Joy of the Word, Joy of the Lord

All the people gathered into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law. And he read from it facing the square from early morning until midday. And the ears of all the people were attentive. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. [He] opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. [The Levites] read from the book clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” Ezra 8:1,3-6,8-10,12

There is something about the eagerness of the people to hear and understand God’s word that is at once sobering, and inspiring. They sought it, took time to prepare for it, and stood for hours with full attention, allowing it to have its way in their hearts and minds, driving them to worship and repentance and obedience. This was no quick ‘devo,’ no superficial breezing through a verse or two; it was a true absorption of God’s holy word, an ingesting over time, with understanding, what it revealed of God, His rules for man, His ways of purity and mercy. The same word that brought conviction brought assurance of God’s great redeeming love, and joy abounded.

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Does God’s word have such a high and prominent place in my days? Is it the object of an impatient nod, or is it my priority for sustenance and wisdom? Do I let its mere words only skim the surface of my mind, or do I invite the truths to sink into my soul and effect change, elicit praise, thanksgiving, a longing for more? In what ways has the word increased my love and mercy to others, broadened my worldview, diminished my prejudices, exposed and abased my sense of superiority, transformed my irritability into graciousness and long-suffering?

Lord, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Soak me deeply in Your word. Wash me with it, sanctify me. Let the bones that you have broken rejoice; let me sing with joy and gladness all my days. (Psalm 51:6-8)

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