So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood … and on his left were …Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:1-6)
What happened at the Jerusalem Water Gate when the Word of God was read was a great revelation to Jack.
Approximately 50,000 Israelites gathered in the open square in front of the Water Gate. This was the only gate that needed no repair. God’s word is always complete. All the people assembled as one man. They wanted to hear God’s word. As Ezra opened the Book, all the people stood up to show respect to God’s word. He read aloud for hours (at least six hours) and the people stood there and listened attentively. They then praised God, bowed down and worshipped God with their faces to the ground.
What zeal for spiritual food! What hunger for God’s word!
This is hardly seen today at the churches. 15 minutes of reading of God’s word is too much for many Christians to bear. 5 minutes of standing up is a torture. Lifting up of hands for 30 seconds invokes groaning and overt rebellion.
Why? Jack wondered. When he started his quest to live Biblically, he found it difficult to concentrate during his personal worship at home. He tried to lift up his hands but they seemed heavy like lead. He tried reading the Bible in chunks, say, for an hour or so, and he found that his mouth ran dry and his throat became sore. His eyelids could not stay open. When he tried to bow down with his face to the ground he almost fell asleep instantly. It was normal to behave this way, he thought.
However, God is merciful and indeed answered his quest to seek God as promised by Jesus. (Seek and you will find, ask and you will receive). As he continued to seek God in worship, prayer and reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit came forth and revealed to him more and more abut God and the wonder in God’s words. He learned to kneel for an hour without feeling pain. He learned to lift up his hands as a sign of total surrender to God. He learned to listen to God as he prayed in the spirit. He learned to read the Bible in chunks without feeling the length and the passing of time. In short, he has acquired a taste for God’s word like the people in the above mentioned revival at the Jerusalem Water Gate! He has dug into the depth of his own soul and discovered he has thirsted for the presence of God!
The following is from Jack’s excerpts of some of the many materials gathered during his study on the Jerusalem Water Gate:
“In Scripture, the Water Gate represents the cleansing work of the Word of God (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26), the place where justice was administered, and also where oaths were taken. The Word of God and its cleansing power are taking center stage before us–with new hunger and longing in the heart of God’s people. God’s desire is to cleanse us from the past season with the washing of His Word and to give us new garments for this new season.” (read Zechariah 3:1-7)
The Water Gate was located next to the Fountain Gate and the Horse Gate. It is where the water was brought into the city from the various pools and wells. The Horse Gate represents the warfare necessary to pursue holiness. The Water Gate brings to view how God brings holiness and revival to His people. The Water Gate represents: Revival
“Revival resulting from the washing of the Word of God.” (Ephesians 5:25, 26; I Peter 1:23; Psalms 119:9, 10) The word “revive” in the Hebrew is Chayah which means “to refresh, rebuild, recover, be well, make alive.” It comes from a right relationship with God. This life comes from God’s word, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has given me life.” (Psalms 119:50)
Nehemiah 8: 1-2: A hunger for the Word of God (excerpted from a writer)
Hunger intensifies. Ezra read the word from daybreak until mid-day, five to six hours. (Verse 3) The people didn’t notice the time. Their “ears were attentive unto the book.” True revival brings an all consuming hunger for God’s word. Absence of the word brings spiritual darkness. The word produces an inner response of man’s spirit. Ezra became so overwhelmed by what he read he stopped “to bless the Lord.” (Verse 6)
The Glory of God testifies to the power of His word to restore. The glory of God fell so powerfully everyone raised their hands and cried Amen! Amen! They bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (verse 6) They humbled themselves before God in brokenness and repentance. After a while they stood up to experience more.
Note: This gathering didn’t include any exciting stories nor illustrations. There was no great music – just the power of God’s word being read. God wants us to hunger for the words of life He offers!
Repentance follows application of the word to the heart. As they understood the word and how it applied to their lives, they began to mourn for their sin. “All the people wept when they heard the words of the law.” (Verse 9) Can you picture it? Fifty-thousand people laying scattered on the ground weeping before God for their sins. God’s word had broken down their walls of pride. They could be heard weeping for miles. This is true revival. God’s word so piercing that people fall on their knees and cry out, “God save me!”
Recommended Reading: 1 Chronicles 16:29; Romans 6:19, 22; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:7,8.