And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
This is one of the tenderest moments in the book of Nehemiah, if not in all of the Old Testament. The occupants of Jerusalem have returned from exile. They have rebuilt the wall under repeated opposition. They have committed to The Lord. Now on a day devoted to the public reading of the Law, they are moved to deep spiritual emotion. A city is in tears because of their clear understanding of the Word of God.
Ezra had been leading the people in the long and difficult task of rebuilding the temple of The Lord. Nehemiah had led the people to rebuild Jerusalem's walls. The Levites had led the people to understand the Law's meaning. And this newly strengthened commitment, nurtured and modeled by godly leadership, came out in a weeping over past sin. Spasms of mourning shook the city. This was a repentance in tears. It was a good thing.
The leaders did an awesome thing in response to this. They created a way to turn the tears into celebration. They encouraged the people to think of this event as the start of a new day in which celebration should happen. They declared a feast for all the people to enjoy. And that celebration of the Lord's work and the Lord's Law spread to all. A city in tears became a city in celebration. Repentance became rejoicing. Weeping turned to worship. Preaching became a party. Introspection led to celebration... all because God's Word changed the hearts of His people.