Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.Nehemiah 8:2(NASB)
Nehemiah was a man who loved the Lord and was grieved to hear that the broken walls and burned gates of Jerusalem remained in ruins, despite the return of a small band of Jews, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, decades earlier and a second group of exiles who had returned 14 years before, under the leadership of Ezra the scribe - a descendent from Eleanor, Aaron's third son.
The first seven chapters of his book records the exciting events that led to the homecoming of Nehemiah to the holy city he loved. Nehemiah had wept over this sad state of affairs of Jerusalem; repented of Israel's past sins and beseeched God to intervene for His holy name's sake.
The Lord answered Nehemiah's earnest prayer and moved king Artaxerxes to write a decree, granting him the opportunity to return to Jerusalem and the resources to rebuild the city walls and its gates. However, those in authority had kept the returning Jews in bondage and resented this new interference in their authority. They did everything in their power to thwart Nehemiah's plans to rebuild the city walls and renovate its gates.
However, Nehemiah was not intimidated by those opposing him and his fellow workers, laboured tirelessly, with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. The wall was completed in 52 days, after which a register of Jerusalem's returning population was compiled, including the servants and singers, together with men; women; horses; mules; camels and donkeys!
An inventory of the Temple treasures was also taken, and one week after the wall was completed "all the people gathered as one man at the city square, which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel".
For many years the nation of Israel had rebelled against the Lord. They scorned the many prophetic warnings of approaching judgement and refused to repent of their sin and return to the Lord. This had resulted in Judah's 70-year-long Babylonian captivity. The people had forgotten the covenant God made with their fathers, but on this 1st day of the 7th month, (which was the Feast of Trumpets), they assembled together to hear the public reading of the Law.
The moral and spiritual condition of the Jewish returnees was shocking, but for 14 years Ezra had prayerfully sought to return the people to their roots and teach them the things of God. The return of Nehemiah and his courageous stand against all opposition while rebuilding the wall contributed to their resolve to return to the Lord their God and so, "Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding - on the first day of the seventh month".
What a spectacle that must have been, to see the people of God standing before this Ezra, listening intently to the reading of the Law of Moses on this first day of the seventh month.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the courage of men like Nehemiah, who purposed in his heart to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem for Your praise and glory, and refuse to be intimidated by those that despise Your name. Thank You for the witness of Ezra, the scribe, whom You used to reignite the moral and spiritual fire in the hearts of Israel, during this difficult time in their history. Lord I pray that I may be filled with the same courage and dedication as these two men of God. Kindle the flame of pure celestial fire in the heart of all Your people, with an inextinguishable blaze. May Your perfect will be done in the lives of all Your people and I pray that my life may be a living sacrifice that honours Your name - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.