A sad Christian is no witness for God. Ezra read the Book of the Law to the Jewish remnant, and when they heard God's words, "all the people chanted, ‘Amen! Amen!' as they lifted their hands toward heaven. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground" (Nehemiah 8:6).
Why should church services and times of preaching be times of sadness and boredom? When the people wept after hearing God's words, Nehemiah told them, "Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared" (v. 10). The Israelites obeyed and celebrated "with great joy because they had heard God's words and understood them" (v. 12)
Later that month, in celebrating a major festival that had been unobserved for many years, the people lived in booths for seven days, and "everyone was filled with great joy" (v. 17). Another observance followed, and this time for six hours at a time the Levites led in worship, saying, "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!" Then they continued, "Praise his glorious name! It is far greater than we can think or say" (9:5).
Why should Christians ever lose their joy? Someone has said that if the devil can't steal your joy, he can't spoil your goods. Even in your most difficult moments, look to eternity, where you will forever rejoice, world without end. Take a drink today from the joy of heaven, for it is your strength!
73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants,
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns,
2 So on the first day of the seventh month
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing
7 The Levites
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy,
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law.14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read
9 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.
“Blessed be your glorious name,
7 “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram
9 “You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt;
13 “You came down on Mount Sinai;
16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked,
19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon
73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.
2 So on October 8
4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. To his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.5 Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.
6 Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—then instructed the people in the Law while everyone remained in their places.8 They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 And Nehemiah
11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.”12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.
13 On October 9
16 So the people went out and cut branches and used them to build shelters on the roofs of their houses, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of God’s Temple, or in the squares just inside the Water Gate and the Ephraim Gate.17 So everyone who had returned from captivity lived in these shelters during the festival, and they were all filled with great joy! The Israelites had not celebrated like this since the days of Joshua
18 Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God on each of the seven days of the festival. Then on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, as was required by law.
9 On October 31
5 Then the leaders of the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—called out to the people: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!” Then they prayed:
“May your glorious name be praised! May it be exalted above all blessing and praise!
6 “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you.
7 “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldeans and renamed him Abraham.8 When he had proved himself faithful, you made a covenant with him to give him and his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word.
9 “You saw the misery of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cries from beside the Red Sea.
13 “You came down at Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just, and decrees and commands that were good.14 You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath. And you commanded them, through Moses your servant, to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions.
15 “You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry and water from the rock when they were thirsty. You commanded them to go and take possession of the land you had sworn to give them.
16 “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands.17 They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt.
19 “But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night.20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst.21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!
73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
8 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.
2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
4 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.
12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
13 And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.
14 And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:
15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.
17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.
18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.
9 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.
4 Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God.
5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
6 Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
7 Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;
8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:
9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
10 And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day.
11 And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.
12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.
13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.
16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,
17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
20 Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
21 Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
9 Am I not free?
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink?
7 Who serves as a soldier
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
15 But I have not used any of these rights.
9 Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord?2 Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.
3 This is my answer to those who question my authority.
7 What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk?8 Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing?9 For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.”
11 Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?12 If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
13 Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.15 Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust.18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.
9 Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
all who live on earth—
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
and keep them alive in famine.
12 What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,
whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
13 The Lord looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
for all its strength, it cannot save you.
18 But the Lord watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
19 He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.
20 We put our hope in the Lord.
He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
for our hope is in you alone.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
13 The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.
14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.
16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.
22 Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.
11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
12 The Righteous One
and brings the wicked to ruin.
11 If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded become wise;
if you instruct the wise, they will be all the wiser.
12 The Righteous One
he will bring disaster on them.
11 When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
12 The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.