Post-Exilic Liturgy of the Word

How do we read the Bible in public worship? Here’s how Nehemiah describes the public reading of scriptures.

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. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:5-6

Standing, offering responsive prayer and praise, and bowing to the Lord: this is how the assembly liturgically surrounded the reading of God’s word in the post-exilic age of Ezra and Nehemiah. And, the Book of Nehemiah tells us, “all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (8:3).

How should we respond when the God of the universe speaks? We should probably listen to God speaking through his written word differently than we listen to the announcement of the upcoming bake sale.