They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.Nehemiah 8:1b
It is not surprising that chapter 8 opens with a manifestation of a great hunger for the Word among these people in Jerusalem. Notice that this seems to be a spontaneous gathering. No invitations were sent out. No public notice was given. People were hungry for answers to their problems and for guidelines from the Word of God, and with one accord they gathered in this great square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the priest to bring the Law of the Lord and to read it to them. This would undoubtedly be the entire Pentateuch--the first five books of the Bible. This indicates the tremendous desire of these people for truth. They listened, while standing, from daybreak until noon! Certainly this long attention indicates how deeply they were aware of their ignorance about life and how much they needed answers from God. They were simply crying out for the Word.
Ezra, the priest, the author of the book of Ezra, appears for the first time in the book of Nehemiah. Thirteen years earlier he had led a return from Persia to rebuild the temple and to teach the Law of God. Apparently he had been occupied in that task all through the time of the rebuilding of the wall. But when the people had finished their work, they were desperate to hear from the Word of God, so they sent for Ezra to lead them.
It seems to me that we have come to such a time as this again. The prophet Amos predicted that there would come a famine in the world for the Word of God. People would actually be starving for answers to the problems of life. I find everywhere a deep hunger among non-churched people to hear the Word of God. Wherever it is taught with any degree of understanding, they are immediately attracted to it.
In Singapore I was invited to speak to a group of young Chinese professionals. About forty or fifty doctors, lawyers, engineers, and others met in one of the high-rise apartments in the city. As I opened up the Bible to them, I quickly discovered that they were absolutely fascinated with it. When I had to leave for another appointment, many of them crowded into the elevator with me, and others came on other elevators down to the lobby, asking questions all the way. I got in the car, and as we were driving off, they ran alongside, still shouting questions through the open windows. I have never forgotten that display of hunger for God's Word among people who had not yet been taught the Scriptures.
When the Word is opened up, people begin to understand themselves. When you know God you begin to understand yourself, because you are made in the image of God. These people in Jerusalem were soon growing in self-knowledge as they began to hunger for the Word of God. The great tragedy of our day is how few churches seem to understand this power of Scripture.
Lord, create in me a hunger for Your Word. Forgive me for so often taking it for granted.
When our souls are undernourished and we suffer spiritual indigestion, do we turn to the Word of God to feed and restore us to wholeness?