And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.... So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:5,6,8)
This great assembly of all the people was gathered by the water gate inside the walls of Jerusalem. Men were stationed throughout the crowd. Ezra, the scribe, would read a certain portion of the Law and then he would stop while each of these men stationed out in the congregation would ask his group, "Did you understand what was read?" Probably most of them nodded in the affirmative. Maybe some of them raised their hands and said, "We do not quite understand what that means." So the man assigned to his group would explain that portion of the Law to them. Then Ezra would read another section of the Law. Then he would stop while the people would ask questions, and their teacher would answer them.
I wonder what would happen if we had a great Bible reading in our churches today. Someone could stand up and read God's Word. You could have people stationed throughout the congregation to explain any questions that might arise from what was read. Perhaps a great Bible reading in our churches would lead to revival. This one in the Book of Nehemiah did.
The reading of the Law, and the asking and answering of questions caused the people to understand the Law. They stood in their places and, when something came up that they did not quite understand, they would have it clarified. I personally believe that the entire Bible should be taught in this way, and that every unclear verse should be explained. I do not agree with this business of taking a text and preaching the gospel from it. That is the reason there has been such a lack of interest in the Word of God. I am not sure but what it is handling the Bible deceitfully to take a text or a theme, then launch out into the deep with no thought of ever coming back to the Scriptures to explain them. I believe God intends for us to read the Bible and attempt to explain it as we go along.
We need to understand what God is saying in His Word. I have occasion to speak in many places, and I have heard the Scriptures read in just about every way imaginable. Every now and then some brother gets up and reads the Word with great emphasis. He reads it as if it is the Word of God. But too often some fellow gets up and ducks his head as he reads so that nobody can hear him past the third pew. Or else he mumbles the words. Nehemiah 8:8 says that the Law was read distinctly. That is how God wanted it done. Ezra and the other men did not have a course in homiletics or public speaking, but they believed it was the Word of God, and they read it like it was the Word of God. It is my understanding that this is the way God expects us to conduct a church service. If the Bible is not read distinctly, and the sense of it is not given so that the people understand, the service is of no avail whatsoever. God wants understanding to come from the reading of His Word.
—From Edited Messages on Nehemiah by Dr. J. Vernon McGee