Nehemiah 8:9 – And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
In addition to the air war of preaching, there was also the ground war of explaining the sermon and praying for people. Group leaders were family heads and ministry leaders who met with individuals and groups to answer questions, clear up confusion, and help apply Scripture to their lives.
In that day, very few people had copies of the Scriptures as the printing press was not invented for nearly 2,000 years, so hearing God’s Word was a tremendous blessing. The Old Testament they read from was originally written in Hebrew but most of the people spoke Aramaic. Their Scriptures were translated, preached by Ezra, and then applied to individuals in the same way that we learn from and apply the Bible translated into English.
Hearing God’s Word, people were convicted by the Holy Spirit with deep remorse for the sin in their lives (Romans 3:20). Ezra brought the men who were the heads of their homes together to instruct them on lovingly caring for their wives, children, and grandchildren. This is exactly what the closing lines of the Old Testament promised would occur when the good news of Jesus was understood – fathers’ hearts would be inclined toward their children.
Ezra’s sermons covered, in part, the Feast of Booths (also called the Feast of Tabernacles), which is like the U.S. celebration of Thanksgiving (Nehemiah 8:1-2). The spiritual leaders discovered instruction about the feast in Leviticus 23:37–43. This was celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month. Since they discovered these instructions on the second day of the seventh month (8:2, 13), the timing was perfect. They had exactly two weeks to prepare for it.
If you were on a ministry team in the days of Nehemiah, would you have been under Nehemiah stewarding things (e.g. finances, real estate, policies), or under Ezra stewarding people (e.g. leading worship, explaining the Bible in conversations with people, on the prayer team)?