WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 4, 2013
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FESTIVAL OF BOOTHS
(GOD’s Word guides our worship)
A week after the construction of the walls of Jerusalem were completed, all the people of Israel re-assembled on the square just inside the “Water Gate”, on the east wall of the city. They asked Ezra, the priest, teacher, and scribe, to bring out the book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had given for Israel to obey.
It was now mid-autumn, during the Jewish month of “Tishri” (the seventh month on the Jewish calendar), and the people of Israel, which numbered between thirty and fifty thousand, needed “a fresh infusion of commitment”, or “spiritual revival” to “re-fuel them” following their exhausting task of finishing the wall.
In Nehemiah chapter 8, Ezra brings the scroll of the Law of Moses before the assembly of men and women, and children who were old enough to understand, and began to read aloud to them. The people stood on their feet and praised the LORD, just as Ezra and all the priests and Levites did, and they all raised their hands toward Heaven. Then they bowed down with their faces to the ground and worshiped GOD some more.
Afterwards, the thirteen Levite priests who were present, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, instructed the people, as they interpreted and translated the Scripture from “Hebrew” to “Aramaic”. Most of the people could not speak or read in the ancient Hebrew tongue that was widely used before their “Babylonian captivity”. The majority of them now spoke in the “Aramaic tongue of Babylon”, which was a “Semitic language” that was actually widely used, even by non-Aramean people like the Jews, from circa 7 B.C. to A.D. 7. In fact, it is also the language that JESUS HIMSELF communicated in, while here on HIS earthbound mission.
Here in this chapter, we see three very positive responses to the Word of GOD;
· An “Intellectual Response” (Vs.1-8) - The Israelites had an overwhelming desire to know what GOD’s plan for them was, and, just how GOD wished for them to live their lives.
· An “Emotional Response” (Vs.9-12) – The Israelites experienced a “conviction” by GOD’s Word that is associated with the “joy” of knowing of GOD’s forgiveness. The association of these two things (conviction and joy) may seem strange on the surface, however, the more we become aware of the extent of our sins, the greater our joy will be in GOD’s forgiveness of those sins.
· A “Volitional Response” (Vs.13-18) – The family leaders, and the priests and Levites, met with Ezra to go over the details of the Law of Moses, the man of GOD, more closely. As they studied, they discovered that the LORD had commanded that the Israelites should live in shelters during the upcoming “Festival of the Tabernacles”, or, “Festival of Booths”. The people were to go to the hills and get branches from olive, myrtle, palm, and fig trees, and use them to make “shelters” or “booths” in which they could live during the seven days of the festival. And so all of the people who had returned from captivity in Babylon, “willingly and voluntarily” went out and cut and gathered the branches, and built their shelters to dwell in during the festival week.
The Israelites had not celebrated this way since the days of Joshua, and Ezra read to them from the Scriptures on each of the seven days. On the 15th day of the month, they held a solemn assembly, just as the Law of Moses required.
This harvest-time festival had previously always been a time of great rejoicing and celebration. However, this particular Feast of Tabernacles was marked with exceptional joy, because, now GOD had defeated the Israelites enemies, and Jerusalem was once again, “a walled city”.
The “revival” that followed was not unlike what our modern-day revivals should be like. It should be “a self-humbling experience” that is expressed in “fasting”, “earnest repent”, “confession of sins”, and “an eagerness to study GOD’s Word”.
History teaches us that GOD is faithful, and, that HE remains faithful to HIS commitment to us, even today. And we should show praises to GOD because HIS grace and mercy has remained upon us, as HE patiently waits on us to return to HIM, and accept HIS offer to us, of “eternal life”, through CHRIST JESUS.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website