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Nehemiah 8:2 . Upon the first day of the seventh month, the day when the civil year began, reckoned from the creation of the world. Ezra began the year, like Adam, with a holy convocation. He, and others succeeding him, read with loud voices, and the Amens of the people made loud echoes in the courts.
Nehemiah 8:8 . They read in the book, the Hebrew of Moses, and gave the sense in the Chaldaic language, which from thence was the language of the country; but so mixed with Hebrew and other oriental words as to occasion it to be called the Syro-Chaldaic. This method was popular, and induced learned men to write the Targums named in the preface to this Commentary. In those Targums the Word of the Lord, that is the Messiah speaking to the prophets, is of constant occurrence.
In the primitive church, this practice was continued. The fathers expounded the reading of the day, and left their homilies behind, which have come down to us. This then is the difference between the homily and the sermon; the former expounds the scriptures, the latter discusses a particular subject.
Nehemiah 8:18 . Day by day he read in the book of the law. At the feast of tabernacles they read the whole of the law to the people, in portions during the seven days.
Hail infant state, and rising church! Hail to the governor, and hail to the priest! Blessed restorers of Israel’s feasts and Israel’s joys. Let us follow so fine an example. The law of the Lord says, Gather the people together, men, women, and children, and the stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of his law. The same reason for it holds good under the gospel.
We ought to exercise ourselves to religious services with great seriousness and solemnity: Nehemiah 8:5-6. Nehemiah began with prayer, the people joined, and used a very reverent posture. It is very proper when we take the word of God into our hands, to begin with an act of devotion. There is a peculiar propriety in commencing public worship with prayer for the divine presence, assistance, and blessing; and those persons are worthy of blame who are seldom in time to join in that act of devotion in the solemn assembly.
When the word of God is read and expounded, it becomes us to pay the utmost attention to it: Nehemiah 8:7. Notice is taken that the people stood in their place; there was no moving about, shifting their places, or any other marks of irreverence or inattention. On the contrary, the people were attentive to the book of the law: Nehemiah 8:3. When God speaks, man must hear. Looking about to observe who comes in, is highly indecent; it is an affront to God, whose word we read; disrespectful to those who read and explain it, and depriving ourselves of the benefit we might gain by it. Let us imitate this example, and give diligent heed to the things that are spoken.
We learn the benefit of holy joy, and keeping holy days with cheerfulness. Sabbaths, or holy convocations, ought to be kept with joy: the mind should be cheerful and thankful. Joy in God and his goodness, especially in giving us spiritual blessings, should be maintained; the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is our duty to go on with vigour: this will support and encourage us under adversities, and secure the divine blessing; for the Lord meets those that rejoice in him, and work righteousness. We are allowed to eat the fat and drink the sweet on holy days; but it should be done with moderation, lest it make us drowsy, and unfit us for religious exercises, and should always be attended with charity to the poor. We should send portions to those who have not our plenty. Works of charity are peculiarly proper on solemn feast days; and the goodness of God to us should make us bountiful and charitable to our poor brethren. We serve a good master, who loves to see his servants cheerful, easy, and happy; and nothing will contribute more to this than to do all in our power to make our devotion lively, and our charity warm and extensive. God loves a devout worshipper, and a cheerful giver.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Nehemiah 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30