This day is holy to the Lord your God.
Do not mourn or weep. For all the people had
been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
Dear Worshiping Faithful:
The people could not worship. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate that they would not worship God. Traditions, rites and practices of faith had long been forgotten. They no longer cared about the house of God or the teachings of their forefathers. They simply got busy doing other things that they found more interesting or exciting. Time, money and resources had been invested in other ways and deals that had nothing to do with religious faith in God the Almighty Creator. They just did not worship God anymore.
This all happened before the Babylonian captivity. Israel and Judah had fallen away from faithful trust in God. The lesson wasn’t even learned when the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and ceased to exist. The remaining southern kingdom of Judah still kept seeking their own ways, trusting in their own wishes and not giving God his rightful place in their lives. In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar moved his mighty army through the land conquering all of Judah and the capital of Jerusalem. Eleven years later, after the people tried to rebel with a false confidence in their own hopes, they were crushed again by King Nebuchadnezzar and their leaders and families were taken off to Babylon as slaves, no longer allowed to even be a vassal state.
While in Babylon, far from what they were used to and from the temple of God, suffering in slavery did their faith start to return. They discovered that they needed to listen to God and rely on his saving help. After the captivity is over, they return to Judah and under the guidance of God’s prophets Nehemiah and Ezra they begin to rebuild the temple and the city of God. Only after so long an absence of worship, do the people come together at the square of the Water Gate and demand that Ezra read to them from the Law of God. For the first time in a very long time, the people stand in worship listening to God’s truth in the holy city of God. At the reading of the Word, the people weep because they realize their guilt of the time they had lost not listening to God, not trusting the Lord, and not being faithful. However, Ezra reminds the people that it is a holy day of the Lord, a day to celebrate and rejoice, because God has restored them and offers them a new and everlasting faith. This was the promise fulfilled for them so long ago.
Today, we look forward to that same day to rejoice, because God is still welcoming us and seeking to be with us no matter where we are and what may lay ahead. We may feel like we are still in exile, but the day is coming when we shall stand in the Lord’s house and hear that word of celebration. May we look forward to that day rejoicing and giving thanks.
In the peace and grace of God,
Pastor Kirk Griffin