The Word of God and the Ministry of Man
Nehemiah 8:1-8
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate…

One of the most affecting scenes depicted in Holy Writ here invites our thought Our imagination delights to dwell upon it. The sacred and beloved city of God is now secure, its walls are rebuilt, its gates replaced and shut; its inhabitants are no longer struggling with hope and fear, - a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, - but rejoicing in their strength and peace; internal discords are now arranged, and brethren are dwelling together in unity. With one accord they now come - all the multitude of them, men, women, and children, as many as "could hear with understanding" (ver. 2) - to one large square (ver. 1). In the midst of this square is erected a broad and high platform, a pulpit, on which several men may stand. Room is made through the crowd for Ezra (who now again appears on the scene) and a few accompanying ministers; they ascend the pulpit. As Ezra opens the book of the law of the Lord, with spontaneous reverence the whole company rises to its feet. As the great Scribe, before he begins to read, utters a few words of thanksgiving, "blessing the Lord, the great God," all the people answer, "Amen, Amen," bowing their head, and lifting their hands in reverent joy (ver. 6); and as Ezra reads and explains, speaking in their own language the ancient law which God gave to Moses, and as their Country's early history is unrolled before their eyes, and old and hallowed memories are vividly recalled, the strong men as well as the women and the children yield to their emotion, and tears stream down their faces. "All the people wept when they heard the word of the law" (ver. 9).


1. The popular appreciation of the word of God. "All the people... spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law" (ver. 1). So far was Ezra from being obliged to urge the people, to gather together and listen to the law, that they themselves called for its production, and demanded that it should be read to them. They hungered for the bread of life; they craved to hear the word of the living God. And when their wish was granted they showed themselves in real earnest, for they remained six hours eagerly listening as the law was read and expounded. Ezra "read therein from morning until midday... and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law" (ver. 3).

2. The ministerial function in regard to it. "Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood... and beside him stood Mattithiah and Shema," etc. (ver. 4); "also Jeshua and Bani," etc. (ver. 7); and '"they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (ver. 8). Here were two valuable things:

(1) the distinct reading of the word of God;

(2) the explanation of any obscure words or sentences, or, as we have it, "giving the sense," or "causing the people to understand the law."


1. That we now should show a still greater popular appreciation of the word of God. For we must consider how much more we have than they had, or than David had when he exclaimed how he 6, loved the law," and when he preferred it to bodily gratification and worldly treasure (Psalm 19.). We have not only more in quantity, but much of that which ought to be to us more deeply interesting. We have, beside the "law of Moses which the Lord had commanded to Israel" (ver. 1),

(1) the history of the Jews in the land of promise;

(2) the Psalms of David;

(3) the wisdom of Solomon;

(4) the inspired utterances of many prophets;

(5) the letters of apostles; and above all,

(6) the very word of Jesus Christ himself, and the story of his redeeming love, with

(7) the revelation of the golden city of God.

How should we hunger and thirst for this bread, for these waters of life; how should we be "very attentive to hear him

2. That there is as much need now as ever of the ministerial function. For though indeed we have the word of God written in our own tongue, in our own home, and under our own eyes, there remains, and will remain, the important function of

(1) expounding the sacred word. There are words and sentences, chapters and books, hard to be understood;" there are now more things than there were then to harmonise; there is the connection between the two Testaments to explain; and there are heights which only some can climb, depths to which only a few can dig, treasures which only "the ready scribe" can reach, and these it is well to bring forth that all may be enriched. Moreover, the ministers of Christ, like Ezra and his companions on this eventful day (ver. 6), have the high and noble function of

(2) leading the people in prayer and in thanksgiving; reverently addressing God, carrying the hearts of all with them, bearing on the wings of their earnest words the thoughts and feelings of the people heavenwards to the very throne of God, so that "all the people shall answer, Amen, Amen," and "worship the Lord" in spirit and in truth (ver. 6). There is no higher or greater service man can render man than that of helping him to come into close and living fellowship with the Father, the Saviour, the Sanctifier of his spirit.

III. ONE ABIDING FACT. The fitness of the sacred Scriptures for every child of man. Men, women, and children, "all that can hear with understanding," gather still to hear the word of God. There is not, nor will there ever be, a book inspired of man that can interest and instruct, comfort and guide, our race like this book "given by the inspiration of God." Childhood will never read with such devouring eagerness such stories elsewhere as those of Joseph and Moses and Daniel, and of the babe that was cradled in the manger at Bethlehem. Youth will never learn elsewhere to remember its Creator as it learns here in the stories of Samuel and Josiah, and of him who "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man;" here prime will learn, as nowhere else, that man cannot "live on bread alone," or grow rich only by making money and building fortunes; here sorrow will ever find its sweetest solace, its best and holiest balm, and sickness its one untiring Companion; and here death itself loses its darkness and its sting, as these pages speak to it of him who is "the Resurrection and the Life." - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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 the LORD had commanded to Israel.

WEB: All the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spoke to Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Yahweh had commanded to Israel.

The Scriptures Related to Revivals of Religion
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