It is a magnificently imposing scene; just the kind you might see vividly portrayed on the big screen. Picture it:
And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel, (8:1).
It is estimated that somewhere between 20,000 to 50,000 people were present for this great assembly including women, and children who were old enough to understand.
Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month, (8:2).
And for approximately six hours, Ezra read the law of Moses. And perhaps what is even more impressive… the people listened, attentively.
He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law, (8:3).
But what I found most intriguing, was not the six hours spent declaring His Word; it was not the thought of Ezra elevated above the masses on his great podium reading from the scroll so that all could see and hear; it wasn’t the peoples’ unified posture of reverent respect and agreement upon hearing His Word proclaimed; and it wasn’t even the people’s genuine response of worship that moved them to raise their hands and bow with their faces to the ground.
Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose… 5 Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 …And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground, (8:4-6).
And it still wasn’t later, as further insight was provided by the Levites, resulting in grievous mourning over the realization of their great sin deserving the wrath and judgment of Holy God.
…the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. 8 They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading…9…For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law, (8:7-9).
Nor in the encouraging exhortation to find their joy in the Lord, the joy that would emanate from the understanding of His Word, His Will and His Ways.
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” 10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them, (8:9-12).
And it wasn’t even in their joy and understanding that culminated in a celebration unlike any experienced since the days of Joshua.
The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing, (8:17).
And though all of this would make for some extremely enthralling moments in a movie theatre; still, beyond all these events, there was something even more striking.
Tucked in the middle of the descriptions of these spectacular scenes, was something barely highlighted, almost as though in passing.
Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God… (8:6).
However, the response of the people, triggered by Ezra’s blessing the Lord, was anything but fleeting.
… And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground, (8:6).
And perhaps, as we dig into a little word study, the impetus behind their seemingly dramatic reaction will sharply come into focus.
Consider Him, the LORD, the Great God
Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God… (8:6).
Take some time to carefully read and consider the definition of each Hebrew word from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
LORD: 3068. יְהוָֹה yehōwāh: A noun meaning God. The word refers to the proper name of the God of Israel, particularly the name by which He revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 6:2, 3). The divine name has traditionally not been pronounced, primarily out of respect for its sacredness (cf. Ex. 20:7; Deut. 28:58). Until the Renaissance, it was written without vowels in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, being rendered as YHWH. However, since that time, the vowels of another word, ʾaḏōnāy (136), have been supplied in hopes of reconstructing the pronunciation. Although the exact derivation of the name is uncertain, most scholars agree that its primary meaning should be understood in the context of God’s existence, namely, that He is the “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14), the One who was, who is, and who always will be (cf. Rev. 11:17). Older translations of the Bible and many newer ones employ the practice of rendering the divine name in capital letters, so as to distinguish it from other Hebrew words. It is most often rendered as Lord (Gen. 4:1; Deut. 6:18; Ps. 18:31; Jer. 33:2; Jon. 1:9) but also as God (Gen. 6:5; 2 Sam. 12:22) or JEHOVAH (Ps. 83:18; Isa. 26:4). The frequent appearance of this name in relation to God’s redemptive work underscores its tremendous importance (Lev. 26:45; Ps. 19:14). Also, it is sometimes compounded with another word to describe the character of the Lord in greater detail (see Gen. 22:14; Ex. 17:15; Judg. 6:24).
Great: 1419. גָּדוֹל gāḏôl, גָּדֹל gāḏōl, הַגְּדוֹלִים haggeḏôliym: An adjective meaning great. The word emphasizes the importance, size, and significance of something or someone. It is used to attribute theological importance in various ways to things of great significance: God’s great acts of redemption are emphasized, His great and awesome things (Deut. 10:21; Ps. 71:19; 106:21); His great acts in nature and in general are recognized (Job 5:9; 9:10; 37:5). It is used to describe the might and greatness of God’s arm which brought Israel from Egypt (Ex. 15:16). God’s presence and character in power, counsel, compassion, and mercy are described as great (Ps. 145:8; Isa. 54:7; Jer. 32:19; Nah. 1:3).
God: 430. אֱלֹהִים ʾelōhiym: A masculine plural noun meaning God, gods, judges, angels. Occurring more than 2,600 times in the Old Testament, this word commonly designates the one true God (Gen. 1:1) and is often paired with God’s unique name yehōwāh (3068) (Gen. 2:4; Ps. 100:3)… Although the form of this word is plural, it is frequently used as if it were singular—that is, with a singular verb (Gen. 1:1–31; Ex. 2:24). The plural form of this word may be regarded (1) as intensive to indicate God’s fullness of power; (2) as majestic to indicate God’s kingly rule; or (3) as an allusion to the Trinity (Gen. 1:26). The singular form of this word ʾelôah (433) occurs only in poetry (Ps. 50:22; Isa. 44:8). The shortened form of the word is ʾēl (410).
Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God… (8:6).
Ezra blessed the LORD the great God, extolling Him as the Eternal, Self-Existing God, Who had graciously revealed Himself to His creation as the Faithful Covenant Keeping Redeemer, the One true God Who is Awesome and Greater than any and all gods.
How do we respond to Him, the LORD the Great God?
If we truly understand what His Word reveals; if we truly comprehend Who He Is and all He has done on our behalf to redeem us unto Himself and to purchase us out of the bondage of sin; faithfully holding us secure by His Covenant; Great above every created being; ruling the entire universe and will thereby accomplish every bit of all that He has promised; won’t we respond just as the great assembly?
Oh, may our actions correspond with what we profess, that every aspect of our lives would agree with Him, declaring our “Amen,” our “truly may it be so,” through the way we live.
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth, (1 John 3:18).
And as we begin to realize Who He Is, may we too bow in humble adoration with hands lifted in holy reverence as we declare our worship and dependence on Him, the LORD the Great God.
But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house,
At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You, (Psalm 5:7).
And as we grow in our understanding of His Word, by the enlightening power of His Holy Spirit, oh, that we would also grieve and weep over our sin against Him, the LORD the Great God, that we would receive His healing through repentance and confession.
“and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
And as we experience His grace, mercy and forgiveness, how can we not share with those who do not yet know Him, the LORD the Great God?
“Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him, (Luke 8:39).
And as we trust His Redeeming work, fulfilled in His Covenant, He will be faithful to grow us in our faith that we too would experience the joy of the LORD as our strength to bless and honor Him, the LORD the Great God, with every part of our lives.
so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Peter 1:7-8).