【제목】이 글이 너희 귀에 응하였느니라
This scripture is fulfilled in your hearing
"When was the most inspiring moment in your life?"
This question was asked to one of the most famous singers in the world, Marian Anderson. The reporter who was expecting answers like "when I performed infront of president Roosevelt" or " When I was awarded the Bok Prize by the city of Philadelphia(her hometown)" was surprised by her unexpected answer :
"When I ran home and told my mother that she didn't have to wash others' clothes anymore"
My fellow friends, when was your most inspiring moment?"
If I had asked this question to those from the bible, Joseph would've said the moment he was rejoicing with his brothers and father after becoming the governor of the land... David would've probably answered "when the Ark of God was brought to Jerusalem". He was so thrilled that he danced around naked despite the fact that he was a king...
However, victory and success aren't the only inspiring moments of life.
This particular athlete has probably experienced the most thrilling moment of his life in this race, even though he didn't win.
Every person has his/her own inspiring day. There are also the inspiring day of a nation. For us, it would be National Liberation Day when we finally earned back our freedom and independence. What would be the most inspiring and joyful day to the people of Israel? It could be the moment when they were crossing the Red Sea after escaping from Egypt, or when they revived the temple through Maccabean Revolution. However, the day that is still told from Nehemiah can be considered a very meaningful and thrilling day to the people of Israel as well. Today, we will look more into this certain day , the inspiring day of the Israel people.
First, Nehemiah was written in 538 BC, a time when the Persian King Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home. How happy must they have been when the captive Israelites were told they could return? They were probably thrilled and overwhelmed with happiness.
The returned Israelites began on the second month of the second year to build a temple for God. However, as soon as they began, they ran into a serious challenge, which we can see in Ezra 4:1, “the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel.” They were Samaritans, Gentiles who had emigrated from other regions when Assyria conquered Israel (or who were mixed bloods of these people). Despite how these people started to disrupt the construction, the Israelites succeeded in building the temple.
Also the book of Nehemiah tells us about the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Nehemiah, who was a manager the court at the palace of Persia, was filled with sorrow when he heard of the news of the neglect of fallen city of Jerusalem, and so constructed the city wall in only 52 days.
Even the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall had faced many problems due to the much opposition received by surrounding people, just as was the case with the construction of the temple. The story was told that the workers would work with a shovel in one hand and a weapon in the other. And this is how the rebuilding of the walls is told in chapter 7 of the book of Nehemiah.
In other words, Ezra and Nehemiah both initiated the “Israel reconstruction movement,” Ezra through his works of reconstructing a temple and Nehemiah through his works of reconstructing a wall. But Ezra and Nehemiah were not thinking to rebuild only the outer walls and temples of Israel. Rather, what were more important were the people; changing people’s perceptions and thoughts was the more difficult problem.
And so Nehemiah 8 tells us about a spiritual awakening that had occurred, where Ezra the scribe and priest had been invited to a great revival meeting. That is what today’s passage is about.
all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. (Nehemiah 8:1-2)
Here the seventh month is the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar. In terms of the private nonofficial calendar at the time, it is the first month of the year, when the rebuilding of the city wall has been finished and the revival has begun.
He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:3)
“The Water Gate” refers to where the temple was erected at the time. The reading of the Book of the Law was for 6 hours “from daybreak till noon.”
Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. (Nehemiah 8:5)
Even today, when the Jews read the Torah, they stand up. In the verse, the people of Israel stood up when the Word of God was proclaimed.
In fact, I thought about whether we should stand up during the reading of the scripture… Of course, it is more important that our heart should be before the Lord… Worship is not something we just observe. It is an offering to God and we should give it to the Lord while standing up… Anyway, when the Word was read, the people of Israel stood up on the spot.
Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground (Nehemiah 8:6)
Amen means “Yes, I agree/believe/support.” The verse says Amen has been said twice, but it is actually three times – twice by words and once more by action. Bowing down and worshipping the Lord with face to the ground is also a meaning of Amen.
