UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC WORSHIP

Insights and Observations:
    “. . .For the due solemnization of the seventh month, the festal month of the year. For this purpose the people came from the cities and villages of Judea to Jerusalem, and assembled ‘in the space before the water-gate,’ i.e., to the southeast of the temple square.”  – C. F. Keil

The public reading of the Law was upon the hearts of God’s people and they compelled Ezra to fetch the Book and read it in the presence of the great assembly.

From the morning until mid-day or from daylight ‘til noon, a spanse of about six hours was the Law of God read.

   “Ezra, God’s true priest, at once responded to the call. He did not say, ‘The Law is difficult, hard to be understood, might mislead you, should be reserved for the learned’, but at once ‘brought and read therein’.”    – Rawlison

The reading of the Law was received with “attentiveness,” i.e., a fixation upon the book and nothing else.

The audience included both young and old, adults and children. In fact, it encompassed all those who had understanding of words, yea, all those who could ask rational questions of symbols and meaning (Deut 6:7,20 ff).

Edersheim on the upbringing of Jewish children:
Rabbi Jehudah, the son of Tema, says:

    “At five years of age, reading of the Bible; at ten years of age, learning the Mishnah; at thirteen years, bound to the commandments; at fifteen years, the study of the Talmud.”

Although orthodox Judaism required, at times, all male children to memorize the Pentateuch by age seven, the practice may have fallen in disuse by reason of the Talmudical saying, Cheth 50:

    “If you set your child to regular study (laborious discipline) before it is six years old, you shall always have to run after, and yet never get hold it.”  This, says Edersheim, chiefly has reference to the irreparable injury to health caused by such early strain upon the mind.

Jewish history demonstrates that age five was the likely period children were to begin formal training in Scriptures from the original Hebrew.

These were not all mature youths and adults who were summoned by desire and interest to hear the lengthy reading of Ezra the scribe. There were undoubtedly the ‘Taph’ (Hebrew) children (Esther 3:13); the ‘Elm’ (Hebrew), or those becoming firm (Isa 7:14), yea, not unlike those tender, impressionable souls whom Jesus suffered to come to Him (Luke 18:16).

Roman Catholic teaching has long suggested that the most impressionable years for solidifying the doctrine of the church to the life of her communicates lies in the first seven years. After seven, the likelihood of the child to remain in the faith is statistically sure.

There is no segregated (children/teen) worship precedent in Ezra’s day, only rational minds who could understand words, whom the Lord would nurture to enlightenment through the means of the public proclamation of divine revelation and covenant discipleship of the home (II Tim 3:15-17).

Interpretation and Application:
“A great yearning arose in the hearts of God’s people concerning the Law of God. As yet disobedient to the Law, Israel looked for hope in God’s Word by calling for a ‘special Sabbath, a memorial of blowing trumpets, a holy convocation’ (Lev 23:24).”  -Lange

Central to the jubilance was the nearly six hour public reading of the Law of Moses by Ezra who had earlier led a host of 3,000 exiles back to Jerusalem under the decree of Artaxerxes. Inspired by the people of God to “fetch the law,” Ezra read, without hesitation, from the Book in the hearing of all—those who could “perceive meaning or grasp an idea.”  These certainly included whole families: fathers, mothers, youths, and children.

    “God has provided His word for our household life. Those who neglect its reading in the house neglect the best support of parental authority, the truest bond of love, and the foundation of consolation and joy.”  -Bedford

Notes of Interest:
In the contemporary craze for man-centered worship with its emphasis on the palatability of truth, the comfort and convenience of the worshipper and the ultimate happiness of household members in church assembly, the people of God must come to grips with the import of our text. Family togetherness in worship affords the most sacred opportunity for the intimate discipleship of both parent and child in the “fear of God.” Example, structuring, involvement and edification happens mutually in the discipline of family worship. *Statistically, the current worship duplicity segregating whole families is doing little to curb the youth exodus from attendance and/or involvement in evangelical assemblies. Parents must own up to their particular accountability before God to “train up a [their] child” rather than pass off intimate nurturing for a more convenient worship experience.

*At a recent state conference of associate churches and pastors, Baptist leaders were alarmed to hear the current stats/polls regarding church youth and church attendance/involvement after college (specifically youths out of Christian homes). The trend is largely and predominately non-involvement and irregular or spotty attendance. More than fifty percent of our church youths simply drop out of a local church assembly after college. Not surprisingly, characteristic of young people who continued in regular and involved church life was their own testimony that the example and intimate involvement of familial relationships was the key to their church body life—–in every case!  Obviously, God intends His glory to thrive in the nurturing that public family worship affords.

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