God Comes Near

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 8:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it the people stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and responded, 'Amen! Amen!' Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." Nehemiah 8:5,6

The wall was finished. It was time to celebrate! But instead of a lively party, the people gathered in the square at the Water Gate and asked Ezra to read the law.

They had just been part of an amazing project. They had seen how God had helped and protected them. Now they wanted to know how to keep pleasing Him.

Ezra stood on a high platform with the people all around. As soon as he opened the book, everyone stood up. After he praised God, the people raised their hands and said, “Amen! Amen!” and bowed to the ground in worship.

Then Ezra began reading. Nehemiah and the priests and Levites joined him on stage. From time to time they explained what the reading meant. Soon there was a sound of sobbing from the crowd, then weeping, then loud crying. As the people heard God’s law they realized how much they had disobeyed it. They were full of sadness and regret.

But the next day the people wanted to hear more. When Ezra read about Festival of Tabernacles God had told them to celebrate in September – which was now – they set right to work. They gathered branches, made little shelters and for the first time in years celebrated as God had told them to.

A new love and respect for God came to the people in Jerusalem after they had rebuilt the wall. They confessed their sins and were careful to keep God’s laws again. After they were obedient in helping with this project, God’s love and presence felt more real than it had for years.

It’s not so different for us. Is there something we know God wants us to do? We should obey and do that thing. Then we shouldn’t be surprised if God feels close to us again and gives us a special sense of how much He loves us.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be obedient and know Your love and pleasure. Amen.

MORE: Festival of Tabernacles

God told the Israelites how to celebrate this festival in Leviticus 23:33-44. The way Nehemiah and the people did it is in Nehemiah 8:14-17. Using your Bible, books and the internet, find out about the Festival of Tabernacles (Booths):

1. When was it to be celebrated?

2. How long was the celebration?

3. What were the people to live in during this time?

4. What was this festival to remind them of?

5. Is it still celebrated by Jews today? How?

ANSWERS

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