The Word Lifted Up

November 22, 2015
by Lou Ciccanti   - Listen to this devotional

Nehemiah 8:4a,5 – So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose. 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. (NKJV)

As an enthusiast of art and architectural history, I have enjoyed over the years visiting many early American churches. The buildings were made of either stone or fine wood. My fascination with old houses of worship grew stronger after I was given the opportunity to pastor a community church, constructed in 1858, in Newportville, Pennsylvania, USA. Later, I spoke at Prince George's Chapel, a longstanding landmark, in Dagsboro, Delaware, USA, a church that was built in 1755.

The chapel has a high, vaulted, pine wood ceiling which has remarkable acoustics. There exists a balcony on both sides, and individual wooden boxed seating — not the most comfortable — with a door for friends and families. What I found to be unusual and unique is its exceptionally high octagonal rostrum where the preacher stood. To get to the top, there is a circular stairwell with a landing in between for the lay reader. The purpose for the height is to exalt the Word of God.

During Nehemiah's day, the Word of God had not been heard for over seventy years, due to the Babylonian captivity. After the exile, there was a hunger and thirst for hearing the Word of the Lord again, especially in the newly rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple. When Ezra read the Law, his wooden podium was simply meant to elevate God's Word, not the reader. During its hearing, it was respectful and reverent to stand because the children of Israel understood that God was speaking.

Later, the narrative explains:

Nehemiah 9:5 – And the Levites … said: "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise." (NIV)

In a world today where God's name is frequently used in vain, the true meaning of veneration has waned. Upon attending several church assemblies, I have discovered that no particular importance is placed upon standing, for example, during singing. However, I notice that in Lutheran churches, their tradition is to stand during the reading of the gospel lection for the day. A rejuvenated desire to exalt the Word of God should be a challenge in our public and personal worship.

Prayer: Our Father, we boldly come before You, giving thanksgiving and praise for Your divine revelation. Bless us as we listen and conform to the righteousness of Your Son. Keep us waiting patiently to stand in Your presence. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

Lou Ciccanti <breadoflife@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good word Lou.


    Thanks again, Lou. Always enjoy your & Lori’s thoughtful, informative, helpful Devotionals.
    Blessings.


    I really love it when we all stand for the Gospel, and for the singing of hymns and songs and for many of the prayers. I’m so glad to hear (see?) you recommending this simple form of demonstrating respect. God bless.


    Hi Lou, I think you have hit upon an important point today and would fully agree. Standing for singing, and the reading of the word of God is symbolically very important. In my opinion we have become far too ‘familiar’ with God. It is great to think of God as our friend through the Lord, Jesus Christ, but God is STILL God. The very elderly or frail can always remain seated as necessary without offending the Lord, but the rest of us should get up off our duffs!!!!
    Blessings.


    Hi Lou:
    Great lesson. Thanks so much. I too wonder why we keep changing everything around. At our church we kn w have someone other than the pastor reading, which in itself is ok but we sit for this, which I don’t agree with. Looks like I will have to speak with our pastor about this.
    Thanks for making me think.
    All the best to you and Lori.


    Hello Lou,
    As a substitute organist I have played in several churches in our region of Southwestern Ontario and am intrigued by the architecture and ways of worship of the different denominations. When we travel in Britain we manage to visit three or four cathedrals during our trip. The beauty of them inside and outside is so impressive.
    You may not realize it but the Anglicans (Episcopalians) also stand for the gospel readings. Just thought that you would like to know.
    Blessings,
    (Ontario)


    Catholics also stand for the reading of the Gospel during all Mass services daily and Sunday.
    Thanks.


    Hello Lou, I enjoyed your message today. The church I attend is about 160 yrs old and is quite beautiful. The pulpit is elevated, above the level that the choir sits on and then the lower level has the pews. We had a minister for several years who always preached from the pulpit and she seemed so distant and apart from the congregation (which is quite small despite the large sanctuary); this minister has left and we now have two younger ministers who share the position. They preach right in front of the congregation at the same level and this seems so much better. They seem to relate to people in a more meaningful/warm/caring manner. When a minister stands high above the people in the pews, it seems to me that maybe they feel superior or better than the people they are reaching out to. This may just be the impression that I personally feel — not sure if anyone else feels the same. Thank you for your devotional.


    Hello Lou from Ca. in the high desert.
    Thank you for your devotional today that has 2 particular items of interest to me. The first one has to do with standing for the reading of the Word. I am not a member of, but attend my daughter’s Nazarene Church where they do stand. It really has to do with who is preaching as it is not a tradition of the church. Our pastor of 25 years just retired, and he rarely ever had us stand, but his Associate pastor always does, and 2 retired ministers who are helping, both have us stand. I was never accustomed to it, but it makes me think of how we stand to sing the National Anthem and flag salute. Here’s hoping and praying those 2 will not be taken from us.
    Thank you. Keep traveling and writing. God bless you real good, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING.
    (Ca.)


    Thank you, Lou, for this enlightening devotional. Blessings.


    Hi Lou;
    I am part of an amalgamated Anglican and Lutheran church; not only do the Lutherans stand up during the reading of the gospel and singing, Anglicans stand up as well.

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