Keeping the Feast
Nehemiah 8:13-18
And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites…

On the second day, the day after the great and affecting assembly of all the citizens, came together a representative company, "the chief of the fathers of all the people" (ver. 13), beside the priests and Levites, to "understand" or consider the law, that they might encourage all the children of Israel to a regular and faithful observance of it. This gathering led at once to -

I. AN ACT OF REVIVED AND REJOICING OBEDIENCE. For "they found written in the law ... that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month" (ver. 14). They came upon the commandment recorded in Leviticus 23., enjoining the observance of the feast of tabernacles or booths. This must have fallen partially, if not wholly, into disuse, though we know from Ezra 3:4 that this feast was celebrated as late as the time of Zerubbabel. Now, however, under the impulse of Nehemiah's and Ezra's faithful ministry, and in the glow of a religious revival, they returned to a complete and hearty observance of the ancient festival. The law required that the sacred feasts should be "proclaimed" (Leviticus 23:4). Giving a broad sense to the term, they took pains to proclaim it with all particularity. "In all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount," etc. (ver. 15). And there was a general and hearty response. "The people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths" (ver. 16); "all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under them" (ver. 17). Moses commanded that once in seven years the law should be read" before all Israel in their hearing" (Deuteronomy 31:11). Whether this was the seventh year or not, the injunction of Moses was obeyed. They were in the mood to do all - more rather than less - that was enjoined, and "day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he (Ezra) read in the book of the law of God" (ver. 18). There had been no such celebration of the feast since the days of Jeshua (ver. 17), "and there was very great gladness." Now we learn from this that -

1. It is possible for a nation (or a Church) with the Bible in its keeping to allow plain duties to fall into disregard.

2. That this negligence is due to a blameworthy inattention to the word of God. The Bible is too much on the shelf, too little in the hand.

3. That a return to obedience, especially to a hearty and general (unanimous) obedience, is attended with great gladness of heart.

(1) Devout study,

(2) earnest obedience,

(3) reverent joy - these are successive steps in a true revival.

II. A COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE. The feast of tabernacles was essentially commemorative. "That your generation may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out," etc. (Leviticus 23:43). It was well indeed that the children of the captivity should have their attention called to past days of exile. It would do them good, as it did their fathers, to look back and think what God had done unto them and for them. How he had humbled them, and how he had redeemed them. Thus they would think of two things -

(1) past sorrows, not to be renewed, from which God had graciously delivered them; and

(2) past sins, never to be repeated, which God had mercifully forgiven them. One thought would lead to thankfulness, and the other to consecration; both to sacred joy. The recalling by our minds of past evils out of which God has led us, and past errors and wrongdoings which he has blotted out, will confirm our hearts in their gratitude and devotion.

III. AN OPPORTUNITY OF INSTRUCTION IN SACRED THINGS. Whether the Jews felt bound to observe Deuteronomy 31:10, or whether the reading of the law from day to day was optional on their part (the latter is the more probable), we have them associating instruction with ceremonial observance. We should turn all occasions into opportunities of "inquiring the way of the Lord more perfectly," of becoming "filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding... increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9, 10). - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: On the second day were gathered together the heads of fathers' [houses] of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, to Ezra the scribe, even to give attention to the words of the law.

The Joy of the Lord, the Strength of His People
Top of Page
Top of Page