In Nehemiah chapter 8, we read that the people gathered together in unity in the city centre, and that a special podium was set up for Ezra the priest, so that, from this podium he could read the first five books of the Bible. Jesus in Bible/21092319
There is a particular moment in Israel’s history that my article focuses on, and a provoking thought for us today, writes Pastor Paul Kauri.
There are a few books in the Old Testament which give
a facet of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, in Israel’s history. The
book of Ezra focuses on the rebuilding of the Temple. The book of Nehemiah
records the rebuilding of their City Walls, and the book of Malachi emphasises
the return of God’s people back to His economic principles, for the restoration
of His nation. All three books have a strong emphasis on God’s People returning
back to Him, by returning back to His Word.
In Nehemiah chapter 8, we read that the people gathered
together in unity in the city centre, and that a special podium was set up for
Ezra the priest, so that, from this podium he could read the first five books
of the Bible. He stood on this high podium so everyone could see him; men,
women, and children. There was a great sense of awe and anticipation building
up to this moment, when Ezra would read from this sacred book, for the people
had not heard its sacred words for at least 40 years, while they were in
As God was rebuilding His people, remembering the
covenant He made to His friend Abraham, the people sensed the significance of
the moment they were in, and as Ezra opened the book for the first time in 40
years, the people rose to their feet. From dawn till noon Ezra read and explain
what the scriptures meant so that people could understand, and as he read, the
people wept. For one generation, it was because they had not heard these words
in many years, so they wept. For another generation they saw the ignorance of
their decisions in life, which caused much heart ache, and they wept, for they
had never heard these words before, and no one had ever told them.
Nehemiah comforts his people by encouraging them not
to weep but to celebrate. It is also from this chapter in the Bible that we get
the phrase, “the Joy of the Lord is your strength” in verse 10.
As I read this chapter I was captivated by the
reverence of the people toward God’s word. I thought about the moment when Ezra
opened the book and the people rose. It brought back memories of the times when
our national anthem would play and we would rise. Or if we were playing in the
playgrounds at school, whenever the national anthem played the whole school
stood still in reverence and respect to the raising of our flag and our nations
anthem. I thought about a generation today, who are growing up without that
knowledge or practice of reverence and respect for King or for Country.
I thought about the choices made by a generation in
Nehemiah’s time, that neither knew nor were ever told of things that were read,
by Ezra, from this sacred book. And it brought me to think of a generation
today who do not know and have never been told, the important things in life,
or about themselves and others, from this sacred book.
I recently heard a story of a youth pastor who was
asked to work with a group of teenagers, who came from a very rough background.
They were not allowed to use the Bible to “bash” the kids, neither were they
paid for this role. They were however given an old basketball gymnasium they could
use to run their programmes, while their parents were forced by the courts to
take appropriate rehabilitative courses.
This was a group of teenagers who had no morale
boundaries, or any understanding of personal value, and, needless to say, their
language reflected their upbringing. The boys and girls played basketball
together. The boys fouled the girls on a totally different level if you get my
drift! The promiscuity and seductive behaviours only reflected a generation who
did not know their value or the value of other people, and sex drugs and rock
‘n’ roll was means of surviving the realities of their world.
The youth pastor, along with his wife and few other
helpers decided to set a programme, which consisted of 1 hour of basketball and
half an hour of teaching without using the Bible.
The pastor taught them that they were precious and of
high value. He taught them how they were the choice of an Intelligent Designer
and not the result of accident known amongst evolutionists as “The Big Bang” and
that their lives had meaning and purpose because of this Intelligent Designer.
He taught them how their bodies were sacred, he visited them in their homes …
much to the surprise of the parent. He taught the boys to see the girls as
someone’s mother or someone’s wife and not to trash them as some men had trashed
their mother. He taught about responsibility and the value of hard work, he
taught them values.
Week by week as he taught them, they were listening
and watching. As the weeks went by, the values of the teens changed and so too
did some of their behaviour and language. When new kids who joined the group
began to swear, the kids would run with them and say, “bro, we don’t talk like
that here”. When new girls who joined the group began to flirt with the boys,
the girls would tell them, “We don’t roll like that here! We’re too precious!”
He recalls one particular evening after talking about
the context of sex within the covenant of marriage, sexual purity and personal
value, a young girl came up to him to say with tears in her eyes, “no-one ever
f*#!@ told me this! I never knew I was this important” (as I said, the language
reflected their upbringing)
I thought about the people weeping as Ezra taught. I
thought about this young girl and her tears, and in both cases, they wept
because they did not know the Words of Life, no one had ever told them.
Then I thought about the challenge given to this youth
pastor, to preach the Word, without using the Bible. He did it over time. He
did it with his wife. He did it with words. He did it by actions. He did it by
example. He did it all in love. He was the Constant and Consistent in an
unstable and changing world facing these teens.
Worth thinking about if we are to build a generation
that is coming through … ready or not.