The Bible book Ezra-Nehemiah describes three priorities in the development of the community after the ravages of war had left Jerusalem in ruin for 70 years.
Referring to Ezra-Nehemiah as a single book, following the custom of the Hebrew Bible (unlike the Christian tradition which counts Ezra and Nehemiah as two separate books), the ancient Hebrew scribes (scholars call them Masoretes) included notes at the end of every Bible book, summarising the total number of verses in every book and indicating which verse marked the book’s mid-point. These notes are found at the end of Nehemiah (but not at the end of Ezra), and the mid-point of the book is indicated as Nehemiah 3:32, which would be accurate only if one regards Ezra-Nehemiah together as one book.
Taking Ezra-Nehemiah together, we can see three major themes: the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1-6); the teaching of God’s Torah or instructions (Ezra 7-10); the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1-7). By highlighting these three major themes together in one book, the inspired writer suggests three priorities in the development of the community in Jerusalem after the war had left it in ruins: the rebuilding of the temple for communal Worship, the teaching of God’s Word, and the restoration of the walls for the protection and Welfare of the people. These are still three important priorities in the development of any community:
- Worship (which attends to one’s spirit or soul),
- Word (which attends to the mind), and
- Welfare (which attends to the body).
We give thanks for all who serve well in the Arts (poets and pastors, musicians and artists). We give thanks for teachers and writers and administrators in the Education sector. We give thanks for nurses, doctors and attendants in the ministry of Health. They are God’s servants in attending to the soul, mind and body of community life.
An earlier version of this article was published in Harvest Force 2022 Issue 1.
Bishop Dr Gordon Wong was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2020.
He served as President of the Trinity Annual Conference from 2012-2020.