More than just “interesting reading,” the Old Testament provides many lessons helpful to us today. One such example is found in Nehemiah 8:1-12.
First, consider the assembly (verses 1-2). The people gathered as one man, indicating an atmosphere of unity. Unity among God’s people is as important today as it was in Nehemiah’s day (I Corinthians 1:10-11, 3:9, II Corinthians 13:11). The people wanted Ezra to “bring the book,” indicating they had a desire to hear God’s word (Psalm 119:31, Matthew 5:6). It was a common gathering, consisting of men, women, and children. Along with this, consider I Corinthians 11:17-20.
Second, consider the attention that was given to God’s word (verse 3). The Bible will be of benefit to us today only if we pay attention to what we read, realizing it can be understood (Acts 17:11-12, Ephesians 3:1-4). Also consider Proverbs 18:15: “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.”
Third, consider their attitude (verses 4-6). The people stood, indicating they had an attitude of reverence toward the word of God. Ezra blessed the Lord, meaning he praised, or spoke well of, the Lord. Consider Psalm 119:12: “Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.”
Fourth, consider their awareness (verses 7-9). The people mourned when they were convicted of their sin. They had neglected God’s restrictions concerning marriage (Deuteronomy 7:1-6, Ezra chapter 9-10, Nehemiah 13). They had failed to keep the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13). They had forsaken God’s house (Nehemiah 10). But God’s word was also able to bring them joy, just as it is able to bring us joy today. Because of God’s word, we are able to experience the joy of forgiveness, the joy of salvation, the joy of protection, the joy of instruction, and the joy of comfort.