Nehemiah 8:4a,5 – So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose. 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. (NKJV)
As an enthusiast of art and architectural history, I have enjoyed over the years visiting many early American churches. The buildings were made of either stone or fine wood. My fascination with old houses of worship grew stronger after I was given the opportunity to pastor a community church, constructed in 1858, in Newportville, Pennsylvania, USA. Later, I spoke at Prince George's Chapel, a longstanding landmark, in Dagsboro, Delaware, USA, a church that was built in 1755.
The chapel has a high, vaulted, pine wood ceiling which has remarkable acoustics. There exists a balcony on both sides, and individual wooden boxed seating — not the most comfortable — with a door for friends and families. What I found to be unusual and unique is its exceptionally high octagonal rostrum where the preacher stood. To get to the top, there is a circular stairwell with a landing in between for the lay reader. The purpose for the height is to exalt the Word of God.
During Nehemiah's day, the Word of God had not been heard for over seventy years, due to the Babylonian captivity. After the exile, there was a hunger and thirst for hearing the Word of the Lord again, especially in the newly rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple. When Ezra read the Law, his wooden podium was simply meant to elevate God's Word, not the reader. During its hearing, it was respectful and reverent to stand because the children of Israel understood that God was speaking.
Later, the narrative explains:
Nehemiah 9:5 – And the Levites … said: "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise." (NIV)
In a world today where God's name is frequently used in vain, the true meaning of veneration has waned. Upon attending several church assemblies, I have discovered that no particular importance is placed upon standing, for example, during singing. However, I notice that in Lutheran churches, their tradition is to stand during the reading of the gospel lection for the day. A rejuvenated desire to exalt the Word of God should be a challenge in our public and personal worship.
Prayer: Our Father, we boldly come before You, giving thanksgiving and praise for Your divine revelation. Bless us as we listen and conform to the righteousness of Your Son. Keep us waiting patiently to stand in Your presence. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Gentle Jesus Meek And Mild" (Lyrics)