I actually find it difficult to make people to say Amen during the sermon. I find it rather awkward myself. This is because my word is not necessarily the word of God… So I don’t think you should unconditionally say Amen to everything I say. And sometimes you may be more tempted to say “No, man” instead of “Amen.” But the important thing is that when the word of God is proclaimed, our response should be “Amen.”
The Levites--Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah--instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:7-8)
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:9)
But why did the people weep as they listened to the words of the Law?
The reason that Israelites had to cry after hearing this is in verse 2 – “So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.”
If we look at both verses 2 and 3, we see that ‘all who were able to understand’ appears in both verses. This not only means that the people there were older and thus are able to understand better, but also means that they have already heard the sermon and were familiar with it.
In other words, even when they were imprisoned by the Babylonians, the Jews had heard the words of God. However, the issue was that their bodies and their minds were acting out of sync. Why? Because even when they wanted to follow the words of God, they were limited by the Babylonians and naturally, many broke the laws of God. Children, having seen their parents living in a dysfunctional faith, learned the ways and followed suit. Everyone, at the time, rationalized that they had no other choice and that they were doing the best they could.
However, the Israelites were now back in their homeland and were free once again. There was nothing to hinder their faith but while reflecting on their faiths, they realized that nothing had changed since their time in Babylon. They learned that it wasn’t the situation that limited their faiths but themselves, with the excuses they made.
That’s why they cried, had no choice but to cry, when they heard the words. Not because the anecdotes or the examples were touching but because they realized that they were at fault for the dysfunctional faith.
Beloved church members, the people who gathered to hear the words, were all those who could understand. They were familiar with the words and yet when they heard Ezra, they cried. Because they realized that only their laziness and indolence stood in the way of their faith.
While reflecting on the words, I wished that we too could experience such a revival. To assemble as one man in the square before the Water Gate and hear the words of Ezra. To cry when hearing the words, after realizing that despite the familiarity of the words, we had not carried out our lives in such ways.
To be honest, the words I really wanted to share with you today is from Luke chapter 4 verse 21, ‘And he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”’
What does it mean for a scripture to be fulfilled in your hearing? Knowing that the words proclaimed by Jesus had been projected by Isaiah in chapter 61, Jesus is saying that the words of Isaiah had been fulfilled. How could he claim such a thing?
When the story of this child became famous, one mother had said, “When I heard the girl tell the press that she focused on what her mother had told her in those dark 13 days, I began to re think about my relationship with the children. I realized that the only thing I had told them was to study and to go to a good university. These were the only things I told them repeatedly and I realized that I wasn’t wise enough to tell the wisdom they needed to get through life.” Another mother said, “I asked myself, have I taught anything that would help my children get through difficult times?” Can you imagine how happy the mother would have been to see her daughter, whom she thought might have died, for the first time in 13 days? And can you imagine what her reaction would have been when she heard that her daughter had survived because of a proverb she used to tell her daughter?
I thought that maybe the words, ‘today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ had a similar meaning. Isn’t it possible that just as her mother’s sayings were alive in the daughter’s mind, the words of God were inside Jesus’ mind? And when those words were proclaimed, they were fulfilled?
Today is the Sunday of the third week of the Epiphany. Jesus revealed himself to the world through the Word. The Word became flesh and arrived at the midst of the land. Jesus didn’t just tell the Word; he lived by the Word and completed it. The Word filled the life of Jesus and Jesus spoke, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The people of Israel who were gathered in the square before the Water Gate all wept when they heard the Word Ezra had proclaimed. But these tears were not tears of sadness. They were tears of realization. The people were crying, not because they were happy about the temple having been built, but because they were finally able to hear the Word. They had finally realized that they only needed the Word to live.
Beloved church members, I hope that there comes a time when we all come to the same realization as well…
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