5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Now THAT is a church meeting! Wouldn’t you agree? It wasn’t anything fancy – no PowerPoint slides or guitars, no choirs, not even a roof over their heads – but it was a “calling out” (Greek “ekklesia”), a gathering of the faithful to hear the Word of God. And we should note the behavior of the people, how they responded with anticipation to hear the holy Scriptures.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The temptation these days is to think we are self-sufficient, that our faith is all about a “personal relationship” rather than a corporate gathering. Many people who believe in God will say, “Oh, I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” While it is true that going to church doesn’t MAKE you a Christian, it is equally true that the Holy Spirit will come into the midst of those gathered in Jesus’ name. In other words, being able to be “Christian” (literally “little Christ”) means to be able to call upon His name, and we do that as a group, not individually.
19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Look at today’s verses again. With one accord the remnant of Jerusalem had gathered to hear the Word of God. With one accord they waited in anticipation for the reading. With one accord they stood when the Scriptures were opened. With one accord they lifted their hands and said “Amen! Amen!”
That word “Amen” is so potent and binding, because it means “So let it be.” It signals agreement with the blessing Ezra pronounced, agreement with the covenant he was about to tell them, agreement with each other that as one body – in one accord – they should worship the Lord God. And worship they did!
A moment before, they had lifted up hands that were torn and calloused from working with stone and sword for fifty-two straight days. And now they bowed their heads in humility before the majesty of the God who had given them strength and courage to begin the restoration of the City of Peace. They had stood to hear God’s Word, and yet they bowed to the ground to worship Him even before His Word had been pronounced.
This gathering in front of the Water Gate of Jerusalem was not just a mob of people. It was a gathering of the faithful, and they showed that faith through their reverence for His Word and through their humble worship. They came together in one accord to be restored, to learn, and to receive again the covenant of blessing that had been given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. They came there willingly and not grudgingly. They came there without having rested from their hard labors. There was no espresso and no donuts, no amplified music nor flashy slides, no roof over their heads and no comfortable seats. The remnant of Israel gathered between the remaining piles of rubble in the largest area they could find, and they sat upon the ground. They stood up to praise God, and they put their faces to the dust to ascribe to Him His great worth.
THAT is “church” at its finest: an assembly of the faithful in whatever space they can find, with no consideration for personal comfort. And here, my friends, is the clincher, the verse I didn’t mention but which we should note well:
Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
Ezra read from God’s Word and instructed the people from dawn until noon! And they were ALL attentive that whole time! We so often give begrudgingly of our time, and I have heard people complain of one-hour church services or two hours of worship. But people truly hungry for God’s Word, they will stand for hours, soaking in His Word, listening with willingness and joy. Six hours! Six hours of nothing but hearing of God’s desire for us to be holy as He is holy. Six hours of hearing God’s promises and His judgments. Six hours of hearing the same gospel that had been spoken to Moses. Six hours of hearing that we are God’s elect, His chosen people, His children and heirs, His beloved.
Oh, what I would give for a church like that! Such a passion among the people, such a desire for God, such seeking hearts! Wouldn’t that be worthy of our Savior? Surely He deserves to have us come together gladly IN ONE ACCORD to worship and praise Him. Surely we can be called out from our mundane lives for half a day to listen to His voice. Surely we can lay down our tools and our toys to lift up holy hands in His presence. Surely we can stand up before Him and say “Amen! Amen!” and truly MEAN IT. Surely we can humble ourselves wherever we are and bow our heads to the ground and worship the living God.
Today, whether at work or school or play, we are called to be His people. The promises of God never cease, and they apply whether it is Sunday morning or Tuesday night, whether we are standing in church singing His praises or we are driving to work through frustratingly slow traffic. Since His promises never cease, let our praises ever cease. Since His Word is always available to us, let us read it and love it. Since His Son hung on a cross for us in agony for hours, let us give a few hours, even half a day, to worship and praise our Savior. With one accord let us stand up for God and His holiness and say “Amen! Amen!”
Almighty God, I love You and I praise You, for You alone are God. You alone have made the heavens and the earth, and You alone have brought us salvation through Christ Jesus, Your only Son. I gladly give my time to You today and every day. Willingly I humble myself before You as You remind me of the new covenant in the blood of Your Son. Renew a steadfast spirit within me for You, O God, so that I should always praise Your holiness and mercy. Amen! Amen!