As you start thinking about Sunday morning worship, just two days away (and you should be planning for the Lord’s Day), I thought I’d share a picture of a beautiful worship service. It is a wonderful example of what it looks like when people gather together to hear from God. Reading about it made me want to be there, and it moved me to pray that this would happen again.
I didn’t find this story in Christianity Today, or read about it in a blog, or discover it in a denominational newsletter. Actually, it happened in Jerusalem at around 445 B.C. The preacher at the service was Ezra (and he had a host of “associate pastors” with him), and here is what happened :
Neh. 8.1 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. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read 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.
4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra 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.
6 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.
7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
From this and the rest of chapter 8 and 9, I glean this prayer for Sunday morning. Would you pray it with me, for your heart, your family, your church?
“May God, in our church services…
make us hungry for the Word this way (they listened from morning to midday, 8:3);
make us attentive to the Word (8:3);
move us deeply by the Word (they wept as they heard the Word, 8:9);
create in us this kind of worship (8:6) in response to the proclamation and explanation of the Word (8:7-8);
cause great rejoicing to erupt in our gatherings due to the Word of God declared to us (8:12,17);
convict us and move us to confession of sin as his Word settles into our hearts (9:2).”