Life of the Party1
The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days (Nehemiah 8:17-18).
“Celebrate good times, come on! Let’s all celebrate and have a good time…”
Yeah, I know. Quoting Kool and the Gang is dating myself, but I just couldn’t help it! My big brother gave me this single for my birthday when I was in first grade, waaaay back when records were a thing! And it’s one of my go-to songs for fun times.
Now Nehemiah and the Israelites “have a party going on.” They have much to celebrate: the wall is finished! After forethought, planning, hard work, opposition, setbacks, sweat, tears, worry, and more hard work, the total destruction has been transformed. The wall stands, and their beloved city is intact again. The people can now rest.
So Israel comes together to celebrate this momentous event. They set up tents and throw a huge party. It lasts for days. We can imagine what goes on - food, drink, music, dance, laughter, and a whole lot of joy! “Choice food, and sweet drinks, sharing with others” (vs. 10). It sounds like a lot of parties we’ve been to, and even some we haven’t. For one, it’s a whole lot longer than the normal American party -- lasting seven days. People are also camped out in make-shift shelters all over the place -- most parties we attend aren’t like that, unless you’re at Chatham County’s renowned Shakori Hills!
The Israelites’ party includes yet another component we don’t necessarily think of during times of celebration -- reading from the Book of the Law of God. Now that changes the scene a bit, doesn’t it? Dancing and partying and -- reading the Bible?
I’d like us to consider how celebration is inextricably linked with God’s word, and the embodiment/fulfillment of The Law, Jesus. Looking at chapter 8, we see a common thread throughout this party of all parties -- the book of the Law. All the people came together as one...and they brought out the Law (vs 1). They read aloud together daily from daybreak until noon, and everyone who could understand came to listen (vs 3). Ezra, the teacher of the Law, stood high in a place where everyone could see him as he read from the Law (vs. 4-5). The Levites further explained the Law so that everyone could understand it (vs 7-8). During the festivities, the Law was read daily and people attended to it (vs 15, 18).
It’s clear. God’s word birthed and sustained Israel’s celebration. How is God’s word the beginning, the middle, and the end of our celebrations? How are we attending daily to His precepts? To what extent do we see the Bible, and Jesus’ embodiment of God’s word, as our reason to celebrate?
Lord, please help us see Jesus as THE WORD BECAME FLESH, as OUR WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE, as the key to ABUNDANT LIFE and JOY FOREVERMORE. May we attend to your word; may we celebrate Jesus as the word. May your word bring us joy. May that joy shine to all. Amen.