Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Ezra & NehemiahThis excerpt comes from Ezra & Nehemiah (BTCB) by Matthew Levering, commenting on Nehemiah 8:1 -3, 5-6, 8-10:

Ezra nourishes the people with the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. The law of Moses offers the pattern of human holiness, which is fulfilled by the incarnate Word, Christ Jesus.

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, 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.

This law nourishes the soul. “He who holds to the law will obtain wisdom. She [Wisdom] will come to meet him like a mother, and like the wife of his youth she will welcome him. She will feed him with the bread of understanding, and give him the water of wisdom to drink” (Sirach 15:1-3).

Wisdom says of herself that she is both God’s law for the entire creation and Israel’s Torah as established in the temple. Regarding the entire creation, Wisdom says: “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. . . In every people and nation I have gotten a possession” (24:3, 6).

Wisdom receives a command from the Creator to dwell uniquely in Israel: “Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent. And he said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance” (24:8). Wisdom takes up her place in the temple: “In the holy tabernacle I ministered before him, and so  I was established in Zion. In the beloved city likewise he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my dominion” (24:10-11).

Wisdom gives herself to us to eat and drink, and she does so through the Torah: to absorb the Torah is to be filled with living wisdom. “Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my produce. . . . All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the law which Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the congregations of Jacob. It fills men with wisdom, like the Pishon, and like the Tigris at the time of the first fruits” (24:19, 23-25).

Ezra the Scribe gives this “bread of understanding” and “water of wisdom” (15:3) to the returned exiles at the Water Gate—food and drink that Jesus, in the prophesied time of fulfillment, gives more perfectly as “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), “the Word” (John 1:1), “the image of the invisible Go” (Col. 1:15) in whom “the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (2:9).


©2007 by Matthew Levering. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.