We all have goals for life. We also have goals and expectations for our worship services. We have sufficient information about the worship services of the early church, but we would, of course, love to know more about exactly what they did and how they did it.
The worship services outside the temple didn’t vary that much from the Old Testament to the New Testament times. The people gathered to sing, pray, and be taught God’s Word. These practices are put on clear display in Nehemiah 8:8, “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense so that the people understood the reading.”
The description of those services may not seem very exciting. There is no fog machine, or worship band, or anything like that. So what made this time great? Looking into the Text, we see that the people all gathered as one in the square before the Water Gate and “told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel” (Neh. 8:1). If we are going to understand why the reading of God’s Word was so powerful in Nehemiah 8, then we have to appreciate the people’s desire to hear the Word. The preacher didn’t go get them. They went and got the preacher. What a reversal of the modern dilemma. Today few are Biblically literate, and few have any desire to learn what God has said.
When the people had a great desire to hear the Word, the Word was appreciated. Nehemiah read from early morning to midday, and everyone listened attentatively (Neh. 8:3). When Nehemiah was finished reading, the priests continued to read from the Law of God and explain the Law of God (Neh. 8:8). It may not have been fancy or “exciting,” but it was powerful.
What should we want today? Is there something more powerful than hearing God’s Word?