450 BC to 430 BC, Psalm 25: Redemption.

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109.Ezra_Reads_the_Law_to_the_PeopleThis generation is that of the years between 450 BC to 430 BC.

This generation is that of the second part of the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, which lasted about forty years or approximately two generations, this one and the previous one.
This generation is also that of the continuation of the action of Nehemiah. Straddling this generation and the previous one, Nehemiah was able to work on rebuilding Jerusalem, especially its walls and gates. After worrying about stone restoration, Nehemiah to this generation is working to restore worship and rebuild Jewish identity in the land of Israel.

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In order to celebrate the renewal of the people of Israel, which has begun since the reconstruction of Jerusalem, Ezra is organizing the Feast of Tabernacles before the people of Israel once again:
  • Now [1] all the people gathered as one man to the square that was before the Water Gate, and they said to Ezra the scholar to bring the scroll of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.
  • And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
  • And he read in it before the square that was before the Water Gate from the [first] light until midday in the presence of the men and the women and those who understood, and the ears of all the people were [attentive] to the Scroll of the Law.
  • (…)
  • Then Nehemiah-he is Hattirshatha-and Ezra the priest, the scholar, and the Levites who caused the people to understand, said to all the people, « This day is holy to the Lord your God; neither mourn nor weep, » for all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law.
  • And he said to them, « Go, eat fat foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord, and do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. »
  • And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, « Hush, for the day is holy, and do not be sad. »
  • Then all the people went to eat and to drink and to send portions and to rejoice greatly, for they understood the words that they informed them of.
    • (- Following this re-discovery, the people of Israel then organize in all the country the Feast of Tabernacles -)
This return to the Divine Law and Covenant, despite the fragility of the people of Israel newly settled on their land and in a position of inferiority in relation to their enemies, is illustrated in the beginning of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 5 )

  • Of David. To You, O Lord, I will lift up my soul.
  • My God, I trusted in You; let me not be ashamed. Nor shall my enemies rejoice over me.
    • Those who opposed the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem (see previous psalm) and who remain a threat to the reconstruction of the people of Israel.
  • Neither shall any of those who hope for You be ashamed;
    • Priests order rejoicing, not mourning.
  • let those who betray [to the extent of] destitution be ashamed.
  • O Lord, let me know Your ways;
    • The priests have just read again to the people the Torah.
  • teach me Your paths.
    • The people of Israel are now determined to follow the law of God. And following this episode, the people of Israel will fully celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
  • Direct me with Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I hope for You all day long.
    • It is in this ambiguous situation that Nehemiah and Ezra must rebuild the people of Israel.
On the one hand, the people of Israel are returning to their land and their Temple but on the other hand the people have been decimated by the battle against Nebuchadnezzar and the aftermath of exile. We are far from the greatness of the people of Israel when Moses entrusted it to Joshua on the threshold of the promised land. Far from the grandeur of the kingdom of David or Solomon. Despite this, God has remained faithful to his people and has kept his promise not to destroy it completely and never to abandon it completely.
This is the meaning of the Levites’ speech evoked by Nehemiah following the celebration of the Sukkot festival that we have just mentioned: remember that the people have suffered a lot but that is justified by the greatness of the faults, the fact that despite this God remains faithful to his positive people the whole.
This reminder, made by the Levites, of the divine election of the people of Israel and the bounties of God to their people illustrates the following verse of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verse 6  )

  • Remember Your mercies, O Lord, and Your kindnesses, for they have been since time immemorial.
  • The Levites in their speech continue by recalling the faults of the people of Israel and the resulting sanctions.
This reminder of the past is to be compared with the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 7  to 13 )

  • The sins of my youth and my transgressions, do not remember;
  • These faults are widely remembered by the Levites. 
  • what is worthy of Your kindness, You remember for me, for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord.
  • The Lord is good and upright; therefore, He leads sinners on the road.
  • He leads the humble with just rules and He teaches the humble His way.
  • All the Lord’s ways are kindness and truth for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
  • For Your name’s sake, O Lord, You shall forgive my iniquity, for it is great.
  • Who is this man who fears the Lord?
  • Whenever the people of Israel recovers, God forgives them their faults.
  • He will guide him on the road that he chooses.
  • His soul shall abide in prosperity, and his seed shall inherit the earth.
  • Allusion to the entry into the promised land despite the faults of the desert.
  • The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and His covenant is to let them know [it].
  • The succession of faults and their redemption progressively brings the people of Israel closer to their God.
Thus, relying on God’s past mercy to his people, the Levites then recall the situation that the people of Israel are experiencing after their return from exile. Again, the people of Israel rely on divine mercy for rebuilding themselves.
The evocation made by the Levites of the miserable situation in which the people of Israel find themselves, on their return from exile under the domination of other peoples, thus still paying the faults of the past as he made his return to God, illustrates the end of the psalm. Who is a prayer to God so that he may take pity on his people again:

(extract of the psalm 27 associated to this generation, verses 14  to 22 )

  • The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and His covenant is to let them know [it].
  • My eyes are always to God for He will take my feet out of the net.
  • Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am alone and poor.
  • The troubles of my heart have increased; deliver me from my straits.
  • See my affliction and my toil, and forgive all my sins.
  • See my enemies for they have increased, and they hate me with unjust hatred.
  • Guard my soul and save me; let me not be shamed for I have taken refuge in You.
  • Sincerity and uprightness shall guard me, for I have hoped for You.
  • O God, redeem Israel from all its troubles.

 

 

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[1] Nechemiah – Nehemiah – Chapter 8, Chapitre 8, verses 1 to 3 then 9 to 12, for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, see verses 13 and following.