Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)
TITLE: Read to the Heart
By Joanney Uthe
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I hoped the platform served to make me visible to all who gathered, not so that I would be the focus of their attention, but so that they could focus on the words being read. I was not alone on the platform: six men stood on my right and seven on my left. They were more than just moral support; they were partners in the ministry of the day. Others would help as well.
The crowd rose to their feet as I stepped forward and opened the Book of the Law. Seventy years had passed since our people had been forced to leave our home. Most of this remnant had never heard the Scriptures read, had only heard stories told by their elders. I silently prayed that they would heed God’s words, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) May we turn to You, Lord.
"Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:5b-6) The prayer I said aloud hide my silent prayer for strength and stamina to make it through the day’s reading. By my own power, I would not have been able to stand or to talk for that long.
From daybreak until noon I read aloud the Book of the Law. By God’s strength, I did not feel weak or tired throughout the entire reading. The people listened intently throughout the morning. When I finished with prayer, they lifted their hands and responded with “Amen! Amen!” They had heard God’s words, not mine, and bowed down to worship Him.
The Levites taught the people the Law, making sure all understood it. Many people were weeping, and Nehemiah, our governor, reminded us of the Psalmist’s words, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalom 51:17) God had broken the spirits of His people, they had turned their hearts back to Him. We instructed the people to "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."(Nehemiah 8:10)
The next day, the heads of each family gathered around me for more teaching of the Law. We read God’s command to build booths during the seventh month and the people went out and brought back branches and made booths in which to live. We had not celebrated the Festival of Booths like this since the days of Joshua. The people found great joy in their obedience to God.
All seven days of the Feast I read the Law to the men of the Remnant and on the eighth day we had an assembly. Later that month, the people gathered together and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. God’s people humbled themselves, prayed, sought God’s face and turned from their wicked ways. I knew from His promises that God would now heal our land.
I know that these events will go down in the history of our nation. It is my desire that when our children and grandchildren read the account of this momentous time, they see not Ezra, but God as the center of attention. I was only the vessel He used to do read the Law to His people.
All Scripture is NIV. Story based on Nehemiah 8
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