Because They Understood

When the people of God had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, the seventh month came, and all of Israel were in their cities (Neh. 7:73). Then the people gathered as one man (Rom. 5:19), and Ezra the priest read out the law and explained it them. All the people answered “Amen! Amen!” lifting up their hands and worshiping the Lord with their faces bowed to the ground in humility.

But something began to happen in their hearts that wasn’t right. Instead of moving God’s people to rejoice in their freedom, the words of the law made them all weep. But look what Ezra and Nehemiah say:

Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord.
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:10

The Levites carried Nehemiah’s comforting words around the people, repeating what he’d said, calming all of Judah. “Be still, for the day is holy. Do not be grieved” (v. 11).

Now, as then, we gather to enter the throne room of God, to praise our God who made and saved us through the One Man. There is no sadness in worship for those who rest in Christ. Because though the law condemns us (Gal. 4:23-25), though we will despair if our eyes look inward for our salvation (v. 4), our Saviour is worthy.

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.

Revelation 5:5

Those who misunderstand the gospel and the worship of God are arrogant, cruel and despairing, in bondage to the law. They will weep when they hear God’s words and wander in darkness. They cannot be comforted.

But as for the people of Judah, when God had calmed them, they celebrated a great festival, “because they understood the words which had been made known to them” (Neh. 8:12). And like them, we are not sad anymore. Because “the Jerusalem above is free. She is our mother” (Gal. 4:26).

Edward Robert Hughes – “Night” aka “Star of Heaven” – c. 1900

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