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Listen, understand, respond

posted 29 Feb 2016, 11:51 by Stephen Childs
Life has its seasons. Sometimes it's a non-stop rush of challenges, every day a frantic quest to keep on top of things. But then come the slower times, the times when you have the chance to ask the question, what is my life about? What is going to direct me and motivate me? Nehemiah 8 describes such a time. God's people have rebuilt the city walls in just 52 days. It's been a time of hard work, danger, and tension. But now it's over. What comes next?

First of all the people gather round and listen to God's word. They ask Ezra the priest to read the words Moses had brought from God hundreds of years before. He reads for seven hours. They listen to every word, praising their great God. But listening is not enough. God's words are not mantras to be chanted mindlessly. The people want to understand God's word. So Ezra's fellow-teachers help them, "making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read" (8:8). And because they understand, they start to respond. First with grief, presumably as they become aware of falling short of God's law (8:9). But then with joy, as Nehemiah reminds them: "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (8:9). Their great and holy God is also the saviour who led them out of Egypt and who pours out his grace on them.

It's a pattern for life. The foundation is listening to God's word: do you make time to do this? Not just a verse or devotion snatched here or there, but enough time to let it sink in. Do you work hard at understanding, digging deep until you get what God is saying? Do you look for help as you do this? And are you ready to respond? To let God change your heart, moving you to tears and smiles? To let God change your life, moving you to obey even when it costs you. Listen, understand, respond.

Bible references from NIV UK 2011
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