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Nehemiah 7:73-9:21

73 The priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the Temple workers—all the people of Israel—settled in the towns and cities of Judah.

Ezra Reads the Law to the People

By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered—men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively.

Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. The following men stood at his right: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and the following stood at his left: Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. Ezra said, “Praise the Lord, the great God!”

All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, “Amen! Amen!” They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground.

Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. They gave an oral translation[a] of God's Law and explained[b] it so that the people could understand it.

When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10 Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don't have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don't be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.”

11 The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12 So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.

The Festival of Shelters

13 The next day the heads of the clans, together with the priests and the Levites, went to Ezra to study the teachings of the Law. 14 They discovered that the Law, which the Lord gave through Moses, ordered the people of Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Festival of Shelters. 15 So they gave the following instructions and sent them[c] all through Jerusalem and the other cities and towns: “Go out to the hills and get branches from pines, olives, myrtles, palms, and other trees to make shelters according to the instructions written in the Law.”

16 So the people got branches and built shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the Temple courtyard, and in the public squares by the Water Gate and by the Ephraim Gate. 17 All the people who had come back from captivity built shelters and lived in them. This was the first time it had been done since the days of Joshua son of Nun, and everybody was excited and happy. 18 From the first day of the festival to the last they read a part of God's Law every day. They celebrated for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a closing ceremony, as required in the Law.

The People Confess Their Sins

1-2 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month the people of Israel gathered to fast in order to show sorrow for their sins. They had already separated themselves from all foreigners. They wore sackcloth and put dust on their heads as signs of grief. Then they stood and began to confess the sins that they and their ancestors had committed. For about three hours the Law of the Lord their God was read to them, and for the next three hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.

There was a platform for the Levites, and on it stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. They prayed aloud to the Lord their God.

The following Levites gave a call to worship: Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said:

“Stand up and praise the Lord your God;
    praise him forever and ever!
Let everyone praise his glorious name,
    although no human praise is great enough.”

The Prayer of Confession

And then the people of Israel prayed this prayer:

“You, Lord, you alone are Lord;
    you made the heavens and the stars of the sky.
You made land and sea and everything in them;
    you gave life to all.
The heavenly powers bow down and worship you.
You, Lord God, chose Abram
    and led him out of Ur in Babylonia;
    you changed his name to Abraham.
You found that he was faithful to you,
    and you made a covenant with him.
You promised to give him the land of the Canaanites,
    the land of the Hittites and the Amorites,
    the land of the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Girgashites,
    to be a land where his descendants would live.
You kept your promise, because you are faithful.

“You saw how our ancestors suffered in Egypt;
    you heard their call for help at the Red Sea.
10 You worked amazing miracles against the king,
    against his officials and the people of his land,
    because you knew how they oppressed your people.
You won then the fame you still have today.
11 Through the sea you made a path for your people
    and led them through on dry ground.
Those who pursued them drowned in deep water,
    as a stone sinks in the raging sea.
12 With a cloud you led them in daytime,
    and at night you lighted their way with fire.
13 At Mount Sinai you came down from heaven;
    you spoke to your people
    and gave them good laws and sound teachings.
14 You taught them to keep your Sabbaths holy,
    and through your servant Moses you gave them your laws.

15 “When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven,
    and water from a rock when they were thirsty.
You told them to take control of the land
    which you had promised to give them.
16 But our ancestors grew proud and stubborn
    and refused to obey your commands.
17 They refused to obey; they forgot all you did;
    they forgot the miracles you had performed.
In their pride they chose a leader
    to take them back to slavery in Egypt.
But you are a God who forgives;
    you are gracious and loving, slow to be angry.
Your mercy is great; you did not forsake them.
18 They made an idol in the shape of a bull-calf
    and said it was the god who led them from Egypt!
How much they insulted you, Lord!
19 But you did not abandon them there in the desert,
    for your mercy is great.
You did not take away the cloud or the fire
    that showed them the path by day and night.
20 In your goodness you told them what they should do;
    you fed them manna and gave them water to drink.
21 Through forty years in the desert
    you provided all that they needed;
    their clothing never wore out,
    and their feet were not swollen with pain.

Footnotes:

  1. Nehemiah 8:8 The Law was written in Hebrew, but in Babylonia the Jews had adopted Aramaic as the language for daily life. Because of this a translation was necessary.
  2. Nehemiah 8:8 They gave … explained; or They read God's Law and then translated it, explaining.
  3. Nehemiah 8:15 Probable text So they … sent them; Hebrew It also ordered that the following instructions be sent.
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1 Corinthians 9:1-18

Rights and Duties of an Apostle

Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? And aren't you the result of my work for the Lord? Even if others do not accept me as an apostle, surely you do! Because of your life in union with the Lord you yourselves are proof of the fact that I am an apostle.

When people criticize me, this is how I defend myself: Don't I have the right to be given food and drink for my work? Don't I have the right to follow the example of the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Peter, by taking a Christian wife with me on my trips? Or are Barnabas and I the only ones who have to work for our living? What soldiers ever have to pay their own expenses in the army? What farmers do not eat the grapes from their own vineyard? What shepherds do not use the milk from their own sheep?

I don't have to limit myself to these everyday examples, because the Law says the same thing. We read in the Law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox when you are using it to thresh grain.” Now, is God concerned about oxen? 10 Didn't he really mean us when he said that? Of course that was written for us. Anyone who plows and anyone who reaps should do their work in the hope of getting a share of the crop. 11 We have sown spiritual seed among you. Is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? 12 If others have the right to expect this from you, don't we have an even greater right?

But we haven't made use of this right. Instead, we have endured everything in order not to put any obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ. 13 Surely you know that the men who work in the Temple get their food from the Temple and that those who offer the sacrifices on the altar get a share of the sacrifices. 14 In the same way, the Lord has ordered that those who preach the gospel should get their living from it.

15 But I haven't made use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this now in order to claim such rights for myself. I would rather die first! Nobody is going to turn my rightful boast into empty words! 16 I have no right to boast just because I preach the gospel. After all, I am under orders to do so. And how terrible it would be for me if I did not preach the gospel! 17 If I did my work as a matter of free choice, then I could expect to be paid; but I do it as a matter of duty, because God has entrusted me with this task. 18 What pay do I get, then? It is the privilege of preaching the Good News without charging for it, without claiming my rights in my work for the gospel.

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Psalm 33:12-22

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord;
    happy are the people he has chosen for his own!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven
    and sees all of us humans.
14 From where he rules, he looks down
    on all who live on earth.
15 He forms all their thoughts
    and knows everything they do.

16 A king does not win because of his powerful army;
    a soldier does not triumph because of his strength.
17 War horses are useless for victory;
    their great strength cannot save.

18 The Lord watches over those who obey him,
    those who trust in his constant love.
19 He saves them from death;
    he keeps them alive in times of famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord;
    he is our protector and our help.
21 We are glad because of him;
    we trust in his holy name.

22 May your constant love be with us, Lord,
    as we put our hope in you.

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Proverbs 21:11-12

11 When someone who is conceited gets his punishment, even an unthinking person learns a lesson. One who is wise will learn from what he is taught.

12 God, the righteous one, knows what goes on in the homes of the wicked, and he will bring the wicked down to ruin.

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