Every so often, I am asked this question: “Why do we stand when we read scripture in church?” I also have others who have asked me in the past when we haven’t stood for scripture reading, “Why didn’t we stand?” Is this simply a tradition? A preference? Or do we have a biblical basis for this?
At our Leaders Boot Camp this past Saturday, we spent a considerable amount of time in Nehemiah. After the rebuilding of the wall, the entire assembly gathered together as Ezra the Scribe read from the Book of the Law:
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Why did they stand? They saw him open the book of the law. The significance? This Book was the Law of God. When God spoke, out of honor of the nature of God and His Word, they stood.
Other takeaways from this passage?
- We may find great value in the straight reading of God’s Word. While preaching is commanded and necessary for the life of the church (central, even), we see that reading the Bible as God gave it can be very powerful.
- The reading engaged the listeners. Listening to God’s Word was never a passive activity, but an active one.
- Ezra stood on a platform that they had built for him to preach and proclaim God’s Word. I found this interesting because this implies a visual aspect to preaching, not simply an aural aspect. I listen to a number of preachers on the radio and through podcasts, but seeing them preach makes a world of difference. And being in the same room seeing and hearing them preach is best!
- Having small groups where qualified teachers help explain the word and even a sermon would do wonders for bolstering our main worship gathering time together.
What else do you get out of this rather meaty passage?
If you’re not a part of ARBC and happen to be reading this, does your church stand when Scripture is read?
Russell Moore posted an article
about five years ago (still can’t believe 2009 was five years ago) about why he encouraged his congregation when he pastored to do so.