. Are we a part of that joy and strength?

Jeremiah records in words that perfectly fit this occasion in Nehemiah-

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy Name Ο Yahweh, God of hosts!" (Jer. 15:16).

We too are called by His Name! Think upon it-glory in it- joy in the strength of it! Yahweh Elohim-"He who shall be mighty ones"-the glorious Memorial Name!*

The Joy of Yahweh is thy strength

This is the meaning of the first half of Ecclesiastes' simple, two-fold creed of life -- contentment and rejoicing in God, because rejoicing is a mighty power for good -- a mighty power for the purifying and softening and sweetening of the character.

As soon as we allow the pressures and problems of the present to dislodge us from this haven of strength, we begin to flounder and sink.

An essential part of this same picture, and built upon this literal aspect of rejoicing in the basic provisions of God's goodness, is the figure of the eating and drinking of the marvellous feast of God's revealed Word and thus growing in spiritual grace and knowledge, which Job says he considered more important than his necessary food.

Bro Growcott - This is the whole man

17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

They understood. They had learned more about God. They had approached closer unto Him, for understanding is the basis of all fellowship and communion-

...They continued to gather day by day to hear the Word read, and they learned that at this time Israel were to leave their houses and dwell in booths made of tree branches to remind

them of the free open life they lived when God delivered them from Egyptian bondage, and in these booths they were to rejoice in the Lord seven days.

...And so the great feast of Tabernacles ended, after twenty-two days of celebration.

Chapter eight ends on a note of exultant joy-a foretaste of the final great anti-typical Feast of Tabernacles. *

*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build