For Sunday, January 24, 2016
Third Sunday After the Ephiphany
This passage is wholly appropriate for the season of Epiphany because an epiphany is precisely what is taking place here. When a culture hears truth it knows it and will weep with mourning for how far it has strayed. At the same time such truth is life-giving and the joy of the Lord speaking it will become the peoples’ strength.
It had been a long 70 years in Babylon, Long enough to forget what it meant to have God in the center of the culture. Yet now, by providence through the Persian conquest of Babylon, Israel found herself home again in Jerusalem, standing before her temple, at the start of the civil year. This was a State of the Union moment. Ezra the scribe (a precursor to Charles Krauthammer on Fox News?) brings out the Book of the Law of Moses.
Ezra read from the book with interpretation so that the people could understand the meaning (v. 8). This is the essence of good preaching. I once heard Stuart Briscoe, Pastor Emeritus of Elmbrook Church, and one of the most gifted expository preachers in the country, say to a mutual acquaintance, “All I’ve done is found a good book and shared what I’ve read there with all who would listen.” Transformational preaching is no more or less than this. Expository preaching will always be relevant because it is the conveyance of transforming truth.
So convicted were the people of how far they had allowed their country to stray that they wept. Oh that Christians around the world would take ownership for the state of our Unions. People and nations will thrive when the truth of the gospel is heard and lived by even a remnant.
At the end of the reading, Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the scribe (journalist), and the Levites (priests or pastors) said with one voice, “Go, and celebrate, and share your blessing with those who lack, and do not be grieved, because the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).
This passage is a call for us as individuals to recommit ourselves to the daily reading of Scripture. It’s a call as well to preach the Scriptures exposition ally in our churches. Finally, it’s a call to reclaim the joy of the Lord that our countries and cultures would thrive. May we neither wander nor falter nor fail to respond to so high a calling.