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A NOTABLE CONGREGATION
‘All the people gathered themselves together as one man.’
I. This chapter portrays a great congregation.—All Jerusalem gathered to hearken to the commandments of God. Shall I not pray and work for the coming of the time when religion will be the dominant interest in civic and national life? Both patriotism and piety should prompt me.
II. And the chapter portrays a reverent congregation.—They rose in adoration to their feet. They responded with loud Amens and with outstretched hands. They fell on the ground in worship. Ah! it is thus that I should receive the messages of God—humbly, wonderingly, eagerly, whole-heartedly. The place is holy.
III. And this also was a sorrowing congregation.—They saw that they had violated the divine law. They were convinced of sin, and wept aloud. It would be a desirable thing for my truest life if I had more of that old-world conviction of unworthiness. It would keep me lowly. It would compel me to cling always to the Strong One.
IV. But this gathering, too, was a rejoicing congregation.—May I share their gladness!—gladness in the Lord who is so almighty and so all-merciful; gladness in an unselfish ministry to others; gladness because I understand what the will of God is for me. My heart and my voice both alike should sing.
(1) ‘A recent popular book pictures the shrewd manner in which a religious man made a horse sale on Sunday. By an ingenious use of “ifs” and “supposes” he completed a transaction which his conscience would not let him do outright and openly. He did not see that he had broken the spirit of the day completely. Yet there is much Sabbath sinning of this sort. Persons who would not open their stores on Sunday or plough their fields or do the family washing or otherwise work at their daily tasks, think nothing of occupying their mind with thoughts of the week’s business. The Sabbath is not kept at all unless it is kept in spirit. Our minds as well as our hands should cease trafficking on the Lord’s day.’
(2) ‘The nearest parallel to this picture is yielded by the little groups that were accustomed to gather around the chained Bibles of our cathedrals, which godly men were wont to read and expound. The eagerness of the people and the reverent greeting given to Ezra as he began his sacred duty are very beautiful. Altogether, it must have been a most imposing spectacle. Ezra stood on the rostrum of wood, with the reverent band of elders on his right and left, whilst another little band took it in turns to explain whatever needed exposition.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Nehemiah 8". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent