Friday, January 2, 2009

Lament, Repent, and Rejoice

Returning to Israel after 70 years in exile the people did something that they had not done for nearly two generations. They heard and understood the Word of God.

"And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law....the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was 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.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” Nehemiah 8:1-3, 7-11
Why did the people cry during the reading of God's Word? They heard what God expected in their lives and realized they did not measure up and they mourned their past. After listening and weeping all morning the leaders told them to stop crying. They said today is a day for joy and celebration. Why joy? Because their relationship with God was restored. Their sin had been exposed, as it always is by the Word of God. They had repented and lamented their sin and now Nehemiah, Ezra and the leaders were telling them to rejoice. Rejoice that God had brought them back to Himself.

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. Nehemiah 8:12

For this New Year, let our heart be broken for our sin, let us repent, lament and let us rejoice because God has allowed us to hear His Word and understand.

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