Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. ~ Nehemiah 8:5-6
I read these verses over the weekend while doing my Bible study homework. They had a tremendous impact on me, because of the sheer respect people showed for the Word of God.
The people were gathering in Jerusalem once more, after Nehemiah had worked tirelessly to bring them together and rebuild the wall. They were returning home after being in exile for over seventy years, trying to regain their sense of community and purpose.
So when Ezra arrives on the scene, he takes out the Law to read it to the people. The verses prior to these two verses said that everyone who could hear and understand gathered to listen early in the morning. And Ezra read until noon.
The people didn’t shift in their seats or complain that Ezra had droned on too long. They drank up the Word, because they knew the instruction was meant to teach them how to live. And they felt such reverence for God that as soon as Ezra opened the Law to read, the people stood up.
It reminds me of the way an audience reacts to the Hallelujah Chorus. Having been in choir throughout high school, college and beyond, every Christmas I love singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Not because it’s my favorite song, but because every time someone sings it, the audience stands up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a middle school choir or a symphony chorus; people get out of their seats. The story goes that the first time Handel’s Messiah was sung before King George II, he was so moved by the power of this particular song, he stood. And hundreds of years later, audiences are still doing the same thing.
We should treat the Word of the Lord with the same kind of reverence. It is the handbook given to us by the very Creator of the universe! What an honor it is to read His guidelines for our lives, to hold it in our hands and keep it in our homes. Don’t take the incredible gift that your Bible is for granted.