Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:7-10).
Psalm 19 provides the context for understanding Nehemiah 8. Contrary to what some think, the Law of Moses is not a sterile, impersonal thing. So much contemporary interpretation of Jesus and the Pharisees arguing over the law have given us an overly negative view of the Law of Moses and its purpose. God gave the Law for the sake of Israel. The giving of the Law itself was an act of divine grace.
But God's people neglected the Law. They ignored it and downright disobeyed it; and because of this the law no longer moved the people's hearts and minds. The divine wisdom given in the Law is of no use when God's people are ignorant of it. One cannot love what one does not know.
But now, back in the land promised to Abraham and Sarah, the people hear the Law read, once again. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the people hear the Law as if it has been read for the very first time. And as they listen, they are moved-- "the people wept as they heard the Law." They listened to words not simply printed on a page, but to divine wisdom that "revived their souls."
Do we as God's people in the twenty-first century love Scripture? Are we diligent in reading it, studying it, pondering it, struggling with it, and embodying it in our lives? Scripture is not perfect; only God can claim that quality. But the Bible is God's Word to us in all of its mystery and difficulty and beauty. It's wisdom is to be desired more than material wealth; for in its pages we can find the riches that lead to life.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)