There is something that just hit me pretty hard, because I would love to sit here and tell all of you that I am telling you this because this is what I do, but in reality, I am telling you all this just as much as I am telling myself this. So, here it goes.
What is it like when you read the bible? Do you read the bible? And if/when you do, do you simply read it, or do you actually study it, take in the meaning, and act on it? There are two different stories in the bible that talk about this, and they each show a different aspect. The first story is found in Nehemiah chapter 8. This story takes up the whole chapter, so I’m just going to paraphrase it. But first, here is the background story. Nehemiah had just finished organizing people with rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, and Ezra comes in, because he was a religious teacher, and he takes the book of the Law of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and begins reading it to the people. Now, in this chapter, it talks about what happens when Ezra is reading the word to everyone. It specifically says that he is reading it to 42,360 people, plus 7,337 male and female slaves, and 245 male and female singers. So in total, he is reading these five books of the bible to 49,942 people. So Ezra stands in front of almost fifty thousand people, on a podium, and begins reading the book of the law, from daybreak until mid-day. (Nehemiah 8:3) So he is standing and reading this, and then when he is finished reading it, everyone starts shouting “Amen, Amen” and bowed to the ground with their faces to the ground. (8:6) After that, everyone began to weep because they knew that they hadn’t been keeping the commandments, but Ezra told them not to weep, because “this day is holy to the Lord your God” (8:9) Then they all went away and had food and drink, and gave food and drink who didn’t have any, and the bible says that they were joyful, because they now understood what the Law says. It also says later on in the chapter, and into chapter 9 that the Israelites began to follow what the Law says, and they confessed their sins to the Lord, and started following Him again.
The second story is found in Jeremiah chapter 36, and once again, it is the whole chapter, so you get another paraphrase. Jeremiah was a prophet, and one day God told him “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:2-3) So Jeremiah wrote everything that God had told him, and he told his scribe, Baruch, to take it into the temple, and read it to the people of Judah. (36:5) When he read it to the people, one of the men that heard it, went and told the officials about what he had heard, and they sent for Baruch so that he could read it to them as well. So Baruch came and read it to the officials. When they heard what God had said, they decided that the King must hear about it. So the King had the scroll brought to him, and he told his secretary to read it to him, while all the officials were standing beside him. As the secretary read it to him the king would cut off pieces of the scroll as the secretary read every three or four columns. After cutting off the pieces of the scroll, the king, Jehoiakim, would throw it into the fire until the whole scroll was burned. After this had happened, God told Jeremiah to write it again, so he called Baruch to write it over again.
So these are the two different ways that people can take in the word of God. The first one is how the Israelites did when Ezra read them the Law. They took it in, and took it to heart. So much so that they started weeping because they knew that they had been doing wrong. And then not only did they do that, but they began to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. They confessed their sins, and began following him again. The other story shows that King Jehoiakim took the word, and couldn’t care less about it. So much so that he tore it off from the scroll with a knife, and threw it in the fire. Even though there were people around him encouraging him not to do that, he threw the word of God in the fire. Now, which are you? Are you one of the ones that takes the word to heart? Do you realize what it is that God is telling you, and do you change yourself because of it? Or do you just (figuratively) throw it into the fire? Do you just say whatever, and not let it impact you in the least? The bible says that after the king had heard and burned the entire scroll, neither the king, nor anyone in his presence mourned, or tore their clothes. It didn’t touch them at all.
Like I said in the beginning, I am not only writing it for you. I’m writing it for myself also. There are times when I read the bible, and I just don’t feel anything, either because I’m not paying attention to what I’m reading, or I’m distracted, or my heart isn’t in the right place. And there are times when I don’t read it in general, because I’m distracted, or some other reason. So know that if you are like that, you aren’t alone. Just know that God wants us to draw closer to Him, and to do that, we need to be in the word, and not just read it. Because when Ezra read it to the people, he didn’t just read it like it was story time. It says in Nehemiah 8:8 “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” He read it and explained it to them, so that they knew what was being said, so they had a giant bible study. That is what we need to do, we can’t just read it, because if we do, then we run the risk of being like Jehoiakim, because he just read it. It was a bad story to him. We all need to be like Ezra and the Israelites, and study the word.