(see parts 1-3 of this series for the larger context)
To that end, we ought to permit ourselves to broaden our view from the NT and include the OT. The synagogue movement and its practices, it is widely recognized, probably began during the exile. So does the Scripture provide us any view of what this looked like?
Indeed it does. – “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra was something of a prototype of what synagogue leaders were to become. And the synagogue practice (in terms of Scripture reading and exposition) was assumed and perpetuated in the Christian churches Paul planted.
Do we have an example of the kind of teaching Ezra undertook? We do, in Nehemiah 8. I will refer you to chapter 10 of my Revival in the Rubble (pp.163-182) for a fuller explanation of that example. It is, as an example, subject to the objection “that’s just what happened, but you can’t prove that is what is supposed to happen.” Or, put another way, how do we know this example is to be normative for God’s people today? For one thing, it might be argued, it was a situational thing—not a regular synagogue meeting, but a somewhat spontaneous revival, a unique moving of God’s Spirit. To which I would simply respond, “Isn’t that what we want when our local churches gather?” Some of the details ought not to be pressed (the building of a platform, etc.), but surely the gist of this stands as something God affirms to us as a desirable practice.
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