Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
In our Sunday School the other weekend, we called it ‘Once Upon a Time’, the kids experience what it was like to be in the presence of a king. I for one did not know that there were different levels of bows and curtsies. There’s this small reverence, or the slight lean; the moderate reverence, or the 45 degrees drop; and the profound reverence, or the long, deep bend, used in ceremonial occasions. The kids also had fun rising from their seats at the king’s arrival, moving aside if they’re on his royal path, and addressing him ‘Your Majesty’. We ended our time with a grand feast of castle cakes, and yes we said that it was from the King of kings Himself!
Chapter 8 opens with the people gathered at the Water Gate for the Feast of Trumpets – the Second Jewish New Year. It was more special this time because they’re celebrating the completion of the walls. The remnants can now have the security of calling it home. They’re back in business. Back to their calling as God’s people. But how? Seventy years in Babylon prevented them to exercise their distinction. And so they requested Ezra to bring out the scroll of the law of God. It was them asking him ‘Teach us how!’ Ezra went up, stood on a platform above them, and a very beautiful thing happened: ‘as he opened it, the people all stood up’. We can observe that they did rise NOT at Ezra’s entrance, although they sure respect him for being His herald. All honor and reverence was set apart for God alone, and the reading of His Word.
Now we know ‘where’ we got the practice of standing up when we do Scripture reading at church. But we should also embrace ‘why’. First, we know it’s in acknowledgement of who God is. He is King, THE King. We stand up at His presence, we bow down as His subjects. Second, we follow Jesus’ example. Even Jesus in Luke 4:16 stood up to read the Scriptures. Even He honored the Word of God. I wouldn’t go legalism and say we couldn’t read the Bible in our seats or while in bed. But I would ask us to consider the posture of our hearts while we’re hearing Him. Is there reverence? Is there submission? If we believe that He is the living Word who graces us with His presence, there should.