World Book Day takes place on April 23. Organized by UNESCO, World Book Day is “a celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading.” According to their purpose statement, books provide “a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures.” The event occurs on the date several famous authors died, including William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes.
The power of reading played a key part in today’s passage. In addition to physically rebuilding the gates and walls of Jerusalem, there was an urgent need to rebuild the “spiritual gates and walls” of God’s people. That is, the returned exiles needed to return not only to the land but to the Lord Himself. They needed to confess their sins and rededicate themselves to covenant faith and obedience.
As God’s Word was read aloud to God’s people, gathered at the Water Gate in rebuilt Jerusalem (v. 1), that’s exactly what they did. For six hours, “daybreak till noon,” everyone who was old enough to understand listened as Ezra the priest read the Pentateuch (vv. 2–3). Levites were scattered among the crowd, offering instruction and explanation to accompany the reading (vv. 7–8). The people responded to what they heard with respect and worship (vv. 5–6). As they listened, they wept over their sins. But Nehemiah told them that today was to be a day of celebration (vv. 9–12): “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the people went out and gathered branches to make booths for the Feast of Tabernacles (vv. 13–18; Lev. 23:33–43). This feast commemorated the Exodus and how God had chosen them and made them a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). It was the best such festival since the days of Joshua!
>> Reading God’s Word is the key to revival! Do you spend time each day, reading and reflecting on Scripture? How encouraging to know that God wants us not only to read His Word but also to understand what it says (v. 8).