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What is the work of a Christian? And not just the “professional” Christian, like pastors, missionaries, chaplains, priests, evangelists, etc.; but the lay person that makes up the vast majority of Christians around the world. What is our job as a follower of Christ? Do we content ourselves with patting ourselves on the suited back on Sundays and highlighting in anger the fallen world around us? It’s definitely fun, and any if you include any testimonies with the Biblical use of “ichabod,” you get double points.

But Nehemiah presents a different responsibility: we are to make the Bible clear to people. In verse 8, Ezra is reading aloud the Law of Moses (that’s the first five books of the Bible to you and me), and his assistants are helping him. These sweet fellers spoke to the crowd, “giving them the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”


There are two interpretations of this verse: one, Ezra read in Hebrew and the Levites translated into Aramaic (because the people may no longer have understood Hebrew); two, they explained what was being read in a way that people could relate to.

In either case, the point is that often people who are not priests (read “Christians”) may not understand exactly what’s being said or written about in the Word of God. They need someone to show them in language that they can understand exactly what God is saying.


This is why we have translations of the Bible in most of the languages of the world. This is why we have umpteen versions of the Bible in English, so many that most Bible bookstores cannot hold all the different versions. Some people will argue that a specific version is particularly blessed by God, or tradition, or the church, or whatever. Mark Twain once wrote that “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me; it’s the parts I do understand.” In most cases, people are not turned away from Jesus because of the “wrong” version.

How do we know which one is the best version? The one that helps person X “understand what was being read.”   If you are an KJV-er, may thou be blest and thy offspring unto the 4th generation. If you are an NIV-er, you are blessed and your descendants. If you EDSV-er*, you rock and so do your kids. The point is not which version is best, as they all have good and bad points, but that the Word of God is made clear.  That kind of debate is best saved for late-night coffee between Christian friends, not played out in a public forum. The important thing is that people understand what the  Bible is saying, even if we use ‘you’ instead of ‘thee’.


And what is the result? Verse 12 says the people “celebrated, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” Once people clearly hear the word of God, it brings joy.

That’s why it’s called the Good News.

*EverydayDevotions Standard Version

2 Responses to “January 18, 2011 – Nehemiah 8”

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