God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September 28 - Nehemiah 8-10: Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites Renew God's Covenant with God's Chosen People

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 8-10

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Nehemiah and Ezra lead Israel to rededicate their lives to God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Everyone gathered to hear Ezra read the Revelation of Moses. Priests and Levites helped everyone understand it.
Nehemiah and Ezra sent everyone home to celebrate a holy day with their neighbors.
Israel's leaders gathered to deepen their understanding of the revelation. Israel celebrated the Feast of Booths for the first time since Joshua's days.
Ezra read from Moses' Revelation daily.
A few weeks later everyone confessed their sins and broke ties with foreigners. A group of Levites retold how God blessed their ancestors though they would not obey Him. Israel pledged to obey God then signed and sealed the pledge.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Nehemiah and Ezra work together to "re-baptize" Israel's hearts.

This section is similar to Exodus 24 and Deuteronomy 27 where Moses and Aaron lead Israel to promise to obey God; Joshua 24 with Joshua's challenge to Israel; and the dedication of the Temple in Honor of God with Israel responding to Solomon's prayer. It is meant to re-center Israel on obeying God's Word found in God's Law—similar to how baptism centers our minds on our Calling. They wanted Israel to publically seal their part in the Law, like baptism publically seals our part as God's Chosen People. Public proclamation of God's Word centers a group on God's Way.

Nehemiah and Ezra station Levites to help Israel understand the Law while they read the Law.

Ezra knows that reading God's Law does not help a person become wholly for God. They must live a life of setting things right to be holy. To help Israel live God's Law they positioned Levites throughout the area to help Israel understand what was being read. Later they brought together the heads of each family and the civic leaders "to get a deeper understanding of the words of The Revelation" (8:13, The Message). It pays immediate dividends—they celebrate the Feast of Booths for the first time since the days of Joshua. When God's Chosen People seek to understand God's Word, they can set things right.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this Bible in a year project was because I had read through the Bible in a year twice but felt I did not understand very much. I did not understand how all the pieces fit together and wanted to spend time each day putting them together. Thanks to the Petaluma Church I've had a chance to do that. By providing this resource I hope you have understood more of God's Way as presented in God's Word.

The Levites retell the story of God's Love for His Chosen People—Israel—to give a common bond.

We have read the entire Spirit-led, written history of Israel in nine months. This is a period of over 1000 years. In addition, almost no one in Ezra's audience grew up in Israel's land. They needed something to remind them of God's faithfulness to Abraham's descendents. It reminded Israel of God's perfect Holiness and Israel's record of unholiness. They had a chance to distance themselves from their father's sins and renew their Covenant with God. God wants the Story of His Faithfulness to Abraham's Descendents to be known to keep our Covenant fresh in our minds.
I hope churches keep track of their congregation's history beyond sheer numbers and names. Seeing how God helped the congregation through one test after another, even when the congregation failed to stay holy to God, helps the members see how God is working in their church today. I am afraid we stay in a 2000+ year-old history lesson and give the impression all God cares for now is the number of people who walk into the auditorium each Sunday. Let's tell our story completely from the Abram until today. Don't stop with John and the Revelation. That history may not be pretty, but it's to show God's Faithfulness, not ours.

Do you know the full history of your congregation of God's Chosen People?

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