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Monday: Reading and Hearing the Law — 16 Comments

  1. I have to take issue with the illustrations of reading the law that show a reader holding a small scroll in their hands on a makeshift platform in the front of the people. As I mentioned earlier, the Seder Torah weighs about 15kg. I get tired of holding up a 3kg camera and lens to photograph birds after only a few minutes.

    The Seder Torah was a sacred object and would have been carried through the streets to the appointed place in an ark (ornate wooden box) with some ceremony. The readers' platform would not have been a hastily assembled wooden scaffolding, but a purpose-built platform in a public court. On arrival at the appointed place, it would have been taken out of the ark by two to four men while special prayers were chanted, and placed on a special support. Two men who had been ceremonially cleansed would then roll the scrolls to the panel that was designated to be read. The readers would then step forward. One person would be the person who held the pointer to the line that was being read. The reader would follow the pointer, chanting the words and swaying to emphasize the key points that were being made.

    The Seder Torah was their most treasured national document and in national terms would have been as valued as the Magna Carta in England or the American Declaration of Independence. As such it was treated as an object of reverence. (and not just a set of sermon notes rolled up to look like a scroll)

    We tend to focus on the "law" aspect but the Seder Torah was much more than just a code of practice. It gave people a sense of who they were, why they were here and their sense of purpose. It gave them their identity

    Is there a lesson in this for us? Perhaps we should think about the roots of our own sense of identity.

  2. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

    Ezra read the word in the open square where everyone was able to hear the reading of the word.
    2 Timothy 4:2 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; kreprove, rebuke, and lexhort, with complete patience and teaching.

    It is important for the leaders to preach the word.
    Is our pulpit preaching the Word of God?
    Thus saith the Lord should be the foundation of our teaching.

    Morning - The reading began as the first thing in the morning. The word was seeded in the heart prior to any worldly affairs by the people. They sacrificed their comfortable life to hear the Word of God.
    How often sabbath school is a day when most of the people sleep in late?

    Morning until midday - The congregation as one stood to hear Word from morning to until midday.
    How are we spending our time?
    Let us spend time in meditating and searching the Word of God.

    Men and Women - They came as one to hear the Word of God.

    Attentive - How little attention is given to the Word of God being preached from the pulpit.
    Electronic devices have become a destructive force in leading people away from the presence of God.
    Even when we are using these devices wisely sudden burst of advertisement, text, and alerts continues to divert our mind.
    Put away those things that separate us from the presence of God.

    • I fully agree. I notice a trend creeping into the church which really is of concern. There are those who choose to spend Sabbath morning "in nature" or at home because it was a hard week of work. Why not start the Sabbath rest on time - get 8 even 10 hours sleep on Friday night and come to worship God in fullness of Spirit from 9 a.m. till noon and then spend the rest of the Sabbath in nature or at HOME. Wasn't that what Jesus did and He is our example. No wonder children are leaving the Church when parents don't set the example. We don't have time to play church whenever we feel like it. It's serious business and worshipping with brothers and sisters should be "our custom".

  3. In addition to the fake scroll and the makeshift platform, the people portray in this sketch does not resemble the people of Israel at all at the time. So in reality we are lying to the christian/readers. And we know how the Bible say about "all unrighteousness are Sin". Misrepresenting the true people of God is a Sin.

    • I hardly think that the artwork has been chosen to deliberately mislead and has been done more out of ignorance than anything else. My purpose in highlighting the issue was to put some perspective on the national significance of the reading of the Seder Torah, that is not present in the artwork. A visit to a modern Synagogue can be an illuminating experience.

      • I don't believe the artwork was a deliberate action to mislead any readers. if we are pointing out issues in the artwork (scroll) and it is fair to say the people depicted in the picture is also an issue.

  4. It is so amazing to find people of God reading the instructions that could lead them to the high level of standard as people of God. It is obvious as well to the current Christians who are supposed to meet Jesus who is coming back to follow all instructions given in these last days. The time is rushing and we really need a serious time to be near the feet of Jesus. May the Lord keep us in the right position.Amen

  5. Throughout the ages, God’s people have gone through cycles where His Word has been neglected and the spiritual condition of His people affected negatively. In His grace, God sends renewal. Inevitably, one of the main marks of such renewal is a renewed emphasis on the reading and hearing of God’s Word. We live in a culture where almost all of us know how to read. We have multiple translations of the Bible in our various languages. And yet most Christians today spend far more time playing pointless computer games or sitting in front of a TV set than they do reading and studying the Words that God has given to us in the Bible.
    Again electronic devices have become serious point of distraction for some people who are undisciplined. Many people take their electronic devices to church and are distracted by them when the Word of God is being read. For example, they may be distracted by unsolicited adverts, nude pictures that are not edifying. They may be also tempted to do postings, check messages, check emails, text and reply to messages, etc. Now, for someone who is genuine, they can turn off their Internet and use their iPad to take notes while the word of God is being read. The truth is that, if we want spiritual renewal, it will come through God’s Word.

  6. The guidance of the Spirit of God is a wonderful experience.

    John 4:24 God is a Spirit and they that worship him MUST worship HIM in Spirit and in Truth. God is real and he who worships Him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
    There are reasons why Jesus gave us this text. Many times the pictures presented to us on the sabbath pages has nothing to do with the Bible but is used to point people’s imaginations in a certain direction. E.g when we talk about Prophets, we are shown some aged men. Do you think all prophets were aged men? Or Kings, do anyone thought all Kings were aged men?
    I like what the author pointed out when he said “that the people desired to hear the Word of God” most likely was the result of Ezra’s reading and teaching. When leaders are willing to call an assembly and teach the word is a blessing. Last year or year before I visited a camp meeting and at the end on Sabbath afternoon was time for comments, questions etc, etc. One woman said where she came from (she was an immigrant) they were accustomed having evening AY or a program for the youth and others. The Head Pastor of the conference said he can’t blame anyone for not having sabbath afternoon AY or sessions because for him that is the only day he has with his wife and children to do things with them. So he said that’s might be the case with others.
    Last sentence says Saturating ourselves in the Word creates a deeper yearning for God in our lives. Bible says in Matt 18:20 where 2 or 3 are gathered together in his name (whether in Bible study or decision making) God is in the midst of them. God was in the midst when Ezra-Nehemiah called the assembly.
    We are told this world is in need of men who would stand up for right not be bought or sold......

  7. "Thopse who could understand"[Neh. 8:3]

    I suspect that this refers to the fact that the younger folks did not understand the Hebrew language of their parents. Am I wrong?

  8. Reading the Word:
    I get the impression that this reading was unusual, but surely those who had volunteered to return had heard the Word while they were in exile?
    I understand that the individuals didn't all have access to the Word. Would they have had portions of the Word in their homes?
    Were they all able to read?

    In our time most have the Word freely available in hard copy and electronically. Many have grown up hearing the Word at home, at school and at church and have become very familiar with most of the Word.
    When we have a person stand up in front of the people it becomes an issue of how to keep their attention when the same sermons are preached over and over. I doubt that the people would listen attentively for half a day if someone just read through the 5 books of Moses.
    Were the people divided up into 13 smaller groups? One reading and one mining the Word for meaning?

    So what is the lesson for us today? I think we are already experiencing it - with our quarterly study guides and then discussion groups like ssnet which help us to get the sense of the Word.

    I am glad to note that the verses specifically mention that there were women in addition to the men, makes one think!

    • Much has been written about the differences between translations but the simple answer is that most translations when studied with the guidance of the Holy Spirit give you the message of Salvation. As has been said previously, the best translation is the one that you read, not the one that sits on the shelf.


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