Worship in Ezra's Day
The other day I was musing on worship when Ezra preached, and made some applications. When, according to Nehemiah 8:5-8, Ezra the scribe stood up to read, he opened the book of the law, it was in the sight of all the people, for his pulpit was a high platform. All the people stood up, and Ezra blessed the Lord, and we are told that all the people answered, Amen, Amen, lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Customs are varied from time to time and from place to place, but one thing is clear: the people who were overjoyed at the hearing again of the word of God in the holy city to which they had returned after 70 years of captivity showed profound reverence here, and in a bodily way.
And, we are told, the Levites “read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading,” which sounds pretty much what is supposed to happen in a sermon: give the sense, cause the people to understand the words of the Gospel.
And the conclusion is this: the Levites said unto all the people, “This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. . . . 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 Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” And so we likewise, on solemnly and reverently hearing and understanding the words of God, have reason to rejoice, and go forth into life with kindness and the strength that joy brings. How much more so than they, for a Greater than Ezra and the Levites is here.