Thursday, February 7, 2008

Church Service, Anyone? (Part One)

Remember the old Hefty commercials? The ones declaring the other bags to be "WIMPY WIMPY WIMPY!" ??

Well, I can identify with those no-name trash bags. . . .

In Nehemiah, the exiles of Judah have returned to Jerusalem and under Nehemiah's leadership have rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem under great duress. (Kelli has a great post on this.)

After the wall is completed, they assemble and Ezra brings out the Book of the Law. All the people stood up as soon as he opened it and "he read it aloud from daybreak till noon....And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law." (Nehemiah 8:3)

Daybreak. Until noon.

Sooo, does that sound like your church?! Can you imagine the announcement in the bulletin: "Next Sunday our service will begin at 6:00 a.m. and conclude at 12:00 noon. The service will be held outside; seating will not be necessary."

And actually, this was all spontaneous! He didn't tell them to stand. They could all see him because he was up on a platform. As soon as he opened the scroll, they were on their feet.

Oh, and they "had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law." (Neh. 8:9) And in their response "they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground." (Neh. 8:6)

Nehemiah told them not to grieve because it was a day to rejoice and sent them off to celebrate (The Feast of Tabernacles), which they did for 7 days, like they had not celebrated it since the days of Joshua for "their joy was very great." (Neh. 8:17) Each day Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.

So they got that out of the way - back to normal business, right?

Chapter 9 - they gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and dust on their heads. "They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God." (Neh. 9:3)

Three hours standing and reading.

Another three hours in confession and worship.

Been to prayer meetin' lately?

Now of course, the point is not to watch the clock and set our minds on doing things for a specified amount of time.

But when we are truly lost in God's Word, confronted and convicted of our sin, and overcome by His Holiness and Glory, the passage of time will be irrelevant.

I don't know about you, but my joints and marrow are feeling a little pulled apart.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Lord, forgive me when I'm more concerned with the minutes and minutiae of my life than what really matters. May it not take an exile for me to be on my feet and on my face before You.

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7 comments:

Brandie said...

Amen.

We are so spoiled when it comes to our church services, it often shows in our lack of true appreciation of the right and liberty to worship.

Great post. Something I'll definitely be thinking about.

Kelli said...

Linda,

I am standing on my desk shouting AMEN!!!!!

What is wrong with us? I'm reminded of many times in the Bible when people would stand on their feet for hours just to hear the Word of God read. Yet most people get mad if the preacher goes past 12:00. God help us.

Every summer we go on a mission trip. I have seen whole families, complete with toddlers in tow, walk for 20 miles just to get to church. But we can't get in our cars and drive to our padded pews without complaining? God forgive us.

Great post, friend. Consider me pierced.

Kelli

Xandra said...

What a great post!! I always love visiting my grandmother's church, because the pastor insists that the congregation stands when scripture is read. It really adds emphasis to the fact that we are hearing God speak everytime we open the bible.

I'll think twice the next time I glance at my watch on Sunday morning!

Xandra

The Preacher's Wife said...

Great post, Linda!

Luke and I lament the lack of zeal for God's house and Word often. Our western culture has certainly affected the choices we make. The question that seems to rule our decisions is "hmmmm...would I rather give or take? Would I rather go to church or get on the couch or watch my favorite tv show? What would I rather do that would bring me the most joy today?

And the problem lies in the fact we remain satisfied with considerably less than the abundant life God offers if we remain in Him. Oh to have some days of Nehemiah!

Lisa writes... said...

May we all hunger after God's Word...and allow its Truth to convict and sanctify!

Great post...

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

Amen! and Amen!

I covet the time I get to spend in God's word. I long for more time.

This was great Linda!

Deb said...

FANTASTIC!! GREAT WORD!!