Ezra began reading at the beginning of the law. As he read, the crowd buzzed with excitement. “What would God say?” “What had He written in His word?” “What life changing truth would they hear?” With earnest expectation they all leaned in to hear the Words of God. It did not take very long for the smiles and excitement to slowly disintegrate. As Ezra read on and on, their posture shifted. Those that had leaned forward in excitement dropped their shoulders with the weight of what they were hearing. This is not what they expected. They thought they were going to hear the words that would tell them how good they were being, but instead, they found out that they had not been following all of the desires and designs of God.
Joy turned to devastation. Song turned to mourning.
After hearing the law, the Jews began to weep. The gravity of their situation was frightening. They had been inadvertently disobeying the Law of God. Their situation was overwhelming.
Nehemiah stopped the reading and mounted the pulpit. He told the people to hold their tears. They did not need to wallow in devastating guilt. God had been merciful up to this point. He had been longsuffering. He had cared and loved and brought them to this point in spite of themselves, and that wasn’t going to change in this instant.
The worship should go on. It should not be turned to lamentation.
God was gracious and He deserved to be praised. Nehemiah wanted this day to be marked with rejoicing not sorrow. The priests comforted the people with the character of God. It was through God’s grace that this day was even possible. If He was going to judge them, He already would have.
This is the truth of grace: it should bring joy and not sorrow.
The love of a forgiving God should be reassuring not crippling. He is a God that is so great, and so kind, and so gracious that we would only ever want to run to Him, not away from Him.
And daily, we should run to Him. We should be broken for our sins, and repenting, but we should be reassured and rejoice in His grace and forgiveness. We cannot wallow in self-pity or guilt; rather, with joy we should embrace the forgiveness that was accomplished for us in Jesus.
Food For Thought: Why were the people upset? Why should they not have stayed upset?