As Ezra read the Law of Moses (Nehemiah 8:1-18), it was translated for those who couldn’t understand what he was reading.
Israel, compared to its glory days under King David and King Solomon, was in a bad way. The reading of God’s Word revealed to them the reasons why God had rejected Israel and had allowed them to be taken into captivity. Thus, the people reacted with tears of sorrow at the new reading of the Scriptures.
On another occasion when the Law of God had ceased to be read and explained to the people, it had ended up being locked away in the temple. When discovered and read, King Josiah had had the same reaction when learning about God’s displeasure as Ezra’s audience did (2 Kings 22).
Ezra read the Law during The Feast of Booths. It served to remind the Israelites that God lovingly took care of them when they wandered in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). It was a harvest feast, and a time for great rejoicing. Ezra would have appreciated their tears of repentance, but, because it was a Day that was Holy to the Lord, he told them they must enjoy its meaning—God provides!
Whenever knowledge of God’s commands is withheld, the miseries of sin and bondage prevail. Hosea’s words are as true today as they were when he penned them: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
You and I can assure that “this day is holy to our Lord” by filling it with scripture, prayer, and sacrifice. The sorrows wrought by ignorance and disobedience will turn to joy as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).