ehemiah 8 is a chapter of new beginnings. Here, Ezra appears for the first time in the narrative. You may recall that he determined to teach the Law of God to the people of God. Nehemiah himself is also in this chapter, which shows how the mission of both men was really one mission: to rebuild the covenant community. Nehemiah primarily took care of the physical (the walls, the defense) while Ezra primarily took care of the spiritual (the Law and obedience). Now, with the temple built, the walls finished, and the exiles returned, it was time to once again establish the covenant God made with his people.
This chapter has much to teach us. First, we learn of the scripture’s essential prominence for the renewal of God’s people. We’re awakened to faith by the word of God and so the people are continually reformed by it. Second, we learn of its essential prominence in the public gathering of worship. A “worship service” fails to honor God, even if it contains the highest-quality musical performances, if the word of God is not taught with reverence and joy. Third, we learn of scripture’s essential prominence in guiding us. The people put a lot of trust in their leaders but they were hungry for the word of the Lord and ready to obey it. The word of God, not Ezra or Nehemiah, is what stirred the people to action.