First Reading:  Nehemiah 8:2-3, 5-6, 8-10


Sadness Turned To Joy


2 Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law


5 Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6 and Ezra blessed YHWH, the great God. All the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with the lifting up of their hands. They bowed their heads, and worshiped YHWH with their faces to the ground.


8 They read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading. 9 Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all the people, “This day is holy to Yahweh your God. Don’t mourn, nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Don’t be grieved; for the joy of YHWH is your strength.”


World English Bible


Sometimes our sadness turns to joy when people celebrate the good news of freedom.


This edited version of the passage celebrates the re-institution of the religious and civil life in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles from Babylon and the rebuilding of the city walls. (Rebuilding of the walls was the first order of business, since the top priority of the city was defense.) Standing at an official height and surrounded by the city officials (edited out of the passage), Ezra addressed the people. [2-5] After Ezra's blessing, the people responded with approval in voice and posture. [6] Then Ezra read and commented on the Law; it is possible he translated the Law for those returning descendants who did not speak Hebrew, but Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians. [7]


At hearing the Law, the people wept. [8] This is a social response to the devastation the city endured. It was seen as God's punishment for the nation's infidelity; weeping was a means of sorrow and repentance.


But the city leaders declare a day of rejoicing, for the city is secure and the people are now free to practice their religion and way of life. [9-10]


As Americans, we cherish our freedom and our way of life. Let us not forget they are gifts from God. We should not take them for granted or presume they are the fruit of our own hands. For many people in the world, they are good news!


How have you thanked God for your quality of life? How have you thanked God for the things you take for granted?