Bible Literacy And Spiritual Health

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 20

imagesEzra gathers the entire congregation together and reads to them from the Book of the Law every morning for seven days. They weep as they processed what they hear. Nehemiah points out that it is not a time to weep, but to celebrate, because they “understood the words that had been made known to them” (Neh. 8:12).

A fews weeks later, the leaders gather together to consecrate themselves to the LORD. They again read from the Book of the Law and “confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (9:2).

Ezra responds with a prayer that recounted Israel’s history. Four times in Ezra’s prayer he refers to Israel’s rejection of God’s Word:

  • Ezra refers to the disobedience of Israel during the Exodus Era, “You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments . . . but they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments” (9:13,16, emphasis added).
  • Ezra highlights Israel’s rejection of God’s word in the Judges Era, “You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land . . . nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs” (9:24, 26, emphasis added).
  • Ezra reminds Israel of God’s warnings through the prophets throughout the Kingdom Era and Divided Kingdom Era, “Many times You delivered them according to Your mercies, and testified against them, that You might bring them back to Your law. Yet they acted proudly, and did not heed Your commandments, but sinned against Your judgments, ‘which if a man does, he shall live by them’” (9:28-29, emphasis added).
  • Ezra includes all of the men of Israel in his indictment, “Neither our kings nor our princes, our priests nor our fathers, have kept Your law, nor heeded Your commandments and Your testimonies, with which You testified against them” (9:34).

Ezra’s prayer ends on a sad note, “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, to eat its fruit and its bounty, here we are, servants in it! And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle at their pleasure; and we are in great distress” (9:36-37). Ezra’s recital of Israel’s history demonstrates that the spiritual vitality of God’s people is directly related to their knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word.

This scene reveals a number of important truths about Bible literacy:

  • Those who reject God’s Word reject God’s blessing; without God’s blessing people will become slaves. They fulfill the warning of the blessings and cursings Moses recorded in Deut. 28:47-48, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies . . . .”
  • Every generation of leaders is responsible to teach God’s Word to their children. Failure to do so creates a domino effect that lasts for generations.
  • The spiritual vitality of God’s people rests on their Bible literacy.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Neh. 8:13-10:39):
Review Leviticus 23:33-43. What purpose would celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles annually serve?
How much time had passed since Israel had celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles? How did the lack of celebration of this feast contribute to Israel’s spiritual declension?
In Nehemiah 9:5-38 Israel’s history is recounted in their hearing. Note the Creation, Patriarch, Conquest, Judges, Kingdom and Divided Kingdom, and Captivity eras as you read. Describe Israel’s present situation at the conclusion of their history.
Review Deuteronomy 4:1-14. How does Bible literacy promote Israel as a nation?