Reaffirmation of the Law & Freedom from Darkness

(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)

Nehemiah 7-9:21

darknessAfter all of the opposition that Nehemiah and the Jews faced, they finally built the walls, and the city was re-established. Once all of the people had returned from Babylon and settled in, Ezra read the Law aloud to all of the people. In a moment reminiscent of the initial giving of the Law, this moment serves to solidify the whole point of the Law in the first place: God’s covenant with His people. The breaking of this covenant by His people is what caused them to be taken away into exile in the first place. And now that they have returned and their time of punishment is over, the Law and covenant are reaffirmed. I love verse 8:5-6: “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.” In addition to this the Levites “read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read” (8:8). It is a tremendous scene.

The reaffirmation of the Law is significant in that it continues God’s work in the Earth through the Jews. He had once told the Jews that through them the nations would be blessed. Not only this, but all of the allusions to the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Law, were to be carried out through the Jews. So the reaffirmation of the Law and God’s covenant with His people is very significant for what is to come.

In 8:13-18 they discover in the Law (Leviticus 23:34) a forgotten festival involving shelters. This festival is what is considered in the New Testament in John 7:2 as the Feast of Tabernacles. It celebrates the time in Exodus when the Israelites lived in the wilderness just after the Exodus, and they lived in booths (hence the emphasis on shelters). During the time of this feast the Jews were to live in temporary “booths” as a remembrance of how the Lord delivered them out of the bonds of Egypt.

The events that take place during the Feast of Tabernacles are very important. Most significantly, a priest would take water from the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem back to the temple and pour it into a silver basin (like a colander) which would in turn allow water to flow out of it. This was a reminder of the water from rock event that took place during the Jews’ time in the wilderness (Exodus 17:1-7). The priest would then call on the Lord to provide water (rain) for the people. And provide He does.

In John 7:36-38 Jesus is in the temple during this precise time of the feast of Tabernacles. The Pharisees are trying to kill Him and are arguing His validity as Messiah. During this extremely intense time of the festival, as the Pharisees and the people are arguing over who Jesus is, looking to kill Him, and as the priest is performing the ritual of pouring the water, Jesus stands up and says this in front of all of the people: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (7:36-38). Subsequently, verse 39 says that “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Wow. When you really start to look into things you really see how the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus.

The symbolic act of dwelling in temporary shelters for 7 days was a reminder of what God had done for His people, delivering them from the bondage of Egypt, and also served as a symbol of the bondage that He would free His people from through Christ, who not only tabernacled among us as a human, but sent the Holy Spirit to tabernacle in us. This is the reason that the reaffirmation in this section of Nehemiah of the Law and the covenant that God had with His people is so significant. Because through this foundation that God laid through the Jews we receive the Messiah, Christ, and subsequently the Holy Spirit. This is a big deal. Ultimately the giving of this Spirit that is spoken of in John 7:38 is seen in Acts 2 during Pentecost, another Jewish festival.

So we cannot be so quick to divorce the Old Testament from the New, because without a proper understanding of the Old Testament we cannot fully understand the New Testament, and the work that is meant to happen through Christ in the world. The Holy Spirit is given to the church so that it can fulfill its mission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I (Jesus) have commanded you” (Matthew 20:19-20). This is evangelization, teaching, discipleship, miracles, and the world coming to know God, and enter into covenant with Him. This is God’s promise to Israel that through them all the nations would be blessed.

Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, is the light of the world. Now that He has risen, the Holy Spirit has come, and it is our job to carry out this task. We are bond-servants of Christ, and as such we are obligated because we have been freed from the bondage of sin (like Israel was freed from her bondage to Egypt) and given freedom and new life. Just as Israel was in a covenant with God in the Old Testament, so are we in a new covenant in the New Testament through Christ. Remember what God has done for us through sending His son to die to free us from sin, just as during the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews called to remembrance what God had done for them in Egypt.

So this great salvation that we have is not to be taken lightly. Know God; know Him deeply. Do not let sin get in the way of your relationship and covenant with God like the Jews did a long time ago. We are redeemed, but we are not redeemed and freed from sin so that we can do whatever we want and turn back to it, but so that through the work of Christ we can take the gospel to the world. The degree to which we know God is the degree that we will want to serve Him. And since sin gets in the way of knowing Him, it also clouds our ability to show the world Christ. I’m not advocating for legalism, since we are already justified through Christ, but I am saying that if we truly see this Holy God and taste of His spirit, then we will not want to sin because we see who God is. So go church, go into all of the world and show who Christ is, be it here in Covington, or anywhere beyond. We’ve been freed, and now its time to take this freedom to those who are living in darkness.

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